Pre-Defined Summary Graphs in FastTrack Schedule 10

In our projects there can be a wide variety of data that we need to keep track of such as dates, durations, resources assigned, costs, and other data.  However we may not always be able to display the data we wish to track directly within a column.  In some cases we may want to easily display a cash flow chart for our project.  In FastTrack Schedule 10 there are many pre-defined Summary Graphs, within both new, blank files and our Free Project Management Templates, which can be used to easily convey cash flow style information.

By default every schedule will have several Summary Graphs that users can easily view. The most commonly used Summary Graphs are found within the Cost Layout and provide information on Resource Costs, Fixed Costs, and Total Costs on a monthly basis.  These graphs use the data from each corresponding column (Resource Cost, Fixed Cost, Total Cost) to calculate where the costs occur throughout the project. This can be further refined by adjusting the time increments in the graphs.


Cost Per Month Graphs_small

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Removing Unproductive Project Resources

removing unproductive project resourcesHave you ever had a project resource that wasn’t really contributing? Who am I kidding…if you’ve managed more than 10 projects, chances are you’ve run into this.

You know the ones…their contribution is low or non-existent. They aren’t serving a purpose on the team. It may even have been their last ditch effort to show worth to the entire organization and it just didn’t happen. In a sense, they are your excess baggage. They aren’t helping the project and are a continuing drain on the project budget and the rest of the team. You’re not even sure if you need to replace them or just remove them. I realize this can be a touchy subject, but it does come up and how it is addressed can be critical to project success and even customer satisfaction.

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Keeping Projects Under Control

keeping projects under controlControl. We all like to be in control of what we are living, managing and doing on a daily basis, right? Both personally and professionally. At least it’s the goal. From a professional standpoint – from a project management standpoint – as we go about our processes of managing all of the projects on our plate that can often mean organizing our activities across four, five or even six live projects at a time. Maintaining control of those projects can sometimes be an issue.

Keeping projects on track, organizing the team and keeping them focused, and making sure the customer has the information and attention that they need and deserve can be a difficult process. From my experience and what I’ve witnessed on my PM colleagues’ projects, ensuring that the four actions that I’m about to discuss below are taken during the project can greatly decrease your likelihood of seeing significant project issues and, therefore, increasing your likelihood of maintaining ongoing control of your projects…

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Look Ahead Reporting in FastTrack Schedule 10

When following and managing a project schedule one of the most important things to be aware of is when the various activities are planned to occur. In projects that span a larger range of time it may sometimes be harder to easily pinpoint activities that occur within just a specific period. In FastTrack Schedule 10 there are numerous pre-defined Look Ahead filter options to allow users to easily view tasks within any period of the schedule.

As we can see in the image below, our project is currently planned to occur from June 1st to September 9th. At any point as we are working in the project we may want to focus on just one period within the project, so that we can easily identify all tasks that must occur at that point.


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What Project Management Tools Would You Bring?

what project management tools would you bringYou know the drill – you’re hypothetically stuck somewhere (often a desert island is used but the problem is there is no WIFI on a desert island) and someone asks you what five or ten things would you want to have with you over everything else. Commonly people ask what five or ten music albums would you want for listening to for the rest of your life. Here I’m asking – if you were stuck somewhere remote and left to manage projects from there – what would you want to manage projects on an ongoing basis from this stuck, remote location for an extended period of time.

If it were me, absolutely for starters I would have to have my smartphone and laptop. I’d also have to go with a good project management software tool. In the perfect world – meaning when I’m not stranded on a desert island – I usually use several different software tools when I’m managing a project. The standard fare for me would be Word, Excel, possibly Visio and PowerPoint to prepare for project kickoff or to give a detailed overview for a change order, and on some projects a database software like Access.

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7 Key Factors to PMO Success

7 key factors to pmo successDo you have a project management office (PMO) in your organization? If so, is it successful? Is it contributing to individual project successes by its project managers? If not, is there one in your company’s future? Is the PM practice growing to the point where a PMO would be a welcomed addition to help streamline the PM practice and processes?

One thing for is for sure – more than half of all projects fail to some degree. However, the organizations that recognize the need to wrap some structure, processes, tools and policies around their project management efforts will usually realize more consistent success than the organizations that don’t recognize this need. And for those that work to create viable, functional, working project management office (PMO) infrastructures are just that much further ahead in the project management success game.

I’ve created a PMO, I’ve helped create PMOs and I’ve watched PMOs being built and executed from afar. And consistently I’ve seen certain characteristics – certain factors – that seem to be very important in terms of whether or not the project management office ends up as a successful part of the organization or whether it ends up being dismantled and tossed aside. These basically narrow down to seven factors, in my opinion. Let’s examine them further…

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Is This Project Feasible?

is this project feasibleOur customer – whoever that may be – wants something done, right? That may be an external customer, an internal customer…it may even be our own CEO. But, is what they want done even feasible? First, you have to get past the cover your own neck concept of the thought of going through a complete project to create a solution or product exactly like your customer asks only to have it be something completely unusable in the market place or by the customer’s end user community. In that scenario you – the project manager – look bad (very bad) because you delivered something unusable even if it wasn’t your own direct fault. Rather, you have to see the big picture and understand that it’s about making a customer happy and not completely wasting their money in the process.

So, yes, it is up to us to help them determine whether or not if what they are asking for is even feasible. If you really want to make your customer happy then make sure from the beginning that what they want is actually feasible. And how do we do that? Well, methods for verifying feasibility can often include such things as market studies, simulation, pilot testing, and prototyping. Let’s examine each of these methods in a little more detail…

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A Project is a Project is a Project

a project is a project is a projectAre all projects basically the same? Do best practices translate from project to project and industry to industry? What’s your take? I’m going to discuss my take on this and then I’d like to hear from you on your thoughts.

Every project – in its details – is different, I know. Even two projects implementing the same technology – maybe even with the same PM and technical team involved – will be different to some degree. But my real question is this – are all projects basically and fundamentally the same? From a project manager standpoint, do we really run project A different than project B? Do we do the same things – just in different detail – on each project (or at least the things we know are helpful and successful and aren’t contributing to ongoing project failures once we learn our lessons)?

For me, the answer really isn’t clear-cut. I’m going to present what I think should happen on every project – no matter what type of project it is – and then I’d like to hear from you. Here’s what SHOULD be happening on all projects…

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Creating a Project Budget that Works

creating a project budget that worksNo question, the project budget is critical. Customer funding is based on it, project success is derived from how closely you manage to it, and without it you can’t perform any work on the engagement.

Properly pricing the project – properly estimating the costs that go into the project – is critical for any size engagement. Therefore, it’s always a good time to examine and discuss the elements that go into the overall project budget because as a project manager, you may – if you’re lucky – have some influence of the inputs to the project costs and budget. And it’s a certainty that you’ll be responsible for it – even if you had no input at the beginning of the engagement.

For this project budgeting series, let’s examine the key types of costs that go into the project budget.

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Four Killer Statements that Cause the PM Grief

four killer statements that cause the pm griefIssues come up, bumps in the road occur, many things work against the project manager and his team throughout the engagement as they try to deliver on the project. That said, there are a few negative things or statements from the project team, the customer, and even the PM’s senior management that can basically ruin the PM’s day as he tries to successfully deliver on the project. I’m sure there about 500 more such statements, but I thought it would be interesting to examine four relatively common ones in this article.

As you read this post, be thinking of all those statements you’ve heard over the years that have caused you grief on the projects you manage or participate on and please share them here so we can discuss.

Here are my four contributions to the discussion…

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Staying the Course When Your Project is in Trouble

staying the course when your project is in troubleWe all hit the wall at some point. Projects go awry, issues mount and we need to take action. The pressure mounts and tests our ability to make good sound decisions for our projects and for our project customers. What’s your point? At what point do you feel like you might be ready to pull all of your hair out and literally lose control? We all – at some time or another – reach that point where we just can’t take it anymore. And what it is depends on us. It may be too much distraction. It may be too much interruption. It may be too much stupidness (you’re resisting the very real temptation to slap someone upside the head – you know what I mean). Or it may be too much pressure. How we handle hitting that breaking point may say a lot about who we are and it may have a big impact on how we’re managing our projects and it may even have a big impact on our careers if the stressor or issue is big enough.

In our line of work – as the PM of the engagement – it is critical that we actually stay in charge and maintain the perception of remaining in control. Especially in stressful or critical situations. Continue reading “Staying the Course When Your Project is in Trouble”

Critical Paths in FastTrack Schedule 10

Displaying the critical paths in a schedule is often paramount to the success of the project. Project managers need to be able to easily view and manipulate these paths so that they can determine what tasks could potentially cause a delay, or worse, in the project. Sometimes it may not always be easy to see the critical path as you set a schedule up. However, FastTrack Schedule 10 automatically determines the critical path of a schedule as dependencies are created between the various activities.  At any point in time users can choose to display those critical paths and even modify the color or size in which they are displayed.

The first step to setting up a critical path is to simply define the dependencies from one activity to the next.  As we do this FastTrack automatically determines the longest path between a group of tasks from the earliest start point to the latest finish date.  As we can see in the schedule below our links are already created, however, links flow in some cases from one activity to several others which may make it more difficult to identify the critical path.


Starting Links_small

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