Planning Basics by Marstrand Innovation
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Planning Basics by Marstrand Innovation

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This document is intended for people who are new to planning. It explains fundamental concepts such as “What is planning?” and “What is a Gantt chart?” which are essential knowledge before......

This document is intended for people who are new to planning. It explains fundamental concepts such as “What is planning?” and “What is a Gantt chart?” which are essential knowledge before beginning in Marstrand Planning Intelligence.

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  • 1. Planning Basics Preface Planning Intelligence synchronizes projects and tasks with resources in the short and long term using interactive Gantt charts. This document is a supplement to the Marstrand Plan- ning Intelligence (MPI) system. In MPI, there are tuto- To help you make the best decisions rials built to be a step-by-step guide to do functions in about time, money and resources. the system, such as adding a person, or creating a project. Videos are also available which show the tuto- rials in action. Marstrand Innovation A/S Roskildevej 522, 2605 Brøndby, It is intended that this document is a primer on plan- Denmark ning, teaching the basics of planning, Gantt charts, www.planningintelligence.dk work breakdown structure and resource management. Tel: +45 43 22 00 40 May 2010 Mobil: +45 40 71 85 80 e-mail: contact@marstrandinnovation.com
  • 2. Audience This document is intended for people who are new to planning. It explains fundamental con- cepts such as “What is planning?” and “What is a Gantt chart?” which are essential knowledge before beginning in Marstrand Planning Intelligence. What’s inside Contents 1. What is planning? 3 1.1 Definition of a project ............................................................................... 3 1.2 Definition of tasks .................................................................................... 3 1.3 Definition of a milestone .......................................................................... 3 1.4 Organizing tasks, WBS............................................................................ 3 1.5 Create & Assign resources ...................................................................... 4 1.6 Dependencies .......................................................................................... 4 2. What is a Gantt chart? 4 2.1 Introduction .............................................................................................. 4 2.2 Bars in the Gantt chart ............................................................................. 5 2.3 Getting an overview ................................................................................. 6 2.4 Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) .......................................................... 6 3. Resource Gantt Chart 7 4. What do I want to achieve as a planner? 8 5. Moving on… Error! Bookmark not defined. 5.1 Tutorials ................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. 5.2 Learning Center ....................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. 2
  • 3. 1. What is planning? You might have a goal: buy a pair of shoes for Saturday‟s party. To do this, you might research the shoes, color and sizes, ask a friend to see if the shoes are in the mall she works at, search for the shoes online, and eventually, buy the shoes. This simple set of activities can be consi- dered a project:  It has a goal, and a start and end date;  It involves doing tasks and subtasks (finding the color or size);  Employing other people to help (the friend at the mall);  And reaching the goal (getting the right shoes in time!). This kind of planning (shopping for shoes) is easy enough but what if you have to plan with more people, more tasks, or more deadlines? That‟s when you might need some planning soft- ware. Furthermore, what if you are planning several projects and service activities in parallel? Some of the people you need are already engaged in other projects; now there is a real puzzle to solve in order to coordinate something! Now you might need some multiple project and re- source planning software. Below we describe what a project is, what are tasks and resources and how dependencies work. 1.1 Definition of a project A project is a group of tasks that must be done over time with a goal for the completion in terms of both what is being done and when it will be complete. 1.2 Definition of tasks A task is a smaller component of a project, it is the „to-do‟ portion, an action that must be carried out and in some cases, has sub-tasks of its own. Buying shoes was the project; within that project you had to call your friend, research the shoes, and buy the shoes as tasks. As sub- tasks, you had to find the right color and size when researching the shoes. 1.3 Definition of a milestone A milestone is a marker in time, indicating that some aspect of the project or the project itself should be complete by that time. 1.4 Organizing tasks, WBS Organizing tasks is important, which one is most important to do first? Which one comes first? Trying on the shoes or picking a size? (Picking a size in most cases comes first, but in case you don‟t know that, it‟s helpful to give a greater priority and importance to picking a size than to trying on the shoe). Projects and tasks can be organized into WBS: Work breakdown structure which we‟ll explain more about later, in the Gantt Chart section. 3
  • 4. 1.5 Create & Assign resources Once you have all these tasks defined, you might want someone to actually DO them. This is where resources come in. When we speak about resources, we mean either people or equip- ment. Maybe you need to book a person for a particular time or reserve a piece of equipment, or book a room, this could be a resource. Resources have some typical qualities: they have a set number of hours available to work (their capacity); they have a cost, skills, and they might also have absences. Given all these variables, resources have to be managed. In fact, in Planning Intelligence, re- sources come first. It is people who do the job, and people who get paid so it‟s important that projects are based on qualified people who are available to do those jobs within budget. 1.6 Dependencies Everything about projects and tasks has to do with timing, when will something be done, who has the time to do it, when will they finish? Dependencies refer to the relationships between the timing of all these factors. For example, if one task should be completed before another begins; the second task is depen- dent on the first task. There can also be tasks that need to be completed in parallel; they might have different start and end dates or the same start and end dates but either way, work needs to be done in two places at once. Paying attention to how the different parts of planning (projects, tasks, people, equipment) re- late to each other can help to plan better; considering what, who and when is essential to get the job done. 2. What is a Gantt chart? 2.1 Introduction The Gantt chart is a project planning tool; it‟s a visual way to see an overview of projects, tasks and assignments in time. In a Gantt chart, each activity (project or task) takes up a horizontal row. Dates are shown along the top of the chart, and are separated by Columns. In Planning Intelligence, you can switch time resolutions from hours to days to weeks to months by right clicking in the Project Gantt area; immediately, the view will change and instead of each column (for example) representing a week, it will now represent a day. Typical Gantt Chart: 4
  • 5. 2.2 Bars in the Gantt chart Tasks and projects are represented by bars in the Gantt chart. The left side of the bar shows the beginning of the task or project and the right side shows the expected end date. A vertical blue line shows which date represents the current day. Project Summary Task Milestone 5
  • 6. 2.3 Getting an overview Because many projects and all of their tasks and subtasks can pile up quickly, Planning Intelli- gence offers a feature called “Show Selected Projects”. (Highlighted below). Using this, you can select any project or task and then select “Show Selected Projects” and only that project will be displayed. This makes it much easier to see exactly what you need to, without the screen being filled up by all the projects you are currently working on. 2.4 Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) WBS is about organizing projects and tasks, and giving them subdivisions into manageable pieces. For instance, you might want to “Launch a new website” as your project. However, there are many steps in launching a new website and it might be hard to think about all of them as one major thing you must do. Instead you can break “launch a new website” into smaller tasks such as “define web pages”, “write content”, “take photos”, “find hosting”. Then you might real- ize that each of these could also have its own tasks, “define web pages” might include “name web pages”, “design each webpage”, “make keywords for each webpage”. “Take photos” might include “hire photographer”, “decide photo content”, “find location”, and “edit photos”. Now your project might look like this: I. Launch new website: a. Define web pages i. Name web pages ii. Design web pages iii. Make keywords for web pages b. Take photos i. Hire photographer ii. Decide photo content iii. Find location c. Find hosting i. Research companies ii. Ask friends iii. Sign up iv. Upload webpage This is a lot to do! Work breakdown structure helps you to organize and prioritize each of these tasks by making it look like this list, highlighting the main task, and identifying the sub-tasks. In a Gantt chart, you can see this WBS in the leftmost area, where the project is written. You can see main tasks and sub tasks in the Gantt chart itself, with main tasks having a sum- mary line (grey), and sub tasks below it. A useful feature here is that the summary line for the main task will show useful numbers such as costs, budget, or hours that the sub tasks amount to. When a task is indented under another task, such as how “Name web pages” is under “De- fine web pages” then the main task, “Define web pages” becomes a summary line and “Name web pages” becomes an indented sub-task. Seeing all these levels at once can be confusing. In Marstrand Planning Intelligence there is a feature where you can select which level of WBS you would like to view. For instance, in our example, “Launch new website” (the project) would be level one. The tasks, a, b, and c, would be level two and the sub tasks, i, ii, iii, would be level three. In this way you could set the view to only see level 1 and 2, only the project and its main tasks so your view is not so crowded. When 6
  • 7. viewing projects in level 1 or 2, you can always fold out to view all levels using the small icon beside the project name. 3. Unique to Planning Intelligence: Resource Gantt Chart We‟ve learned a little bit about the Project Gantt Chart here, how WBS works, and how a Gantt chart works. There is also another chart called a Resource Gantt Chart which lets you control and view (as seen from the resource dimension): - People‟s assignments - People‟s assigned hours - People‟s capacity - If a person is overbooked Below, you can see what a Resource Gantt Chart looks like. There‟s a tutorial on how to use it, but for now it‟s important to understand that to control people‟s hours and assignments, you have to be aware of what they are assigned to (they might be assigned to another‟s person‟s project already), their available capacity (are you going to overbook them by adding them to your project?), if they are already overbooked and if their hours should be adjusted to balance their workload. 7
  • 8. 4. What do I want to achieve as a planner? As a planner for projects, resources or both, there are a few key goals to keep in mind: 1. Watch for, and avoid delays in order to meet deadlines. Delays can come in many forms: overload, unplanned absences such as sickness, changing requirements, or moved deadlines as several examples. 2. Avoid bottlenecks! Bottlenecks are the most common cause of delays and stress. Watch out for people who have too much to do in a time period, once someone is as- signed too many hours or spread out over too many things at once, they could create a bottleneck in work. 3. Aim for the best possible performance. This means considering economy, equalizing workload, and avoiding idle time. 5. Moving on to planning… Hopefully this document has helped you to learn the basics of planning so you can go into any Gantt chart based software and start planning productively! At Marstrand Innovation, we have tried to make planning as straightforward as possible. We offer our software, Planning Intelligence with many step-by-step planning tutorials specific to the system. You can see these online at our online learning center here: http://www.marstrandinnovation.com/downloads/knowledge/learning_center/ We welcome you to give planning a try, we are always available for questions or comments and we appreciate feedback! Email us at contact@marstrandinnovation.com and we‟ll answer your questions. 8