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Build an Effective Schedule v2Here I am again touching upon project management basics and how they apply to project scheduling. My intent is after writing these basic concepts I will start building tutorials on actual projects, which will be fictional, of course. I just feel a strong the need to make sure I lay down the foundations by writing these basics. Believe me, I would just love to jump in and start putting tutorials together. Theory is not as fun as actually putting something together and getting your hands dirty. But if you really want your project to work, you need to first try to understand the basic concepts behind building a good foundation for your schedule and have a little patience.

Previously I touched upon the importance of good planning in Project Management Basics #1. Then, I explained some simple scheduling concepts in Project Management Basics #2. I explained project scheduling, and the importance of asking questions about the different project aspects. I also introduced the concept of EVMS and how to go about top-down planning to define a project.

Scheduling Building Blocks

Let’s touch upon some scheduling building blocks. I will not go into a lot of detail here, maybe I’ll do it at a future date. Here is a list of things you need to know about scheduling.

  • Build a list of activities
  • Group together activities that go hand in hand
  • Figure out the logical sequence of the activities
  • Identify the relationship and dependency between each activity
  • Figure out the duration of each activity
  • Resource Allocation
  • Baseline the project

Build a List of Activities

Start building the list activities needed for your project. At the beginning don’t worry about what order they are in. The important thing is to list any and every activity you can think of to make your project successful. I would start with major phases or modules and start adding details to each big area, but you go ahead and build your list the way it makes most sense to you.

College Education Activity List

College Education
Freshman English 1
English 1 Homework A
English 1 Quiz A
English Homework B
English Quiz B
Calculus 1
Calculus 1 Homework A
Calculus 1 Quiz A
Calculus 101 Homework B
Calculus 101 Quiz B
Spanish 101
Spanish 101 Homework A
Spanish 101 Quiz A
Spanish 101 Homework B
Spanish 101 Quiz B
Biology 100
Second Semester
Freshman English 2
Calculus 2
Economics 101
Spanish 110
Biology 110
Activity List to build a project schedule

Group Together Activities That Go Hand in Hand

After you have your activity list it’s time to sort through it. If you didn’t start with a top-down planning, then this is the time to group activities together under a general umbrella, or as we call it in scheduling, a summary task. An example of this is gathering all the freshman courses tasks under a group/summary task named Freshman 1st Semester.

College Education Grouped Activity List

Semester
Tasks
Freshman Sem 01Freshman English 1
Freshman Sem 01English 1 Homework A
Freshman Sem 01English 1 Quiz A
Freshman Sem 01English Homework B
Freshman Sem 01English Quiz B
Freshman Sem 01Calculus 1
Freshman Sem 01Calculus 1 Homework A
Freshman Sem 01Calculus 1 Quiz A
Freshman Sem 01Calculus 101 Homework B
Freshman Sem 01Calculus 101 Quiz B
Freshman Sem 01Spanish 101
Freshman Sem 01Spanish 101 Homework A
Freshman Sem 01Spanish 101 Quiz A
Freshman Sem 01Spanish 101 Homework B
Freshman Sem 01Spanish 101 Quiz B
Freshman Sem 01Biology 100
Freshman Sem 02Freshman English 2
Freshman Sem 02Calculus 2
Freshman Sem 02Economics 101
Freshman Sem 02Spanish 110
Freshman Sem 02Biology 110
Grouped all the activities by semester

Figure Out the Logical Sequence for Each Activity

Now that you have grouped together all the activities that are similar, it’s time to go ahead and start sequencing them. That means you have to figure out which activity will go first, second, etc. Remember, some activities may be done concurrently with other activities.

Identify the Relationship and Dependency Between Each Activity

Some people may get confused as to the difference between sequencing and finding the relationship between activities. Sequencing is putting your activities in order from beginning of the project to the end of the project. Identifying the relationship between each activity is defining how each activity relates to another. In scheduling there are four types of scheduling relationships that define the dependencies between each activity.

FS – Finish to Start

Finish to Start (FS) relationship is where one activity has to finish before another activity can begin

FF – Finish to Finish

Finish to Finish (FF) relationship is where one activity will finish when another activity finishes

SS – Start to Start

Start to Start (SS) relationship is where one activity cannot start until another activity begins

SF – Start to Finish

Start to Finish (SF) relationship is where one activity has to start for another activity to finish. This SF relationship is rarely used. Up until now I haven’t found a reason to use it. Do not use it if at all possible since it’s not part of the best practices of scheduling to use it frequently.

Figure Out the Duration for Each Activity

Now that you have defined the relationship between each activity you now need to figure out how long it’s going to take for each activity to be completed. This will help determine the length of your project. Remember, try not to put too little or too much time for each activity. If this is your first time trying to figure out durations, it’s best to err on the side of more time than less. It just has to make sense. There are techniques you can use to figure out durations.

Contract Durations/Dates

Historical Data – How long has it taken in the past to complete a similar activity

PERT – Program Evaluation and Review Technique

Gut Feeling

Resource Allocation

Not all schedules are resource loaded.  At least that has been my observation over the many years I’ve been putting schedules together.

Actually, of all the schedules I’ve encounter, maybe 10% were resource loaded.  Not that the companies didn’t want resource loaded schedules.  That was their number one request when I first spoke to them about their schedules.  But somehow, they have a difficult time implementing it because they need to have the right information to make it work.

So if you can’t get your schedules resource loaded, it’s not the end of the world.  It does mean you won’t be able to take certain measurements like EVMS.  Your schedules might then have to be solely on based on duration.  That means your time model of your project, your schedule, will be less reliable.  But as long as you keep that in mind, in my opinion, and you do everything else you need to do, then you can still have a chance to bring in your project on time.

Baseline the Project

Once you have all your ducks in a row, meaning you have built out your schedule, built the relationships, made sure all tasks have a predecessor and a successor, determined durations, and resource loaded your schedule, then you can baseline the schedule.  Voila!  You are ready to start updating and maintaining your project with your project schedule.

The Next Step – Building a “real” hand-on project schedule

If you have any questions, let me know.  In the next couple of weeks, I will walk you step by step on how to build a schedule with a specific project.  The one I have in mind now, which I have touched upon here, is to build a project on getting a college education.  I think it’s something most people are familiar on the sequencing.  Until next time.

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Since this is going to be a weekend post, an seemingly off-topic post shouldn’t be too bad.  Every day I have tons of ideas on topics I can write about, but I try to stick to topics that seem more fitting.  Analyzing blogs and their 20554801_susefulness doesn’t seem too off the mark, right?

So, what gets me up in the morning?  As you all know, it’s not the thought about going to work, no.  I get up to rush and start something with this website.  Once I check out the stats and give the finishing touches to whatever is pending, I then rush to read my favorite blogs to get me going.  That means I’m usually up by 4:30 am  most mornings (although having a 2 year old helps the process along).

Which blogs make the cut?

Legal Nomads

I just love the beautiful pictures on the blog!  Reading about travel and looking at different sceneries around the world is an awesome way to start the day.  How would it feel to go to different parts of the world and experience different cultures?  I have been to 8 different states in the US and I have lived in 4 different states to include Hawaii.  Most people must dream about going to a different place to get a different perspective on life.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a nomad.  I’m too set in my ways and I’m loving Denver right now.

Think Traffic

Initially I didn’t want to read this blog because I am not too interested in gaudy and sleazy marketing.  But I kept finding Think Traffic mentioned on different places around the web.  I was compelled to go check it out for their article on writing epic stuff.  I find myself going back for more because it’s a great resource for anyone who is starting to write and might not be the best writer, or for encouragement to never give up.  I can always find actionable advice that I can follow immediately.  Of course, it usually has to wait because my mornings are carting the kids to school and daycare and getting to work on time.

Entrepreneur on Fire

When I grow up I want to be an entrepreneur.  I am well into my 30’s, so I better get going.  Entrepreneur on Fire is a blog containing podcasts about entrepreneurs to encourage wannabe’s like me.  Listening to these podcasts during work keep me motivated all day and make me more productive than ever.  Then when I get home I am pumped to get to writing articles of things I love.  Yes, I love analyzing stuff, so here I am late at night writing to you about my favorite blogs!

Get Rich Slowly

I’ve been reading this blog since at least 2009.  It was definitely better when the original owner maintained it.  Now that he is back to writing you can tell that JD Roth is the heart of this blog.  There are so many ideas that he shares on how to manage your finances.  He is engaging and shares lots of details of what he went through to get where he is at today.  I suggest you dig into the archives and start at the beginning.  This blog has inspired me to save in different ways, improve my job options, and live a meaningful life.  Go check it out.

Pick The Brain

For good old-fashioned motivation that is not old-fashioned, I go and read Pick the Brain.  Recently I read an article on becoming motivated.  Surprisingly, to get motivated you need to get to action first.  Motivation seems to follow.  That makes sense.  Sometimes I really don’t want to do something but I do it anyway because I have to, and right in the middle of doing it I get motivated to do my best work.  But if I sit around waiting for motivation to strike, it seems it never does.  Food for thought.

 

What blogs keep you motivated?  Which ones do you visit frequently?

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This week I’ve been obsessed with finding out information on whether or not Power Pivot comes in Microsoft Excel 2013 standalone or not. It’s driving me crazy! Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much information on the web of when 9618809_sit’s actually going to come out in MS Excel 2013.

I decided I’m going to divide the links to great content between articles that deal with Excel, and articles that deal with project scheduling. Here we go!

Interesting Posts on MS Excel Around the Web

Over at The Next Web, they had an interesting article listing the next 20 things Microsoft is working on Excel Web App. Some of the interesting things they are working on are web service functions, and chart editing.

Since I’m trying decide whether to buy Microsoft Excel 2010 or 2013, I found great information about what is new in Excel 2013 over at Addictive Tips.

It’s also important to figure out what new functions Excel 2013 has versus 2010. At Tech Republic they list 10 new functions found in Excel 2013. This is especially important if you are trying to save time while working on your spreadsheet.

Interesting posts on Project Scheduling Around the Web

Since I’m a project scheduler by trade and have been working on writing articles on how to build 2013. The next one starts on September 17 and it’s about how to Connect ERP Systems with Microsoft Project. The one that I’m interested is one they are offering in December about Scrum and Agile planning. The wecasts are free, so go ahead and learn something new!a project schedule, it’s important to see what other people are doing in this area. Over at the Project Blog, a Microsoft blog, they are offering webcasts to better learn how to use MS Project

If you are looking for a good alternative to MS Project because of lack of funds (MS Project is pretty expensive) you can take a look at a review about the good the bad and the ugly in an article at myra.

Currently I’m working on building good project scheduling tutorials, but if you don’t have time to wait around until I post them, then here is a tutorial that might get you in the right direction. It walks you through setting up a schedule for a project.

Interesting posts on Data Analysis Around the Web

Last month I posted an article on finding free college level courses on the web at awesome universities. Well, if you are looking to start a free class on data analysis, there are a few that are going to start soon and they are listed at mooc-list.com. Let me know if you actually take one!

If you are a small business and want to get a piece of the big data phenomena, but are restricted by your budget, don’t worry, the new buzzword is in small data. ‘Small Data’ Analysis the Next Big Thing, Advocates Assert is an article talking about how only the very large companies can actually do big data, but small data is important for everyone else.

So there you go, awesome articles to create food for thought. Enjoy!

 

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When I wrote about the hours I spent developing AnalysisFlo back in August, I had just reported two weeks out of August because I was excited about analyzing data. I decided to go back and analyze the whole month now that I have information for the whole month. I’m still excited to analyze all that data and to see if I achieved the goals I set out at the beginning of the month. Hang on to your seats because I’m really going to go in depth on the graphs.

Goals Set Out for AnalysisFlo for August 2013

I started with 5 categories for the hours I have spent developing this website. Here they are with the initial hours spent in the first two weeks in August.

AnalysisFlo Web Dev Hours in August

AnalysisFlo Web Dev Hours in August

Percentages First Two Weeks in August 2013

Now here are how the percentages looked on how I spent my time on the first two weeks:

 

% of Time Spent per Task

August 2013 First Two Weeks Viewed With Relation to Percentage

It also helps to see a nice chart of how these two tables relate to each other.  I didn’t put this in my original post, but I think it would be nice to see it here.


Web Dev  Original Percent Chart  August 2013

August 2013 AnalysisFlo Goals of Hours Spent Developing Website

My goals were to spend 40% on web research, about 30% on content writing, and about 10% doing data analysis by the end of the first month. I didn’t state it on my other post, but I imagine I wanted to spend the other 20% on learning new technology and web design. Let’s see how I did with the goals I set out for myself.  Here is how I spent my hours in the 4 weeks of August:


Website Dev Hours August 2013 for 4 weeksIt’s nice to see how the hours were spread out by category and by week.  You can easily that I spent most of my time in Web research.  But the best way to visualize this information is by seeing the information on a chart.  Here is a chart using a pivot table to show both the hours spent compared to the percentage of time.

Web Dev Percent Chart August 2013

August 2013 Full Month Viewed With Relation to Percentage

And here is the graph with both the hours spent by category and the percentages.

 

Web Dev Percent Chart 2 August 2013

AnalysisFlo Hours Spent on Website Per Week in August 2013

I’m also fond of seeing the information on a nice colorful chart dividing out each category per week.  Here is this beautiful chart:

Website Dev Hours August 2013 for 4 weeks ChartWow, how I just love tables and charts.  They are so helpful in telling a story.

 

Goals for September 2013

In September my goal is to stay more consistent in my percentages and also more consistent in my postings. That means I want to stay at about 35% for content writing, 35% for web research, and about 10% data analysis.  Then the other 20% should be spent on web design and learning new technology.   Since we are already almost at the halfway point in September 2013, I already know it’s going to be a challenge to meet these goals.  But you know what?  I’m always up for a challenge!

 

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I have been waiting patiently for the release of Power Pivot in Excel 2013 standalone.  I had already prepared myself for this day by getting all the typical MS Office applications in Open Office.  They aren’t as good as MS Office, but I am willing to sacrifice these apps for getting the ability to do Power Pivot in Excel 2013 standalone.  So before I pulled the trigger and bought Excel 2013, I went searching through the web to see if anyone had successfully gotten it.  To my dismay, I didn’t find much information.  I had to dig into the comment section of PowerPivotPro to find it probably wasn’t going to come out today.  Microsoft still plans on releasing it in the standalone, but at a later date.  I can’t believe it, I could cry!  Yes, I’m a geek, and yes I feel like crying.  Maybe I should just buy MS Office 2010 and be done with it.  I’ll have to think on that.  I also have to conduct research as to what I will be missing out if I go with the 2010 version.

Anyway, instead of standing around waiting for this release, I think I’m going to go ahead and buy a couple of books to get me started on using Power Pivot.  I already have PowerPivot on my work computer, the 2010 version, so I can go ahead and play around with it using work data.  That means I cannot use that data here on this website.  But if I get a sense of how to start using Power Pivot, then when I start building tutorials here I can hit the ground running.  At that point you can follow along as I learn to use that tool.  The books I plan to buy are:

  • PowerPivot for the Data Analyst by Bill Jelen (Mr. Excel)
  • DAX Formulas for PowerPivot: A Simple Guide to the Excel Revolution by Rob Callie
  • Microsoft Excel 2013: Building Data Models with PowerPivot by Alberto Ferrari and Marco Russo

If anyone has used any of these books, can you tell us your experience? Also, does anyone have a recommendation of a resource for using Power Pivot?

 

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