Backward Scheduling in FastTrack Schedule 10

Backward Scheduling is a scheduling method used when the Finish Date of our project is already known, and we wish to determine when the project and corresponding tasks should occur to finish by this point. FastTrack Schedule 10 does not offer a standard option for setting a schedule up to follow a backwards scheduling method. However, FastTrack will allow us to manually set up a schedule with a backwards scheduling method.

Step 1

The first step is to set up our schedule in the “typical” way, by adding all of our activities and their corresponding durations. Disregard the automatically generated Start/Finish Dates for now. Once we have the outline built, we will then be able to add in our links/dependencies to allow the schedule to use backwards scheduling logic.


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Proper Project Communication is Key to Good Decision-Making

proper project communication is key to good decision-makingGood communication doesn’t always = good decision-making. Think of it almost as a different take on “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” only from a different angle. And a more dangerous angle. Why? Because the squeaky wheel one is the complainer. Everyone knows who that is and they appease them by giving them what they want.

In my house that could be a six-year old son or daughter…or even a 7 month old baby. And believe me, they aren’t going to be making the best decisions at any given moment. Always that was one of our lead developers or DBAs at my first employer – you know who you are if you’re reading this. But the ‘bad ideas’ one…that’s way more dangerous because that could be anyone on any project team in the history of project management or any project manager in the history of project management offices or….well, you get the picture.

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How Detailed Do We Need to Be? – Part 2

how detailed do we need to beIn Part 1 of this two-part series, we looked at what I considered to be things that we absolutely need on every project, no matter what the size, dollars or length in duration the project may be. I look forward to your thoughts and input on this topic based on your experiences. And be honest…tell us what you consider essential and what you tend to let go of for those projects of different sizes and importance. And who makes that call? Is it you?

Let’s continue this discussion….

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Tracking Budgets with FastTrack Schedule

Let’s take a look at how to setup the Layout and Columns utilized in our Budgeting with calculation columns Quick Tip Video. This video shows how to use Budget and Cost columns in your schedule, and how to use calculation columns to automatically track the variance between these values.

Start by creating a new Layout where we can add in all of our various cost data. To create the new Layout:

  1. Go to Layouts > Define.
  2. Select the Basic Layout.
  3. Select Duplicate.

This creates a copy of the existing Basic Layout, which contains the Activity Name column and Timeline Graph.

The Define Layout dialogue box is now open, customize the new Layout by:

  1. Fill in the “Layout Name” field with a custom name, such as Budget Layout.
  2. In the Columns Shown section, browse the Available Columns list and select Cost 1 and Cost 2 and move them to the Shown Columns list with the Show button.
    Note: To add both columns at once select Cost 1, hold down the Shift Key, and then select Cost 2. Next press the Show button to move both columns to the Shown Columns list.
  3. Press OK to close the Define Layout dialogue box.

Define Layout_small

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How Detailed Do We Need to Be? – Part 1

how detailed do we need to beA project is a project, right? Well, sort of. But it does stand to reason that not every engagement needs to be managed to the same level of detail. Certainly a $5,000 two-week project doesn’t require the same up front planning and detailed documentation that a $5 million two-year project requires.

It is true, however, that every project needs documentation. Every project needs some level of status reporting. I think we can all agree to that statement as well. The question is – how much is enough? What is the breakeven point between project expense and project benefit? Beyond what point are we just burning through the project budget with our planning and documentation and not providing any additional benefit for the project, the customer, and those who may service or support the solution – or even take the project through a future phase? When have we hit that wall?

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Adding PM Value to the Project

adding-pm-value-to-the-projectMany times we find ourselves running the project methodically because we’re busy, we have lots of projects on our plate and things are going fairly well. Kind of like the saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” But when we do that, we tend to miss doing the things that we do that can be adding value to the project, helping the project team, and helping to ensure the highest degree of satisfaction to our project client.

If you find that you’re not leading your teams well…they don’t seem to be taking direction and following your leadership, or if you are not experiencing the level of project success that you had hoped for, or if customers never seem quite as satisfied with your project efforts as you would like, then maybe it’s you and not them. And maybe it’s time to ask yourself, “Am I doing the right things right?”

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Exporting FastTrack data for use in Excel

We’ve already taken a look at how FastTrack Schedule users can transfer data to other applications such as MS Project for easy collaboration in mixed-application environments. FastTrack Schedule 10 also offers users additional methods for getting data to outside locations. Today we will go over how users can easily export data for use in applications such as Excel, by exporting their data as either Tab-Delimited or CSV Text files.

When exporting data for use with Excel we can pick and choose the exact items that we want to send. The first step in exporting our data will be identifying the data we are sharing. When exporting data as text, FastTrack only exports visual items. This means that once we have identified the columns we wish to export, we will need to setup our Schedule View to only show those specific items. For example, if we want to export our Activity Name, Duration, Start Date, Finish Date, and Resources Assigned columns, then those and only those columns can be visible.


Column Setup

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Delivering Bad News to the Project Client

delivering bad news to the project clientDelivering bad news. It’s never easy and never fun – unless you happen to be one of those individuals who enjoys the shock value in such communication. I don’t. And I’m guessing most of my readers feel that way too – we are, after all, professionals. Maybe when we were kids and happened to have a chance to tell on one of our siblings…ok, that was fun sometimes…but…

Now consider this. You’re a professional leading large multi-million dollar projects for big corporations. Your job and your reputation depend on good news, successful projects, on time deliveries, and happy customers. Do you want to be the person sharing bad news with high priced clients? Well, yes. No matter how hard you want to try to avoid it…if the bad news is out there to be shared, you must do it. You can’t sugar coat it either. These people are more than your clients…they’re your partners in this engagement. It’s their money you’re managing and spending and you must tell them. But you must do it professionally. If it’s done right, you’ll have them in your corner supporting you for the rest of the project. But timing and honesty is everything, so do it and do it right. The only time I waited far too long to share bad information was at the direction of my PMO director and it was a very bad plan – the customer ended up losing confidence in our delivery organization and canceled the project after spending more than $1 million. Ouch.

In general, I’ve found it helpful to follow these four steps (three if the level of severity or financial/schedule risk is too low to involve senior management) when discovering and then sharing bad information with a client….

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Exchanging Data with MS Project

The success of a project often hinges on the ability to collaborate with other schedulers inside and outside the team. Therefore one of the most important aspects of a collaborative project is the ability to easily and efficiently share your project data with others. At any point in time we may need to share data with stake-holders, clients, sub-contractors, etc. In some situations we may even want these people to be able to easily modify or update our schedules. When those people also use FastTrack Schedule 10 it is easy to share files, but what happens when those people don’t use the same project management software? In cases such as these FastTrack Schedule 10 offers the ability to easily transfer data back and forth between other project management software, such as Microsoft Project.

When exchanging data with MS Project we want all of the data from our schedules to transfer over. In FastTrack, when we export using the Microsoft Project XML option this is exactly what will happen. In order to exchange data with MS Project as the MS Project XML file type go to File > Export > Microsoft Project XML.


Export as XML

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Subjective vs Objective Project Management

subjective vs objective project managementLets start this one off by looking at some definitions…

Subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

Objective: observable; able to be seen or proven; based on fact.

My wife and I got into a bit of a debate the other day on subjectivity vs. objectivity. It centered on the Ebola virus and when you’re symptom free vs. showing symptoms. Since certain symptoms aren’t so black and white like vomiting vs. fatigue, I say symptom-free is subjective. She said that I’m using the term wrong. I’m going to objectively say she’s wrong, but please don’t tell her that I said that.

What this got me thinking about is subjective vs. objective thinking and decision making on our projects. This can be the project manager making decisions, the customer making decisions, and/or the team making decisions. Actually, it can be any of a number of other stakeholders making decisions or helping to make decisions or participating in the project in any influential way. We hope everyone is acting – for the most part – objectively. We always hope for that. But we Continue reading “Subjective vs Objective Project Management”

Best Strategies for Virtual Project Team Management – Part 2

best strategies for virtual project team managementIn Part 1, we covered the first two of my personal list of five key strategies for effective management of remote – or virtual – project teams. Since it is so common today – especially in the IT world – to have project team members dispersed all over the world and your customer may be thousands of miles away, these are critical strategies to consider. In this Part 2, let’s discuss my next three strategies…

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Work Contour Types

One of the key parts of running a project is the assignment and management of resource workloads. When we schedule and manage our resources efficiently it gives us the knowledge of when each resource is working and how much they are working at any point within the project. In a previous blog post we have discussed how to easily apply custom contours to resource workloads by using Spot Allocations.  FastTrack Schedule 10 also allows users to assign pre-defined Work Contours to resources in order to control when and how each resource will work on activities.

FastTrack Schedule 10 offers a total of 8 pre-defined Work Contour Types. Users can view and modify the contour assigned in either the Schedule View or the Resource View by double-clicking on the activity bar that needs to be modified. Doing this will open the Information Dialogue where the Assignments tab can be selected to see which resources are assigned. In this dialogue we can also control what contour type the resources will use.


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