Could anyone recommend good management software?
In particular, I'm looking for an application that'll help me track 40+ staff members. Additionally, I'm also looking for any possible alternatives to MS Project as a scheduling tool.
What other programs are out there? What do you use? and what makes them stand out from other management software?
P.S. I wasn't sure where to put this thread. If there's enough interest, perhaps we could start a Production/Business section?
Interesting, I'm in the middle of switching from M$ Office to OpenOffice.org, which has inspired me to find more open source alternatives to M$ overpriced and buggy products - OpenOffice is great, and any little feature it lacks to M$ Office, it makes up for its $0 price-tag. One thing I am on the look out for is project management and scheduling tools. OpenOffice have plans in the works to initiate their own module for their office productivity suite, but who knows when that might get completed.
I did a quick Google search and came up with this site with its compiled list:
I'd like to know if anyone has had any experience with open-source alternatives to M$ Project.
BTW: there are templates and stuff you can get for Excel that allow you to create basic Gantt charts if anyone is interested.
MS Project is by far the world's 800lb gorilla in management and scheduling - I assume there's a good reason (apart from pure dislike) to avoid it. If it's merely dislike I suggest doing a one or two-day quick course (or a "teach yourself in 24h" book) and things will start to fall into place.
Otherwise, AFAIK there is *no* magic bullet to track staff, I've seen good team leads work with nothing but a diary, whiteboard and wall calendar - and also people who use email to track everything.
One good thing that I have found useful (although this is my personal bias - YMMV) is to rely on the bug/defect/ticket database to track work. Every piece of work or bug gets a "ticket", and you make sure it's only ever assigned to one person. You take the role of "ticket manager" and every time a person finishes a piece of work they give the "ticket" back to you for you to reassign or close as "done". For art you might make a "ticket" for each character for modelling, then one for each animation, then one for each distinct 'set' of related assets (like all the spacesuits, or all the trees) or each asset if you want to get super-detailed. For code, each major sbsection of the design document gets a ticket (ie: AI pathfinding, AI targetting etc.) plus one per document for overall integration.
Knock up a couple of reports and you can see which tickets have not been worked on in a couple of weeks (probably either difficult jobs, or distasteful jobs, which are both red-flags from a production POV). Knock up another couple of reports and you can tell QA exactly which assets and chunks of work are in which build [:)]. If you see a person that has not updated any ticket in a couple of days, they're either busy on one job (are they too busy? need less work?) or they're slacking/procrastinating (or they're not using the system, which hurts you and thus the project)
It takes a strong hand with some respect from the team to force people to make notes and updates about what they're doing, and a wise head to remember that the reports are only one view of reality and not to overly rely on them. That said, it's the most useful thing I've ever used to actually make sure the team gets work done.