Tools and techniques

In PMS we use a variety of tools in order to ensure, like any craftsman, that the end result is of the highest attainable quality in the time and budget available.

We have tried to choose carefully and then become really skilled in the use of these tools. Here we describe the main ones and how we use them.

If they sound useful to you too, skip to the Links page where you will find links to their own websites which offer a much more detailed description.

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Microsoft Office

This is the basic software suite that we use. It is almost the de facto standard and ensures that we can share data and files with the maximum number of clients and members of our team.

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MapInfo is probably the most comprehensive Windows-based mapping software available on the market. Furthermore, each new release of the software is more closely integrated with MS Office.

We have found that mapping geographic data really brings information to life. But ease of use is not one of the strong points of such software. To get the most from it you really do have to know it quite well. This is the reason why we have now introduced a full service mapping operation, which we call Market SquareTM.

MapInfo does for geographic data what spread sheets did for raw information.

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What-if analysis

It is sometimes necessary to understand the risks and uncertainties affecting a particular analysis -- usually financial. Even the experts may provide a spectrum of views on key variables. Simulation techniques that take such risks and uncertainties into account have been available for some time.

Crystal Ball is an add-in to Excel which makes this powerful and sophisticated technique easy to incorporate into a spread sheet analysis.

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Often one needs to visualise and "play around" with the results of a creative session. Idon software is a very neat solution to this difficult problem. I have found that one can get profound insights into a problem from this deceptively simple software.

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Another apparently simple need is to be able to chart a particular process or procedure and then to be able to move the elements around and still retain the relationships between them. New flowcharting software is available which makes this task straightforward and simple.

The package we use is Visio.

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Project Planning

Breaking down a complex plan or project into its fundamental elements or building blocks is another invaluable technique. The ability to overlay this with how each element depends upon others in time sounds simple enough but again specialist software provides the solution.

We use Microsoft Project for this purpose. It's not too complicated but has all the key requirements of a good project planning package.

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Video conferencing

The advent of ISDN lines at a sensible cost and Pentium computers means that video conferencing is now a reality for most executives. In the past, video conferencing has mainly been restricted to room setups enabling people from different parts of the globe to hold a virtual meeting.

However, desktop video conferencing not only enables one to share voice and pictures but, most importantly, it allows you to share applications.

This means that we can deliver PowerPoint presentations or spread sheet analyses down the line, in real time, and make changes on the fly -- either with other members of the team or with clients.

I believe that this powerful technology will prove invaluable very quickly.

The product we use is Intel Proshare.

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Dictation software

I have been using dictation software (dictate into the computer and words appear on the screen) for over a year now. Currently I am using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This is a great leap forward over previous versions, where you had to pause between words. Now one can use continuous speech at up to 160 words per minute. After a little perseverance with training, accuracy levels are in the high 90s. Also I am using a new microphone from Philips known as of the Speechmike. The cost of such a system is around 150. However there is a catch - you need quite a high specification PC to run this software effectively. Probably the lowest specification is a 200MHz Pentium PC with 64MB RAM. I am quite amazed at just how good this software is.

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To contact PMS - Call David Thelwall on 01765-602514 or send an email.
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