PERT chartPERT isn’t just an acronym, it’s a military code-word with over fifty years of effective service behind it. That’s not figurative speech: the Project (or Program) Evaluation and Review Technique was developed by the team behind the Polaris submarine, to help them build the Polaris submarine. This was a nuclear weapons program in 1959. If you think your project is more complicated or stressful, we’d love to hear about it. This project management tool has more combat experience than the new Captain America (and in a world more based on business than blowing things up is far more useful.)

PERT’s effectiveness comes from mapping interdependencies and nailing down even the most complicated workflow with hard-and-fast rules. While Gantt charts make sure you don’t fall behind schedule, PERT prevents you from setting an impossible one. Every second spent waiting for another team to deliver what you need is utterly wasted. It doesn’t matter if it’s their fault. It matters that you lost time and money, and the delay made you or your employees useless for no good reason.

A PERT chart maps out the total time taken to get through a project, instantly highlighting bottlenecks where one day’s work costs the project a year (because other teams had to wait for it to be done.) You should read up on PERT projections, and then get on with using them.

1. PERT Chart Expert

PERT charts are so much more than pretty pictures, which is why you need more than a whiteboard to draw them. The graphical representation can clear up obvious flaws in your schedule, but PERT’s real power is in the instant calculation of timelines with every change in your work flow. PERT Chart Expert allows easy clicking, filling and drag-and-drop design of your dependencies, and it makes calculations even easier — because the software automatically does it all!

PERT Chart Expert

PERT Chart Expert

The software integrates with Microsoft Project, because Projects are PERT chart’s entire purpose. A “PERT” button is added to Project and can instantly generate charts for existing projects. If you don’t download the free demo and try that with your current tasks, we really don’t know what to tell you. Except “do it.”

2. Gantt Project

That might sound like we’ve forgotten what we were talking about, but we’re so right that even the Gantt Project people include PERT functions in their software. And it’s free — both in cost, which is zero dollars, and in effort, because it builds a PERT diagram from any already-created Gantt chart.

Gantt Project PERT

If you look closely you'll see Gantt Project is clearly internationally acclaimed.

That means there’s less than no reason not to use Gantt Project. It’s free, it’s ready right now, it makes Gantt charts for starters and performs the critical path method for dessert. If you don’t use it, you’re volunteering for avoidable delays.

3. OpenProj

OpenProj PERT Chart

OpenProj PERT Chart

OpenProj does exactly what it says in the title (albeit without a few necessary letters). The open source project management software is ideal of beginners who haven’t installed anything else yet, as it’s got almost everything you could want and will never, ever require fees, license keys or updates. If you’ve never used project management software before, you should download OpenProj and look up every word you don’t recognize — they’re all things you should know about.

4. Visio PERT

Visio PERT

Visio PERT

The simplest place to start is with software you already have. If you already have Visio, Microsoft has made a quick tutorial for building your own PERT chart. It isn’t automated, making it one step better than drawing yours on a piece of paper, but that step is “being able to project it at meetings or send it to people.” Which is the kind of thing you need to do when you plan a project with other people.

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5. Office PERT

Even more elementary, Office software can start you on the road to PERT. You might not know that Office itself comes with free PERT capabilities, though you might have to dig into View>Toolbars> PERT Analysis to find it. Some versions of the software have renamed this tool as “Network Diagram”, but back as far as 2003 and beyond Office has hidden this incredibly useful functionality.

Office PERT

Office PERT

Now you know why those programs always takes so long to load in the morning — they’re far smarter than you ever suspected. (Though there may be other reasons, and we recommend you speed up your computer.)

It’s impossible for you not to use PERT. We offered you a free trial, then free software, and now you find you probably already have it on your computer!

Image credit: Fernando Batista / Fotolia