Have you ever wanted to pull your time and expense data into Excel for analysis? Now you can, with the XLST Excel Add-in. (scroll down for a video)
XLST is a new Excel add-in that pulls timesheet and project management data from your Standard Time® timesheet, and puts the results into Excel spreadsheets. It uses Excel formulas to extract timesheet data, and places the results into a single cell. In fact, the XLST functions act exactly like any other Excel function. They take “parameters” from other cells and use that data to get results.
What kinds of results can you get?
You can query the Standard Time database for all the actual work entered by employees. Or, you could query for all the expenses. Or all time off taken by employees. Or the hours available for time off.
Here is a partial list, which might spark your imagination:
Just click in an empty cell and then click the function icon near the formula line. Then choose XLST as the category. You’ll see all the functions listed above. Each one takes different parameters. Many parameters are optional, so you can quickly get results right away.
You must start by downloading Standard Time from the stdtime.com website, and then connecting it to SQL Server. XLST requires SQL Server or SQL Express. Once ST is connected to SQL, then you can download and install XLST.
Here’s a persistent problem project managers face: Their project schedules are obsolete within a week of completion. So what is your solution to that?
(scroll down for a video solution)
One solution is to get input from the boots on the ground. Get the actual employees doing the work to enter the tasks they are working on, and updating estimates. If you combine that with getting time and material “actuals” from employee timesheets, you have just about everything you need to fix this issue.
Getting input from the boots on the ground
Employees may not know the full strategic direction your project is going in, but they do know the tactical maneuvers to get things done. So let them have that input into your schedule. Let employees input their project tasks and update estimates based on their understanding of the conditions on the ground. That may be entirely different than your 30,000 foot birds-eye view.
Both perspectives help.
The video below shows how to sync project tasks with your timesheet, which lets employees on the ground have their input. Give it a watch, and let us know what you think!
Do you want the actual end-users of your MS Project plans to have input?
After all, what’s a project plan without input and adjustments from the boots on the ground? It’s static and lifeless. The project manager creates the plan, and minutes later it’s out of date. Why? Because the project manager doesn’t know the actual conditions on the ground. Only the actual employees know that. So you need their input.
This video describes getting input in the form of materials and costs that are synchronized with MS Project. Get a look below!
There are actually three types of resources in MS Project
Work resource — human resource, or equipment rented by the hour
Material resource — consumable materials used on the job
Cost resource — misc. expenses used on the job
Building a Microsoft Project with resources is much more than just human resources. It’s more than just Jim and Bob assigned to tasks. There are other types of resources that all have costs impacting the project.
The video below shows all three resource types. Scroll down and watch.
Work resources are usually human beings. They have a standard rate for each hour of work. But Work resources could also be machines that cost you a certain amount to use for each hour. A trackhoe that costs you $10,000 per hour is a work resource. You assign it to a task for a specified number of hours. When the task is finished, you own $10,000 times the number of hours. Ouch!
Material resources are normally consumables. You use up these materials on the job. The video describes buckets of nails as an example. You use a certain number of buckets for each task. When the task is done, you have cost the project the number of buckets times the cost for each bucket.
Cost resources are miscellaneous expenses your project incurs. Add these to your project so you know the total cost, including all the items used.
It turns out that all these MS Project costs come down to Standard Time during synchronization. Not only do your tasks come down, but so do all the resources and their costs. Of course you can send actual work back up to MSP from your employee timesheet, which lets you compare estimates with actuals. But this video describes resource costs.
A Gantt chart shows you task bars, task links, milestones and summaries. Pretty good for an invention from 1910! Quickie video below.
Define Gantt Chart: A chart where the X axis is time, and the Y axis contains task start and finish dates plotted horizontally on the time axis.
Actually, there is no Y axis. As stated above, there are just bars representing start and finish dates from scheduled tasks. Each task in the Gantt chart has a beginning and an ending dates. Those dates can be made into horizontal bars. The task start date is the left edge of the bar. The task finish date is the right edge of the bar. Each task potentially has different start and finish dates.
The Gantt chart itself has start and finish dates. It is small “window” into the full project schedule that has dates stretching from the beginning of the project until the end. So, you begin with the dates of a full project schedule, then look at a small part of that schedule using the Gantt chart, and inside it are individual tasks with even small increments of time, during which you’ll perform small jobs.
The Gantt chart scrolls inside the full project schedule dates. Tasks are visible in the Gantt chart “window” in the larger schedule.
It turns out that the timesheet app named Standard Time® also has a Gantt chart. You are able to view and manage tasks in ST. Those tasks show up on the timesheet where employee enter hours. The hours they enter into the timesheet go into the “Actual work” column in ST. You can compare actual work to estimations. Plus, you see percent complete.
And in case you were wondering… we also know that it’s not pronounced “PMO Office.” The extra “Office” at the end is redundant because the acronym “PMO” has the word Office in it. So if you said “PMO Office” you would really be saying “Project Management Office Office.” That’s dumb.
Watch the video, and then watch the “ten tools” video above. Comment on each one to let us know what you think. Talk to you soon!
Project management is such a broad term that it can include a lot of activities. And everyone has a unique perspective or opinion of its meaning. But it’s basically everything related to doing a project. Please comment on the video below.
Define Project Management: The activities and methods used to successfully complete a project or job, usually constrained by time, cost, or scope.
The constraints listed above are the biggies! We all have an idea what the activities are. But often the constraints are not given the priorities they should. Consequently, projects go over their budgets, both from a time and cost perspective. This usually happens when the scope becomes a moving target you can never catch up to. The customer wants more and more, but forgets that it costs more and more, and that it takes time to reach that elusive goal.
Consider these two videos to learn more about project management and the constraints you’ll face:
Sometimes you cannot start one task until another is complete. Try to build a bridge without the abutments. You’ll have Galloping Gertie on your hands.
Define Finish to Start Link: A project task link relationship where one task cannot start until the previous task finishes.
Actually, Galloping Gertie was not caused by missing abutments. It was caused by resonating flutter from high winds. Sort of like swinging higher and higher in a playground swing set. Eventually bad things happen.
(see video below)
But abutments is a good example for link relationships, even if it doesn’t apply to Gertie. Sometimes you just have to finish up one thing before you can start another. That’s a “finish to start” task relationship. It turns out there are four type of task relationships.
Finish to Start (FS)
Start to Start (SS)
Finish to Finish (FF)
Start to Finish (SF)
In each of these cases, you’re linking either the finish or start of one task to the finish or start of another. If you think about it, you can imagine crazy cases where each one of these link relationships naturally occurs. Projects have all sorts of relationships you have to model in software so your project works.
When you’re starting to think about managing projects as groups, then you might be ready for project portfolios. Of course, you’ll always manage individual projects, but do you also want to manage groups of them?
Define Project Portfolio: A collection of projects managed as a single entity.
For example: in Standard Time® you can view revenue charts for an entire project portfolio. For the sake of this chart, you don’t care how much revenue a single project brings in. You care about an entire collection of projects. How much does the entire collection bring in?
Another example might be finding the effective billing rate for an entire project portfolio. In other words, how much are we making per hour on this entire portfolio of projects? We care about individual projects, of course. But we’re interested in comparing one portfolio against another. Which portfolio has the highest effective billing rate?
Watch the fanciful little video below, and then try this for yourself. It will take some time. You will need multiple projects to be able to call it a portfolio. One project doesn’t make a portfolio. So you’ll need to assign tasks to resources and track some time for multiple projects before you can really start seeing value. This is a high-level management technique.
In project management, resources almost always refer to employees. I.e. human resources. And allocation almost always refers to scheduling tasks they will work on. Hmmm, is that all there is to it? (watch the video below)
Define Resource Allocation: Using people and objects in projects on a shared or recurring basis.
So no… employees are not the only resources you can allocate to your project. Got a tractor? Using it for landscaping? Then it is a shareable resource that you must schedule use for. In other words, only one landscaper crew can use it at any given time. It can’t be used by two crews at the same time, right? After all, it’s just one tractor. If two crews need tractors at the same time, then you need two tractors.
And no… scheduling tasks is not all there is to allocation. But yes, scheduling shareable resources is often necessary, as described above. Consider a load of manure, used by those landscaping crews above. You’ll have to split that bad-boy load up. You can’t have all the crews fighting for their “fair share” of the poo, can you? So you allocate a percentage to each crew. You guys get a little poo, and you other guys get some too.