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1 year ago

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

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” –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

 

  • John Richardson

    Informative article regarding usage of time line. I generally used Gantt charts to visualize my projects and analyze their status. But after reading you post i will definitely use timeline for tracking the status of projects.

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