A project management simulator is a training technique that emulates real project management planning and problems, and trains users for the real thing. Normally, when a project manager starts, he or she is put on a real project and will have to speak with workers and negotiate problems; this takes time and presents risk for the company. A project management simulator puts the user in the manager’s shoes, as he or she makes decisions and sees how those decisions affect the project. There also is a random factor, just as with real projects, that can ruin everything, and the user has to cope with these problems. Project management simulators can be board games or programs, but programs provide more realistic situations and, thus, are used more often.
When a project manager first starts out, he or she needs appropriate experience to adequately manage a project. Without a simulator, this is done on the job. The new manager will typically work under an established manager, and he or she will understand how to make decisions and manage problems and supplies. While this does give the new manager experience, it takes a long time, and the new manager may make a bad decision along the way that puts the company at risk.
For a quicker approach that does not place any risk on the company, a project management simulator is used. These come in two main varieties: a board game or a program. Board games, while much cheaper, are not as intensive as programs that perform simulation activities. For this reason, board games are rarely used, though they are a valid alternative if the company does not have enough money for a simulator.
When starting out, the project management simulator asks the manager to perform regular tasks, such as speaking with employees and managing materials. The manager also will have to speak with virtual clients and schedule meetings to get the project complete. As the manager makes decisions, the simulator will show the manager the consequence of that decision, so he or she understands how to properly manage a project.
Understanding how to use funds and make decisions are basic aspects of project management that are easy; the hard part comes when unexpected problems happen. A project management simulator will often create problems to see how the manager will react. An investor may drop out of the project, leaving less money for the manager to utilize; workers may quit or die; new laws may come out that prohibit what the project manager is doing; or workers may go on strike. Such random factors determine how well the manager acts under pressure and if he or she can still get the project finished.