Project management involves a variety of tasks associated with lots of calculations and data, and therefore the choice of project management software is highly important for effective and efficient management of projects (Martin & Tate, 2001). There are many software packages for project management, and the purpose of this paper is to consider four most innovative programs in this sphere, discuss their advantages and disadvantages, perform a SWOT analysis of one chosen tool, and identify how weaknesses and threats of this software can be turned into strengths. It is possible to outline four software packages which can be referred to as innovative solutions in the sphere of project management software: Microsoft Project, Matchware Mindview package, Project KickStart and Rational Plan MultiProject (Martin & Tate, 2001).
MS Project is a well-known tool for project managers with rich functionality: project planning and scheduling, multiple charts and reports available, resource leveling opportunities, and interaction with all software from Microsoft Office package (Gido & Clements, 2008). The latter feature is highly important for data input and exchange in the team, since Microsoft Office and its file formats have already become a corporate standard for documentation. At the same time, Microsoft Project requires a lot of PC resources (compared to other project management packages), is highly priced, might require complex installation and maintenance, and has fewer opportunities for teamworking and collaborating compared to some of its rivals (Gido & Clements, 2008).
The main competitive advantage of Matchware Mindview is that it combines general project management functionality with extensive mind mapping tools. A large set of mind mapping tools is a great advantage, and can greatly boost collaboration and innovativeness in the team. Easy data exchange with MS Office tools, Ribbon interface similar to MS Office 2007-2010 new look, and powerful task master add to the advantages of this tool (Kanda, 2011). The disadvantages are high cost and strong focus on mind mapping (for companies which are not using mind mapping, this tool would be not the best choice).
Project Kickstart is not so complex as its two previous rivals, but it has a unique approach of “interviewing”ť the manager in the process of creating a project (Kanda, 2011), and provides relevant data and recommendations to the user. Advantages of this software are its low cost, modest resource requirements, comprehensive interface and compatibility with MS Office products. Free support and custom reports also make this product very attractive. The weaknesses of Project Kickstart are the lack of resource management mechanisms in the program (Kanda, 2011), and lack of team collaboration instruments.
Rational Plan Multiproject is a complex software product, which allows to manage multiple projects, share resources, control finances, and identify critical issues in the projects (Kanda, 2011). This software also has a step-by-step project management guide, which can be of great use to a novices in project management. The product is moderately priced and can be chosen as a replacement for Microsoft Project for medium to large projects. The main disadvantage of this program is the lack of detailed scheduling tools (Kanda, 2011).
Among the above-mentioned software products, the most innovative tool is Matchware Mindview, because in addition to traditional project management functionality it offers amazing tools for mind mapping and brainstorming, which can highly useful for most teams. The strengths of this product are mind mapping tools, intuitive interface, compatibility with MS Office applications, variety of data representations, sharing and synchronization functionality.
Weaknesses of Matchware Mindview are high cost, lack of several critical project management functions such as resource leveling and budgeting, and availability of Business version for Windows only. Opportunities for this software are: support of teamworking and shared scheduling, adding web interface and web data storage in addition to desktop version, and increasing functionality of project management tools (especially with regard to budgeting). Threats for this software are intensive competition, especially from such rivals as Microsoft, and reduced demand resulting from the popularity of cloud services and web-based services.
The weaknesses and threats of Matchware Mindview can be transformed into strengths in the following way. Currently Mindview can be used as a separate product or as a complementary to MS Project. It is reasonable for Mindview to focus on further mind-mapping and brainstorming solutions, and to intensify their integration with MS Project instead of offering own tools which duplicate MS Project power functionality. Combining this strategy with reduced prices, Mindview would be able to mitigate existing weaknesses with such strategy, overcome the threat of competition at the market of project management software, and increase demand, since MS Project is still the most popular product for project managers.