Why Buy Unique Project Management Software?
Most people think of PM software as something like MS Project. But there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of PM software products...
Most PM software, like MS Project, supports project teams with a robust tool for developing a Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS), assigning resources and dependencies, and building a schedule. Most also have ways of tracking in some way, and sharing te info across an often widely dispersed team.
However, if that's all there is too it - it does not sound that overly complicated - then why are there so many choices? What are the differences, and what are the unique features offered by so many that make people want to get something so unique?
I will attempt to answer this by evaluating a specific software program, MagicDraw, which includes a project management component. Because of this component, I think it could be classified as a specific type of PM software.
MagicDraw is a tool that supports the development of IT architecture artifacts. In other words, if you want to build a system, you can use MagicDraw to develop the architecture of the system. This entails designing the various parts of the systems, and collecting them into an organized whole.
In the process of doing this, a given architecture is called a project. A project consists of various parts...which form the beginnings of a WBS. Thus, the WBS is structured around the pieces of the project. If the project was to be built around a house, the WBS might be structured around the rooms of the house.
Complex systems involve a lot of architecture artifacts. Organizing and cataloging these, making them easily searchable, managing configuration, and more are important functions of the tool - and are all a part of managing the project.
MagicDraw is an example of a very unique type of project management software. It specially helps to manage IT architecture projects. The PM function is auxiliary - and supports the core functionality of the software - developing IT architectures.
Thus, I begin to see the reason why there are so many project management software packages out there - because there are so many unique project situations out there! And, while MS Project can support an IT architecture or any other project, other tools provide unique functionality to support the development of the product of specific types of projects. It is a straightforward add-on to add PM functionality to manage such project.
Something to keep in mind is that it remains important to distinguish between the product of the project and the project itself. This is a big value added that a trained and seasoned project manager can bring to the table. For example, I have many times seen people make a list of risks for the project, only to observe that it a list of technical risks related to the product of the project. Rarely, in such cases, do I see risks related tot he management of the project, such as: budgeting priorities change, project sponsor may leave job, support from project stakeholders may fall short, and the like. The difference is in thinking like an engineer versus thinking like a project manager.
Take advantage of embedded PM functionality in various software products, if it is available. However, be mindful of the functionality that may not e supported, or is simply ignored. That may be where you can add the most value on the project.