Modern project management was first recognized as a discrete discipline in the late 1950s when large and complex projects began to require more than a simple flow chart to keep on track. The phrase “project management” was first used in the engineering and construction industries, but soon migrated into general corporate vernacular.
At the heart of every project is a project manager, the person responsible for ensuring that a project is completed on time, within budget, and at the specified level of quality. The project manager is a highly skilled professional who uses every tool at his or her disposal to plan and manage all aspects of a company’s most important projects.
Today, one of the project manager’s most important tools is a computer program. Project management software is a set of computer-based utilities that support the core tasks of project management: planning, scheduling, and control. The first project management programs were developed in the late 1960s for mainframe computers. Early packages focused on scheduling people and equipment, as well as managing costs. In the 1970s and 1980s, new microcomputer project management packages were released in a continual stream. By the early 1990s, there were more than 100 project management packages on the market.
For a list of modern project management tools and resources, turn to Appendix B.
A number of project management software packages still exist, but only a handful are widely used in the corporate environment. The one that is most often used is Microsoft Project; Project 2002 is the latest version of this market-dominating software. As you’ll see in the following chapters, Project 2002 supports many aspects of project management, including scheduling, budgeting, tracking, analysis, reporting, and communication. With Microsoft Project 2002, you can manage multiple projects, share resources among projects, import and export project data, and create reports to analyze and communicate project objectives and progress.
You schedule a project with Microsoft Project by entering basic information about the overall project, individual tasks within the project, and the resources necessary to complete these tasks. When describing a task, you enter the duration of the task, the task’s dependencies, and any constraints. Microsoft Project then calculates the start and finish date for each task, and combines all the tasks together into a master project. You can enter additional information, such as lead time, lag time, and so on, as available, and update tasks and resources as the project gets underway. Project will adjust the schedule automatically.