Project Time Planning beyond the Milestone
Imagine a car manufacturer planning the product development process for a new steering wheel. Steering wheels are designed to control the axle and wheels of a car, so they have to be equipped with mechanisms to do this. The steering wheel also carries a lever to operate the windscreen wipers. All these functions and components need to be considered in project planning.
Component sketches, haptic tests and sample orders are integral parts of the hardware development process of a steering wheel. Critical information about these facets should be available for project managers at any time. On top of hardware elements, the steering wheel also contains software components. Software components are often developed with agile methods. Critical information, such as the status or dependencies of user stories in Jira Software should be available to the project managers as well. Finally, there is relevant information regarding product life cycles, quality assurance or law regulations affecting the development of the steering wheel. Ideally, all the above-mentioned information should be integrated into a holistic Gantt schedule.
This example illustrates that projects become increasingly complex and often involve both hardware and software components. More complexity is added through distributed teams, and stricter and ever-growing compliance regulations. In other words: Project and Portfolio Managers need to take data into account that goes far beyond strictly time-related information.
In practice, such information has long been intertwined with everyday project work — ranging from product-based information to compliance restrictions. However, standard project management software cannot depict all relevant information adequately.
How can you make it easy to enrich a Gantt Chart with additional information?
Let’s expand on this example and zoom into a Gantt chart. A fair share of project managers uses Gantt charts to visualize their project’s schedule. These charts illustrate activities and milestones of a project on a timeline. That means, Gantt charts map only time-related data but lack additional product or process information. As a result, decision makers base their decisions only on a small fraction of relevant data. The before-mentioned example illustrates this problem. Information such as: When will a specimen arrive? When will a certain regulation come into force? Or: When can we go to the test track? … play a crucial role in the decision processes, project success and time-to-solution.
Even though these examples contain time-related data (e.g. the date when a certain specimen will arrive), industry standard project management software doesn’t support its integration into a Gantt chart. That usually results in one of the following scenarios:
- Scenario 1: Important information does simply not appear in the Gantt chart at all.
- Scenario 2: Information is entered manually into the Gantt in tedious detail work.
The outcome of both options is similar and costly: The information is either not available at all, or it is already outdated and therefore superfluous. As a result, delivery delays occur or, even worse, decision makers jump to wrong conclusions and take poor decisions based on faulty information. Delays, mistakes, and poor decisions greatly jeopardize the success of projects.
We present an innovation to tackle these issues: Gantt Timeboxing with cplace. This novel solution is an important element of our Hybrid Project Management initiative.
The solution: Gantt Timeboxing with cplace
To prevent the issues described in the previous paragraph, we developed a building block for hybrid project management called Gantt Timeboxing. The term timeboxing is commonly known as a project planning and time management technique: Timeboxes in that context allot a fixed time frame to an activity. cplace timeboxes, however, put a different spin on that topic: Information that is already stored in cplace can be integrated into the timebox, together with additional details. Examples of integrable information include Jira user stories, component delivery dates or the occupancy of a test stand. Additionally, information from codeBeamer and data from Product Lifecycle Management systems can be incorporated to the cplace timebox.
This way, critical information can be visualized, and dependencies can be set by using the start and end date. Users can create dependencies between all elements added to Gantt activities or milestones and define start-start, start-end, end-end and end-start dependencies. cplace visualizes these dependencies and the critical path not only for the user who created it, but also for other project team members who work with the same elements in their Hybrid Gantt. This way, cplace serves as an enabler for collaborative scheduling.
In this moment, cplace is the only solution on the project management software market that can integrate additional information into Gantt and synchronize it with other content in the cplace platform.
How is Gantt Timeboxing more helpful than manually adding information into Gantt charts?
There are numerous workarounds to add additional information into Gantt charts in everyday project work. For example, non-project-related information is often artificially packaged as an activity or a milestone and manually added to the Gantt chart. This “solution”, however, comes at a cost: This kind of information is completely isolated in the system. As a result, changes that affect its due date are not updated in the project plan. Alternatively, updates need to be communicated personally and changed manually — which can add up to an enormous amount of effort!
This problem can be avoided with the cplace Hybrid Gantt. Gantt Timeboxing enriches a project plan with additional information that is also continually updated in cplace. If for example the due date of a user story changes and violates the deadline, a red light appears in the cplace plan and warns the person in charge. The planner doesn’t even have to use Jira him- or herself to stay updated on important deadlines.
To recap the car manufacturer example, information about building components or functions could be added, and even user stories could be loaded directly from Jira into cplace. Building component information or functions are examples of data from the product world that can be connected and visualized in the cplace Hybrid Gantt. In addition to product information, it is also possible to link process data, such as maturity evaluations or approvals. A change in only one aspect of the dataset immediately affects other data, activities or milestones in the Gantt chart and synchronizes them. This way, it is easy to maintain a holistic overview and keep track of what is going on in different projects.
Written by Lisa Schreiber, Product Marketing Specialist at collaboration Factory AG.