05/08/2014 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: FastTrack Schedule 10, Project Start Date, Start Date, Tips and Tricks, Tracking
Every project that we work on has a specific date that it needs to start by. Setting and tracking this date can be an important aspect of our project because from the very beginning it will let us know if we are going to potentially make or miss our deadlines. Sometimes you may know the Start Date when you begin planning the project but in other cases you might not know the Start Date until right before the project begins.
In FastTrack Schedule 10 we can easily set or modify the Start Date at any point in time. After this is done the schedule will automatically account for this change and update to reflect exactly how the entire project should occur. First we’ll take a look at how the Project Start Date is set in new files; then we’ll take a look at updating the Project Start Dates of your existing files.
By default when we open a brand new blank file the Project Start Date is automatically set to match your computer’s System Date. For example: if you open a brand new file on May 8th, the Project Start Date is automatically set to match this same date. The Project Start Date will be visually represented in our Timeline Graph by a green dateline, which appears on the current system date.
Continue reading “Setting the Project Start Date”
05/07/2014 by Brad Egeland Tags: managing project resources, project resources, selecting the best resources for projects, top resources for projects
I’ve always been of the mindset that my project is the most important project, and I want the best resources I can get for each skill set. The best of the best to offer my project client…that should keep them satisfied. That should work, right? Wrong! And let me tell you why…at least why I think so and you can give me your opinions.
Always the best for me!
When you’re running a project and you know that it’s a high profile project and you know that you’re on a tight schedule and that everyone’s eyes are on the project and on you – you want your best resources available for the project, right? You want the most skilled and experienced resources that money can buy. You want the best resources your organization can offer.
In reality – at least from my own experiences and from what I’ve witnessed on colleagues’ projects – sometimes the best is not always the best for your project. Having the best in each resource category can sometimes be a huge plus for your project, but it also usually means these high-level resources are in high demand and are probably playing key roles on one or more other projects.
Continue reading “The Best Resources Aren’t Always Best for Your Project”
05/02/2014 by Brad Egeland Tags: project management best practices, project manager education, project manager roles
Project management isn’t all about just leading projects. I like to think that if I’m not leading different types of projects along the way and using those different experiences to become a better project manager and share those experiences with other PMs then I’m not really growing in this role. Nor am I increasing my value to my organization, my colleagues and my project customers.
Much of what I write – and other PMs write – when we share our opinions and experiences through articles like this can often seem like logic or common knowledge. But if it helps, affirms, or provides guidance to just one project manager faced with an issue, problem or confidence gap, then it has served its purpose. As project managers we all need to understand some of the pitfalls that can affect a project manager and their teams as they strive to bring a long project engagement to successful closure. And since, thankfully, we all haven’t experienced every success and every failure and every issue known in the project management world, it’s good that we educate and mentor each other along the way. That is what I’m referring to as the other role of the project manager. And that educating and mentoring includes the project team members as well – as they could become the next project managers…or at the very least they provide daily project management input and are often expected to take leadership roles and make critical decisions as part of a small and highly focused engagement team.
Continue reading “The Other Role of the Project Manager”
04/24/2014 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Activity Information, FastTrack Schedule 10, Information Form, Tips and Tricks
As we work on our projects there is usually a wide range of data that we need to manage. Being able to quickly and easily access that data can be vital when trying to make updates to an existing project or entering data into new projects. FastTrack Schedule 10 offers numerous avenues to easily access all of the data in your project. We’ve already taken a look at some of the various Columns that FastTrack Schedule 10 offers, today we will focus on a tool known as the Information Form.
The Information Form will allow you access a wide range of information including: Dates, Durations, Progress Tracking, Dependencies, Resources, and many additional types of activity information. To access the Information Form while in the Schedule View simply double- click on any Activity Bar, you can also access Information Form by clicking in the Information Action Column located by the row number. As soon as we do this, the Information Form opens to the Bars tab displaying various Tracking information.
Continue reading “Schedule View Information Form”
04/23/2014 by Brad Egeland Tags: contractor abandons project, how to handle a bad contractor, legal action against contractor, problems with contractors
In Part 1 of this rather unfortunate discussion concerning project contractors or consultants that bail on our engagements, I discussed my own unfortunate recent situation and began to look at ways we try to combat, mitigate, or avoid such situations. Certainly open and frequent communication can help pave the way to less eventful project manager-team situations, but that won’t guarantee that you avoid all scenarios. You may still eventually find yourself in one of those situations where your contractor or consultant turns out to be someone you didn’t realize they were…no matter how well you think you knew them.
What we’ve discussed so far are two key steps in resolving an unfortunate scenario where your project contractor leaves you in the lurch…sometimes taking the money and running, as was the case for me. #1 – you try to work with them, bring them back into the fold, reason with them, understand their situation, etc. Why? Because usually it is in your best interest to do so and almost always it is in their best interest to just get back on the job and eliminate the risk of facing monetary action, legal action, and governing/sanctioning action and fines. #2 – you can go to a trusted 3rd party who may be able to intervene and clear the situation up – talk sense into one or both parties and help them to move forward together and get back to work on the project.
Continue reading “What if Your Contractor Flakes on You? – Part 2”
04/16/2014 by Brad Egeland Tags: contractor abandons project, how to handle a bad contractor, problems with contractors
It can be as simple as a little blip on the project radar or it can be as large as complete project shutdown and ultimate cancellation and failure. What I am talking about is the act of bringing on a contractor for your technical project, construction project, or other type of project work only to have the contractor bail on the work – sometimes at the worst possible time – leaving you to figure out how best to get the work done, keep the customer satisfied, and keep the project going. Sometimes it’s possible, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes you may have to take legal action.
I had this come up personally on a construction project recently. Thankfully there is a contractors board to start with who will give a costly citation to the culprit…a second complaint can put the offending party in jail. Outside of that it is going to be up to me to take legal action. In terms of technical projects, however, your options are probably dictated by whatever contract you legally entered into, though everyone and anyone can certainly try to sue. The best thing to do is to document dates, dollars, and conversations. Having that information organized and at the ready is always your best possible situation to be in and can serve you well if legal action is the final recourse.
Aside from (or in order to try to mitigate and avoid) legal action, what can you do?
Continue reading “What if Your Contractor Flakes on You? – Part 1”
04/10/2014 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Bar Styles, Bar Styles Per Resource, FastTrack Schedule 10, FastTrack Schedule Environment, Resource Bars, Resources, Tips and Tricks
In many projects, resource management is extremely important for maximum project efficiency. Management of project resources can easily be done by utilizing tools from both the Schedule and Resource Views. The Resources Assigned column is a great way to initially setup our resource assignments, but when it comes time to create reports for each resource’s work we may be looking for a way to clearly display which resource is assigned to each task without having to actually display the Resources Assigned column.
In FastTrack Schedule we can assign specific bar styles to activities according to the resources that are assigned. Assigning these specific bar styles will allow us to minimize the amount of space we use while still creating a fully functional report. Let’s begin by taking a look at a schedule that has resources assigned, which we can be seen by viewing the Resources Assigned column.
Continue reading “Bar Styles Per Resource”
04/09/2014 by Brad Egeland Tags: constraints of a project, how constraints affect our projects, project constraints, project scheduling software
As much as we would like to think that we are free and clear to run our project and determine its outcome….the reality is that is not true. Every project – really no matter what the type of project, what industry the project is in, and what level or type of technology is utilized in the solution – has three major constraints. These are always going to be budget, time, and quality. There really is no way to avoid these.
I have never seen any project manager blessed with an unlimited budget. Likewise, I have never heard of or witnessed a project customer say, “Take as long as you want with this project.” It just doesn’t happen. And quality…well…I think we all understand that one. The end solution needs to work…needs to solve a problem or need. Otherwise, it isn’t really a successfully completed project…it’s just work that was done and time that was wasted.
What are the constraints of a project?
Continue reading “How Constraints Affect Our Projects”
04/01/2014 by Brad Egeland Tags: assessing project client satisfaction, project customer communication, project customer satisfaction, project stakeholder engagement
I would like to think that as the project is winding down I know whether my customer is satisfied with the implementation or whether they feel there have been some issues and concerns. I will also be the first to admit that I have been surprised both ways…so it is never a certainty.
Staying on top of the project via status reporting and the project schedule is critical to keeping the project on track and keeping customer satisfaction high. However, there are always other factors that come into play – some you can control and some you never can. Some that you do have a lot of control over as a factor in stakeholder satisfaction include the softer skills of communication, customer service, and problem resolution. And really, as the project winds down you can hope you know how your customer feels about the project – or you can do the wise thing and go ahead and ask the tough questions. It’s best if you can gauge this throughout the engagement – but that isn’t always possible. However, it is definitely a very good idea – almost necessary, in my opinion – to regroup afterwards and discuss this topic with the customer and various stakeholders post engagement.
Continue reading “Assessing Project Client Satisfaction”
03/28/2014 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Columns, Custom Data, Customize Files, FastTrack Schedule 10, FastTrack Schedule Environment, Tips and Tricks
Projects typically have a wide range of data that need to be tracked. Most schedules include items such as Activity Name, Duration, Start/Finish Dates, and Resources Assigned. In situations where we need to track additional data, however, we might not always be sure what type of column to use. In FastTrack Schedule there are almost 500 different columns available which are broken down into 12 types of columns. All of these column-types can be added to your schedule and customized to your specific needs at any point in time. In today’s blog post we’ll take a look at a few of these column-types and how they can be utilized throughout your project.
The schedule above is what most “typical” schedules look like when they first begin. It has a basic level of information containing Activity Name, Duration, Start Date, and Finish Date. However, with such a high level of customization available, there is no reason to leave out all of the other types of data that we wish to track within our project. For example, we could add information pertaining to Costs, Departments, External Project Data, and even Images. Continue reading “Column Types and Their Uses”