Rational Plan: A Project Management Software Review

RP_Controlling-Work_Cost Tracking_ALLSelected


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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Freelance writer and copyeditor currently traveling Europe and South America. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Follow her travel blog at http://carpevida.wordpress.com/
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Discussion

  1. BSkiLLs on the 28th September

    Seems like a project of it’s own lol or a complete job. haha.
    I plan on posting on my site a list of good ones once i finish going through them from favorites to least. As perfect time posting this cause was just doing one and looking for good ones to choose to end up using.

    A small good one is Phitodo – adobe air app. Not full but simple to do list app. Use every day. Also Klok, hourly, and Ora time & expense. All Adobe air apps on these ones. Plus AgileAgenda [real nice]

    Nice review post. :)

  2. BSkiLLs on the 28th September

    Yeah deff looks like just a speadsheet type system or app.

  3. Tibi on the 29th September

    Wow looks like you tried to find all the bad points of the product :) If you are an “average user” then why write the review for the most complex product from the RationalPlan suite?

    Seems that other guys have a completely other opinion on this product and what it is too cumbersome for you it is a killer feature for them. And to name just two reviews to support my comment:
    One for CNET: http://download.cnet.com/RationalPlan-Multi-Project/3000-2076_4-10759454.html
    and one from a project manager: http://www.ianburgess.me.uk/en/project-management/rationalplan-review

    But hey each person must have its own opinion ;)

    • Ana da Silva on the 2nd October

      Hi Tibi,

      It is in the best interest of my readers that I review a product fairly and accurately for them, in other words, I must be as honest as possible to those who read this blog.

      People have different opinions on everything and I’m sure CNET reviewed the program fairly while keeping in mind their readers. However for the readers of this blog, time-saving average users, I do not recommend Rational Plan.

  4. Johnny on the 30th September

    I have looked at about 40 different project management apps and have found the best choice for bang for buck to be ZOHOs online project management system. The tools are great for a small to medium company and for a basic package at $99 p/year you cant go wrong.
    Most project management software force you to pay an ungodly amount per month per user, thats absurd.

  5. Tony Mobily on the 19th October

    Hi,

    This is a very biased comment as I am involved in Apollo, http://www.apollohq.com which is project and contact management (with a calendar and time-tracking).

    I am not sure about the whole “native project management application” thing. Project management today seems to be about collaboration, and the web is such a great platform for that…

    Merc.

  6. Tony Mobily on the 17th December

    Hi,

    Disclaimer: I work for Apollo Project Management & CRM: http://www.apollohq.com

    @Johnny: I realise that $24/month may seem like a lot of money, and that’s what most basic packages from onine project management systems are (Basecamp dictated most of these prices).
    But, you need to look at the big picture…

    * Hosting
    * Backup
    * Constant upgrades
    * Development
    * Q&A/customer service

    All these things come at a price.
    I know this by experience. We work ad Apollo, we put some incredible amount of work into something that we consider *complete*: Project management, CRM, cases&deals, timers, AJAX calendar… but I can assure this came at a price: a lot of work.

    Bye,

    Merc.

  7. Jesson on the 27th March

    Oh! Nice posting. I think to manage all client interactions, document sharing, discussions about quotes, above all for project management this must be another incredible tool http://www.teamplifier.com/

  8. shva on the 25th July

    I use a easy and free project manager http://projects-manager.com/en/

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