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A Miracle Occurs Here

The best project plan I ever saw laid the timeline for the project out in a very structured way, starting with scoping, through design, build, testing and just before the project completion date, there was an entry that said “a miracle occurs here”. It made me smile, because project planning is a dark art and the fact that all project managers and tech teams plan on the fact that projects will overrun, shows either that non of us is very good at it, or hopefully more likely, predicting the future is a difficult thing to do.

Our business runs between 10 and 20 projects at any one time, so we are pretty sensitive to the need for ‘miracles to occur’ on projects (or as we would rather think of it, planning for the things you cannot reasonably plan for). There are a number of tech tools to help manage projects and the best of them is probably Microsoft Project, but it is expensive and, like most Microsoft things, over-engineerd. We only need 10% of what it can do, but must pay for 100%. There are lots of web-based alternative tools to MS project and they tend to be designed to support ‘agile builds’, these are handy, but few allow you to budget and monitor days spent, record time or link milestones to create critical paths. Controlling days and spend in agile builds is even harder and more important than traditional project builds. 

We are heavy users of tools like basecamp and Slack and have just been through an exercise of looking for a tool to help us manage projects and record time. We tested about a dozen of the tools that appeared at the top of a google search. I must confess that in the top 100 list of fun ways to spend your evenings, you may not be surprised to know that this didnt rate particularly highly. That said, we did find a product that we like and settled on using It is a tool which allows you to monitor projects, set tasks and milestones and crucially for us record time spent against a plan. 

Sadly no tool is ever going to be better than the information we put in. Our hope, however, is that a good project management tool, at least means you don’t have to rely on miracles. 

Blog by Robbie

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