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Objective Questions:

  • How do you guys coordinate cross-team deployment plans? Are you still using the old school Excel for these plans?
  • How do you rearrange tasks in a way the dependencies between them aren't broken and times are recalculated? Remember that using a MS Project file for deployment plan isn't a possibility as there are some teams that don't have access to a MS-Project instance.

Some background:

In my last project, during the deployment stage, we had to coordinate 6 'parallel' deployments (there are 2 different business lines + 3 different business regions). Each deployment was formed of around 10 high-level task descriptions, without too much details, in order to be a high level project deployment plan to be used across all teams involved.

As we were dealing with 10+ different teams across the globe, the time differences were a pain to manage. I build up a rough Excel sheet with some semi-automated formulas to automatically calculate the time dependencies based on the task + time taken for each task. Therefore, when changing the time taken for one task, all dependencies where automatically calculated.

Turns out that for the people who's not familiarized with Excel (or don't have time to check for the formulas), it wasn't easy to rearrange tasks. MS-Project was out of question because, as already stated, some teams don't have access to MS-Project instances.

Besides, during deployment, all involved parts were advised to update that sheet and share with all attendants.

From this experience, I believe that would be great if there was a way to:

  • Present deployment actions, (maybe in a format similiar to a Gantt chart, but in hours?) where managers could easily rearrange tasks, keeping their dependencies and having their times recalculated
  • During deployment phase, all teams could collaboratively check when a task was done.
  • During deployment phase, accountables for each task could mark tasks as completed.

Some possibilities:

  • Keep using the ol' buddy Excel
  • Use a MS project (not sure if it would work), but having only the PM updating it
  • Update somehow the outputs from MS Project into a SharePoint
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I've got a feeling that the only way you're going to be able to achieve all of this is to deploy MS Project Server. Any chance of investment in software? It seems a bit crazy to run a project across ten globally distributed using Excel... –  Willl Nov 27 '12 at 13:12
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4 Answers 4

I have never tried this, so take it with caution.

There is a presentation tool called prezi, which is based on the zooming experience. What if you draw a time line and put the important dates into a prezi? With the zooming experience one can see the big picture or zoom to a tiny detail. As far as I remember one can share a prezi with others.

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I really like Prezi, but I'm not sure it would fit the 'easy to update' part... it would be interesting, on the other hand, to keep 'planning layers' in the same place. –  Tiago Cardoso Nov 28 '12 at 12:55
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There are any number of free online Gantt chart tools out there. You could track down some of those and see which one(s) fulfill your needs. There is a discussion of this on LinkedIn that might help get you going. If you go this route I'd suggest working with a free tool that is at least compatible with Project so that those that do have a Project instance can use a tool they are familiar with.

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I saw that LinkedIn discussion before raising the question, but as I never saw any of those tools, I preferred to raise the question here in our community. Besides, I'm not sure a usual Gantt chart would support show tasks in an hour basis (I'm not quite used to MS Project, but every time I used, all tasks were presented in a day granularity). –  Tiago Cardoso Nov 30 '12 at 17:54
    
You are able to zoom in to hourly basis in Project (at least in MS 2007). –  Doug B Nov 30 '12 at 21:11
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For your needs the only viable solution is to use MS Project Server. No way to use Excel and using just MS Project and working with files has the disadvantage of not being able to work concurrently on the same data.

But this would become a problem regarding costs... A less expensive alternative would be RationalPlan Server.

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After reading the comment we have here (pm.stackexchange.com/questions/1761/…), I'm not sure if even MS Project Server would fit the request... –  Tiago Cardoso Dec 5 '12 at 13:54
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A seasoned project manager advised me that there's one (relatively new) role to control such processes without overloading PM with technical details: It's the Release Manager, which has amongst his responsibilities, to proper liaise between varying business units to guarantee smooth and timely delivery of software products or updates.

I believe this approach would be therefore similar to the option #2 in the original question, with the advantage of not overloading the PM.

The project could still be considered collaborative as everyone would gather updates on the Release Manager, who'd make sure the Deployment Plan is updated and available to the community involved (in any place the project would use to store documentation).

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