3

ISSUES

  • Microsoft Project isn't cutting it as a project communication tool: I have a copy of Project 2010 and so do many other employees, but they cannot be expected to learn how to use this program. Staff could care less about project management and planning, it's not their field. I can't make it show tasks clearly to most people (even to me). My current Project file is 500 rows of tasks and subtasks.
  • Our work is interdisciplinary, uncertain, and dependent and affected by outside forces.
  • Supervisor wants issue / project tracking not only for staff needs but for tracking and reporting to higher management. It would be great to present the project info to the supervisor in an easy to interpret format for this purpose.
  • Different software might be the only option, but I would need to test it with the team.
  • We have a portfolio manager that is smart and supportive but has no formal power over team managers and is not a project manager by trade.
  • We're not IT, so we don't need bug tracking.

GOALS

  • Easily inform both managers and staff on task progress.
  • Nice to have: move beyond just listing tasks and become more predictive.
  • Nice to have: attach a resource to each task, but detailed resource management is unnecessary. We're a team of about 15 people.

How can I tame this communication problem? I'm not sure if I'm even asking the right questions / looking for the right thing / or just trying to find a silver bullet.

  • Do you use earned value methods? – David Espina Oct 27 '11 at 19:47
  • No EV, unfortunately. – snitzr Oct 27 '11 at 20:44
  • Earned Value, Earned Schedule, and Critical Path Method are excellent ways to manage and control your cost and schedule, and to report your variances to date as well as your predictions or estimates at completion. You might want to consider deploying these tools. – David Espina Oct 27 '11 at 20:50
1

Have you tried a product table or milestone list briefly sumamrizing:

  1. Product name
  2. Product purpose
  3. Person responsible for completion
  4. Date started
  5. Date due
  6. Current estimated date of delivery
  7. Issues causing (or that may cause) item 6 to deviate from item 5

Note that each product being made can account for a number of tasks/sub-tasks. The granularity of the list should be tailored to the audience (i.e. less granularity for execs compared to line managers). Update this at intervals appropriate to your project.

  • It's simple to use, but static. We created a milestones and issues document and will review it on a weekly basis as a team. This looks like the easiest option. – snitzr Oct 27 '11 at 18:46
  • 1
    If you need something dynamic you could set this up as a Wiki or publicly accessible Excel table or whatever and get team members to amend in real time as necessary. The main problem there is that you lose some control & probably spend as much time harassing the team for updates as it would take to fill out yourself. – Doug B Oct 27 '11 at 20:24
3

I agree with the previous comments and think that a kanban board could be a great solution for you. It is based on separating the board into the progress columns (the most simple approach - to do, doing and done) and then moving your tasks through these columns from creation to completion.

For this you could use either a physical board or a software solution. There are plenty to choose from these days, so you would be able to pick out the one most suitable for your team. Most of the tools provide reporting, integrations with other software and resource, file and other detailing on the tasks.

We are currently using Eylean Board, it suits us well and allows for flexibility on how we arrange each project. However, if this does not suit your needs, there is plenty of similar software to choose from.

2

It seems one of visualization tools like task board or Kanban board would be a good solution. The basic idea is to gather important data about the project in one information radiator, possibly a physical one.

If your team is co-located or at least visits the same place (kitchen maybe?) it should be possible to go with physical board. If the team is dispersed there are many applications simulating task boards/Kanban boards. I can mention LeanKit Kanban, Kanbanery or TargetProcess as one I know and can recommend.

The board should be updated collaboratively which means it can be treated as non-intrusive status reporting tool as well.

Granularity of information you store on the board may vary, depending on a situation. However, you should be able to adjust easily to your needs. Visualization works great in terms of sharing information and you can get high-level overview of what is happening in matters of seconds.

One more advice if you want to try it: start simple and add relevant information only as you learn that you need it. Otherwise it is easy to clutter the board which makes it way less useful.

If you look for ideas how to visualize different situations in you project you may find my presentation on Visual Management handy.

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Issue #1: MSProject, or any other scheduling tool, is not a communication tool. It was not designed for the purpose. There are some generic reports resident in the tool, but I do not find them that useful for communicating progress to leadership.

You need to extract and input the data from the scheduling tool into your reporting tool, whatever that might be. That way, you can design your report to show the right amount and level of information that your specific audience needs to see.

Issue #2: All projects suffer from this, but this is not relevant in terms of one's ability to report progress.

Issue #3: I would hope so. I would label this as a strength.

Issue #4: Yes, you need a communication tool. But a template created in .ppt, .xls, or .doc work just super.

Issue #5: Ok.

Issue #6: Ok.

  • How exactly does it answer the question? Besides discussing the perception of MS Project as a tool, that is. – Pawel Brodzinski Oct 28 '11 at 15:53
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    I did not answer the question about how to communicate. My answer was solely about removing the idea that MSProject might be a good communication / reporting tool. – David Espina Oct 28 '11 at 15:56

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