ConceptDraw Project 6 - An Uphill Battle in Project Management

When a company needs to move beyond Post-It notes and Excel spreadsheets for project management, ConceptDraw Project 6 is one of the solutions poised to help. By James E. Gaskin

There comes a time when managing projects force companies to move beyond Post-It notes and Excel spreadsheets. When that time comes, usually about six months later than it should, a project management-specific program is needed. ConceptDraw Project 6 has a long history and goes a good job, but going against market leaders like Microsoft Project and the range of online apps that support remote teams, means Project 6 has an uphill battle.

Worse, there’s no room for sex appeal in project management software, unlike ConceptDraw’s MindMap 7 (looking at information new ways and brainstorming) and Pro 9 (flowcharts and Business Process diagramming). PM means no-nonsense tools for no-nonsense project managers. Smiling is not allowed. Project 6 does add some pizazz when bundled in the ConceptDraw Office suite along with Pro 9 and MindMap 7, because reports and output can be jazzed up a bit.

Installation and Setup

Our software, a download of a 21-day free trial (full version, just time limited), installed easily enough on our Windows 8 test machine, although a batch of updates were the first order of business. Setup of the program is minimal, since it only uses a Gantt chart display. There are three visual themes, but they vary little.

Setup, for project management, means entering by hand all the resources and project tasks. Each project, task, and resource (work means people, then material, cost, equipment, and Company for outside vendors) must be entered into the program. An import option supports Microsoft Project, outline text, and MindMap files.

ConceptDraw has a 21 page Introducing Project paper online, as well as multiple videos. College courses for Project Management are in vogue as well, if you’re close to one or want to go the online route. Consider training a career enhancing move, since good project managers are in demand.

Using Project 6

There’s no cute opening screen like for Pro 9 or MindMap 7, perhaps reinforcing the no-nonsense program at work here. The left side of the screen displays the lists of resources, tasks, dates, and priorities, depending on the function at the time. The right side of the screen shows the time line of the project, meaning the typical overlapping bars of the Gantt chart. Tabs on far right can open to show resources, notes, project, and task information.

One can load in all the resources, as in the screen shot above, and then the tasks that use those resources, or vice versa. Nothing will really happen until both are imported so you can assign one to the other. Resources have names, a type, a cost, a group, an email for contact, and notes. Click on the email address for a person (or any resource that has an email address, like some companies provide for conference rooms and expensive equipment for scheduling) and you can assign details.

Tasks details include the name, duration (always guesswork until you start refining your estimation abilities), start and finish times, the percentage completed, actual costs based on the numbers you assigned to the resource in question, work time estimated, and notes for the resources. Sub task details roll up to the parent tasks, so costs for each task is displayed while the parent task, or phase as is called in Project 6, shows the total for all subtasks.

You assign resources to the active task by using the tabs on the far right to open the Resources list and check the box of appropriate items. Wish there was a pull-down the appeared then you click the Resources entry field, but no such luck. When you click the Start and Finish times, a calendar drops down. You can adjust already-set times by moving the blue lines. Sliding the left side of the blue line right changes the color and indicates how much of the task is finished.

A useful touch at the bottom of the tasks screen keeps you focused on what’s important: the budgeted amount, the actual cost, and profit. If you are estimating more than your budget amount, the profit amount goes red and negative. Try to avoid that.

There are 21 filters, including important details like costs overbudget and late tasks (a prime cause of overbudget costs). Reports abound, especially if you also have ConceptDraw Pro 9. If not, you get spreadsheets that export and open your spreadsheet app. They open snappily, with the only delay being loading the other application if it isn’t running already. With Pro 9 you get all sorts of report eye candy suitable for management reports.

Conclusion

Do people use Project Management software for fun? No. Do people who need PM software really need that software? Absolutely. You can do worse, much worse, than ConceptDraw Project 6, but in a field full of online, open source, and Microsoft project applications, the real task for ConceptDraw Project 6 is marketing.

Pricing: $199 direct, available through multiple online sources besides ConceptDraw. Volume and academic discounts are available. Resellers should contact Lifeboat Distribution (http://www.lifeboatdistribution.com/

More reviews from the ConceptDraw Suite! See ConceptDraw Pro 9 Review | ConceptDraw MindMap 7 Review

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Comments

I am testing Concept-Draw PROJECT on advise of colleague, it offers the full set of features you need to plan, organize and manage a project, including task and resource management, reporting, and change control – this is not only interesting for project managers (to be in time and in budget is a team responsibility). BTW, it can export amazing dashboards using another ConceptDraw tool - PRO