Through the years I’ve used several tools to manage projects. From proper project management applications like MS Project 98 or ProjectLibre to spreadsheets with a list of tasks.
I’d usually create a project gantt during the planning phase, but then it was usually very hard to track the project progress when it was ongoing. I’d end up resorting to a spreadsheet with the list of tasks at hand.
A couple of months ago, I had to find a good project management application. The previous team lead was using ProjectLibre, a Java app with the classica awful Java UI, very similar to most applications out there. I decided to give Calligra Plan a try.
I started with a sample file, and at first I was completely disoriented by the user interface. After half an hour, it stroke me, there was no “Gantt chart to rule them all”, as with most other applications. You have a list of views on a docker at your left, and if you pay attention, it resembles the tasks you will most probably do to manage your project.
Editors: for the planning stage, where you enter calendars, resources, tasks, dependencies, and in the end, calculate the schedule. Each has a suitable interface for the job at hand.
Views: to verify the schedule and assignments, at the end of the planning stage. Here you have the famous Gantt chart, resource assignments, and cost breakdown.
Execution: here is where you will actually spend most of your time during the life of the project. Controlling project and tasks performance (earned value), task status, and other performance indicators. Task status is where I spend most of my time. It gives me a good overview of what I should be working on, what should have started, etc. It is a table with a list of tasks sorted by status. It resembles very closely what I used to keep in a spreadsheet in previous projects.
Reports: perhaps the nicest yet hardest to figure out feature of Calligra Plan. It comes with a very basic status report. It is hard to understand how to customize it. In the end, you realize it is a Calligra Base report, and it is a form you can edit and show project data in various ways. Very powerful, but with a steep learning curve. I customized the default report beyond recognition, and I print it to PDF to send to my team so they have a handy list of what they should be working on, and when.
In a nutshell, what I love about Calligra Plan is that it has a sensible workflow. It follows very closely what I do during the life of a project, and it provides me the information I need for tracking progress and for my team and my manager. If you have to use a project management tool, give it a try.