Exploratory vs. Explanatory Visuals in Planning

I love this topic because it elicits a higher level of thought around designing the data visualizations we need in planning, in a way that my simple mind can consume.

In her book “Storytelling with Data,” Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic points out very early on that there are really two kinds of data visualizations: exploratory and explanatory. Exploratory visuals are created to help us figure out what the important things are within the data…they have an analytical purpose. Explanatory visuals are meant only to show us the important things…there should be little to no intended analytical value. Continue reading

When is a Summary Task on the Critical Path?

Short answer: Never.

Long answer: Summary tasks are a collection of one or more child tasks. By definition, a summary task doesn’t represent any real work, resources, or deliverables, so summary tasks are neither on nor off the critical path of a project. Children of summary tasks can be on the critical path, assuming those children are not summary tasks themselves.

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Size Matters

…Well, in plan communications and Gantt charts, it does.

Size, when used as an attribute to denote meaning in data visualization, will likely force our brain to look at the largest items first. In her book “Storytelling with Data,” Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic tells us that “Relative size denotes relative importance.”

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Gift Idea: Another Great Book for Project Managers

It probably won’t be a surprise to those who read last week’s blog post that I just finished Storytelling with Data – A data visualization guide for business professionals, by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. I’m excited to say that there were hundreds of pages of new information that related directly to data visualization in planning (plan communications).

Knaflic doesn’t call just upon her research, but her own experience, in helping us to become better communicators, most recently as a manager at Google.

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Storytelling With Your Gantt Chart In OnePager

The marketing industry has played a large role in figuring out how to best get information across to audiences. I realize we’re in the planning-world here…so bear with me, folks.

storytime-600x400“Storytelling” is something marketing experts have been talking about for years, as a better way to communicate brands, products, and what sets businesses apart. It’s now a recognized, tried and true approach, and one that has taken a firm foothold due to its effectiveness. Our customer experiences online are, in large part, shaped by “stories” that marketers have set up for us to more easily get to know what they’re selling, and eventually buy it.

Because of this success, storytelling is now quickly making its way into business vernacular, specifically with respect to data. With so much data being collected over the course of doing normal business, we need better ways to communicate that data (the stuff we’re “selling”), in such a way that it can be easily consumed (“buying it”). Continue reading

Create OnePager Gantt Charts Directly from Project Online or Server!

We posted a video about this feature back in January, but wanted to make sure everyone clearly understands what this means: OnePager users no longer need Microsoft Project on their desktop in order to create OnePager visuals using their data on Project Server or Project Online!

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How the OnePager Community is Defining Plan Communications

From the outset of anyone’s career in project management they will hear that good communications are critical to success…your own, in your role as a project manager, and to the initiative itself. This makes inherent sense, right? So why hasn’t there been any significant work to help us understand how to communicate better when it comes to the world of planning?

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Displaying Critical Path in Your Excel Gantt Chart

We get asked by our OnePager Express (for Excel) users every so often how they can display critical path.

OnePager Pro inherently uses the Critical column from Microsoft Project, which calculates the critical path, to visualize those values.

Excel doesn’t calculate critical path without some intensive programming on your part, and OnePager Express isn’t set up to display critical path like OnePager Pro does (a colored bar at the top of the task bar). But, it is possible. We’ve summarized how it can be quickly done below. For more detail, you can also read our step-by-step instructions on how to build Excel Gantt charts with critical path.

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Thanks for Helping Us #FixProjectServer

Back in April, we asked for your help in lobbying Microsoft to complete the technology that allows OnePager to import data from Project Server and Project Online. We are pleased to say that with your help, we have succeeded in convincing Microsoft to change course.

Our petition has to date received 298 votes, making it the top vote-getter among the petitions posted for all editions of Microsoft Project (Project Server, Project Online, and Project Desktop). A number of OnePager users left comments alongside their signatures, telling Microsoft of the importance of OnePager to their business and the criticality of the needed fix. We can’t thank you enough for your help. There is no doubt that this unprecedented outpouring of support from our user community got Microsoft’s attention and elevated the priority of our request.

We are now pleased to announce that beginning with OnePager Pro version 5.3.11, OnePager will be able use the following custom fields to create timelines in Microsoft Project Server and Online. Previously, these fields were available only if Project was installed on the desktop.

  • Flag1 – Flag20
  • Text1 – Text30
  • Number1 – Number10
  • Date1 – Date20
  • Start1 – Start10 (Start itself was always available)
  • Finish1 – Finish10 (Finish itself was always available)
  • Cost1 – Cost10
  • Outline Code1 – Outline Code10
  • The Project Summary Task (aka Task 0)

We will send a separate notification to everyone as soon as 5.3.11 is available for download, which should be very soon.

If you’re a frequent user of OnePager, many of these fields will look familiar. For instance, many users employ these fields to filter which tasks from their Project plans they want to display in OnePager — it’s how you turn a 1,000-line Project plan into a 25-line OnePager. The Text fields are also crucial, because they allow users to import custom data for use in OnePager’s conditional formatting feature. For instance, if I was collaborating with ABC Pharma and I wanted all tasks in the ABC Pharma workstream called out on my chart, I would put “ABC Pharma” in the Text30 field, then conditionally format all tasks with ABC Pharma in Text30 to be red.

Microsoft’s omission of these fields left a gaping hole in our usability that could only be worked around by installing Project on the user’s desktop — which, of course, defeats the purpose of using a cloud app like Project Server or Online in the first place. We are delighted that Microsoft listened to our customers and closed the gaps, which will make for a better user experience not only in OnePager but also in Project, and in other apps that integrate with Project.

We continue to work with Microsoft on a small number of fields that are still inaccessible to OnePager in Project Server/Online, including Baseline1 – Baseline10 (Baseline Start and Baseline Finish can be read), and Duration1 – Duration10 (likewise, Duration can be read). If you are having difficulty because of an inability to use these fields from Project Server/Online, please reach out to us at support@onepager.com and we will pass your concerns on to the appropriate Microsoft engineers.

Once again, we truly appreciate your support, and we hope you are as inspired as we are about what a few (hundred) good project managers can do! Please keep the feedback coming.