Project management software (PMS) is a tool for managing projects. (Project management, by contrast, is the management of projects.) A project is a defined period of time during which a problem or opportunity is worked on. A project is temporary, not permanent. A project involves one or many persons, but no single person is responsible for the whole project. A project is an exercise in solving a problem, not making money. Project managers use software to keep track of what each person is doing. PMS software (or project scheduling software) is generalized, but specialized, software. It can handle, for example, a construction project, but may not be flexible enough to handle a jazz band or a symphony orchestra. PMS software may be part of an office suite, or may be a stand-alone program. Project management tools cost less than office suites, but is usually more expensive to buy than stand-alone programs. PMS software is usually not free. PMS software usually has special versions for different kinds of projects. A PMS designed for a large construction project might be overkill for a small development. PMS software is not magic. A project management software is not, for example, a magic way to make a jazz band into a symphony orchestra. PMS software is not project management. PMS software is a tool for managing projects. Project management is the management of projects. The actual management of a project is often handled by other software. PMS software is not project management software. PMS software, for example, does not help you manage a project’s scope or budget or schedule. PMS software is not business software. PMS software, for example, does not help you manage employees, or customers
PMS tools are extremely handy. But they don’t help much if you are disorganized. If you draw up a project plan, for example, but get sidetracked by the need to take care of routine matters, then the project management software will help you very little. The trouble comes when it is not clear what project you want to start, and when you put off the biggest project until later. It’s harder to manage work when you don’t know what you want to do next. And it’s harder still when you don’t know whether what you are working on is worth doing at all. If you have trouble finding things to do, you probably don’t need a project management tools. You need some way to make it clear what you are working on. If you write down a list of projects, each project has to be small enough to fit in a line. If you write down a list of tasks, then each task has to be small enough to fit in a column. One simple way to do this is just to count. How many tasks can you do in a day? How many in a week? How many in a month? How many in a year? Suppose you can complete ten tasks in a week. How many tasks can you do in a day? How many in a week? The answer will give you a reasonable idea of what you can accomplish in a year. A project management software can be helpful even if it doesn’t fit neatly into a line or a column. It can help you keep track of projects, and it can help you keep track of tasks. But it can’t help you keep track of time. If a project takes three weeks, the software won’t care whether you finished it a day early or a day late. So don’t first look for a project management software. First look for some way of keeping track. Once you start doing that, then you can manage things with a project management software. And the best way to do this is with pen and paper.