The laptop is a handy device to haul to those regular long-standing meetings, where you know to come prepared with your computer on, your application loaded, and your project plans open. But the era of “social business” is upon us. The interactions you have with others — co-workers, customers, and external partners — can lead to value for the organization in unanticipated ways.
However, those are the kinds of contacts and conversations that can’t be planned for. They just happen on the go. And that’s where mobile devices shine. The gaming, IT, education, and publishing industries early on discovered the appetite for mobile apps. Now more established software development companies have begun moving their most useful tools to the small screen as well.
For example, i2e Consulting, a software services firm and Microsoft certified partner with a long history of creating custom project portfolio management applications using Microsoft Project, Project Server, and SharePoint, has honed its expertise in mobile development for clients. Now it has begun porting useful project management tools to Apple iOS, the operating system used in the iPhone and iPad.
The latest release of Gantt Pro is a $5.99 iPad app that lets you carry and pull up your Microsoft Project 2010, 2007, and 2003 files on the iPad. You simply shuttle your projects to yourself as XML files via email, Dropbox, or iTunes. Then you open the project to get a Gantt chart view, which can be expanded and shrunk with the iPad pinch or finger slide or with a slider bar. The app also provides calendar and critical path views.
Gantt Pro for the iPhone and iPod touch
The company offers a free version of the app too. Gantt Lite offers the same functionality, but the user is limited to uploading only two plans. The Pro version offers unlimited access.
Chris, a project manager for a major pharmaceutical company, has become a fan of Gantt Lite. “It’s definitely great as a mobile tool to grab a project plan and expand and contract timelines and get a quick snapshot without having to deal with booting up your laptop and loading Microsoft Project,” he says. “If you bump into someone in the hallway and they want to check a task or timeline or have a couple of questions regarding project planning, the iPad is always on and the app takes one or two seconds to load. Bing, bang, boom! You’re in your project plan. You can review timelines or tasks on the fly, which is what it’s really great for.”
Chris, the pharma fan of i2e’s apps, can visualize a day at his company when the use of apps such as Gantt Lite and the others is a common staple of project management. “The flexibility of a freeware app that users can try internally — that’s how organic growth starts. People say, ‘Oh, this is a great app, and I can see the practical uses for it in the company.’ You start to get enough of those requests, and then you ask, ‘Should we do a server-side plug-in'”
Recently, the company published Risk Register to the Apple iTunes Store. This $4.99 risk log app acts as a repository for all risks identified for the project. The app provides an interactive graphical representation of the risk profile. Each entry can include information about risk probability, impact, counter-measures, and risk owner. The contents of the Register can be exported as a CSV file and emailed to others to view in Excel or imported into their own copy of the Risk Register app.
i2e Consulting’s Risk Register
Next up: The company is also developing “Planning Lite” an app that lets the user create project plans on the iPad. The user can import Microsoft Project plans into the app and modify task attributes and then export the plans back to Microsoft Project. That one will also be offered as an Android edition.
The company also has mobile projects in the works for portfolio visualization and time sheets.
Last, Gantt Lite will be showing up in the Android market shortly.
“Its a challenge today for project planners and project managers to think of planning on a handheld device. The interface has to be simple and a ‘light’ version of the planning is required. That’s what the designers and engineers at i2e Consulting tried to address with our iPhone and iPad apps in the project management space,” says Sudhir Karanth, i2e’s director of sales and business development. “With the advent of the tablet era, project managers feel the need for planning and reviewing their plans on the go.”