Over the years I've reviewed a number of project and portfolio management as well as professional service automation software applications. Many of these are offered as on-premise or, lately, on an on-demand basis. Regardless of business model, these solutions can often be a bit high-priced for those companies desiring a more straightforward and simplistic solutions.
Last week, I spoke with executives from AEC Software of Dulles, Virginia. AEC sells a $349 (retail) project management product. They also offer solutions for 5, 10 or 25 concurrent users. Their most current version of the software is called FastTrack Schedule 10. This product is targeted for individuals who may need a project management solution for a short time or for a less complex endeavor. This could be the person who is an occasional project manager or is a project manager for a specific endeavor. Contrary to the company’s name (AEC - often refers to architecture, engineering and construction), the software product can be used in many different industries (e.g., advertising) and not just AEC.
This particular product comes pre-delivered with a number of project management templates and examples that are free to customers. The software also allows the collection and and utilization of outside data regarding project resources. As an example, information about specific project team personnel can be extracted from Microsoft Outlook. Photographs of workers can even be added to the resource management tool. The resource management tool permits project managers to consolidate resource requirements across multiple projects to identify potential resource conflicts.
Projects can be encoded via effort driven schedules. Project information can be imported and exported to and from Microsoft Project. The software already supports Microsoft Project 2010.
AEC believes they have the following product advantages:
- their product utilizes workflow and other ease-of-use technologies
- the software works on both Macintoshes and Windows-based PCs.
- the software presents information in a easy to use, understand and enter perspective.
From what I saw of this package, I concluded the following:
- Given the software's price point, the product is a straightforward, easy to use project planning tool that adds many helpful resource management capabilities.
- The product is correctly positioned as a tool to be used by persons or firms with few or sporadic projects. It was not designed to replicate the types of complex program management capabilities found in higher-end project portfolio management solutions. However, complex program management solutions don't retail for $349 either.
- Professional service firms may find the resource management capabilities to be less robust than what one finds in a professional services automation solution. Likewise, very large complex multi-person project teams will want a solution that comes with pre-supplied time entry module. There is no such module currently within this product line.
If you're looking for something that's straightforward to use, inexpensive and clearly project focused, this solution warrants a look.