February 1996 Volume 23 No. 1
ManagePro Versions 3.0 and 3.1
Goal-setting "MBA Ware" ideal for busy project managers
By David McClure
About a year and an half ago, Fortune, Forbes, The Wall
Street Journal and The New York Times all ran articles on a new
class of software. This software was deemed "MBA Ware,"and one
of the products mentioned most frequently was ManagePro from Avantos Performance
Systems, originally introduced in 1992.
ManagePro is based on the time-proven methods of Management by Objectives
from the 1950s. It focuses on the two-way communication process of setting
goals and tracking commitments bolstered by management feedback and coaching.
ManagePro does not compete directly with existing project management products
like Microsoft Project, as most of these products focus on scheduling the
tasks necessary to accomplish a project, applying resources to these tasks,
determining the critical path for earliest completion, and adjusting resources
and rescheduling tasks to manage the project most effectively and efficiently
as it progresses.
The focus of ManagePro is setting employee goals and subgoals based on company,
business unit, department or project strategic goals, then managing and
tracking the commitments required to realize those goals by their target
dates. ManagePro is based on the belief that it is employees who make a
business successful; and the goal setting, tracking and recognition process
is the best way to develop and support good employees.
The multi-user version of ManagePro solves an organization's problems associated
with maintaining multiple project, stakeholder and employee demands that
the current spate of downsizing and re-engineering has made even worse.
It organizes and manages goals based on a hierarchy of goals and objectives
that clearly show the rationale behind and support required for the success
of management objectives. The entire product is based on a graphical breakdown
structure of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Related [to long range
objectives] and Time bound) goals and objectives. It sets deadlines based
on commitments from both employees and managers. It allows various managers
across the organization to interact with a central database by synchronizing
their database copies with the master copy. It also provides the ability
to link individual users' databases over a network via MultiLink, and allows
multiple concurrent users access to the central database over a LAN or WAN,
in addition to updating and rolling up and down upper and lower level data
regularly. A system of passwords and access levels maintains security in
areas defined "for these eyes only" by the administrator. And
synchronization allows laptop users to update the central database as well
as their own with new information entered in both places while they are
The real power and value of ManagePro is its paradigm of goal hierarchies,
commitments, deadlines and responsibilities, and the ability to track and
manage the timelines and details necessary to complete these tasks whether
for an individual manager, a dispersed workgroup or an entire organization.
It is simple and direct in its application of management by objectives.
And it keeps up with the hundreds of goals, commitments and deadlines which
leave managers drowning in detail every day. It reminds the user when it
is time to do a review (with the advance notice you have built into it)
and when it is time to measure progress or give feedback. It will produce
a schedule of events and shows the status of objectives in the terminology
the user selects, warning the user through changing color lights and icons
when some element of the project is late or critical.
First as a project manager, and most recently as a project management consultant,
I have often recognized the limitations of traditional project management
software in some project environments. Project management software packages
are designed to plan and schedule a series of activities required to be
accomplished in some relatively fixed order in relation to each other. They
focus on determining the critical path and the shortest path through the
project, which allows all of the activities to be completed. They are generally
powerful, often necessary allies when confronted with a large project involving
perhaps several hundreds or even thousands of activities which draw on a
large number of often interrelated and limited pools of resources to accomplish
the tasks. The class of software termed "project management software"
is, in reality, project scheduling software which uses often complicated
mathematical algorithms to redistribute resources and rearrange activities
in order to make the most effective and efficient use of a limited set of
resources to complete a project within a specified time and budget.
However, there are huge numbers of projects which fall into a different
category. This category includes small, low budget or short-duration projects
which are neither mission critical nor high risk. The majority of these
projects do not have the budget, management resources or time to enter data
into or use a full blown project management system. These projects may not
involve interdependent activities or interrelated resources. They do, however,
need management attention to stay on schedule and within budget while delivering
the required scope and quality.
In fact, the majority of project environments are made up of relatively
small projects involving fewer than 20 individual (usually human) resources.
They typically have a duration of less than six months (one year at the
most) and a total budget of $20,000 to $1 million each. They are not high
risk, mission critical or in a key result area of the organization's strategic
plan. These small projects are often discontinuous and involve several points
in time where all work must cease while something is reviewed, money is
raised or approved for release to the budget, or another entity develops
some piece of the project required before the remainder of the work can
continue. The environment which I will call "small project" is
also normally one where many small projects are being done at the same time.
Often, some of the projects are on hold, but they still require monitoring
and management at some level.
This is an environment where ManagePro excels -- situations where management
by objectives is simply the best choice. In addition, the goal setting,
coaching and direct report management functions integrated into the product
help team leaders focus on developing people and reducing unwanted turnover.
The product functionality is supported by on-screen, context-sensitive advice
from the Management Advisor, which helps new managers learn and apply management
processes on the job, and provides specific diagnostic support for the experienced
The basic methodology used in ManagePro can be summarized in four steps:
The Multi-user Network Edition, the most recent revision to ManagePro, adds
the following workgroup functionality:
Enables organizations to achieve their business objectives through collaborative
planning, delegation, and goal tracking.
Focuses on achieving organizational goals through clear goal setting,
team alignment, progress monitoring, coaching, and performance recognition
across the organization.
Enables teams to establish and communicate goals while sharing progress
towards their objectives.
Integrates database, planning tools and expert advice in ways designed
for scaleable, configurable usage.
Supports mobile computing through database extraction and synchronization
(synchronization of multiple copies of the same database).
Whether individual or multi-user edition, ManagePro operates through the
use of three sets of integrated tools that act upon the same information
in a centralized database:
Goal Management Tools help users plan and track specific business goals,
such as "achieve 98 percent customer satisfaction" or "double
sales in the fourth quarter," as well as broad objectives such as quality
People Management Tools help manage people and teams, building confidence
for managers, team leaders, and individual contributors by facilitating
communication across the organization, helping to set clear expectations,
and track and document progress.
Action and Support Tools, including the Calendar, To Do List, Action
List, Assistant and Reports, help users work with dates and information
across goals and people.
Information is simple to enter in ManagePro through spreadsheet-style planners,
pull-down menus and pop-up data entry screens. It is also easy to view and
manipulate at multiple levels of detail. Changes made in any tool at any
level are reflected throughout the program. It is truly an integrated management
One particular volunteer effort I have been involved in illustrates the
power this product has to organize and manage progress on multiple goals
while keeping track of a diverse group of people who must all make a significant
contribution for an effort to succeed. For the past year, I have been the
project manager the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Internet Project.
The project team was composed of a mixture of part-time PMI staffers (adding
another function to their already overcrowded day), PMI member-volunteers
who would work on this project at odd times of the day or night whenever
they could squeeze in the time, and a paid consultant and contractor who
would guide us through the process as well as providing support services.
The project budget was about 40 percent of what a commercial endeavor of
this nature would require, and the client was a collection of user groups
ranging from PMI members to paid staff to vendors and consultants. We had
committed publicly to produce a professional World Wide Web site showcasing
PMI standards of excellence. The site was to include a conferencing section
to allow members and non-members around the world to communicate and discuss
issues of interest regarding project management. And from almost the moment
it was approved, the project became one of the most visible in the organization,
largely because of the general publicity surrounding the Internet and because
of the great need we have for low cost, long distance communication to support
an international, non-profit organization. This was not an easy project.
But it was perfect for ManagePro. In fact, I don't believe it would have
succeeded without it. Through the use of an appropriate management tool
and the good work of all team members cooperating from a distance, the project
was a huge success. We rolled it out at PMI's International Symposium connecting
interactively with the site in a real-time, live session shown on a 40 foot
screen before 3,000 members in the hotel ballroom. We had completed the
project on time to the quality levels we had targeted and significantly
Data entry into ManagePro was quick and easy, and individual hierarchies
were expanded or compressed with one keystroke, making the organization
clear and direct. Notes and external documents were attached to goals at
various levels. For example, I was able to attach E-mail messages sent to
the objectives from team members relating to each goal, and other documents
like the newsletters I sent out periodically giving project status and plans
regarding a specific goal or group of goals. Status tracking and management
was simple and direct. For each objective we defined the basis for measuring
progress, as well as five rating levels for measuring success from "Unsatisfactory"
to "Far Exceeds." Other valuable tools included the ability to
add checkpoints, commitments, to dos and progress notes, and status at any
point in the program. This information was automatically crosslinked from
screen to screen so that changing a view of the data did not limit the details
available about any related element of the project.
While ManagePro does not perform critical path scheduling or detailed resource
allocation or leveling, it does allow for the start date, end date and duration
to be entered regarding each objective in the hierarchy. Enter any two of
these and the program calculates the third based on the calendar of available
work days and holidays which you select for the project.
In working with volunteers it must be realized that while they may have
the best of intentions when making the initial commitment, the day-to-day
demands of business and family can move volunteer activities to the bottom
of their priority list without notice. Any effort which does not take this
into account is likely to fail, with everyone ending up missing deliverables
or dates and pointing fingers of blame at each other. So, making volunteer
efforts go smoothly requires even more coordination than usual so that all
parties know exactly what is expected of them, how they fit into the overall
scheme, and to expect regular communications clearly listing their commitments.
If I was going to succeed as the project manager, I had to keep up with
the list of objectives, to dos, and commitments for the entire team, as
well as keeping the team informed of their parts in these activities on
a regular basis.
Entering data took about one full day. It was logically arranged and organized
to make it as easy as possible. Once I had the plan roughed out, I sent
it to the other team members in one of the 30 standard graphical and text-oriented
reports on goals, planning calendars, action items and people management
Realizing the particular need for communicating with the volunteers, I used
the people management function to schedule reminders for each of the team
members based on their commitments and responsibilities. ManagePro's flexibility
allowed each person's list of reminders and "commitments to and from"
to be set up individually based on the needs of the situation. Once these
were established, ManagePro kept track of both the team's commitments to
the project and to me and my commitments to them, so that all I needed to
do was remember to start ManagePro every Monday and review the plan and
commitments for that week. ManagePro lets the user comment on performance
as a running history attached to each person in the team, permitting me
to remember if there were particular problems in the past and anticipate
or avoid them in the future.
We used version 3.0 -- the individual version of the product. The latest
upgrade to version 3.1, individual version, added little functionality,
but it did seem to operate faster. However, version 3.1 introduces the multi-user
version, which adds a great deal in workgroup options. The Multi-user Network
Edition of version 3.1 allows multiple users (peers, supervisors, direct
reports, skip-level reports, etc.) to link their databases over a network
via MultiLink, enabling the communication of goals and progress towards
their goals without restriction. ManagePro Multi-User Network Edition can
also enable several users to update one database at the same time (simultaneous
read/write access) and communicate via E-mail. Communication among workgroup
members can be facilitated via any of these methods, all without having
to exit the program.
We have tested this functionality, and it is very workable. The functionality
meant for mobile computing will also assist us in managing our volunteer
efforts for the coming year. Using a shared ManagePro Multi-User Network
Edition database, I can easily update the database while away from the office
(on a laptop, for example) and then merge it with the group copy at the
office when I return. ManagePro will detect and assist in synchronizing
the databases and resolving conflicts by highlighting them and asking me
how I wish to resolve them.
For a busy project manager who has to manage an enormous amount of information
to be successful, ManagePro may be the solution to your problems, especially
for smaller projects involving relatively unrelated activities and few shared
resources. If your project involves almost any number of mainly human resources,
and if the success of your project depends on individuals acting alone or
in dispersed workgroups, and if setting appropriate hierarchy goals and
executing them effectively and on time defines success, then ManagePro will
probably greatly simplify your life and improve your performance. Simply
put, it helps you look and perform like a pro.
This review was performed using ManagePro Version 3.0, and 3.1 Individual
Edition (9 MB disk space, 20 MB recommended) and Version 3.1 Multi-user
Network Edition (9 MB disk space, 20 MB recommended) run on IBM 486-DX2-66
clones with 8 and 16 MB RAM and on a Winbook laptop 486-100 with 16 MB RAM.
No system problems occurred.
David G. McClure is president of McClure Management Corp., a San Francisco-based
company that provides management services, consulting and training for a
range of clients.
ManagePro Individual Edition - $199; ManagePro Multi-user Network Edition
- $650 per seat, volume discounts available. ManagePro is available through
Avantos Performance Systems, 5900 Hollis St., Emeryville, CA 94608; Phone:
510-654-4600; Fax: 510-654-1725; E-mail: email@example.com
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