You know the drill – you’re hypothetically stuck somewhere (often a desert island is used but the problem is there is no WIFI on a desert island) and someone asks you what five or ten things would you want to have with you over everything else. Commonly people ask what five or ten music albums would you want for listening to for the rest of your life. Here I’m asking – if you were stuck somewhere remote and left to manage projects from there – what would you want to manage projects on an ongoing basis from this stuck, remote location for an extended period of time.
If it were me, absolutely for starters I would have to have my smartphone and laptop. I’d also have to go with a good project management software tool. In the perfect world – meaning when I’m not stranded on a desert island – I usually use several different software tools when I’m managing a project. The standard fare for me would be Word, Excel, possibly Visio and PowerPoint to prepare for project kickoff or to give a detailed overview for a change order, and on some projects a database software like Access.
The usual tools
Word is always my tool of choice for status reports and project meeting notes. Excel is selfishly my choice for budget analysis and forecasting and even resource forecasting even though I load resources into the project schedule and I know that most project management software tools will allow for all resource and cost captures on a project. It’s a habit that I got into early on and it’s been a hard habit to break. I always use PowerPoint on large projects requiring a formal kickoff dog-and-pony-show and sometimes that requires value-added flowcharting compliments of a package like Visio. Access has only been needed on a couple of projects and even then it was really only to review and demo possible database workarounds for a change order that I needed to draw up for the customer.
The standard, can’t-do-without software is unquestionably the project management software tool. With it, you can show a detailed schedule with tasks broken down as far as needed and resources can be assigned and leveled. Most packages allow for simple reports and some allow for detailed, customized reports. If the reports are customizable enough, you can produce enough info from one of these software tools to satisfy most weekly status reporting needs. By loading all resources – including vendors and equipment beyond just personnel – and assigning them to tasks and including their per/hour cost, you can obtain good budget and forecast breakdowns for those resources. I realize many project managers already use PM software for project budgeting, however I have usually gone the spreadsheet route out of sheer comfort and familiarity.
What about our readers? If you’re managing remotely now, what do you consider to be essential? If you’re stuck on a desert island with WIFI and electricity or in an airport (see the Tom Hanks correlation here?) or in a remote country or even just your home office but suddenly you can’t leave for a long time or maybe ever – what would you need? What would be your essential tools for continuing your productive management of you current and future projects?