“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).
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).
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 and there is not a single best way to show project timeline, it all depends on what you want to see and what metrics you are trying to analyze. We’ll list some of them below.
PMOs and POs frequently use Timelines for:
- Portfolio management
- Project and program planning
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 not to Create a Project Timeline
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.
Timeline or 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. The main difference between timeline and Gantt chart is their respective application areas. In an agile environment, when you compare timeline vs Gantt chart the latter proves to be too inflexible. 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. Targetprocess allows you to create stellar Timelines in just a few clicks and shows you how touse timeline charts effectively.
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.”
Deciding when to use boards, lists, or timelines