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There are a wide variety of project management and planning tools available to help manage tasks and track deliverables. Two of the most popular tools are Microsoft Project from Microsoft and SmartDraw from SmartDraw. com. Each of these software packages allows the user to create a project and graph it in various formats, such as calendars, Gantt charts, flow charts, etc. In order to evaluate each of these applications, a test project was created to allow a comparison of the features.
MS Project is considered to be one of standards for project management; and as a part of the Microsoft Office package, it provides a level of integration that is beneficial in Project Management (Microsoft Project 2003). The MS Project 2003 application offers an approach that is primarily oriented toward Gantt chart tracking, with other viewing options in a calendar format, network diagram, and task usage format (Microsoft Office, 2008). The product has a lot of features and options which allow a user to track tasks and resources, along with reporting capabilities to provide details and help manage the project.
This application was a little difficult to figure out without a training manual. Some basic knowledge of other Microsoft products helps when attempting to create a project for the first time. A sample of the demonstration test in MS Project is provided in Appendix A. SmartDraw touts itself as ‘the world’s most popular business graphics software’™ (SmartDraw. com Corporate Profile, 2008). Providing pre-designed templates in more than 100 formats, this application offers a wide variety of options for project managers to track their projects (SmartDraw v. 2009-08).
Over and above Gantt charts and calendars, there are also a variety of formats for flowcharts, timelines, floor plans, and organization charts. When the application is initiated, it gives the user a chance to select from a list of possible formats before beginning the project setup. A sample of the demonstration test in SmartDraw is provided in Appendix B. Based on the tests performed for this project, the SmartDraw application is more user-friendly, especially for a new user who is interested in a variety of tracking options without intensive training.
The MS Project application has a big advantage in the area of integration with other applications in the Microsoft suite of products, but it seems to require quite a bit of training to be proficient in the use of the features. Both products are popular in the world of project management, but this demonstration shows that SmartDraw is easier to navigate for a novice user and offers a wider variety of presentation formats. Although knowledge of MS Project is almost required in the world of project management, the recommendation from this test would have to go to SmartDraw for students interested in an effective, easy-to-use solution.