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New AxProject 3.41 to Introduce Rate Groups for Increased Project Cost Precision

We are proud to announce the release of a new version of our headliner product AxProject 2010 Professional. Apart from the Earned Value Method analysis and baselines available in AxProject since the latest version and now improved, you can find useful the newly introduced Rate Groups for resources that can work on different tasks at varying rates.  The feature has been eagerly awaited in AxProject since it is absolutely a must for proper resource management. Rate groups reflect the fact that the personnel’s job may cost different money depending on the type of work, the amount of efforts a task takes, and career promotion.

From now on, you can create as many rate groups as you need and apply them in assignments. For example, these can be rate groups for a resource that can perform different types of work at different rates. 

Availability of rate groups is particularly critical for the correct calculation of project costs in case of some changes in resource costs in time. For example, if the rates of a certain resource have changed (increased as a result of career promotion, or vice versa reduced), you can set a new rate group for this resource  to be applied starting from a certain moment of time. This will allow you to calculate project costs subject to a new rate without affecting the rest of the calculations that were made before the rate change. Thus, the project costs before the rate increase or decrease will remain intact and will be calculated at the previous rates. Without the rate groups applicable from a certain point of time, you would just edit the resource’s rate and all the project costs would be recalculated from the very project start dates, which would surely distort the financial picture of your project.
Baselines alongside with the earned value analysis will let you stay informed about the current status of you project according to your baseline plan.  Rate groups will allow you to manage resource costs with more flexibility and assurance in that your project costs are estimated correctly at all times.

Here is the list of improvements in AxProject 3.41:

  • Rate changes and rate groups
  • Baselines
  • Earned Value Method Analysis
  • 128-bit decimals costs precision
  • Project Chart – a new Project Management View for convenient browsing of the project scope
  • Printing

 and other pluses-n-fixes.

Find out more about this project planning tool
or download and try the new AxProject right now

Painting vs Planning

Practicing project planning in the company does not eventually mean the efficient management of the project itself, though the company might be positive in its progress. Such issuesas delays and budget overruns might still take place, however, they turn into managed and controlled tasksin the hands of a competent planner. Many project leaders claim to exercise project planning in their companies with reference to using such software products as Microsoft Excel or Project.

This, however, does not mean they take advantage of all the features and benefits provided by the project management software. Professional project planning is not just about “drawing” tasks one-by-one with an approximate overlap in time on a two-level structured plan (in a fortunate case) in Excel or even in a professional planner.

Getting updated information is a burning issue of efficient planning. If a project manager is well informed about the issues below, they are more likely to succeed:

  • Current activities of all the contractors.
  • Delays accurate within a day.
  • Funds needed for a particular project in the near future according to the budget breakdown.
  • Budget overrun accurate to a cent.

Let us consider some practical examples. Clients and contractors in the companies described above often schedule their works on objects (ex. Engineering) as shown in figures 1-2.

Excel Project Painting

Fig.1. Planning in Microsoft Excel

 

Planning in AxProject

Fig.2. Planning in AxProject.

 A whole number of questions arise concerning the project and its implementation when you analyze the list of activities with duration from a month to five months in fig.2. What are the specific activities of plasterers within the “Foundations” task during the whole period of works? What is the scope of works needed? What resources (qualification, cost, quality) do we need to have each task performed?

Costs are the next cornerstone there.  In the figure, we see that it is impossible to determine the cost of laying the foundation as well as of other project stages. This fact certainly causes difficulties in budget management in addition to the lack of its initial step-by-step planning. The final project cost set forth in the contract does not help in any way to estimate and control the implementation costs and possible budget overrun.
Many short-sighted specialists prefer the “accounting on the actual basis” method which implies no cost planning before the construction starts. It is an absolutely wrong and – above all – a failure-oriented approach. Acting reasonably, a professional can precisely indicate and define, within a particular project stage, the resources and cost of their work, the number of tasks and work breakdown structure, start and finish dates and the key factors affecting those. It is by-turn the ground for activity planning.

A particular task requires some logical and integrated interrelation with other tasks, otherwise we get the case as shown in fig.1. The start and finish points are defined at random. It is so because, guided by the given facts, we cannot know which subtasks are included in the “Foundations” task and what we are to do before the “Steel Erection” task starts. Moreover, a particular task’s lagging or leading is not displayed within the timeframes of the entire project.  This has nothing to do with the real situation.

How can we define the physical percent complete or the current stage by such “project painting”? Very often, people in such companies use the “of-this-date” method to determine the completion percentage. Or they directly contact a contractor.
For example, we are in a situation when we utterly need to know the works completed and costs spent. How can we do that with such a schedule? There is no way. Neither time lag nor resource lag on the “Form and Pour Concrete – Floors and Roof” task is mentioned. The lack of interrelations provides no information about the potential lagging of the successor tasks.
You can find the “Finish variance” and “Cost variance” fields specially developed in the AxProject project planning software product which make it possible to avoid confusing marks about deviation using a resource or any other ways of marking, fig.3.

Task Finish Variance in AxProject

Fig.3. Deviation alert.

 There are certainly projects performed by Contractors within the fixed terms and costs. But it is worth mentioning that it is not a trend. It means that a company should plan its activity not only with the help of graphical tools of Excel or Gantts diagrams (so called project “painting”). As in the case described above, the following difficulties can occur upon such painting:

  1. Lack of sufficient project details. On the contrary, exact awareness about project completion with a lag of 5 days and additionally required amount of money allows one to adjust a budget, marketing activity, etc.
  2. Lack of information about required work and material resources, facilities. It is critical to know what part of resources and within what time period should be reallocated to different tasks in case of changes in start-finish dates, and which project starts should be postponed in that relation.
  3. Lack of rational planning of project budget.
  4. Lack of task interrelation.
  5. Lack of tracking of project implementation dynamics.

 Now we can take all the remarks into account and look at the graphic in fig.4
This is the example of how we can make the task on “Foundations” more detailed.

Task Outline level

Fig.4. Outline level 2.

The present graphic provides sufficient information concerning the critical questions. The start-finish dates of every subtask included into the ground floor construction are presented there. Besides, the cost of every subtask is indicated, which simplifies the evaluation of the current project status and its factors.
Browsing through that graphic, we can get detailed data about some parts of work completed, start/finish dates of the next parts, and not some abstract and relative values of task completion evaluation. It gives us an extensive description of tasks and their scope, the materials required and costs.
Also, from the graphic, we can get information about salaries to be paid and costs associated with the operation of machinery and equipment.
 
Thus, we can always get the necessary information with the help of Outline levels 2 and more. And we can also find answers to the critical questions below:

  1. What are the specific current activities of your contractors?
  2. What funds do you need for a particular project in the near future according to the budget breakdown?

The planning process with the use of these drill-down levels provides us with a timely report on the tasks performed and on project stages. This means you will know:

  1. Delays accurate within a day.
  2. Budget overrun accurate to a cent.

 Having the answers to these and many other questions that require discovering more details about the project, we can stay assured that the project is properly managed and scheduled. You wouldn’t be able to go this deep in understanding your project if you just had it “painted” in Excel.

Find out more about project planning software
or download and try AxProject right now

AxProject as an alternative to Microsoft (MS) Project

When it comes to business optimization, many company leaders are eager to find less expensive ways and solutions to run their business. In doing so, they would still not wish to lose in quality. Leading top managers see that no alternative should be left without proper attention when it’s up to project optimization.
Microsoft Project has long been considered beyond competition in the market of project management software. This article discovers some peculiar features and advantages of AxProject that a project manager may find worth attention when looking for an adequate alternative to MS Project. Comparing these two, let’s draw attention to the three most significant points to be considered:
 

Most Wanted Project Planning Tools

AxProject suggests a comprehensive set of professional project planning tools with everything you might need in daily project management. The one who intends to change MS Project for AxProject would be pleased to find many familiar functions at hand. Moreover, AxProject suggests some unique features, too.
The Project Chart is the feature that can be referred to as an innovation in project management software. This chart has been developed as a result of an attempt to improve the Gantt chart. Now, it resolves the inconveniences of the Gantt chart and provides a brand new view of the project suggesting quick access to milestones, drill-down levels, no excessive detailing or grid lines causing confusion, convenient overview of task time phases. At the same time, the balance between functionality and genie simplicity is no way disturbed. The word ‘smart’ here doesn’t mean ‘sophisticated’.
Another point worth mentioning is a modified team planner, a very useful feature, indeed. It saves time and provides perils of business prevention, as you deal with possible problems of overloading within the application environment before they interrupt the whole business. Unlike the familiar Team Planner, the alternative Resource Chart offered by AxProject combines the resource workload balance and reschedule tools with the standard resource view. It not only provides managers with the ability to monitor, reorganize and level the workload of human and material resources, but also visualizes the resource workload right in the chart, turning it into a real handy function.
 
 

Making Professional Project Planning Affordable

AxProject’s pricing policy is absolutely reasonable. The product is the right solution for those who need a professional project management instrument with a set of must-have planning tools, but would not want to pay a fortune for it. All the project planning features AxProject has to offer coupled with a nice intuitive interface are available for just $129 making it quite a smart investment.
Apart from reasonable pricing, AxProject provides flexibility due to a possibility of using project file viewers where necessary – something that Microsoft Project, unfortunately, can not afford. Around 500$ for professional project planning software, no matter whether you are a top manager creating a plan, or just a team member seeing it through, has become a must-pay minimum. As amazing as reasonable it is, the application suggested by Advanced Experience alongside with AxProject isAxViewer 2010, a project viewer that is a more affordable and cost-effective alternative to project planners, unless you need to edit them. Thus, instead of purchasing expensive project management planners for the entire project team, you could alternatively get a fully featured AxProject for yourself as a project manager, with the rest of the team members obtaining less costly AxViewer for viewing projects. If you take into consideration the price of AxProject itself, which is literary less than half of MS Project’s, the opportunity to save on the application copies brings out the benefit that grows in geometric progression. That’s what is called cost efficiency and customizability. AxProject is flexible, it meets the requirements of the customer’s budget and helps get optimized through the planner-viewer combination that suits your business the most. That’s why it’s attractive as an alternative to MS Project. Optimization here is obvious.
 

Familiar Interface and Usability

What we get used to is often considered to be the most efficient, and when it comes to a change, time and strain are required to get used to the new. I mean have you ever had to write a message in T9 when you’re used to Abc? A most simple task turns into a trial. Microsoft Project is a used-to project management software, and it would be smart of AxProject developers not to step far from the familiar interface. And they actually didn’t. A tabbed toolbar interface, just like in MS Office 2007, seems user-friendly and offers comprehensive project management tools. It may be a very complex and large project, but the impression left from the planning process is remarkable by its comfort and efficiency.
 
After everything mentioned, the question “whether the alternative of AxProject is worth regarding?” sounds more like “whether you regard your business worth optimizing?” – so obvious and undoubted the advantages are. And while some managers still do not consider the perspective, others have already allowed this invaluable asset into their business.

Download and try AxProject right now

7 Major Issues of Gantt Charts and How You Can Avoid Them

Many standard Gantt charts are overloaded with unnecessary details, are too large to overview and print out while numerous grid lines cause confusion. When talking about the convenience of getting the necessary data from the Gantt chart, the lack of ease in accessing milestones and drill-down levels comes out. The latter issue is actually the absence of a drill-down option that would display any level of tasks and subtasks you want without having to oversee their summary tasks or the tasks of neighboring levels.
Taking all these considerations into account, Advanced Experience has designed a new chart that would resolve the Gantt chart issues.
The Project Chart is a brand new view uniquely developed in AxProject to join the standard Task and Resource views. The Project Chart has been introduced as a result of a number of conclusions that the Advanced Experience development team arrived at while studying the above Gantt chart issues.

Project Chart with Milestones

So what are the features and benefits of the Project Chart?

  1. Drill-Down Levels.Now you can drill down to any specific level of tasks or subtasks to overview.
  2. Milestones Available at a Glance.Project milestones are always displayed at the top of the project.
  3. A Much Eased Gantt Chart.Once implemented in project management software, the Project Chart unloads the Gantt chart from excessive details, thus, making it less complex, much clearer and easier for reading the necessary information.
  4. No Excessive Grid Lines.
  5. Critical Path Always Outlined.
  6. Space Economy.  In contrast to the familiar high-rise presentation of tasks with each task taking a separate line, the Project Chart suggests placing the tasks that have no overlap in their time phases on a single line one by one. That is made for a space economy purpose, thus, allowing you to overview really huge and complex projects with a minimum possible space taken. A handy header drag option allows you to travel to/from any time phases of your project at ease.

To try and to evaluate the convenience of this new chart, you can download AxProject here. You will see how much easier it becomes to understand the project!
Feel free to submit any your comments and recommendations as to the product improvement: Contact Us.

Learn more about AxProject and its features here

Automatic resource leveling proven to completely fail in construction

Resource workload optimization: from the phantom of automatic leveling to visual resource optimizers.

The idea of the “red button” has again proved to be a phantom, this time for resource leveling.
 
Professional project managers have always faced the problem of resource workload optimization. Thus, the problem considers drawing up schedules with a maximum resource workload and prevention of resource overloading at the same time. And it is, actually, the art of using schedule optimization techniques subject to resource workload that makes a difference between a professional scheduler and a beginner.
 
 However, it is time to recognize, that in the market of so called project management tools  intended to  resolve  all these problems, a ”100 %  automatic  resource leveling” soap bubble has appeared. And it is even not some specific suppliers of algorithms to blame,  but the fact  that despite the aggressive advertising less than  1 % of users were able to deploy such systems, while the commercials made them splash out for new panaceas again and again.
 It is very interesting, however, that the soap bubble of automatic resource leveling in Russia was blown by an ordinary building project manager from Ufa. He has used specific and simple examples to publicly prove not just the ineligibility of resource leveling for a specific project management system, but the fact that the whole idea was no more than a mathematical abstraction very far from real practice. If you didn’t have a chance to learn these useful practical instructions before, you can find them in this article.
 
The results of the opinion poll among the users of project management programs have shown that realizing automatic resource leveling as a fake became already common with the majority of professionals. Therefore AxProject has offered the tools of new generation known as visual resource optimizers, which debuted in AxProject Professional, v.3.0.   


How a builder has proved resource leveling to be a mathematical abstraction to the developer of project management systems

The obvious argument against resource leveling is in the impossibility of resource workload optimization to be fulfilled just by pushing one magic “red button”, which is supposed to do the job. The reality is often far too complicated to be modeled by these algorithms. Moreover, the complexity of their setup makes the whole sense vanish, as the effort needed for it is much higher than one for the process of manual resource conflict settlement.  
Very often systems of automatic resource leveling are sold through forums since the complexity of their adjustment forces the supplier to look for professional schedulers there. However, in one of such cases they stepped on a mine. A professional scheduler being a builder has proved in a conclusive way the inconsistency of the idea of automatic resource leveling. His argumentation was so convincing that it has quickly spread among professionals. Therefore the vendor had to find a way to erase this discussion. The managers of the forum have agreed to erase only the vendor’s replies, leaving the arguments of an expert which are easily found through Google. These arguments became even more valuable since they do criticize the whole idea of automatic resource leveling, not just some specific realization of resource leveling of some specific vendor. To make the arguments of an expert given in the discussion easier to understand, we shall briefly state the questions put by the vendor.

 "Automatic resource leveling is fraught with consequences"

In the forum, in reply to the inquiry of a new user, the vendor starts advertising automatic resource leveling when he receives a critical remark from a practicing builder who calls it an abstraction unable to model the reality adequately.

The BUILDER: As practice shows, you can’t entrust resource leveling to the program. It is impossible, for it is fraught with consequences. There do arise such decisions which seem to be quite fair within the limits of the task, but prove to be absolutely inapplicable to the reality. There are too many factors which this algorithm (no matter how perfect it is) is simply unable to consider.

"No model will ever be able to consider all the logic of reality"

The vendor approves that his algorithms of resource leveling are perfect, while the builder gives an example to ridicule the operation of the algorithm in reality.

The BUILDER: There are too many factors. And it is inexpedient to hammer them all into a machine. For example, there are two objects and one expensive tool. If that seems appropriate to the algorithm of resource leveling, than the latter will teleport this tool between the two objects nearly a hundred times a day, until you "explain" to it that transportation is never instant and costs money. Or it will send workers to a zone with recently filled floors, or will pack more than eight workers in one room at once, and stuff…

 "Other examples from life which are difficult to model with existing software"

The vendor tries to approve that the given example with the necessity of teleportation and people sent to walk on stiffening concrete is an exemption from the rules, and that no problems arise usually. The practicing builder shows that it is exactly usual with resource leveling to behave abnormally and that the model of resource leveling is imperfect from the very root. Again he uses examples to support himself.

The BUILDER: Some more life situations which are complex for modeling with existing software.

  1.  An object is divided into zones. It is only possible to get to zone B from zone A, but there have recently been established levels for filling in concrete. If it is even possible for a group of people to pass, then carrying bulky materials can cause hurting the levels. It can’t be allowed.
  2.  You can pass to an object only under admission. Some workers do have it, and some – don’t.
  3.  The works take place at an operating enterprise. Some works are characterized by strong noise and are advised to be carried out at night. Though, if the noise is temporary, nobody will suffer. How can you put it into a program?

“Automatic resource leveling is an “artificial” solution”

The vendor tries to simplify the task for the algorithm of leveling so that it could solve it, while the practicing builder calls it an “artificial” solution and goes on giving examples which show that it is a mathematical abstraction, not the reality. The builder also stresses the point that the attempt to set up a leveling algorithm lacks the effect of a “red button”, making the user put enormous effort into setting it up.
The BUILDER:

  1. The resources can be delivered at any moment. It’s just that the hard driver of the optimizer should know that it’s desirable not to start the works which demand bulky resources. And it should take into consideration the geometry of the object as well. You can’t find it anywhere yet.
  2. Noisy work is the one that is done with noisy instruments. If the tools or the technology is suddenly changed, than the optimizer should keep this fact in mind during the future run. Alas. Well, I do agree that most of the given situations can possibly be resolved with existing software. But the out coming project is doomed to have so many additional restrictions, fictitious resources and communications that users will be glued to fat Tips&Tricks Manuals.

More problems showing that the algorithm of leveling is no more than an abstraction

The vendor tries to state that the data directories of his algorithms are universal and are able to reflect absolutely any project specificity. The builder proves the opposite.
 
The BUIDER: Right. And how do you reflect the “bulkiness” of the resource in your data directories? And how will the change of such a resource quality influence the process of schedule optimization?
 
I didn’t set up a problem.  I simply gave a private example right after the general one. In any way, a “zone” is just a part of the building object characterized by the common nature of the works done in it. Why should it be added into the multiresource? I do agree that the model is an invaluable instrument in making administrative decisions. But as any instrument it has a number of restrictions. The main one is “a model is a logical abstraction”. Does your model take into consideration the deterioration of tools? The need of your workers to rest? Is the space of the room where you keep the tools taken into the account? The tools’ size themselves? Or maybe the geometry of the construction object? If you say “yes” to these and a couple of other my questions, then surely I will recognize your model adequate to the reality. ”So there are millions of dimensions”. It is true only if the optimization considers the whole project. If the floating “focus” is used, then during an epoch only a part of a chromosome is optimized, thus, the dimensions will be much fewer (the direction of the optimization should go from start to finish. The criterion function should correctly take into consideration the project specificity as well). Though, talking about 10000 tasks projects, even this approach will demand monstrous computing resources.

 

Automatic leveling can solve only very specific tasks but it’s useless as a complex solution.

 The vendor tries to specify the task, thus showing that his algorithm can level materials and work with calendars. The builder shows that in reality leveling of materials will fail and that the calendars are not reliable enough to be handled by the machine. 
 
The BUILDER:

  1. Anyway, what are we going to get if we switch from bulky sacks with solution to small ones in the whole project? Or vice versa? The whole project will have to be reconsidered in search of the places where such a change is significant.
  2. Right.  And what if one and the same instrument in one zone of the object can make noise at any time (cellar), and in another – only after 6 p.m. (in areas close to office premises)? “…The manager’s task is to create such a model that reflects the reality”. Any model inherently is only an abstraction reflecting the essentially important characteristics of the object of modeling. You can’t bring reality into it, and why should you? “The creation of a computer model of the project is a creative process”. In the ancient times when there were not enough tools and knowledge, even the creation of a cold weapon was a creative process. When the machines emerged, people were freed to solve more important problems. The same stuff is about creating project models – it is yet a creative process.”

 Why consider only what product suppliers are trying to sell? 

The VENDOR:”If you mean schedule optimization– have you seen it anywhere else than in (the advertised product)?”
The BUILDER: Why consider only what the mass market has to offer?
The discussion, as we see, was closed by the straight offer to buy the product and the builder’s refusal together with a wish to consider the alternatives.
It should be mentioned that the practicing builder has shown convincing examples on all the faults of a 100% automatic resource leveling:
The impossibility of leveling algorithms to model the reality in all its complexity ends up with automatic creation of plans rather of a comic sense than useful for actual work.

 
Huge efforts required for setting up the leveling algorithm and constant corrections made to the model during the project work make no sense as manual resource management conflicts are much easier and less effort-consuming to settle.
 
The alternative to automatic resource leveling is AxProject’s visual resource optimizers which work according to a different scenario responding to the critics of earlier methods.
 

 AxProject Visual resource workload optimizers

 Although the fact that the idea of automatic resource leveling has flopped is clear even to an ordinary builder, the problem of an efficient resource optimization still remains.
 
The inquiry among schedulers shows that the failure of automatic resource leveling is obvious practically to everyone. At the same time there is a growing interest to instruments that allow the scheduler to interact with the program so that the resources are optimized with a minimal effort.
 
Thus, the idea of visual resource optimizers was born. In AxProject, they first appeared in version 3.0.
The idea is that the main resource leveling scenario is based on the ability of the program to visualize the specific places where optimization is needed with the help of a wide range of graphical means.  The program’s interface is designed in a way for the scheduler to give instructions to the program concerning the use of resources during the operation just by a double click of a mouse.
 
Actually the work with a visual resource optimizer is quite similar to a strategy game, where you, the scheduler, manage tasks with a mouse and give commands to the program on which decision should be taken.
 
The scheduler in this scenario of resource optimization manages the process 10 times faster than when setting up huge forms with automatic leveling parameters. The results of automatic leveling must also be checked otherwise you may face comical situations described by our practicing builder. Old project managing systems simply have no means for visualization of “suspicious” places. The scheduler has to do tiresome and monotonous work checking all the operations.
AxProject Professional, on the contrary, has visual indicators which point to where your attention is needed.
AxProject has several visual resource optimizers. The main ones are:

  •  “Red Men” – this icon indicates the task having a resource conflict with a suggestion to use the conflict managing master.
  •  “The visual resource optimizer of all the project resources” (Team Planner) – this tool allows the scheduler to analyze resources and gain optimal usage of ones by managing tasks with a mouse.

Find out more about AxProject features

New AxProject 3.40 to introduce earned value method and baselines

Advanced Experience announces the release of a new AxProject 3.40 that now supports baselines and the earned value method.

Baseline is an essential tool for keeping up with the project progress. It is the initial project plan that is created and saved before any activities on project implementation are started.  The baseline contains original task, resource, assignment, budget, and cost estimates against which a project manager can then compare the actual project parameters throughout the project progress.  The actual project data can include actual task durations, actual percent work completed on assignments, timephased resources. This will help the manager to understand to what extent the actual implementation of the project deviates from the planned one. In AxProject, you can create as many baselines as you want.

The introduction of baselines in the new AxProject 3.40 has made it possible to apply another important project progress tracking feature – the earned value method. The method is based on using the number of actual values calculated as the project progresses.  The earned value represents the actual budgeted cost of the work that has been performed on the task at the given moment and helps the manager see if the project is going over or under the budget.

Keeping track of the earned value and referring to project baselines, a project manager will always see if the project is actually performed according to the plan and will be able to foresee the potential risk of project delays or going over the allocated budget.

Read more on useful features of AxProject…

Microsoft Project Viewer Questions and Answers

AxpViewer is a stand-alone viewer for Microsoft Project files that provides access to any MS projects with all their attributes and parameters correctly displayed. With AxpViewer, you can open and view large and complex MS projects, and stay sure that you get the right picture of all the tasks and subtasks, dependencies and time constraints, schedules and assignments, resources and their related data.

 Why do I need a Microsoft Project viewer?

While your company top or line managers might be creating MS or AxProject plans, your project team members might just need to view these plans without having to change or edit them. Or your customer might send you a Microsoft Project file that you need to view. Microsoft Project viewers are used to avoid installing costly project planners solely for viewing project files. That is the point where you can get optimized. Our AxpViewer application is a great alternative to Microsoft Project while it suggests a more affordable and cost effective way to view MPP files.

Optimize your business processes and project collaboration with a more affordable access to viewing MPP files. With AxpViewer, you get optimized where it is reasonable to.

Why use AxpViewer Microsoft Project viewer?

  • affordable access to Microsoft Project files
  • large and complex plans opened
  • multiple project attributes correctly displayed
  • no need to have Microsoft Project installed on your PC

AxpViewer makes your company project management collaboration easy, complete and more cost effective.
Read more on useful features of AxpViewer

Additional reading: 

What is a Microsoft Project viewer?

A Microsoft Project viewer is an application used for importing, opening, and viewing MPP files created with the Microsoft Project software. In contrary to project planners, project viewers provide access only to viewing/reading project plans. This makes MPP viewers inexpensive and cost effective.

How do I benefit from using Microsoft Project viewers?

  •  You save money
  •  You provide access of all the project team members to the project plan
  •  You do not need to have Microsoft Project installed on all your PCs
  •  

3 things to keep in mind when choosing a Microsoft Project viewer:

  1. Affordability – The idea of any Microsoft Project viewer is to provide affordable access to MPP files, because installing project planners only for opening project files might involve unjustified costs. A Microsoft Project viewer should save you money.
  2. Accurate import of project details – Your Microsoft Project viewer should support all major Microsoft Project features in order to accurately import and open all project attributes. You probably don’t want your project team to get a wrong understanding of your project – or that of your customer’s – due to numerous inaccuracies in the imported MPP file as compared to the original plan.
  3. Ability to load large projects – A Microsoft Project viewer should be able to open large, complex projects without any failures. 

Project Management Software Questions and Answers

What is project management software?

Project management software is software used by project managers to schedule, control costs, resources and completion terms of their projects. Even complex projects become clear and easy to manage, because they are arranged as a succession of scheduled and interrelated tasks with various resources assigned. Project management software helps managers estimate their project finish dates, calculate project budgets, smartly manage available resources, and timely recognize and resolve critical issues.
 

Do I need project management software?

If you have a team of professionals all working on or involved in a project, you probably need some tool that will help you organize the collaborative work of all the team’s members, both in time and space. You will need to schedule all the events and tasks to be done in time and arrange them in a logical order, taking account of the way they depend on each another.  All that can be managed with the help of project management software.
 
 You definitely need project management software if you have to:

  • calculate your project budget and costs
  • know how much time your project will take to complete
  • know what human, material, and cost resources your project will take to complete
  • organize the work of many people responsible for different tasks in your project
  • identify critical issues that may affect meeting project deadlines
  • organize and take full control of the project to ensure its successful implementation
  • your customer works with such software

How would project management software help my project?

  • You will have your project scheduled task by task
  • Project management software helps you schedule all the events and tasks to be done in time and arrange them in a logical order, taking account of the way they depend on each another. Let’s say, some job should be performed prior to another. For example, you may need to have some materials supplied before your production personnel starts their works.  The production process may also involve several steps that depend on one another: preparation works, actual production works, tests, correction, final tests, and approval. If a certain task may not start before another one (for example, the testing of a product may not logically start before the product is finished), you can visually link such tasks as dependent in your project plan. Also, you could arrange some tasks to follow one another, but you could smartly organize your production team to start preparation works together with supplies. When the materials are there, your team will also be ready to start off the production process. Such types of event dependencies can be coordinated in project management software.

  • You will smartly employ personnel throughout the project
  • When there are different people responsible for performing different tasks, it is a challenge to control and organize smooth interaction of all the people involved.  Back to our sample case, different personnel might be employed at each phase of the project: supplies can be handled by procurement managers, while product testing can be performed by qualified testers. In project management software, you can assign different work resources to any task to see who is responsible for what at each phase of your project.
     
    In your company, the same people can naturally be assigned to several tasks or even projects at a time. For example, testers might have to simultaneously evaluate some other products, or the same designer might be involved in preparing patterns for different projects. In this case, there is a risk of overloading people, and this challenge is successfully resolved with the help of the project management software. Using such software, you would instantly see who is assigned to more tasks than they can handle.  You can also find the ways to resolve this, for example, through resource leveling. You can reassign the task in question to other people, or assign more people to that task, or just reschedule it so that an overallocated person could perform it when less busy.

  • You will easily and quickly estimate your project finish dates
  • Even more importantly, you probably need some instruments to estimate the time that your project will be complete by. Without such instruments, you only have to guess the proposed finish dates of you project. And your forecast would be based on approximate assumptions of how long each task in the project will take. In project management software, you will be able to set time phases for every task in the project and see their calculated durations. Likewise, the length of the entire project will be automatically estimated based on all the tasks’ durations summed up. Thus, project management software will provide you with specific start and end dates for your project, making your project assumptions as clear and accurate as never before.

  • You will timely identify and resolve critical issues
  • Project management software will be helpful if you have strict deadlines for your project completion. When it comes to meeting deadlines, it is important that you understand what tasks are critical to the successful completion of your project right in time. Again, such software can help you duly identify the tasks at risk. For example, with task dependencies set out, you will be able to clearly see that if a certain task is delayed, your entire project may be affected. In project management software, you will also see ways to optimize such a situation. For example, allocate a backup work resource that can replace or help your key responsible person in case they are unable to complete the critical task in time. Or reschedule the predecessor tasks to earlier dates to win more time for the critical one.

  • You will easily calculate your project costs
  • Project management software helps you easily calculate the budget for your project. You may use any types of resources – human, material, or otherwise – throughout your project, and all of them cost money. If you want to know how much attracting a certain professional to the project will cost you, or to calculate the cost of the entire project, a project planner is the right instrument to do this.

  • You can consider different project scenarios
  • You can use project management software to consider different “what if” scenarios for your project development.  You can make various assumptions and see how the project behaves. For example, what if you shift some task to a later date, or employ a more expensive yet more efficient specialist, or use cheaper material resources? How will this affect your project costs, finish dates, deadlines, or resource workload? There can be plenty of scenarios, and project planners provide handy tools to explore them.
     

    10 things to keep in mind when choosing project management software:

    1. Usability – Nice and user-friendly interface is critical to project management software, since you will be using it to have your project
    2. Affordability – When optimizing project costs is essential, finding a cost effective project management solution is one of the ways to do so.
    3. Variety of task dependencies – In complex projects, events and tasks may depend on each other in different ways. Your project planner should support at least 4 types of task dependencies.
    4. Variety of task constraints and deadlines – A task constraint is a parameter that restricts the task to finish or start before a certain date or time. For best convenience, there should be at least 8 types of task constraints.
    5. Several resource types – In reality, you don’t employ only human resources in your project. There are also material and cost (like rent, airplane tickets, etc.) resources involved. To keep your project true to life, use project management software that allows you to choose from various types of resources, not just work resources.
    6. Team planner supported – Your project management software should enable you to identify resource overloading issues and effectively manage them.
    7. Critical path method supported – When meeting deadlines is critical, it is important to know what events can affect project completion dates. Using a critical path in your project management software, you will instantly identify critical tasks the delay of which may affect the length of the entire project.
    8. Visual Gantt chart – It should support all types of task dependencies, and a mouse use for greater convenience.
    9. Customizable calendars – It is only natural that your resources may have different working schedules or may not be available at the same time. Your project management software should allow you to customize individual calendars for all types of resources, as well as support exceptions and work weeks.
    10. Microsoft Project file import – As long as you’re not using Microsoft Project, this feature is critical to you because your partners or customers may work with mpp files. Select the project management software that is absolutely compatible with MS Project.

    Go and choose your project management tool here

    About task constraints

    There are 8 types of task constraints: “start no earlier than”, “start no later than”, “finish no earlier than”, “finish no later than”, “must start on”, “must finish on”, “as soon as possible”, “as late as possible”.

    • If your tasks should have strict and fixed dates, you can specify those by applying “must start on” and “must finish on” strict constraints.
    • If your tasks do not need to have a fixed time, but should be restricted in time, you can use the following types of constraints: “start no earlier than” (the task must not start earlier than the specific date), “start no later than” (the task must not start later than the specific date), “finish no earlier than” (the task must not finish earlier than the specific date), “finish no later than” (the task must not finish later than the specific date).
    • Your tasks may be rather flexible in time and might not require any fixed time for their implementation, but they can have certain dependencies with other tasks. In this case you can use flexible time constraints, such as “as soon as possible” (the task must start as soon as possible in terms of the entire project) and “as late as possible” (the task must start as late as possible in terms of the entire project).
  • Observing Task Time and Duration - While creating various dependencies between the tasks and constraining them, you will be able to see the tasks’ durations and completion dates vary correspondingly depending on these changes.
  • Microsoft Project viewer – AxpViewer

    At last, the new Microsoft Project viewer is able to display all commonly used project attributes, facilitate previews and to provide wide ranging project views. Think, for example, of large Microsoft Project files full of tasks, subtasks, dependencies and time constraints, schedules and assignments… Or the ingenious plans your project team members might like to view without inaccuracies due to the incompatibility of your Microsoft Project viewer with the original planner.

    Having this new Microsoft Project viewer you can be sure to get the precise picture of any MS projects with all their attributes and parameters correctly displayed. AxpViewer is a great alternative to Microsoft Project allowing you to get a more affordable and cost effective way to view MPP files.

    Get smart with AxpViewer:

    • Get an affordable access to Microsoft Project files
    • Make large and complex plans open easily at your command
    • Get pleased with all multiple project attributes correctly displayed
    • Save your time and money

    Working on a large project is getting more pricy? Use the chance to optimize your business processes and project collaboration with AxpViewer now!
    Read more on useful features of AxpViewer Standard…

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