Insight # 7 : Pulling Together : Lean, Six Sigma, and Project Management

10 iPhone Apps for Project Managers

by Dian Schaffhauser

If you've picked through the multitudinous offerings in Apple's App Store recently, you know there's seemingly a utility for every purpose in there - in fact, for 85,000 purposes, according to the most recent count. The challenge is sorting out the professional tools for your iPhone or iPod Touch from the gewgaws and gimcrackery that make up the bulk of offerings. To expedite your search, Pcubed has uncovered these low- and no-cost iPhone apps for project managers and busy executives.

1. 97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know

97 Things Every Project Manager Should KnowThis new book from O'Reilly Media contains 97 short and extremely practical tips covering both IT-related and non-IT quandaries. You'll learn how to deal with everything from managing teams to handling project stakeholders to runaway meetings and more. How about tips on how to define "finished" or "what to modify based on the size of the project? O'Reilly books for the iPhone include full text search, a built-in dictionary, the ability to add annotations, landscape view, and a zoom function for images. ($4.99; 6.6 megabyte download)

2. InerTrak

InerTrakA bunch of iPhone applications track time spent on multiple projects. This one gets high marks for a number of features. With InerTrak all you do is click to start and stop the timer. Each project is associated with a client or business unit and includes an hourly rate (either set automatically from the client's rate or set individually), which is used to automatically calculate the monetary value of time worked. A detail view of each project shows the daily totals of both time and money, with the ability to check off days as they're billed. Dates are automatically added when you start the timer, but can also be manually added, if necessary. Time values can be edited, if needed. Projects can be marked as completed and optionally sorted to the end of the list to get completed projects out of the way of active projects. A summary view shows the totals of each project - the total time and money, billed time and money, and unbilled time and money. You can see a summary for any desired time period. Time values can be displayed in a variety of formats : hours, minutes, and seconds; hours and tenths of an hour; hours and sixths of an hour; hours and quarters of an hour; even hours and hundredths of an hour. You can create an email message containing the InerTrak data in CSV format. Send it to yourself and then, from your computer, copy and paste the data into your organization's HR app or Excel. You can add a note or comment to any date. The currency symbol can be customized to any one or two characters that you want. ($4.99; 0.3 megabyte download)

iPunchclock deserves a special mention, because it includes location awareness to let you store longitude, latitude, and altitude at which you start and stop a particular task - handy for the next client meeting you take while paragliding. ($4.99; 0.8 megabyte download)

3. Metrilogics Task Rate Calculator

Metrilogics Task Rate Calculator"Task Rate Calculator" lets you derive capacity rates for any task, minimizing the need for extended and resource-intensive time/motion studies and number crunching. To establish a task's capacity rate, you enter high-level descriptive information about a task, enter a "minimum" and "maximum" number of minutes to complete a task unit, then use sliders to enter percentage estimates for work volumes that fall within five equal time duration quintiles. The calculator will generate the weighted average amount of time it takes to complete a given task unit, as well as the average number of task units that can be completed per hour. You can enter verification notes to record how data was obtained and when and then send data to an email address to copy and paste the data into a spreadsheet or other application to do performance analysis. ($4.99; 0.2 megabyte download)

4. Strategy Execution Good Habits

Strategy Execution Good HabitsExecuting on your organization's strategy is a tough call. Sometimes, what you need is a playbook - quick reminders about strategy and tactics and contingency plans. This free playbook comes from William Malek, co-author of "Executing Your Strategy" from Harvard Business School Press. Malek is the former program director of the Stanford University Advanced Project Management Program. For three decades he worked with CEOs and executive teams of small and large firms, and from those experiences, he's developed an easy-to-use management system for executing strategy and building organizational competence to make quality decisions. The value of this app, which consists of content, lies in reflecting and applying the insights on a given flashcard to your situation. (Free; 1.8 megabyte download)

5. Date Wheel Data Calculator

Date Wheel Data CalculatorRemember those old-fashioned gizmos that let you set a number on one wheel, and then spin the other wheel to another number to get some specific result? This digital date wheel from Creative Algorithms calculates the time between two dates in months, weeks, days, and business days. You can set time units in months, weeks, days, and business days. It calculates the end date, start date, or duration in real time. The oldest field automatically updates as you enter your requirements. Great for tweaking the right dates and duration. You can save calculations for future reference, then flick through what you've saved. Locks let you keep a preferred area constant. You can enter dates and duration manually or increment using the arrow buttons. Truly useful for project planning, lead time estimations, time management, forecasting, and a slew of other activities. ($1.99; 0.4 megabyte download)

6. Break-Even Analysis

Break-Even AnalysisThis BoxOnline app does something quite specific : help you calculate your breakeven point for a specific product or project. You enter the cost to produce a single unit of your product, your fixed costs, your sales forecast for a given period, and your selling price for the product. You'll not only get gross revenue, cost of goods sold, margin, and profit or loss, but you'll get tips for tweaking your profits. Knowing the break-even point for your project tells you the lowest amount of business activity you need to prevent losses. If you have an Internet connection, you can turn your iPhone sideways and view your break-even analysis in chart form. ($19.99; 0.4 megabyte download)

7. Receipts

ReceiptsTired of recreating your paper trail? This utility from Tidal Pool Software helps manage and track your business receipts. It supports multiple accounts, all world currencies, and customization of categories and fields. You can capture photos of receipts and crop them so only the receipts themselves are saved. Receipts lets you track spending with graphs showing spend totals by category, currency, and time period. Then you can export account report files over a wi-fi connection or as text in email for import into spreadsheets or HR applications. If you want to try the basic functionality, download the free version first, then upgrade to this for $4.99. (0.7 megabyte download).

8. iThoughts

iThoughtsRemember Connections, that series featuring James Burke showing how one historic event was connected to another, like how the invention of plastic originally came from the design of a Dutch cargo ship? Mind-mapping tool iThoughts from CMS can help you make connections of your own. This type of program lets you take a concept and attach words, tasks, ideas, images, and other entities to do brainstorming that helps you find links. The App Store features several versions, but this one gets high marks from reviewers. Features include compatibility with Mindjet MindManager, Freemind, Novamind, and OmniOutliner files; you can wirelessly upload and download mindmaps from your computer; you can attach notes to topics with hyperlinks to phone numbers, websites, email addresses, and other maps; you can email the map as an attachment; and you can do basic task management with due date and percent complete. ($7.99; 0.8 megabyte download)

Other choices in this category include iBlueSky from Tenero Software and Ultravague from MindMeister.

9. Projects

ProjectsThis little task-planning application from Thomas Blackburn helps you keep track of your personal projects and tasks in a way that'll be comfortable to professional project managers. You'll appreciate the ability to rotate your iPhone into landscape mode to view a Gantt chart and to change the timescale to view weeks, months, or quarters. You can organize your task into groups or phases; view tasks as a list or time plan; update the status of a task to to-do, in progress, or completed; sort tasks alphabetically or by date, make changes to one or multiple tasks at a time; and email tasks to others. You can also set the project icon using your own images. The vendor promises to add task links in a future update. ($6.99; 0.6 megabyte download)

10. ShapeWriter

ShapeWriterIf you prefer dragging over tapping when typing out text on your iPhone, it's time to try this utility. The technology behind ShapeWriter apparently comes out of the IBM research labs and works on a number of mobile devices, including the Google Android, Windows Mobile, and Tablet PC. Simply slide your finger on the gesture-keyboard and lift to complete an entire word. ShapeWriter's algorithms figure out how to convert that single gesture into the word you meant. The company offers a Lite edition and a Pro version. The latter offers landscape mode and orientation lock, the ability to sort your notes by date or title, customizable fonts and note colors, password protection, and notes content search. Be forewarned : Because of Apple software development limitations, this is a stand-alone application. You can't use it with the iPhone's integrated note-taking app. (Lite : $3.99; 1.3 megabyte download. Pro : $7.99; 1.3 megabyte download)

Bonus! SimCity

SimCityWhat's the ultimate project? World domination, of course. But short of that, we'd choose designing, building, and managing a city. That's why SimCity from Electronic Arts is our choice for long flights. After all, life isn't always about work, right? ($4.99; 30.4 megabyte download)