Blog

5 days ago

Targetprocess v.3.8.8: Custom Fields ordering in entity views, Text widget for Dashboards, minor design changes, bug fixes

Custom Fields ordering in entity views

Do you use a lot of custom fields? Now you can change the order in which they are displayed! Place the most important Custom Fields at the top of the list, or group them by category to make your views more readable and adaptable to your needs.

For example, let's say you have the following list of Custom fields for a Project:

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Which displays like this in a Project view:

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You might decide you want to see all budget fields first. To do this, open the Custom Fields menu in Settings, hover the mouse over the corresponding field, and pull it into the position you want to see it on the view:

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Now, budgets will be displayed first:

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Dashboard widget: Text

A new text widget has been added to the widgets on Dashboard. Now, you can easily write up important details about current Project status and attach this information to your Dashboard.

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Minor design changes

We've redesigned the progress bar and made general improvements to optimize:

  • card hover
  • cards selection
  • display of active entities
  • entity deletion
  • background highlighting
  • system performance 

Fixed Bugs:

  • Fixed image copy/paste duplication in Description
  • Fixed issue with password restore for inactive users
  • Fixed an issue with TFS Plugin not working with Visual Studio 2015
  • Fixed support for HTTP byte range request in tpondemand
  • Fixed the "Follow Activity" widget
6 days ago

How and when to use a Timeline view (and not a Gantt chart)

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

Time is an extremely important metric for POs, PMOs, and anyone else managing a team, a project or a portfolio of projects. In Targetprocess, the Timeline view can help you visualize time-related metrics, spot potential delays before they happen, and synchronize projects and teams with important deadlines and company milestones.

For example: want to see if your project will be delivered on time? Or perhaps you need to check which teams will be available to work on a critical project at a certain point in time? Switch to a Timeline view.  Timelines can be useful for anyone who wants to get a high-level look at projects or view any time-related metrics.

To be more specific, Timelines allow you to visualize three key timeframes:

  • Planned Time (a user-determined value for an item’s planned duration)
  • Actual Cycle Time / Actual Time In-Progress (an automatically calculated value which shows how long an item has been “in progress”)
  • Forecasted Time (an automatically calculated value for an item’s duration based on current effort over time)

To view your data on a Timeline, you can either set up a new view or apply a Timeline to a current view by clicking on the Timeline symbol at the top right of the screen. Keep in mind that some views will have no use as a Timeline because they are not related to time (such as a list of all users in the system).  

Public Roadmap

Timelines can be shared as Tauboards with people outside the project team or your own organization (e.g. for explaining the roadmap to customers and stakeholders). Tauboards are updated in real-time, so nobody needs to waste time updating different versions of PDFs or PowerPoints; everyone sees the actual real-time status with just a click. This is especially helpful for high-level planning meetings (especially if any participants are working remotely).  

You can see the Tauboard for Targetprocess’s public roadmap here.

Different ways to use Timelines:

Setting expectations for delivery time is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. Timelines can help managers and team members get away from things such as closed deadlines and low quality releases (if they were the result of pressure from time emergencies). The Timeline view encourages transparency, and allows you to analyze what happened in the past, create plans for the future, and stay on track in the present.

There’s a myriad of uses for Timelines in Targetprocess. We’ll list some of them below.

PMOs and POs frequently use Timelines for:

  • Portfolio management
  • Project and program planning
  • Roadmapping

The ability to display a dozen projects on one screen and show how they all coincide with each other can be invaluable. Users can get a visual comparison between planned and actual end dates, and also see automatic forecasts for when the projects are expected to be completed. Project managers can check estimations against real work to identify and correct any deviations from the plan.

Project Roadmap

Milestones (those colored lines with flags at the top) can add significant value to project scheduling. Milestones in different colors can help to synchronize work across different programs.

Release Managers use Timelines to:

  • Create an iteration or release schedule for teams
  • Plan and track progress across many different releases

QA Managers prefer using Timelines for:

  • Mapping test plans for a test run

Other team or project managers (including those listed above) can use Timelines to:

  • View project allocations (seeing when and for how long people will be available)
  • View individual allocations across several projects

People Allocations Management is a very wide topic because it’s used for all kind of activities. Timelines can help you visualize which people and teams are allocated to which projects and whether there are any potential conflicts which might occur. You can specify what people (teams and individuals) are required for a project, how long you need them for, and what percentage of their total working hours they can be allocated to a project.

Project Allocations

When viewing allocations on a Timeline, cards for people or teams might sometimes be displayed as red. This happens when an individual or team is over-allocated. For example: each person gets a certain capacity amount (e.g. 40 hours a week) which can be allocated to different projects as a percent. If the Percent Participating fields (found in the Allocations tab) for all of the individual’s allocations add up to over 100%, then the card will turn red.

Tips from Targetprocess veterans:

You can customize a Timeline’s cards to display blockers, relations, and many other units.  It’s easy to drill down into these cards for more details. To customize which units are displayed on a Timeline’s cards, just go to the Customize Cards tab in the view’s setup.

Timeline Customize Cards

Click the three gray dots to the right of the name of your view to find the view's dropdown menu. Select "Setup" then click the "Customize Cards" tab.

Visual encoding can be used to highlight items which have been started, or to flag items that could be potentially delayed.  To see potential delays, go to the visual encoding tab and input:

  • ?ForecastEndDate > PlannedEndDate

To see items which have been started, input:

  • ?EntityState is ‘InDev’

You may have to replace ‘InDev’ with whatever workflow stage you have set up for items in progress.

Visual Encoding for Timelines

 

At the top of the Timeline view, you can find the global time period selector. This is where you select your desired overall date range.

Local Selector
At the bottom of the view, you can find the local time period selector, where you can select which section and how much of your time interval your Timeline view will show. New users sometimes get confused about this function, so I’ve included a short explanatory clip:

How a Timeline view should not be used

We won’t try to tell you how to run your projects… but we’d be remiss if we didn’t try to offer some advice. In our opinion, it’s not a good idea to use Timelines to compare the efficiency or productivity of teams. Timelines are about tracking your plans in time and identifying potential delays, rather than measuring productivity metrics.

Why not a Gantt chart?

Why do we have Timeline view and not a Gantt chart? While we do see the value a Gantt chart can offer some kinds of projects, Targetprocess is an agile tool.  Gantt charts assume that work will be completed in a linear fashion, and they don't do a good job of illustrating how the total amount of work left on a project changes with each iteration. 

As Michael Dubakov (our CEO) mentioned in an earlier blog post on Gantt charts, “agile is not about tasks dependency and critical path management — it's about flexibility and temporary dependency." 

Additional reading:

Getting Started with the Timelines

Deciding when to use boards, lists, or timelines

How to share Timelines

How Timelines help project managers track progress

 

1 week ago

How SPRINT METAL achieved transparency and employee engagement through Kaizen

SPRINT METAL Factory

SPRINT METAL is an industrial company based in Germany that specializes in producing fine and ultra-fine metal wire. The fine wire industry is characterized by formidable requirements for flexibility, but SPRINT METAL has operated successfully in this competitive market for 25 years. They follow a Kaizen culture, and their commitment to continuous improvement has enabled them to improve employee engagement and achieve democracy and transparency across the whole organization.

Practicing transparency:

Kaizen is not just about improving business processes; its true function is comprehensive improvement at every level. In a successful Kaizen environment, employees receive as much value as the company. Team members are able to develop their skills and be an important part of the system, rather than a cog in the machine. The free exchange of information is promoted, and anyone can contribute new ideas for improvement. Safety requirements and the overall well-being of employees are also given careful attention.

SPRINT METAL Fine Wire

A coil of fine wire at SPRINT METAL

Following these principles, SPRINT METAL tries to foster an environment of open communication at their factory. Employees from all levels of the hierarchy are encouraged to send feedback and ideas up the ladder. Department heads use Targetprocess’s Bug Tracking functionality (with Bugs renamed as Messages) to manage such communication so that all internal messages (production error tickets, requests, suggestions, ideas for improvement, etc.) receive documented attention.  

With this system, top-level management can give instructions, department managers can document errors, and team members at the operational level can send suggestions or requests up the hierarchy. SPRINT METAL has also created special views to facilitate internal meetings. Meeting results are logged as comments on the meeting entity (which is also represented as a Bug).   

The benefits of open communication:

The careful attention that internal communications receive helps to enable the culture of trust dictated by the Kaizen approach. Before SPRINT METAL adopted Targetprocess, meeting minutes and employee messages would often get lost in mountains of paper and nonuniform Excel sheets. Now, everything is available from one central location, and no employee messages or important meeting minutes can be forgotten.

In addition to the transparency boost this system provides, team members also feel listened-to because any suggestions, requests, or other messages they submit receive noticeable attention. Participation in any actions or initiatives is also highly visible; this encourages team members from every level of the hierarchy to take a greater participatory role in process improvements and high-level operations.  

SPRINT METAL Received Messages History

This high visibility ensures that contributions from individuals don’t just get swept under the rug; team members actually receive recognition for their suggestions. This is monumentally important for nurturing skill development and team confidence. It’s notoriously difficult to keep up morale in a factory setting, but employees at SPRINT METAL seem to be happy with the way things are. And, if anyone does have a problem with their worklife, they can easily make their concerns known to management.

Facilitating collaboration with software:

Because many employees work with factory equipment and do not use computers in their daily work, operational workers submit their requests and suggestions manually through handwritten notes, text messages, or their preferred medium. Department managers then place these messages into the appropriate project within Targetprocess. The 11 pillars of work at SPRINT METAL make up the different projects, so messages are grouped by whichever pillar (project or category) they are most related to:  

The 11 pillars of work at SPRINT METAL: Autonomous maintenance, expert maintenance, progress, health and safety, installation of new equipment, cost, customer service, personal development, production, quality assurance, and environmental considerations (with a project for overlapping topics).

Team members that don’t have access to Targetprocess can still check on the status of messages by logging into SPRINT METAL’s internal system, where all relevant views have been made available to employees. A monitor has been also set up in the factory to display completed requests.

There are many different views for Targetprocess users at SPRINT METAL to see messages and actions, including:

  • An overview of all messages in the system - these can be grouped by category, status, and priority
  • A team-level view of messages for each department
  • An individual-level view for users to see messages by responsible person or by author
  • Views for new messages  - these are used weekly by the board to process messages
  • Views for done messages - these are used for reporting and analysis
  • Views to see actions for each work pillar (project) - these are used by the people responsible for each respective project

Customizing the tool:

SPRINT METAL has altered the standard workflow taxonomy and customized the cards in Targetprocess to reflect their communication-centric process. Custom Fields are used to measure things like visibility, effectiveness, and what medium was used to submit the message.  

SPRINT METAL Custom Fields

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Some Custom Fields used by SPRINT METAL

Visual encoding is used to facilitate prioritization of all incoming messages. If an item has a high business value (such as emergency maintenance), it is usually assigned a planned end date. If a card moves past the planned end date without being closed, it turns red. To make quick analysis of views easier, new messages are colored green, and ‘done’ messages are colored blue.  

SPRINT METAL Visual Encoding

A typical setup of visual encoding at SPRINT METAL (translated from German)

To summarize:

SPRINT METAL practices a Kaizen culture characterized by openness and transparency. Their process for internal communications allows for flexibility in the management hierarchy, from the bottom-up and top-down. Employees at all levels have the opportunity to develop their skills and make visible contributions to operations. Their process and culture allows them to meet the ambitious market requirements of the fine-wire industry.

SPRINT METAL’s use of Targetprocess has enabled them to improve standardization, transparency, democracy, and employee participation. Bug Tracking is used to track incoming messages (tickets, requests, ideas, etc.), actions taken, and internal meetings.

In the future, SPRINT METAL would like to improve their process for messaging so they can reduce similar messages coming from different employees. This will allow them to put a greater focus on the quality (rather than quantity) of their responses. They would also like to see more options for advanced reporting in Targetprocess -- something which is on our roadmap for 2016.  

3 weeks ago

Targetprocess v.3.8.7: IMAP protocol support for Inbound Email Integration, added Effort units to Project Customize Cards, bug fixes

IMAP protocol support for Inbound Email Integration

Believe it or not, we have finally added the ability to use IMAP protocol.

3.8.7 pic imap

Basically, this means two things:

  1. You can now use more modern protocol for your Inbound Email Integration plugin. Your IT guys will be happy to hear that. If you missed out on the ability to turn incoming emails into requests because your infrastructure does not allow for obsolete POP3 protocol, then now is the right time to try it out.
  2. There's hope for every feature in the backlog, no matter how long the wait.

Effort units in Project Customize Cards

You can now add units for Total Effort and EffortToDo/Total Effort to your Project cards from the Customize Cards tab. This will make it easier to get a quick overview of Effort for your Projects.

3.8.7 pic effort2

Fixed Bugs:

  • Fixed a problem with card hang-up during drag and drop on a board
  • Fixed an issue with the display of inactive users for People units on Projects and Teams cards
  • Fixed a case where 'auto-assign' would not work when assigning People from a Team to a Project
  • Fixed 'show more' functionality in the list of work items for a Person
  • Fixed inability to edit Time description from the Time tab of an entity
  • Fixed a problem with remaining cards selection after a batch move
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