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Tuesday, April 16, 2002


Friends don't let friends use MS Project. If you want a project management application that correctly levels resources, can correctly compute earned value, and is made by a company that understands project management you should look at SureTrak Project Manager 3.0 (see Linda's 27 May 2001 review on Amazon).

I just finished reviewing an outstanding book on how to use this powerful program: Planning Using Primavera SureTrak Project Manager Version 3.0 by Paul E. Harris .

Although SureTrak Project Manager 3.0 ships with adequate documentation and the program is intuitive, there are three good reasons to buy this book:

  1. The product documentation covers every feature - the information about planning and managing projects using this powerful tool is scattered throughout, making it difficult to tap into SureTrak's power without wading through an overwhelming amount of nice-to-know, but non-essential detail.
  2. Although anyone who has used Microsoft's ubiquitous MS Project will have no problem getting started with SureTrak, they will miss the true project management features of SureTrak that are not present (or don't correctly work) in MS Project. This book identifies those features and shows how to use them effectively.
  3. The author goes beyond merely describing how to use SureTrak by showing you how to use effective project management techniques, many of which take years of managing projects to discover.
The book is structured as a series of 20 lessons (called workshops) that are designed to step you through setting up a project, and planning and scheduling it. If you follow them in sequence you will be able to not only set up a project using SureTrak's rich feature set, but will also pick up general project management techniques along the way. An example of one such technique is how the author classifies projects into four levels for planning and controlling. These levels are based on project complexity, with Level 1 being the simplest and suitable for short projects, to Level 4 for complex, high-value projects. You are given the planning and tracking criteria for each project type, which allows you to tailor your approach as well as ensure that you don't over-manage simple projects or under-manage the complex ones.

You are also shown how to use the more powerful features, such as the many project views (work breakdown structure, activity or resource), managing the sophisticated calendaring functions, and effectively using the resource profiles and reporting features. I particularly like the way earned value is treated. The author shows how to use SureTrak's facilities for managing to earned value, as well as explaining this essential technique (which, by the way, is now a part of the Project Management Institute's PMBOK 2000 version). Another bonus is the way scheduling is explained by walking through adding logic to activities. You'll not only be shown how to perform this task, but given reasons why you should use one approach from among four possibilities to establish relationships. In this example the choices are start-to-start, finish-to-start, start-to-finish and finish-to-finish.

The book is clear, concise and heavily illustrated with screenshots from SureTrak. The tutorial style and the way the lessons are sequenced will get you quickly up-to-speed with SureTrak and give you the knowledge and skills necessary to employ it with minimum reference to the manuals that come with the software.

If you're more interested in Primavera's high-end product, P3, please refer to my Amazon review of Planning Using Primavera Project Planner P3 Ver 3.0 by the same author.

As an end note I've gathered links to websites that may be of interest:

Our weblogs also contain a wealth of information - use the search feature to find information about earned value, WBS, PMBOK, PRINCE2 and other topics that you may be researching.