Influence of Project Management Software Tools Usage on Project Success
University of Zagreb
Faculty of Organization and Informatics, Varaždin
University of Zagreb
Faculty of Organization and Informatics, Varaždin
Abstract. Considering the ever faster rate of
business activities, it is important for each organization to establish a smooth flow of relevant information and coordination of business activities. Nowadays they are almost unimaginable to achieve without using information and communication technology.
Project oriented organizations and their
effectiveness largely depend on the success of their projects. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) offers adequate tools for support in project planning and management, whereat one of the most often used software solutions is MS Project. Investments in IT projects are usually high, but their return is sometimes questionable. This research aims to prove that investments of project organizations in software tools, such as MS Project, bring significant benefits, and have impact on project success. The survey includes IT firms from the Varaždin County
taken as an example of project organizations. It also includes other mostly larger-sized companies from all over Croatia for results comparison. We assume that these companies largely use the above mentioned – or
similar – tools for project management.
Keywords. ICT, project management, MS Project,
project success, IT firms, Varaždin County
The usage of Information and
Communications Technology (ICT) significantly affects the operations of modern organizations as well as individuals using their services and products. Procedures which previously took days and months are today reduced to only a few minutes or hours by using appropriate
applications and tools. One of the areas in which
ICT has brought significant time savings is project management, especially in its operational part.
Project management (PM) is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the application and integration of the project management processes of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. 
The project manager is the person responsible for accomplishing the project objectives in the best possible way. To achieve that, modern project managers need to use adequate software tools to help them organize and track project activities.
Project Management Software (Tool) – a
class of computer software applications specifically designed to aid the project management team with planning, monitoring, and controlling the project, including: cost estimating, scheduling, communication, collaboration, configuration management, document control, records management, and risk analysis. 
Efficient project management presupposes more than good planning, as it requires that relevant information be obtained, analyzed, and reviewed in a timely manner. In this way an early warning of pending problems and impact assessment on other activities can be provided, which can lead to alternative plans and management actions. Today, project managers can choose from a large array of available software to help them in the difficult task of tracking and controlling projects. While it is clear that even the most sophisticated software package is not a substitute for competent project leadership – and by itself does not identify or correct any task-related problems – it can be an
invaluable aid to project manager in tracking the many interrelated variables and tasks that come into play with a project. 
Implementing activities for pursuing of a project, drawing Gantt charts and network diagrams, assigning resources, making reports –
either with the project still in progress or after it is completed – previously required significantly more time. After defining all project details, which must be done no matter whether we use the classic „manual‟ approach, or we apply
modern software tools, using software tools reduces the duration of operational work. Thereby the manager is allowed to focus on essential elements of PM – planning, defining
strategy and tactics, as well as managing risks in the project and in its environment. Nevertheless, information systems and applications for project management can not perform the complete project instead of humans. They represent just a tool in the manager's hands and their efficiency will depend on the project team‟s capabilities.
Even NASA (US National Aeronautics and
Space Administration) has recommended 100 rules for their project managers, mentioning the need for using modern technologies in project management, at the same time taking care of their limitations. Among them, the following rules are especially interesting: 
- Rule #62: Not using modern techniques, like computer systems, is a great mistake, but forgetting that the computer simulates
thinking is a still greater mistake.
- Rule #65: In olden times, engineers had hands-on experience, technicians understood how the electronics worked and what it was supposed to do, and layout technicians knew too – but today only the computer knows for sure and it‟s not talking.
2. Implementation of project management software tools
The existing project management software tools do provide support to the project manager and have several basic strengths: Planning calculation and re-calculation; Recording progress and feedback data; Comparison of the planned against the actual achievement and Recalculation
of the plan in relation to progress
update. These reflect the strengths of data processing by computers applied to project planning. Given input data and modifications, the tool will rapidly calculate and then re-calculate the plan. This is the basis for „what-if‟
calculations useful during project initiation and the processing of progress data. 
The decision to implement project
management tools should be justified by the project size. Due to British standard BS 6046: part 3, issued in 1992, companies should act in accordance with these rules: 
- in case the project consists of less than 500 activities and the mutual relations are relatively simple, this standards suggests to manage the project manually
- if the project consists of more than 500 and less than 3000 activities and those activities are significantly different, the computer should be used
- a project which consists of more than 3000 activities should be divided into a few smaller projects that should be performed
simultaneously by computer.
Other factors which have to be considered when making decisions about using computers in PM include:
- nature and final purpose of planned output, depending on whether the results will be used later and in which form
- frequency of data update or the need for ordinary and continuous calculation of the new data.
3. Influence of project management software tools on project success
Having consulted the available literature in the field of project management, we have found some research that shows the usage of ICT and supporting software tools in project management. Previous research done by Baljkas  performed on a sample of 50 companies shows that 59% companies in Croatia use certain software for planning and managing projects. Among those
companies, 81% are using Microsoft Project, 10% Primavera Project Planner, while other tools are used rarely.
In their book Omazić and Baljkas , they
refer to the international research made by Fox, L. Terry under the title „Do the Features Support
the Functions?‟, PM Network, PMI, March 2000.
This research shows that these kinds of tools are used all over the world. Microsoft Project is utilized in 48% of cases, Primavera Project Planner in 14% of them, and there is a relatively high percentage (9%) of Microsoft Excel usage. However, none of the studies we found
reveals any data about how the usage of project management software tools helps in PM. In accordance with that, and with the goal of confirming our assumption that using software tools contributes to project success, we performed the following research.
An anonymous survey was sent by e-mail to IT companies in the Varaždin County. The
sample was extracted from the telephone book, by industry description „Informatics‟. We found
71 companies, and 31 correctly completed questionnaires were sent back. To increase the accuracy of our research, we sent the survey to 65 other, mostly larger-sized, or leading, companies in Croatia. We received back 27 correctly completed questionnaires. Our goal was to show that the usage of ICT and specialized software tools brings significant benefits to project success. The response to our survey was fairly good, which can be seen from the following rate: 31/71 survey respondents in IT firms, which is equal to 45% of the sample, and 27/65 survey respondents in other companies, which is equal to 42% of the sample. The survey consisted of closed-type questions. These are our conclusions based on the survey:
Question 1. Do you use computers for planning and managing projects?
Figure 1. Computers usage in
The analysis of survey data – answers to the
first question – reveals that in both cases
companies use computers in planning and managing projects. In IT firms 90% of the survey respondents use computers every day, sometimes or rarely, while only 10% of them never use computers in planning and managing projects. The answers obtained from the group of respondents from other companies show that 93% of them use, and only 7% do not use computers in project management. Comparison is given in [Fig 1].
The analysis has shown that those subjects that use computers utilize specialized (and other appropriate) software tools in their projects‟
management. The percentage of specialized software usage is shown in [Fig 2].
Question 2. Do you use some kind of software tools for project management (MS Project, Primavera, ...)?
Figure 2. Usage of specialized and other
software tools in project management.
When choosing a tool is concerned, our research has revealed a large share of Microsoft Project, ahead of other specialized tools like Primavera Project Planner, Microsoft Excel and some other tools or their own applications for helping planning and managing projects. Excel is not a specialized tool but it is used very often, either separately or in combination with other specialized tools. Our findings are therefore in line with the afore-mentioned similar researches conducted in Croatia and abroad [Fig 3]. Question 3. What kind of software tools do you use in planning and managing projects in your company? (Multiple answers allowed)
IT firms 36% 0% 57% 21% 21%
Other companies 48% 4% 76% 12% 0%
Figure 3. Software tools used in project management.
In question number 3 it was allowed to choose multiple answers, because some entities
often use a combination of software tools. The
number of particular answers was put into proportion with the number of respondents that
use computers in planning and managing projects.
Respondents‟ satisfaction with their
specialized software and its capabilities is pretty
IT firms Other companies
Yes, every day
IT firms Other companies
good. Users in IT firms using specialized software answered in the following way: 29% are very satisfied, whereas 71% are satisfied, but some slight weaknesses exist. Users in other companies also using specialized software answered as follows: 53% are very satisfied, while 47% are satisfied, but some slight weaknesses exist. Users in IT firms probably rate the software a bit more seriously, but there are no unsatisfied users, as we can see in [Fig 4]. From these results we can conclude that all users are well trained and are using these tools properly.
Question 4. If you use some tools, how satisfied are you with their options?
Figure 4. Respondents’ satisfaction with
Although users are satisfied with software capabilities and their opinion is that such tools are important (some think invaluable) for project success, they consider that those tools are not the most important factor of project success. About one quarter of respondents think that those tools make a difference, but there are much more important factors. A similar distribution can be seen in both groups of respondents. [Fig 5] Question 5. In your opinion, how important is the usage of such a specialized software tool? Figure 5. Importance of software tools
for project success.
Question 6. If you compare your projects before and after implementing a specialized software tool, which ones are more successful?
;；100% Projects managed with specialized
Concerning the question about the project success before and after implementing a specialized software tool, all respondents in both groups answered that their projects were more successful after implementing a specialized software tool for project management. The same result was obtained in both groups, but only the respondents using specialized software were taken into consideration. All users think that they have increased their project successfulness after implementing some software tool/s for planning and managing projects.
With our survey we also examined their own perception of their projects, on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest degree. The success was measured by the extent to which: projects were completed on time, within budget and with all the features and functions that were initially specified.
The graphical interpretation of respondents‟
answers [Fig 7] represents the relationship between the average successfulness ratings in these two groups, IT firms and other companies in Croatia. The first x-axis item refers to projects managed without computers. The second item refers to projects supported by the use of computers. The third item represents projects managed with the usage of specialized software tools for project management. The last item refers to projects managed with support of nonspecialized software tools.
Question 7. According to your perception, how successful are projects in your company? (Were they completed on time, within budget, with all the features and functions initially specified?) 10 is the highest degree.
7,5 7,52 7,57 7,46
Don't use computers Use computers
Specialized software Non-specialized software IT firms Other companies Figure 7. Project successfulness in relation
to project management software usage.
The tool is invaluable Great, but the tool is not the most
The tool makes a difference, but there are some more important factors
We are very satisfied We are satisfied, but some slight
We are not satisfied, there are major
weaknesses of the tool We are completely