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I look for a tool or a "best practice" whose focus is on managing how the current staff of programmers can get assigned and re-assigned to different projects depending on changing priorities. Progress on projects should be tracked, too. Our department is not faced with a single, overly complex project (for which I'd know several good tools to manage it), but with a seemingly ever increasing stack of new project requests of small to moderate size. Most projects can be completed by a single programmer within 1 to 4 weeks, and only some rare beasts might take several months. It does happen that work on a project is interrupted because a more important job pops up. Usually a programmer is working on several projects at once (at example, one short-term, one medium-term, and one long-term project, or helping out at someone else's project because of his special knowledge). Most projects are done by a single programmer of the pool. I speak of a team of less than 10 programmers.

Since most project requests are unrelated to each other, the order in which they are done is mostly decided arbitrarily or by how loud the request is shouted. The requests come from different in-house departments and are dictated by internal demand and not with a pareto optimum in mind. Needless to say this leads to constant discussions about why a certain project needs to be done first.

I know that there is a management problem behind it, but my question is not about how to change the way the company works, but about a tool whichs helps to improve coordination and communication "in the meantime".

What I am looking for is a tool that can visualize the current assignments, give projections about how long a programmers is already booked up by projects, reflects how changing an assignment change the timeplan of projects etc. Its purpose is less about self-coordination of the team, but more to provide a high-level view that can be communicated to and is easily understandable by other departments. It should provide a solid foundation for discussing priorities and for deciding the order of projects. The ability to track time boundaries (like "must be finished Oct 1st latest") and cost factors would be a bonus.

Can a ticketing system fit the bill or is Microsoft Project the answer? Has anyone got any experience with such a situation and can suggest a good solution?

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1 Answer 1

Your company suffers from the common problem, "Too many generals and not enough soldiers." You wish to fix the problem but you can't get rid of any excess generals and you can't increase your soldiers.

This is why Project Managers are invented.

Here is a huge list of different project management tools that can really help you better organize your project tasks, define them, organize and assign tasks to your resources and see a number of useful reports like Critical Path and Resource Utilization.

http://slodive.com/freebies/project-management-tools/#free

The free ones are alright but I have noticed that the pay software tends to be higher quality and more useful. And of course as with anything it takes a lot of work and good input to get good results. Garbage in garbage out applies here.

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I know of the company's problem by heart ;) I browsed the list of project management tools from your link and I saw several already known products there, which may excel in managing a single complex project. But can you narrow down your suggestions to tools that are especially well suited for my requirements? –  Ray Aug 5 '11 at 11:04
    
The tool I am using now is RallyDev Community Edition, but it only manages one project at a time unless you pay for the full edition. It does NOT do a good job of project management from a resource perspective. I can't speak for most of these but the only tool I have ever used that meets all of your requirements is Microsoft Project. It has a learning curve but if you take the time it can be a very powerful tool and it does give you extremely detailed reports from a resource management perspective. –  maple_shaft Aug 5 '11 at 11:08
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Exactly that was my reason for asking. The project management tools I know of are NOT doing a good job from a resource perspective, too. Thank you for pointing to MS Project. ON top of the learning curve I do not like the huge licence fees involved when you use it with a Project server and several attached users, so I still hope for more suggestions. –  Ray Aug 5 '11 at 11:20
    
I am hoping for better suggestions too actually! :) I can understand why MS Project is so expensive because it is truly valuable. I have yet to see an open source or free version that competes with it in ALL aspects. –  maple_shaft Aug 5 '11 at 12:42

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