The secret, not really unknown, of the success of a project is a good planning. But often you realize that there is an enormous difficulty in getting a plan sustainable, manageable and consistent with the vision of the project.
But what are the causes of this serious lack? Again, often who has to manage the project has a good operational experience but a big lack of project management skills; to manage a project in an excellent way what is needed is a deep knowledge of the project scope and the management tools.
It is not uncommon to find project plans managed on PowerPoint. This software is used to make presentations and so it is not the best tool to support the governance of a project. The plan is shown on a slide, the delays are added again and again and there is no comparison with the baseline, in essence there is no prediction, no real operational planning but only reactions to any critical issue noted. Delays hang over and threaten the success of the project.
Some more advanced project managers use a spreadsheet; Spreadsheets are well equipped with various macros that simulate a project plan. In these cases, the project plan is more under control but again we cannot speak of Project Management. The scenarios “if then” are not manageable, neither the resource planning and their commitments.
Finally we come to the most common solution: the use of a project management tool such as Project (Microsoft versions or freeware). The role of the project manager is a craft and complex job, though often the management of important projects in terms of effort and budget, it is left to improvisation, and to good luck.
The use of a proper tool becomes dangerous, or even harmful, if not based on solid conceptual basis and knowledge. The planning fails and with it, with great probability, also the project. So to use a tool of this kind one must have a thorough knowledge of the techniques and methods of planning. MS project, while having separate licenses, belongs to the Office suite.
The problem is that using a word processing program or a spreadsheet is often the source of many problems. If the software is used in a wrong way the plan becomes dangerously unreliable or even misleading.
The training path for a project manager should then be directed to the best practices of project management compliant with recognized standards (PMI, Prince2 etc.) And it must foresee a practical implementation of these concepts with the use of proper project management software. With this basic training the project manager will be better able to actually predict the future of our project, although our Gantt will not be the infallible crystal ball of a powerful magician, it will allow us to better manage our projects.