Rational Plan is project management software that focuses on project planning. There’s a trial version that includes all features of the paid version except it limits the number of tasks to 20. The many options and features available in the program show that the developers put a lot of thought into what every user would need and want in a project management software but the end result was a cumbersome program that has just too many things going on. A user can plan every minute detail of every project and task, which is both unnecessary and time-consuming for the average user – the program might possibly be useful to project managers who need to keep track of every nail and screw and who have some time in their hands.
The program lost a couple of points when I tried to download my free trial from the website and the download button didn’t work, resulting in a page with a list of code. Since it was the company that had contacted me to ask if I would review their software I emailed them and they sent me a file right away. The appearance of the program was the second downer as it looks like some sort of early computer age spreadsheet program.
Overall Rational Plan is tiring and way too time-consuming to set up and use although the tutorial that guides the user on the top of the page is somewhat helpful. There are three main parts to the Project Guide, which refers to the different categories for management of a project: Project, Planning and Controlling. Each category has as many as eight sub-categories, each with further sub-categories still.
Project lets the user enter basic information such as what type of schedule, called Calendar, will be used for the project such as establishing that employees will work on a particular project Monday and Tuesday from 9am to 5pm but from Wednesday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. The actual calendar function allows the user to enter holidays, days off and other changes to schedules.
Planning allows the user to define resources, broken into two categories: Human & Equipment, and Materials. The user may also schedule tasks and create WBS (I don’t know what this is either). The “assign resources” lets the user go into lots of detail as to how every resource will be used.
Controlling has only two sub-categories: Update tasks completion and Work & Cost tracking. The latter offers several options to view and change several fields, as is shown in the screen shot below:
It looked like I had a long day ahead of me as I started setting up my project and using the tens of entries and checkboxes that detailed every little detail of my newly created project. As if the confusion created by the innumerable categories, sub-categories and sub sub-categories wasn’t enough, the language used left me wondering if I should go to business school to understand it. One checkbox allowed me to “Try to keep the work when changing resources/duration (make task work-driven).” Upon hovering on the checkbox a long explanation shows up though not for long enough so that I can find out in less than four hovers that the explanation doesn’t make that much more sense than what I’d just read. Since the quick tutorial at the top of the window didn’t clarify further, I resorted to the online tutorial, a long list of topics that would amount to a textbook and that didn’t help much. Again, I wondered if an experienced project manager in a business-related field would be the best person to understand all of the language used.
Rational Plan contains too many features that I didn’t find much use for and it is one of the most cumbersome programs I’ve tried. I wouldn’t recommend it for the average user.
The program is developed by Stand By Soft for Mac OS and Windows. Prices range from $25 for an educational single project license to $98 for a regular multi project license.
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