Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Improving Project Management in Nursing: Analysis of Contemporary Project Management Software

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by Thomas Pilarski, RN, BA, BSN, MN, MBA(c)

Course Instructor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing

Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario

Clinical Course Director, School of Nursing

York University, Toronto, Ontario

thomaspr@yorku.ca

MBA University Studies:

 College of Business,

University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama

Abstract

Managing projects in nursing or health care is becoming more difficult as projects continuously grow in size and complexity. Project management using conventional “pen and paper” methods is slowly becoming obsolete. Therefore, nurses and other health care professionals should equip themselves with one of the widely available project management software programs that would streamline management of their projects and save time and money for their organizations. Through researching and analyzing hundreds of project management software products available on the market, three software programs were evaluated to be well suited for use in managing various projects in nursing and other health care fields. The three selected software products for further evaluation in this paper included Project 2010 Professional, FastTrack Schedule 10, and Projects 2.0. The final choice of appropriate project management software would depend on the unique characteristics of projects performed within different health care organizations.

Keywords

Project management, software, Gantt chart, cloud computing, project wiki.

Introduction

Projects within the nursing profession constantly grow in size and complexity; therefore, they become increasingly complicated and more difficult to manage using traditional project management approaches. Management of small projects in nursing is often conducted in a time consuming manner by a team of nurses utilizing traditional “pen and paper” methods. However, managing larger and more complex nursing projects using traditional project management methods requires more time, greater effort, and extra funding. In addition, it is increasingly difficult for nursing project team members to collaborate with one another while performing various project related activities in a traditional way.

Consequently, nursing professionals should make a decision to start utilizing modern project management technology to improve various project activities. For instance, nurses who are involved in conducting various projects within different health care organizations should start using widely available project management software in order to streamline their project management activities, which would, in turn, save time and money for their organization. This paper, outlines the research and analysis of  three different available software product options that could be potentially used by nursing professional to improve their management of various nursing and/or health care related projects.

Project Management Software Options

After researching hundreds of different project management software products currently available on the market, there were three distinctive software products chosen for further analysis. The three selected software products that could potentially best meet nursing or health care related project requirements were Project 2010 Professional, FastTrack Schedule 10, and Projects 2.0. Each of these project management software products will be individually analyzed in the next three sections of this paper.

Analysis of Project 2010 Professional

ProjectProfessionalThe first project software product selected for this analysis was Project 2010 Professional, designed by Microsoft. This project software could be purchased for about $905.99 per user license from an online vendor, for example, CDW (Colaner, 2011). Project 2010 Professional is compatible with most Windows operating systems, including Windows 7, but it is not compatible with any Mac (Apple Inc.)  operating systems.

Microsoft Project 2010 Professional has great capability to create and manage schedules, such as user controlled scheduling and built-in dynamic scheduling. The user controlled scheduling feature, on the one hand, allows users to start planning tasks early by manually entering general information available at the beginning of the project and after that, filling-in any missing, more detailed information as it becomes available later during the project planning process (Microsoft, 2010). The build-in dynamic scheduling feature, on the other hand, provides users with automated and structured way to create and manage project schedules as well as giving users the ability to generate the best possible scheduling forecasts for the project (Microsoft, 2010).

Furthermore, Project 2010 Professional includes well developed project resource management functionality. Therefore, this software allows users to easily select and assign resources by dragging-and-dropping them onto specific tasks within the team planer view (Microsoft, 2010). In addition, the team planner view graphically and interactively displays assigned resources in the form of timeline, which makes it easy for a project manager to notice if any of the assigned resources overlap with one another and if there are any gaps or over allocation within resource assignments (Microsoft, 2010).

Moreover, tracking and monitoring progress of any project is simple with Project 2010 Professional software. This software can provide a project manager with valuable information regarding a project’s progress and allow him or her to control and update project activities at any point in time (Microsoft, 2010). Also, task tab options within the software can help a project manager to easily update tasks, e.g. their start and completions dates, as well as estimate completion of specific tasks within the project (Microsoft, 2010). In addition, this project management software makes it easy to track a project’s finances and to manage budgets.

Project 2010 Professional software has a powerful project reporting functionality. This functionality includes customizable Gantt charts, resource graphs, calendars, and many more (Colaner, 2011; Kloppenborg, 2011). This functionality can be used by a project manager to retrieve specific project information pertaining to project’s work and communicate this information in a form of various project reports to different stakeholders.

This project management software also provides special functionality to synchronize all project related files with Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010. Therefore, any changes in a project file made by one team member will be automatically synchronized with all other project files used by other project team members (Colaner, 2011; Microsoft, 2012). Furthermore, Project 2010 Professional has an ability to connect to Project Server 2010 in order to create and support enterprise wide collaboration between project team members. This functionality allows team members to visualize the performance of very large and complex projects through dashboards as well as control project work and optimize various project resources (Kloppenborg, 2011; Microsoft, 2012).

Lastly, the graphical user interface of Project 2010 Professional, also known as ribbon, is very similar to ribbons found in other Microsoft Office software products, e.g. Word or Excel (Microsoft, 2012). Therefore, it should be easier for users to learn the functionality of Project 2010 Professional software for users if they are already proficient with using other Microsoft Office products.

Analysis of FastTrack Schedule 10

FastrackThe second software product that was selected for analysis and potential use by nursing professional to manage their project related work is FastTrack Schedule 10, created by AEC Software. This software could be purchased for about $349 per user license directly from the software vendor (Colaner, 2011). In addition, FastTrack Schedule 10 is compatible with most Windows operating systems, including Windows 7, as well as compatible with Mac operating systems (AEC Software, 2010b; Colaner, 2011).

Moreover, FastTrack Schedule 10 software product includes a schedule view option which makes it easy for a project manager to create and manage various project tasks via user friendly graphical user interface. This software allows task creations, managing activity duration, monitoring deadlines, and taking notes about each activity (AEC Software, 2010b; Colaner, 2011). Therefore, simplified management of project tasks, for example, changing tasks duration, could prevent schedule conflicts, avoid potential bottlenecks, and maintain project activities on schedule (AEC Software, 2010a).

Furthermore, the FastTrack Schedule 10 software includes both a resource view and calendar view, which provide great functionality to help a project manager in managing project resources, such as work resources, material resources, and cost resources. The resource view, on the one hand, displays resources in one window by categories – (for example, employees), and allows a project manager to see who is assigned to different tasks. This view also allows a project manager to monitor which activities are in progress and which are already completed by assigned team members (Colaner, 2011). The calendar view, on the other hand, allows a project manager to keep track of project calendar, assign vacations to work resources, and many more features (Colaner, 2011). In addition, the resource management functionality of FastTrack Schedule 10 can recognize and fix resource under allocations and over allocations, thereby optimizing project workloads and ensuring proper allocation of resources (AEC Software, 2010b).

FastTrack Schedule 10 includes the ability to track a project’s progress. This software enables users to track project assignments, costs, cash flows, and budgets via utilizing customizable reports (AEC Software, 2010b; Bowen, 2010). The software has a capability to set and track critical path as well as task dependencies, while helping a project manager to assure that all critical activities are completed on time (AEC Software, 2010b; Bowen, 2010).

Also, FastTrack Schedule 10 has extensive reporting capability; therefore, project related information can be reported in several different ways. The software reporting functionality includes various styles of Gantt charts, calendars, resource graphs, and many more (AEC Software, 2010b). The software can create reports that display valuable project information in a clear and concise manner, which are easy to read and utilize to communicate a project’s progress to various stakeholders (AEC Software, 2010b).

Lastly, the interface of the FastTrack Schedule 10 is user friendly and easy to use. On the one hand, when the software is installed on computers running Windows 7 operating system, it has a choice of ribbon like interface or standard FastTrack interface to help various users navigate between different program options (Bowen, 2010; Colaner, 2011). Therefore, when the software is installed on Windows based computers, it functions like other Microsoft Office family of applications. On the other hand, when FastTrack Schedule 10 is installed on computers with Mac operating systems it behaves like other Mac style office application (Michaels, 2010). This capability makes it easier for various new users to learn the software product’s functionality in a shorter period of time.

Analysis of Projects 2.0

The third software product selected for analysis was a program called Projects 2.0 designed by ZoHo. This software product is a cloud based program; therefore, it does not have to be installed on a specific computer and can be accessed through any web browser via the Internet. A user access to the Projects 2.0 software can be purchased via the vendor’s website for about $35 per month per each user. There is also an option of a three user license package that can be purchased for approximately $699 per year (Colaner, 2011). Furthermore, Projects 2.0 software is operating system independent because it is installed on the vendor’s Internet server and it can be accessed via the Internet using any web browser.

Moreover, Projects 2.0 is a cloud computing based software that is integrated with Google Apps and Zoho web office, which allow users to import data from many different applications, such as Basecamp or Microsoft Project (Colaner, 2011; TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012). This integration also allows users to create various files or documents necessary to support their projects, such as Power Point or spreadsheets, and upload these files using a web browser to one centralized location for sharing with other project team members (TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012).

Furthermore, the task management feature of this product makes it easy for a project manager to manage, track, and control progress of project work and project deliverables (TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012). In addition, a time tracking and billing capability of this feature allows a project manager to trace users assigned into specific projects as well as track their project hours based on the calendar. The task management feature also provides useful hourly billing system that can be used to accurately bill clients for their project work (Colaner, 2011; TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012).

Projects 2.0 is a web based application that uses Gantt charts as a project reporting feature, which allows a project manager to create reports pertaining to project status at various points in time. This feature also allows project teams to create reports regarding length of different activities and amount time each user spends working on a specific project task (TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012). Furthermore, the graphical user interface of Projects 2.0 strongly resembles a Facebook interface with every user’s photo and personal status update as well as assigned project activity (Colaner, 2011).

In addition, Projects 2.0 utilizes project Wikis to help project users create their own project related pages in order to manage and share various project documents with other users located anywhere in the world (Colaner, 2011; TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012).  A project Wiki is a web tool available for business/organizations to enable teamwork and collaboration. The built-in chartrooms feature allows users to conduct project related meetings in real time, to help them to collaborate with one another (Colaner, 2011; TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012).  Moreover, the project forums feature allows users to communicate with one another in an asynchronous way by posting messages on an interactive message board (Colaner, 2011; TopSolutions, 2012; Zoho, 2012).

Conclusion

Managing larger and more complex projects by nursing professionals using traditional project management methods is becoming increasingly difficult, time consuming and costly for health care organizations. Therefore, , in order to address this issue,  extensive research was conducted for this paper to review the best possible alternatives for project management software to facilitate project management activities for nursing or health care projects. This analysis and review highlighted three distinctive software products: Project 2010 Professional, FastTrack Schedule 10, and Projects 2.0. These findings showed that depending on the nature and requirements of a nursing or a health care project, one of these three project management software choices could potentially make managing nursing or health care projects easier, faster, and more efficient thereby helping those respective health care organizations save time and money.

 

References

AEC Software. (2010a). FastTrack Schedule 10: Getting started guide. Retrieved from http://www.aecsoftware.com/resources/documents/pdf/FTS10/FTS10_GettingStartedGuide.pdf

AEC Software. (2010b). FastTrack Schedule 10: The best way to plan and manage your projects. Retrieved from http://www.aecsoftware.com/resources/documents/pdf/FTS10/FTS10_Datasheet.pdf

Bowen, R. (2010). FastTrack Schedule 10 review. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubpm.com/software-reviews-tips/75629-fast-track-schedule-10-review/

Colaner, S. (2011). Roundup: Project management software: Manage projects of any size or complexity. Retrieved from http://www.smartcomputing.com/articles/2011/s2204/04s04/04s04.pdf

Kloppenborg, T. J. (2011). Contemporary project management (2nd ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.

Michaels, P. (2010). FastTrack Schedule 10 adds Mac look, more project management tools. Retrieved from http://www.macworld.com/article/1150601/fasttrackschedule10.html

Microsoft. (2012). Top benefits: Project Standard 2010 and Project Professional 2010. Retrieved from http://www.microsoft.com/project/en-us/project-pro-2010-benefits.aspx

Microsoft (2010). Project Professional 2010 product guide. Retrieved from http://www.microsoft.com/project/en-us/project-pro-2010-product-guide.aspx

TopSolutions. (2012). Zoho Projects: Project management, collaboration & issue tracking. Retrieved from http://www.topsolutions.pt/en/solutions/zoho-apps/zoho-projects

Zoho. (2012). Features of Zoho Projects: Project management with collaboration and bug tracking. Retrieved from http://www.zoho.com/projects/features.html

 

Author Biographical Statement

Thomas Pilarski received an Associate in General Studies Degree from Joliet Junior College, Illinois in 1995 and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Degree with Honors from Governors State University, Illinois in 1997. Furthermore, he received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree with Honors from University of Toronto in 2008 and Master of Nursing Degree from University of Toronto in 2011. Thomas also received numerous educational honors and awards, including Joseph Bazylewicz Fellowship from University of Toronto in 2010, de Souza Fellowship in oncology from de Souza Institute in 2009, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges as a student at Governors State University, and many more.

In addition, Thomas worked for several years in the field of Business and Information Technology (IT) before changing his career into nursing. During his progressive IT career, Thomas received several professional credentials, such as, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Check Point Certified Security Expert (CCSE), Oracle Certified Professional (OCP), and many more. In addition, he accumulated about four years of clinical work experience as Registered Nurse in oncology at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Currently, Thomas works as Course Instructor at Ryerson University in Toronto and Clinical Course Director at York University also in Toronto. At the same time, he continues his education in Master of Business Administration program at University of North Alabama.

EDITOR

Teresa Birznieks

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