So, it’s two weeks since I started my new job. In retrospect, it was two busy weeks, except for that day with the UPS black-out. That is, after I’d received my Laptop the first day at noon, I already had real productive work in the afternoon.1 There was some consulting involved, some document writing and manual writing as well. Thrown into the cold water, you could say. I also gained some intelligence about the work environment, the client environment and more. Along the lines, I found out what tools people use to manage their projects. There’s the intranet, with reporting, news, a knowledge base and a forum,2 not yet including RSS feed. Very well organised to that respect, and well-done and -used as well. But there are other tools as well. Obviously, it’s MS Project and a mind mapping tool called “Mind Manager” that help you manage your projects and customers. The standard approach, I would say. Now, today, I came across a post about a PM tool “Merlin” at BSAG’s blog:
Right on cue, I found Merlin. It seems to be quite full-featured and nicely designed, though as I’ve never used a project management application before, I don’t know what it might be missing. There are one or two rough edges, such as a few German labels which crept into the English language version. She’s writing about an OS X project management app, of course, and this made me wonder how far (or close) of doing my job with OS X I am on November 13th, 2004. I checked the app out and I’m pleased about what I saw.
Merlin is incredibly hot-off-the-press and even more incredibly sweet! The folks behind it (ProjectWizards) seem to truly understand what a great PM app needs to do:
With Mac OS X increasing its presence in daily business life, the lack of a modern and professional solution for project management becomes glaringly obvious. For this reason, we began to conceptualize a new ideal in project management software in summer 2003. Beginning in 2004 we began developing the software. Merlin was born! The name Merlin was chosen for its meaning. The historical Merlin was the closest advisor of King Arthur and a supreme wizard. Our Merlin, will be a project manager’s magical advisor. Look at that screenshot: The only sour thing is, that stuff like this take always a little bit more space on OS X than on Windows, mostly due to the larger (but better readable) font-size and the larger toolbar (if you keep it). Here some of the highlights:
- Provides all the projects manager’s tools like
- GANTT chart
- Different kinds of tasks (start-start, start-finish, finish-start, finish-finish)
- Conflict resolution
- Issue and Risk management
- Links to AddressBook and iCal for contact and calendar stuff
- Import of NovaMind-Mindmaps Unfortunately, MS Project import/export is not yet part of the package, which makes the product rapidly less useful if you have to share the data with your colleagues and/or make sure it can be reused later.
Especially the last point in the above list hooked me up: A mind mapping software for OS X. “Probably with Import/Export” I thought. Whoo-hoo! And that suspicion proved right: That very NovaMind imports/exports to the MindManager by MindJet we’re using at work. As you can see from the following screenshot, their mind maps can be rather colourful – as is their interface and the way of displaying preferences and such. But that’s the only thing I could see so far that could be bothering to some point.
ConclusionSo, what’s the status? Well, it’s improved since the last time I seriously considered using my Mac at a workplace. Finally, there’s a great and true and affordable solution for project management, we have good tools for mind mapping, we have Office 2004, we even have a great counterpart for Visio, and we have iCal and Address Book. And of course, we have Quicksilver.3 Everything you need to be productive, though.
Unfortunately, the biggest caveats remain:
- There are incompatibilities on data level, like file formats, missing import/export capabilities
- No real Calendar sync to Exchange (Although meeting requests work well in iCal)
- No “group” or “folder” support in Address Book that matches Exchange’s way of doing it
- Poor sync with Palm, compared to Exchange/Palm
If these are relevant in my specific workplace remains to be seen (I seriously consider dumping my Palm for some other (maybe paper-based) solution), but the biggest caveat for now is: Can I convince my boss and our IT guy to let me use my tools to do our stuff? I hope so.
Meaning, not reading manuals, white-papers and such stuff. Of course, I did some tweaking and twiddling of my work environment, but the reporting tool told me I worked an average of 66% on projects these two works. Quite a lot if you consider the fact that I did know nothing about the products we use and sell, let alone the projects people are working on. (Normally, you would account for 20% of noise in a project, i.e. time you’re spending reading your email (and RSS feeds, obviously), get your copy of Windows XP to the latest patch level, re-re-re-installing Office XP before realising that the Domain Controller forces an install of Office 2000 every time you log into the domain …) ↩︎
In the old company, no such forum was available or set-up. (Well, there was Lotus Teamroom, but that was just not usable.) You had a never-ending stream of e-mail flowing forth-and-back, containing lots of interesting stuff but even more noise as well. In these two weeks at my new workplace, I got a mere 20 mails, most of them from outside parties, i.e., project-related. Whew. ↩︎