About Bob

Bob is a seasoned technology and project management executive. As an Air Force Officer (Colonel) from 1965 through 1991, he served in a number of executive leadership, computer system development, and program management roles. After retirement, he joined Robbins-Gioia, Inc. as a Regional Vice President and Program Management Consultant. He then moved to state government, where he held numerous influential positions, culminating in his service as Chief Information Officer for the State of Colorado under Governor Bill Owens. Bob has a doctorate degree in Operations Research and an MBA from Indiana University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami.

How OnePager 5.1 Numbers Your Pages

When you create a multi-page project view with OnePager Pro or Express 5.1, the pages are numbered just like they are numbered in Microsoft Excel. That is, from top to bottom, left to right. So in a four page project view, page number one would be in the upper left and page four would be in the lower right.

To illustrate this, below is a four page project view displayed using the OnePager 5.1 Page Break View feature:

NumberingPages-PageBreakViewMode-05282014

To see what the individual pages will look like when printed or individually copied to another document, go to the OnePager 5.1 Page Layout tab and click the Print Preview button:

RibbonPageLayout-PrintPreview-05282014

OnePager 5.1 will then show you what the pages will look like as shown below in this Print Preview screen:

PV-PrintPreviewMode-4pages-05282014

OnePager Pro 5.1 prepares your project view the way you need it in the number of pages that are required for your presentation or document. You have all the controls necessary to see where page breaks will be automatically inserted by OnePager 5.1 and what the output will look when presented to your audience.

In following blog posts, we’ll look at how you can:

1. Add and remove page breaks,
2. Manually move page breaks, and
3. Manually change the number of vertical and horizontal pages.

Using the Page Layout Tab to View Multi-Page Project Reports

In our previous blog post, we announced OnePager Pro’s Release 5.1 and its new ability to support multi-page project reports. This next series of posts will cover the new Page Layout tab that makes multi-page reports easy to build:

Pagelayoutribbon-05142014

The Page Layout tab is divided into four sub-sections, each with the controls necessary to control the view mode, set up the output pages, determine document fitting parameters, and control the contents of each output page. The first post in this series will cover the View Modes panel.

View Modes Panel

There are three primary view modes and an associated control to freeze the swimlanes or time axis during editing.

1. The Normal View mode is the editable view of the Gantt chart that was available in previous versions of OnePager Pro.
2. The Page Break View mode shows the location of page breaks and provides a water marked page number:

BlueGrassPV-PageBreakviewmode-05142014

3. The Print Preview mode shows how the multiple pages will look individually when printed to hardcopy.

The Page Layout tab is a versatile set of tools allowing you to configure your multi-page graph quickly, and easily for the best presentation to your audience. In future posts, we’ll cover the other panels on this new tab.

OnePager 5.1 Presents – Where’s My Stuff?!

In response to our customers’ needs and wishes, we’ve created the “Where’s My Stuff?!” capability so users can find project tasks milestones that may have become hidden and now need to be made visible.

In previous versions of OnePager Pro, when elements of the project view became hidden, the only way to find them was to unhide all tasks and milestones at once. With “Where’s My Stuff?!,” you can selectively unhide tasks and milestones and even get OnePager Pro to suggest fixes.

OnePager Pro remembers where hidden items are and under what circumstances they were hidden. To access this information, just go to Home->Show/Hide and select the Where’s My Stuff?! option as shown here:

HomeRibbon-Wheresmystuffdropdown

When you do this, the table below will appear:

wms

Those rows with the task names shown in the table above have an “X” in the column pertaining to why the task or milestone was hidden. From here, select the objects you want to unhide and click the Fix Selected button.

“Where’s My Stuff?!” is a cool feature that will save you time and make your project views glittering examples of professional Gantt Art!

Using OnePager Pro Snapshots – The Not-So-Obvious Use

We’ve had a few blog posts recently on some of the more conventional uses of OnePager snapshot capabilities, but we hear of our users using snapshots for all kinds of other purposes. Although we all could come up with many, many of not-so-obvious uses, for simplicity’s sake, let’s just consider one here to stimulate our thinking.

I have in mind using snapshots to compare two projects on one page. Continue reading

Why Use Snapshots?

IF you are reading this blog post, you are probably a project manager.

IF you are a project manager, you are responsible for schedules – they’re your bread and butter.

IF you’re responsible for schedules, you talk about them with your project team, project sponsors, and clients.

Talking about schedules is hard. Continue reading

Using OnePager Pro Snapshots in a “What If” Analysis

In a previous post, we showed how to use multiple MS Project files to visualize three different project scenarios for analysis. In this post, we’ll use the same example, but show you how to represent this “What If” analysis using OnePager Pro’s snapshot capabilities. In this way, you can use just one basic MS Project file, yet create snapshots for easy presentation in one project view.

Again, our project manager has different options to analyze where different sequences of actions could prolong a project’s duration and increase cost.

We’ll use the same example as in the previous post by supposing we want to schedule a drilling rig to drill at three different sites for specified durations. The three destination sites are different distances from the home base where it must return for maintenance after the three drilling operations are completed. Below is the MS Project file for the first option.

Option 1: Visit Site A -> Site B -> Site C -> Home Base:

option1_msp

Now we’ll create our first snapshot with OnePager Pro from the MS Project file above. It will look like this:

option1_pv

Now let’s make the changes necessary to represent the second option. This is done in the same MS Project file by manipulating the predecessor links and making appropriate changes to the task durations to reflect the different routing of the drilling rig between locations. It is important in this process to maintain the SAME task ID numbers assigned by MS Project since OnePager Pro uses these to coordinate tasks from snapshot to snapshot. After making the necessary changes, here is what the next option looks like.

Option 2: Visit Site C -> Site A -> Site B -> Home Base:

option2_msp

Using this MS Project file, launch OnePager Pro in the UPDATE mode with a different snapshot date and you’ll get this project view:

option2_pv

We’ve not moved any of the rows so as to keep the correspondence with the order in the MS Project file. One can see that this option has a longer total project duration than Option 1.

Now using the same process, let’s modify our MS Project file again to reflect Option 3. This is shown below:

Option 3: Visit Site A -> Site C -> Site B -> Home Base:

option3_msp

Again, launching OnePager Pro from this MS Project file and using a third snapshot date we create the snapshot for Option 3 that looks like this:

option3_pv

Once more we’ve preserved the order of rows from the MS Project file and can see that this option is also longer than Option 1 so the first option is the most appropriate option for this project given the three options considered.

Using snapshots to perform this “What If” analysis with Microsoft Project has a couple of advantages. First, you need only keep one MS Project file and, second, there is only one OnePager project view in which the three options are represented. Each snapshot can be individually copied into a MS PowerPoint presentation or e-mailed to your team.

Within OnePager, each snapshot can be seen by using the “View” tab’s forward and back arrows as shown in the illustration below for Option 2:

ribbon

This rather simple example does show that using OnePager Pro’s snapshot feature is effective and efficient way to show different project options and portray various scheduling “What If” scenarios.

Comparing Different Project Scenarios in OnePager

In many situations, a project manager is faced with different options that, if not well analyzed, could prolong a project’s duration and increase cost. OnePager gives you a way to visualize the different options side-by-side and make a well-informed decision.

You can do this by modeling different project scenarios in MS Project, and then importing each scenario into a separate swimlane within a single OnePager Pro view.

To take a simple example, suppose we want to schedule a drilling rig to drill at three different sites for specified durations. The three destination sites are different distances from the home base where it must return for maintenance after the three drilling operations are completed.

Option 1: Visit Site A -> Site B -> Site C -> Home Base:

Option 1 MSP-09042013

Option 2: Visit Site C -> Site A -> Site B -> Home Base:

Option 2 MSP-09042013

Option 3: Visit Site A -> Site C -> Site B -> Home Base:

Option 3 MSP-09042013

The next step is to import the three different scenarios from Microsoft Project into OnePager Pro. This is done by creating a new OnePager Pro project view from Option 1, updating it to add a second swimlane for Option 2, and then doing a second update to add Option 3 in its own swimlane.

Reshoot-Drilling Rig Scheduling Analysis-09092013

Although this is a simple example, it does show that using OnePager Pro’s multiple project import feature is a good way to show different project options and portray various scheduling “What If” scenarios.

How is Critical Path Calculated? Diving into the Mystery

We users of Microsoft Project often take the calculation of Critical Path within the software for granted. Yes, we know what critical path means and we have a vague notion of how the definition is implemented with MS Project but do we really know the mechanics?

This blog post will answer the question of how Critical Path is calculated and will provide a simple example to illustrate how the calculations are made.

First, what does critical path mean? What is the critical path? Well, there are various available definitions such as the following:

  • The critical path consists of those tasks that cannot slip if the project is to complete on schedule.
  • A critical path is that sequence of tasks in a project that must be completed on schedule in order for the project to complete on schedule.
  • The critical path is the longest path through the network of tasks.
  • Tasks that are on the critical path have no slack.

Microsoft Project begins calculating the critical path by computing the total slack field as you enter each task and define its attributes (i.e., name, start date, finish date, duration, predecessor relationships, etc.). Additionally, throughout the project’s life, as you enter more task data such as Actual Start and Actual Finish dates, Microsoft Project updates things so the critical path may change.

Let’s look at a small six task project shown below in a Microsoft Project plan:

Critical Path Example-MPP-1

If we make the critical path visible, the Microsoft Project plan looks like this:

Critical Path Example-MPP-2

Those Gantt bars shown in red above are on the critical path because they represent the longest path though the networks and because they have zero (0) slack.

Taking a look at this project as a network diagram in Microsoft Project we see that there are three paths through this project network. Using Microsoft Project’s Network view we have something like this:

Critical Path Example-MPP-3

It may be a little hard to see but the path with the red highlighted tasks represents the critical path. Further we can see that there are three possible paths through this network which are:

  • Start, Task A, Task B, Task C, Finish
  • Start Task 1, Task C, Finish
  • Start Task 1, Task 2, Task 3, Finish

To find the critical path, the path with the longest duration, we can construct a table such as the one below consisting of the paths for the rows and the tasks on the path for the columns:

Path Table

Note: The yellow colored cells above represent tasks that are not members of that particular path.

From the table above, we can see from the simple calculations that the critical path is Path 3 consisting of Start, Task 1, Task 2, Task 3, and Finish for a duration of 17 days.

The real complications come in when:

  • There are a significant number of tasks.
  • The predecessor relationships are complex, consisting of more than “Finish-to-Start” relationships. Other, more complicating, relationship types include “Start-to-Start” and “Finish-to-Finish.”
  • Where there are delays appended to the predecessor relationships.

All these complications result usually in a large number of tasks that, of course, can have their path duration calculated by hand, but it’s simpler to let Microsoft Project perform this task as you are building your project plan, entering actual dates, changing predecessor relationships, or manually changing task durations.

We can see the critical path really clearly if we make a project view of the project using OnePager Pro. This can be done in a minute or two and results in the picture of the project shown below:

Critical Path Example

Everything appears to be clearly identified and you can see the tasks on the critical path, as they have red bars along their top border as indicated in the legend in the upper-right of the graph. A more complex project with critical path might look like this in OnePager Pro:

BlueGrass-Detail

This graph of a multi-phase project not only shows the critical path, but also shows percent complete/progress bars in yellow. Additionally, below most of the tasks we see a narrow bar which represents the baseline dates. Unlike the previous graph of the simple six-task project, the one above is organized into swimlanes which groups the tasks into their respective phases.

Let us know if we’ve answered the frequently-asked question as to how critical path is calculated. Hopefully, these examples give a good feel for how critical path appears in both Microsoft Project and OnePager Pro.

The Art of Data Visualization (PBS Off Book)

Every so often, we run across a video that we believe will be of significant interest to our blog readers.  This video is one of those, and we invite you to take a few minutes and enjoy what it has to offer:

The Art of Data Visualization

Projects are just one of the many types of data that are easier to understand when we visualize!

Making Multi-Project Graphs from Separate Microsoft Project Plans

OnePager Pro has always been able to build multi-project graphs from Microsoft Project integrated master schedules. Now, OnePager Pro 5.0 can make multi-project graphs from separate Microsoft Project plans, even if you haven’t linked them together in an IMS.

We’ll show you how to do this in this short article. Just follow these steps:

Load the first Microsoft Project plan, “Project A”, which is shown below:

Go to the Microsoft Project Add-ins tab, and click on the OnePager Pro button. When the start screen appears, choose the NEW option.

On the import wizard, click the Change button in the upper-right to change your template to “Multi-Project Gantt Chart – Detailed”. This is an important step to combine multiple MS Project plans into a single report:

multi-project-instr1

Click the Create new project view button and OnePager will create a graphic that looks like this:

All four of the tasks are grouped into one large swimlane labeled “Project A”. Note that the Project Name in the graph is the label (name) of the project-summary task and not the name of the Microsoft Project plan.

Now, go back to Microsoft Project and open Project B:

Launch OnePager Pro from this second Microsoft Project plan. Now instead of creating a new project view, tell OnePager that you want to UPDATE:

multi-project-instr2

On the import wizard, make sure you are updating the project view that you created just a minute ago. You want to ensure that you are going to REPLACE existing snapshot:

multi-project-instr3

Click the yellow Replace dates button, and OnePager Pro will import the second project, placing it in a swimlane below the first:

It’s that easy. You can now merge other projects into the “Multi-Project-Example” view to summarize as many subprojects as you need.