About Project dashboard

Project dashboard, together with the Tasks tool, provides the means for coordinating the execution of a project plan, effectively allocating resources, enforcing processes, and leveraging the knowledge that is captured within project environments.

The various pages within Project dashboard give all of the individuals interested in a project insight into to the project's progress while the Tasks pages allow project participants to enter status information about the various tasks involved in the project. Project owners can import and maintain the project plan, view the status of all tasks, and adjust the project plan accordingly; project members can track the work assigned to themselves and other project members, report progress on their assigned tasks associated with the plan, and create personal tasks to track smaller tasks associated with their assigned tasks; other interested parties, such as executive managers, can view several different reports based on the progress reported.

Project dashboard and Tasks lifecycle

  1. The Project lead builds Project Plan in a third party project planning tool and uploads the plan into the Tasks tool.
  2. The Tasks tool assigns tasks from the project plan to the project members and creates corresponding tasks with due dates in the member's My current tasks list.
  3. Project members analyze their work assignments, and enter their expected end dates and efforts on the Task details page.
  4. Project members then work on their assigned tasks and enter task-level tracking information.
  5. Project member tracking information is loaded and analyzed by the Task tool.
  6. Project dashboard presents the rolled up Status View, analyzes the impact on the overall project and presents it for the Project lead to analyze resource overloads, schedule impact, effort overruns.
  7. The Project lead adjusts the scope, time or reallocates resources to steer the project in right direction.
  8. Project dashboard presents high level project and portfolio (multiple projects) status views to Senior Management through Project page and Portfolio page.
  9. Senior Management review project performance and identify key risk areas and work with the Project Leads to provide guidance and support to get project back on track as required.

Viewing the Project dashboard

Clicking the Project dashboard link in the navigation bar will take you to the Project dashboard page for the current project. This page is divided into two tabs, each of which provides an overview of the project status. Both tabs display a header that provides the project's start and end dates, date and time the project plan was last imported, and the date and time of the last synchronization between the Tasks tool and the project plan. The Graphical view tab displays the following three graphs:

The Tabular view tab presents the same information in textual format. This tab displays the following tables:

Viewing the project schedule

To help you understand the impact of tasks on the overall project status, the Schedule page captures task performance and progress and provides a color-coded view for risk analysis. The Schedule page displays the project schedule by task. The Gantt view and Detail view tabs on this page provide identical information presented in different formats. On the Gantt view tab, you will see a graphical representation of how each task fits into the project schedule. The Detail view tab displays the task detail information for each task listed.

On both the Gantt view and Detail view tabs, each task is preceded by a color coded icon representing the task's status and type. The following table defines these icons:

  normal / not started normal / 'green' normal / 'red' normal / completed
project project, basic project, green project, red project, complete.gif
task, rollup rollup, normal rollup, green rollup, red rollup, complete
task, common task, normal task, green task, red task, complete
task, "personal task" type personal task, normal personal task, green personal task, red personal task, complete
task, milestone milestone, normal milestone, green milestone, red n/a
person n/a a user, green status a user, red status n/a

What is the multi-tasking feature?

When you create a project (.mpp file) in MS Project, each task is generally assigned to a human resource. In a very simple project schedule a task that comprises of a day may be assigned to one resource. For example:

Schedule

Project Sample Days Tasks Resource Allocation
 
1
Task 1
Resource 1
 
1
Task 2
Resource 2

But in a more composite assignment where allocation of work to resources needs to be done with a lot more complexity, then this simplistic equivalent of one day per person, per task will not work.

Each task may have to be worked on by 2 or more persons on the same day. For example:

Schedule

Project Sample Days Tasks Resource Allocation
 
1
Task 1
Resource 1(50%), Resource 2 (50%)
 
1
Task 2
Resource 1(25%), Resource 2 (25%) Resource 3(25%), Resource 4 (25%)

In the above example assuming that a day equals 8 hours, a task that comprises of a duration of one day is allocated to two persons Resource 1 and Resource 2. Each resource will spend 4 hours each on the task. This leaves the two resources free to be assigned another task for 4 hours the same day.

By the same logic, the next day, 4 resources work on the same task, they put in 2 hours of work each to complete the task. They are free 6 hours that day to be assigned other tasks.

This allocation of work based on the breakdown of work-units of hour capsules of 2 hrs or 4 hrs is called effort-based scheduling. The work-units need not only be 2 hrs or 4 hrs. They can be 5% of a day (25 minutes) or 20 % (1 hour 40 mins) as you consider appropriate.

This concept of assigning different tasks to different resources the same day by breaking the schedule into work-units is called the multi-tasking feature. Applying the multi-tasking feature to a schedule makes it an effort-based schedule.

During setup, you will encounter a check-box Effort-based plan? This check-box when checked will ensure that the project plan you import is assumed to be a plan with the multi-tasking feature applied. That is, Project Dashboard will assume that you have done the percentage resource allocation to the tasks in the schedule and will translate the percentage you have given into work units. The system will take into account the actual resource units specified in the plan.That is, Resource1 works only for 8 hours with all the percentages of tasks combined. For example:

Task Start Date: 2004/08/02      End Date: 2004/08/05
 
% distribution 20% of Resource1 and 5% of Resource 2
08/02
08/03
08/04
08/05
Resource 1 units assigned
1.6h
1.6h
1.6h
1.6h
Resource 2 units assigned
.4h
.4h
.4h
.4h
Total units assigned per day
2h
2h
2h
2h
Total units assigned total_02=1D

The check-box Effort-based plan? when not checked will apply the multi-tasking feature to the schedule by default. For example, Project Dashboard will ignore the concept of work units if Resource 1 is assigned to two 1/2-day tasks on the same day at 50% resource units. The system will treat Resource1 as a resource with a work load of 200% (16hrs).

Monitoring the Project Status

Any project requires constant monitoring. A project monitoring system has the goal of building a project specific measurement system that is capable of collecting detailed project information as well as delays and other performance statistics. When you monitor projects using a measurement tool, you will also need to mark thresholds in the tool to benchmark progress or the lack of it. Thresholding is setting values to a progress stream so that you can chalk up the project's performance vis a vis the planned start and end dates of the project.

Project Dashboard offers you a way to segment your progress chart with thresholds making it easy for you to monitor your project.

To monitor your projects, the section Project Status Rule helps you set your parameters during project setup as part of the Project configuration settings for "Project dashboard". You can choose to monitor your projects, by using Status measurements either through Performance based on Effort or Performance based on Schedule.

If you choose to monitor a project on Performance based on effort, you can define a threshold determined by the effort planned and executed. The variance in effort can be determined as the difference between the estimated effort and planned effort of the project. This can either take on a numerical value or a percentile value.

For example, you can decide that a particular task requires 50 hours of work (or person days) invested for it's completion. Then each threshold within that project will compute the total number of hours you have worked on that particular task each day and keep you posted on your progress.

If you choose to monitor the project on Performance based on Schedule, you can define a threshold determined by the planned start date and the expected end date of the project. The variance in schedule can be determined as the gap between the estimated number of workdays and the planned number of workdays. This can either take on a numerical value or a percentile value.

For example, you can decide that a particular task requires to be completed before the 15th of September. Another task that is dependant on it's completion has to wait for the previous task as a prerequisite to take off. In this case, even a lag of 1 day would be seen as a schedule slip.

You can choose to set the thresholds and monitor your project on Effort or on Schedule but not on both.

You can set the % thresholds for On Track, Caution, and Alert based on what you consider appropriate for your project. A project will have the status On track, and will only be escalated to a higher level of Caution or Alert if the tracking measure exceeds the threshold for that particular status.

Once you have specified the thresholds for each status escalation level, the variance in performance gets displayed as Green for On Track, Amber for Caution and Red for Alert. The color-coded view helps you monitor the status calculated by the thresholding rules.

On track Caution Alert
project, green project, amber project, red

To enable the thresholding feature during Project Dashboard setup:

  1. Log in to Collabnet EE.
  2. Select a project and click the link Tasks.
  3. Click the link Setup to import a project plan using the Setup task management pages.
  4. The Setup task management step 1 of 3, has a section Project status rule.
  5. Fill in the fields as you consider appropriate. The field Status Measurement has two options "Schedule Variance" and "Effort Variance."
  6. Select any one to determine the progress of your project based either on effort or on schedule.
  7. Enable the status thresholds and check the checkboxes in the Enabled column and set the percentile value or the number of work-days value in each of the thresholds.
  8. Click Continue. Import a project plan (.mpp file) in Setup task management step 2 of 3 page.
  9. Click Import in the Setup task management step 3 of 3 page to validate your project plan and to enable task management.
  10. The thresholding feature is now enabled for your project.

In a project there could be tasks with dependencies and some without. A task which does not have an attendant dependant task can have a schedule overrun of a few days and you may not think that it is of any consequence. You may think that this delay will not have a bearing on the final outcome of the project schedule. So depending on the threshold you set, a project will continue to flash green On Track even when there is a slight lag because in the larger picture this slight delay is viewed as inconsequential.

As a Project Manager you have the option of resetting the thresholds at any time during the span of a project's life. The data collected would automatically apply themselves to the new threshold values and display the metrics in conformance with the new values.

Thresholds and the performance of the project with respect to these thresholds can be seen represented:

  1. In the Project Dashboard landing page, as part of the status bar charts.
  2. In the Project Dashboard landing page, in the upcoming milestone table.
  3. In the PortfolioSummary page, as the project bubble color.
  4. In the Status column of the tabular entry.
  5. In the Gantt chart, as the project/task/milestone status icon.

Note:- The system takes a "1 day" as the threshold by default if the "Project Status Rule" is not set for a project.

Note:- When effort variance is selected the status thresholds for a milestone cannot be applied because the milestone is simply a time marker and does not indicate the culmination of effort expended.

Removing a Project Plan

If you have the required permissions, you can remove a Project Plan, it's associate data and the tracking information related to a particular project with the click of a button "Remove Project."

Before you remove a Project you will have to synchronize the project. This synchronizing will show you the state the Project is in. The system consults with the State Manager to confirm if the Project is in a state where it can be removed. The State Manager can accord or deny permission for removal depending on whether a project is in a legal state to be removed.

Then the system sets the state of the project slated for removal, to a state where no other operations can be performed on the project data. The system also stops and removes other automatic processes like Auto Sync, Status report reminders from the system for this project. The system marks the project as a project with no Project Dashboard setup. The system resets all the Project Dashboard attributes of this project (set during the Project Dashboard setup) to their default values. However, the project files on the version control for this project are not deleted.

If the project is in an illegal state for plan removal, then the system informs you that the plan cannot be removed and reverts the project to the original state the project was in, prior to the start of the removal process. And all project data will remain available to the users.

Once a project is removed, the project can be reinstated by downloading the project data from the version control repository because the project plan files are not deleted from the version control repository when the plan is removed.

The "variance" and "validation" reports will not be deleted when the plan is removed from the project. The "planning" discussion (and the mail) is also not deleted as part of "Plan Removal." They can be reused when Project Dashboard is set up for the project again.

To remove a project plan:

  1. Log in to CollabNet.
  2. Select a project and click the link Tasks in the left navigation pane.
  3. Click the link Remove plan and reset.
  4. Confirm by clicking the Yes, remove plan button in the Remove project plan page.
  5. The plan is now removed.

The project plan file (.mpp) is removed. The Project dashboard and task management tools are reset to their initial conditions, as if no project plan had been imported. All existing project tracking data is deleted and the project does not appear on the portfolio dashboard chart

Note: When a subproject's plan is removed, the Project Dashboard attribute values of that subproject will be reset to its parent project’s Project Dashboard attribute values, if any.

Project Dashboard landing page

The Project Dashboard landing page has a few useful graphic and tabular displays of the progress of a project:

The Project Performance can be viewed as three bar charts, one for schedule variance, another for schedule variance and yet another for the overall progress.

Project Effort bar chart gives you the effort expended thus far on the left end of the bar and the right end of the bar gives you the Expected Effort and the Planned Effort and the difference between them.

The Project Schedule bar chart gives you the projected start date and actual start of the project and the variance between them. This is measured against today’s date. Likewise the right end of the bar displays the projected end date and the actual end date and the difference between them.

The Project Progress bar chart displays the overall progress percentage of the project.

Milestone Performance

If there are any milestone tasks in your project this chart shows you the status of this task. A quick look will tell you if the milestone task has slipped or not.

Note: Milestone tasks appear in the Milestone Predecessor section of the Task detail page, in the Milestone Performance page and in the Upcoming Milestones section of the Tasks landing page. Project Dashboard determines milestones based on the selection you make in the milestone field in MicroSoft Project.

In a Microsoft Project Plan file, if a particular task has a duration of 0 days then the application automatically flags that task as a milestone task. However you can explicitly flag a task as a milestone task even if it has a duration of more than zero days. Similarly, you can un-flag a zero duration task that was automatically flagged as a milestone. Project Dashboard will display all milestone tasks irrespective of whether they have a duration of more than zero days or not. However, they will remain untrackable.

Historical Variance

When more days get added to a schedule or effort plan then the effort plan or schedule start and end days get pushed. This is displayed graphically in this chart.

The same information can be viewed in a tabular form when you click the Tabular View tab.

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