The Best Tool for the Job

pencil and paperI recently had a discussion with a potential customer. They love the whole concept of dotProject. They see it as a way of finally getting a handle on their operations, general work load, and their customer relationships. I've spent quite a bit of time laying out the individual strengths and weaknesses of dotProject and even identified other tools that cover some of those weaknesses better. Throughout this discussion, they've had a firm idea of the tools/functionality they need to get things under control. What they don't have are the specific processes in place.
At this point, they don't have any Project Managers. They don't have a Sales to Operations to Implementation hand off strategy or information exchange. They don't have any idea what they want to track despite being told by the"powers that be" that they need to track things. They just know that dotProject will "do it for them"

At that point, I ended the discussion.

Yes, I have cost myself a customer. No, it wasn't what they wanted to hear. Yes, I probably could have done a huge amount of work for them and be paid pretty well throughout the process. But what I also did was save everyone involved – including the software – quite a bit of stress, blame, and general bad feelings. In the Cafepress dotProject store, we have a plain white shirt with the quote "When you do not know where you are going, any road will appear to take you there".

Before you implement any tool, you need a plan but more than that, you need to know the point of the tool. If most people were handed a pneumatic nail gun, they'd hurt themselves within the first 0.3s. If you put the same tool in the hands of a carpenter – or even an apprentice with a bit of experience – you can end up with work which is more consistent much faster and easier on the people involved. Although the tool normally gets the focus, it's the knowledge, experience, and willingness to use the tool which are the keys to making anything happen.

This is why I actively discourage organizations from deploying dotProject in these scenarios. Without a strong process in place – or strong-willed individuals driving the change – they're destined to fail… which is why I recommend to them paper and pencil first.