One of the most vexing aspects of an instructional design (ID) project is accurately estimating schedule and budgets during the planning phase of project management. The project schedule and the project budget, when approved by key stakeholders and the project proponent, are tools used to track and monitor the project in terms of the first two of the “project triple constraints” of time, resources, and scope. The project manager (PM), their supervisors, and other key stakeholders use the approved budget and schedule as a baseline when measuring the project’s progress from initiation to delivery.
So what are some PM information tools that will help PMs accurately estimate costs, effort, or activity durations? For me, I am familiar with what is probably the “granddaddy” of PM automated tools, namely Microsoft Project™. MS Project has been around for at least two-decades as I recollect and maybe longer. Though MS Project has a wide range of powerful scheduling and budget estimation tools, the cost for this tool is somewhat pricey. Therefore, I focused my search this week on tools that were in the public domain as free or available at a low cost.
One of the free PM tools that caught my attention was LibrePlan. For starters, the name suggests its “free” cost attributes. From Robin Muilwijk at Open Source.com, a tool with support for task management, resource allocation, tracking, Gantt charts, and much more. ProjectLibre is a good alternative to a commercial software product like Microsoft Project. (2014). On the actual website for LibrePlan is this description, “The open source web application for project planning, monitoring and control”.
One of the features that I liked in LibrePlan was the fact that it provides separate applications for project initiation, Work-Breakdown Schedule (WBS) builds, and resource allocation loads. These applications are titled – Project Lists, Resource Loads Queue-based Resources Plan. A great feature of LibrePlan is that these applications are linked and integrated – a feature that makes MS Project so effective for PM.
I am interest is AGILE processes as they relate to PM so another PM tool recommended by Robin Muilvick piqued my interest. Agailefant is a free, for up to five people, cloud based tool that is tailored for AGILE methods and processes.
One of the best quips on the Agilefant website was this testimonial, “Many project management tools only get used because of management enforcement. Front line code warriors like Agilefant, because it helps them instantly take control of their tasks and time.” (Agilefant, 2014). By way of clarification, Agilefant is geared for software designers using Agile methods; however, I feel that with some modifications, Agilefant would be an effective application for Instructional Designers in the distance learning field.
Muilwijk, R. (2014). Top 5 open source project management tools in 2014. Retrieved from: http://opensource.com/business/14/1/top-project-management-tools-2014
MS Project (2014). Retrieved from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/project/
LiibrePlan Open Web Planning. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.libreplan.com/
Agilefant – Simple and Easy. (2014). Retrieved from http://agilefant.com/