Saturday, December 22, 2007

ProjectKick Start 4-Easy to Use Project Management Software

Over the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to take a look at several project management software applications that work seamlessly with MindManager Pro 7. With this in mind, I took a look at Project KickStart 4, which is a very user friendly project management software application that can export data directly into MindManager Pro 7 and create a complete mind map. I would like to thank Roy Nierenberg at Experience In Software for providing me a copy of Project KickStart 4. for this review. Similarly, one can begin the project planning process in MindManager Pro 7 and export it directly to Project KickStart 4, with a click of the mouse. In this first posting, I will review Project KickStart 4 and talk about its features and ease of use.

Project KickStart 4 is a very easy to use project management software application that will have you up in running within minutes. Unlike other project management software applications, Project KickStart 4 is unique with regard to its interface and guidance that it provides along the way to helping you plan your project. Project KickStart 4 divides the project management process up into 9 different steps-which are all complemented with Libraries of reusable resources which move you quickly through the project management phases. Project KickStart 4 starts the process off by having you "name" the project which is then followed by identifying the "phases" of your project. As a project manager you simply move through Project KickStart 4 wizards by clicking on the Next button. If you need some assistance you can click on the Advisor button which is located on the bottom left of the screen. You also have access to a Phases Library of items that you can simply drag to the phases window making the process go very quickly. During the "goals" phase you have the opportunity to develop and think about your goals for the project. It is easy to move through this phase by using the Goals Library to open up some goals that you can drag into the window. You next move to "Similar" tasks, and from the Library of stored projects you can simply select tasks that might be similar to the project that you are currently working on. This feature really saves you a lot of time since many projects may have similar tasks that can be quickly modified or changed. As part of any project management you will need to list the names of the people that will be working on the project. You have the option of bringing in people from the People library, typing in their name(s) or you can also import names directly from Outlook. Moving to the next phase you will need to think about what "obstacles" may get in the way to reaching your project goals. Here you can identify some tasks that will help you minimize or avoid the obstacle as you move through the planning process. Now you are ready to "assign" tasks to people which is easily done by selecting the tasks and then clicking on the name of the person or persons. You can Control click and assign several people to one tasks to create a group task. As you move to the Task phase you have the opportunity to review, print and edit your task list as well as type notes and add attachments. Your final task in Project KickStart 4 is to review your Gantt chart and make any necessary revisions or changes. It is easy to change the working and non-working days by bringing up the Calendar and selecting the working and non-working days which will automatically recalibrate the length of the project. In the Gantt chart view you can quickly get an overview of your project milestones and set the percentage of the task that has been done. I would have wanted to be able to set the task dependencies in the Gantt view but this feature is not supported in ProjectKickstart v 4. However, the Gantt chart view gives you a great snapshot to keep your projects on time and within budget. While you can enter the costs associated with a task this is one area that Project KickStart 4 is weak. However, one of the really fantastic features in Project KickStart 4 is the ability to export the data directly to other software applications which in this case is handled very well. Project KickStart 4 can directly export data to: PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, Word, Microsoft Project, ACT!, WBS Chart, and MindManager.

For individuals like myself, who may not be full-time project managers, Project KickStart 4, is a very well thought out application to help you plan small to medium sized projects with the ease and confidence of a seasoned project manager. Having worked through several projects with Project KickStart 4, I was really impressed with how the wizards and the Advisor dialogs made me carefully think through the project management process so that the outcome was realistic and manageable. I would have to say that Project KickStart 4 is in fact a very easy to use project management software application that delivers on its promise to get you up an running within 30 minutes without the need to have an advanced degree in project management.

In a future post, I will talk about the integration of Project KickStart 4 and MindManager Pro 7, which I'm sure will be of interest to you.

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