dotProject != Project Management 101

I've gotten a number of calls and emails lately from people and organizations evaluating dotProject. Initially when I'd see these, I was always excited. A larger userbase means more interest and attention, new ideas and development, and the potential for growth in quite a few areas. The myriad of questions that would inevitably come was a small downside, but overall it was an exciting and – I thought – a positive sign. I've learned that this is quite often not the case.

There seems to be a class of users who expect dotProject – or probably any Project Management System – to teach them project management. They expect it to teach them what milestones are, to help them understand Gantt Charts, or to even help them understand Resource Loading (a creative euphemism for “people's time”). They don't understand the difference between “Target Start Dates” and “Actual Start Dates” and – most importantly – they don't understand the difference between “Target End Dates” and “Actual End Dates”. Each of thse are relatively common Project Management concepts which the users are lacking and therefore don't understand their usage.

I don't mean this to be an indictment of the users, it simply points to a fundamental gap in their knowledge. As a result, they often have a terrible time with getting the basics of actually using the system. More often than not, I've found that these users have been told “we need Project Management!” by someone higher up and then happen to find us first. They don't know what they need, they don't know what they're looking for, they don't know what they're trying to do, but they think dotProject should be able to do it. After being involved in a number of these efforts, there is almost no way to win and it's generally not even worth playing.

If you fall into this category, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with information and details. Here are a few resources to send you down the right path. For general project management, check of Scott Berkun's:

The Art of Project Management or his blog for ongoing thoughts and even a weekly discussion topic.

If you're looking to manage software specifically, check out both of these titles from Steve McConnell: Software Project Survival Guide and Rapid Development. Regardless, there are literally dozens of Project Management Resources available covering numerous fields and industries that will probably fit your needs.