Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Computerized Tools for Project Cost Control

Many software companies have produced computerized tools to aid in project cost control. Project management software that will run on your personal computer or network is available at many different levels of sophistication, with prices ranging from $25 to over $10,000.

Computerized tools could include anything from standalone spreadsheets and accounting packages to fully integrated cost management systems. They offer planning and tracking capabilities at varying levels of detail.

Computers and the appropriate software have helped many project managers cut down on time, costs, and effort involved in getting their work done. You can use these tools to collect information, make calculations, and produce reports. In terms of project cost control, computerized tools can help you to:
  • track performance more easily and quickly
  • track multiple projects at once
  • design, simulate, analyze, and improve cost control processes
  • conduct "What if?" analyses
  • obtain organized and summarized reports
  • catch potential problems early in the project that may cause damage later on.
When it comes time to choose the appropriate computerized tools, you will have to ask, "What kind of tool can I afford?" Most inexpensive applications will enable you to produce charts and basic reports. If your budget allows, you can buy software that will do just about anything you need for project management.

Bear in mind that when implementing new software, you not only have to consider the expense of the tool, but also the time you have to invest to learn how to use it properly. New software costs time as well as money.

You also must decide how "large" a tool you need. Make sure you don't invest in project management software that is not right for you. Before you go shopping, spend some time figuring out:
  • the maximum level of complexity you can handle
  • aspects of cost control that you need automated
  • the level of analysis that stakeholders demand.
Computerized tools should be tailored to your needs. Perhaps the projects you manage are fairly simple with straightforward work breakdown structures and modest budgets. You would likely then benefit most from low-end software that is easy to use.

The larger and more complex your projects become, however, the more you will require a system that integrates schedules and the cost management plan, and one that controls change. There are mid-range and high-end products that meet increasingly complex needs.

Computerized tools are a big help to project management. However, the package your company chooses to invest in will be worthwhile only if it suits your needs and the needs of the projects' stakeholders. Provided below are details about project management software for three main categories of users.
  • Low-end users. Packages that will simply automate the basics for a low-end user are simple to use and will produce pretty charts. Cost: $25 to $200.
  • Mid-range project managers. Mid-range users include managers of large projects or multiple projects. Software for these projects would need a moderate level of sophistication. Cost: $200 to $500.
  • High-end/multi-project users. High-end users are those with complex projects running concurrently, and whose team members work on more than one project at a time. Software would allow simulations and more complex analysis. Cost: $2,000 to $10,000.
Computer software can be a very effective tool for controlling project costs. Remember to purchase software that fits your budget, that you can quickly come up to speed on, and that will meet your needs.

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