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We're a webdesign agency with numerous simultaneous projects, and a lot of people working on different projects. We already have an online PM-system which works fairly well, but we'd like a physical board to represent the current status.

Is there any specific technique/structure I should use in this case? Below is a description of what data we'd like to have projected.

Note that our online PM-system has all the details, which people can look up there - so the project board doesn't need to encode everything

Need to have info:

  • Current projects
  • Upcomming projects
  • People
  • Who is project manager for a given project?
  • Who is currently working on a given project?
  • Must be easy to see which projects a given person is currently working on

Nice to have info:

  • When is a project due?
  • How far are we with a given project?
  • What is the upcoming projects for a given person?
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Why? I'm still trying to comprehend why you'd want a "board" made of atomss, when you have a functioning virtual dashboard. Apart from my incredulity, what are the requirements that the virtual dashboard isn't fulfilling? I think that is critical to the answer. –  Mark C. Wallace Oct 31 '12 at 12:39
    
How many people are you talking about? The information you have listed seems concise enough to have project status represented by only a small number of columns (project name, status (upcoming vs current), PM assigned, start/end dates, % complete). If your company is small each person on the team could have their own column to show at a glance who is assigned to what. –  Doug B Oct 31 '12 at 12:41
    
@ Mark - many of us prefer physical boards. I like them because they're always 'on', far larger than any screen we have in the office and easier to update. I find physical boards cause more discussions too (if I see someone staring intently at ours, I'll go over for a chat, something that wouldn't happen if they were just accessing an electronic version). –  Ben Oct 31 '12 at 15:20
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Two status tools to keep up-to-date and in sync, which suggests opportunity for discrepant information. –  David Espina Oct 31 '12 at 20:25
    
@Mark & Ben : Yes, we would like a bigger, more visual overview than our online tool provides. We want to gather the high-level info and skip the details for a quick overview, that is easy for everybody to work with and elaborate on. –  Michael Valentin Nov 8 '12 at 10:45
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3 Answers

One way to do it is to have a Kanban board like this (source):

a Kanban board with swim lanes

A yellow note represent a project and an avatar shows who or which team is working on that project. If you need a more detailed view (e.g. for different teams, versions, organizations etc.), you can use swim lanes as they are shown on the board above. We had a company board just like this in the kitchen.

The purpose of this board is to give a high level overview on the whole flow from the company's perspective. If we needed more information about a certain project, we visited the board of the team which was working on that project.

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Thanks Zsolt. The Kanban is a great tool, but we don't really feel like it is applicable for our situation. But I think it's a great tool for many. Can you perhaps take a look at our suggestion and give us some feedback? Thanks :-) –  Michael Valentin Nov 8 '12 at 10:42
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Assuming that most of your staff are co-located then a high level physical overview of your current projects could be useful - it helps people understand current resource constraints and might protect those who are approaching deadlines from unnecessary interruptions. I wouldn't want to invest too much time in it though - some people will never use it and those who aren't in the office will just call up and ask anyway so you could be duplicating work.

I would suggest listing the following:

Upcoming projects

Project Name | Start date

In progress

Project Name | Due date | PM | Team members | Progress (as % or maybe just a RAG status)

Anything more than that seems like overkill to me - keep the detailed stuff in your online system. If you make it too complex people won't (in my experience) use it.

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Thanks for your answer Will! I think you're right - we shouldn't spend too much time with it, however we want to try and do something that works, so that we spend a little more time on setting it up, and less time on maintaining. Our team is co-located 90% of the time, so we don't really suffer from the challenges of a collocated team. –  Michael Valentin Nov 8 '12 at 10:40
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thanks a lot for your answers. Good sugestions. We talked about it, and didn't really feel that the Kanban made sense for us, but it had some good ideas. So we tried to come up with something similair. This is the result: enter image description here

So... The project manager for a Project is indicated by the color on the note. Upcoming projects are to the left of the person responsible of "making the next move" in the project. When the project is ongoing, it is placed with the responsible person and relative to its due date as indicated above.

Please let me know what you think. Any suggestions to improve this?

What we like a lot, is that it is easy to spot how many and which project a given person has at some point (if planning was good, the notes will be nicely spread out - if not so good they'll pile up and you won't be able to see all details -> very metaphorical). Further than that, the ability to adjust deadlines, responsible person and starting the project by just moving the notes around. Seems like that makes it easy to "play" and a very visual way of communicating changes in planning.

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looks good to me, and if you like it you should give a try. I remember that I saw a similar board, where the "due date" was a bit more detailed, but the principle was the same. –  Zsolt Nov 8 '12 at 10:49
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