In today's corporate marketplace struggles, rather unglamorous and mundane things can easily become deciding factors for overcoming one's rivals. As Constable Charles d'Albert of the French found out in the hardest possible way, the appropriate tools can make much more difference than the most expensive equipment and an abundance of elan.
Yet even the best tools for the job are not enough if they are not used in the most effective manner. Taking a lesson from history: The Roman legionnaire was most efficacious when used in their proper role – utilized where their skills were most applicable and working as a closely coordinated and mutually supporting team.
A company's talent pool is the most valuable resource it has. As individuals with different talents, training, and experience, the people in that pool are collectively the toolset which management has at its disposal to make a lasting impact on the market that the company serves.
When employees understand their roles and responsibilities, work together towards shared goals and do so efficiently and effectively, they become the primary source of value, which makes a company competitively superior in the marketplace. How they are employed and managed can make all the difference – in their individual effectiveness, how they can best contribute to the group effort and how the group can most efficiently and productively work together.
So how do companies go about organizing themselves today? Sharing instincts and behavioral traits that have been with us and our ancestors for hundreds, thousands, and even millions of years, we use tools to assist us in this endeavor – in effect, to extend our reach. The tools are a bit different, of course – instead of arrowheads made of flint, swords of iron or bows of yew wood, we use software.
The software we use is generally classified under the area of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). These tools are applied to managing the use of the most important tools in our companies – namely, our employees – per their groupings in projects and programs. The kinds of tools found in the program/project management space can be generally lumped into the categories shown below.
ERP tools (Source: eDevelopment Corp., 2014)
In broad brush strokes, we can see that most companies adapt software readily available to them as part of the Microsoft office toolset. Another 28% source their project management tools from giant software houses known for their enterprise software offerings – SAP, Oracle, and the like. These are generally rather pricey and function best when employed with a suite of tools also licensed by the same firm, as they tend to be dependent on databases and utilities from these other tools. Finally, there are a small number of firms that choose their project/program management software from Open Source ecosystems.
One can immediately perceive the deficiencies inherent in any of the above categories. In the case of widely available general-purpose software from Microsoft, the tools need extensive support from their adopters to fit them to organizational requirements. Granted, they are cheap and are almost certainly already available in the organization, as they are so widely used for commonplace office applications. Nevertheless, due to the fact that these tools are "vanilla" in functionality, it is rarely possible to render them fit for such very individualized needs – it is, quite simply, often beyond their capabilities as software.
All of the other categories are more specifically purposed for project and program management. However, the exigencies of corporate entities vary quite widely, by industry and even within a given sector. The preference of the big software houses is to develop software with a 'one size fits all' design philosophy in the hope of appealing to the widest possible audience and minimize the size of the code base and its concurrent support, debug, and maintenance costs. In the end, though, what one often finds is that once all the frills are stripped away, these tools amount to little more than the equivalent of integrated versions of the Microsoft suite. Stated differently, they are often just glorified spreadsheets in basic functionality. Furthermore, with the exception of open source software, these tools also tend to command a very hefty price tag, especially since they almost always require a multitude of other tools from the same vendor in order to support their needs for data and functionality.