Best Practices

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Best Practices 2016-11-15T11:04:16+00:00

Team projects template

It may take some time to input project members and to change project calendar (working day and non working day setting), if there are more projects for a team to be created:


  • Create an empty project, and to get the project properties done, include project members, project calendar, currency and etc. ( if it’s tough for you to input on iOS device, QuickPlan for macOS will be a better choice to input efficiently)
  • Treat the empty project as a template. Just duplicate from the template project to create a new project if needed (on macOS, just copy the .qpp file to another)

(Input all team members in the template project, and to remove the members from the new duplicated project if the team members are not assign to the new project, because removing is much more faster than inputting)

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Project task STRUCTURE

We can’t say it is a problem if we input 1000+ tasks with more (for example 2000+) task links in a single project. Yes, if we can spend enough efforts to plan the thousands of tasks and links well, we will get a “perfect” project schedule for tracking and re-scheduling.

Let’s think a little more about this “perfect” approach, we are using project schedule to guide the project team to execute the project (when, where, who and how much …), to track the task progress with the team and to re-schedule the project if needed.

  • Is it convenient to update task status when reviewing with the team?
  • Is the management cost acceptable to change something if need to broke the link relationship? (for example especially to spend hours for just changing one task schedule, as there are many tasks linked, change one will impact many)

  • We can trust the app, but do we really trust the result of re-scheduling? You changed one task, and the app does well to change the date of linked task correctly, but do you really think after task be re-scheduled automatically based on task links, the new schedule will be the right one (good resource allocation, duration, cost and etc.)?
  • Is the schedule is a clear map in your mind after completed the schedule? And are your team members easily to get started from the schedule? If the PM has no idea on recent tasks (need to check the “perfect” complicated schedule to know what to do), how to face risks and changes.
  • Is it a good practice to see too many tasks together on an iOS device? (Although QuickPlan is the most smooth Gantt chart app, there is no performance issue, to navigate in a list with thousands of items is still not a good practice) or even on a Mac device?

We have some suggestions for organizing the tasks when using QuickPlan

  • Organize tasks in main and child projects, make sure NOT input many tasks in the main and every child projects (for example, less than 200. Although QuickPlan is still been very smooth if thousands of tasks in a single project)
  • According to your actual situation, if the project team includes some sub-teams, (if possible) to plan the tasks for each sub-team in a child project. This will helps more when you work with each team separately (especially for remote teams)
  • According to your actual situation, if the project is separated as multiple large phases, (if possible, for example, no many links between tasks in different phases, of cause, if to separate a project as phases, the inner tasks should not be linked tightly) organize the project phases in child projects may be better
  • Organize tasks well into task groups. QuickPlan task group is REAL task group, we can easily to move the task group to adjust the date of all the tasks in the group together. Task group can also be converted to sub-project.
  • Pay attention to task links, especially for the long task link list (task “a” links with “b”, “b” links with c …). We do expect the links can help us when changing task date, but will we really feel good for the re-scheduled plan after changed one task date without to check all deeply linked tasks, app will change the date of deeply linked tasks without problem but do we really know what happened if to change one task date without spending much more time to check the deep-linked task?
    (of cause for some cases, we have to use very complicated task links)
  • If we find that we have to lay out tasks in many outline levels, there may be big space for us to structure the tasks better.
  • If we find we have to write long or complicated notes for a task, we may find that we have not done well for other documentation works. A project schedule is not the requirement, is not the design, is not the testing case …
  • Although a long task name is accurate, the long task name may trouble us more when communicating with team members and when reporting. A short task name with a little longer note may be better.
  • Leave team members be flexible to manage their very short duration tasks, keep project schedule be accurate but be simple enough. For example, assign more related tasks to a project member at same day, like tasks “feature 1 coding”, “feature 1 self-testing”, “feature 1 code submit”, “feature 1 …” may not good as just one task “feature 1 implementation” and write notes about the detail actions, (normally) the project member knows how to schedule the work of the day.

  • Using tools like the agile board to manage tasks in short-term may help to the planning be more clear, simple and real.
  • We may need to balance the accuracy and management cost. If possible, leave your team members be flexible to manage very details.

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iCloud Drive Project Access

(If we periodically backup the files in the iCloud Drive QuickPlan folder, manually or via third party backup apps, there is no critical risk to directly access iCloud drive project, we can skip following risk section)

iCloud Drive acts like a shared folder on the internet, with the capability to automatically sync changed files to all the involved iOS and macOS devices. Users feel comfortable because after changed the file on iCloud Drive, iOS and macOS will help to sync the changing to all the other devices. But there is risk if we can’t use the service well.

Let’s talk about the risk

Give an example, we have a very important file stored on the iCloud Drive, and we have some iOS and macOS devices can access the iCloud Drive using same iCloud Account. Incidentally, we changed the file on one device incorrectly, and we find there is no backup to restore it from the changing.

We may think we can get the old version from another device, but when we try it, iOS / macOS may already completed to automatically sync the changed file to all the other devices. (iCloud Sync is coordinated by iOS and macOS systems, not by the apps (so not by the users), after the app (you) saves the file, the OS system will control when and how to sync)

Following we suggest to mitigate the risk if we have very important assets on iCloud Drive – not only for QuickPlan. Of course, if the data the app accesses is not that important, or we have the backup of the important assets, this risk will not be that critical.

  • Manually backup the iCloud files on the device periodically, or using third party tools to automatically backup iCloud Drive files periodically.

    On macOS device, we can access the iCloud Drive directly to copy the files to other directory, or copy to other device, or upload to other cloud storage for backup.

    Our practice is to backup iCloud Drive folder to another folder on the device daily (one folder one day, keeping the last x days), and upload the backup to Dropbox by week.

    (again, this is the risk of accessing iCloud Drive, not the risk for this app only)

  • If we don’t backup the important files on iCloud Drive, when using the app to access the important file, to avoid losing your work by incorrect actions, please do not change the file on the iCloud Drive directly. Try the way to

    On macOS devices, copy the iCloud Drive file to another folder, then to change the copied one. After changed and CHECKED, copy the changed one back to iCloud Drive.

    On iOS devices, OrgChart supports to copy organization chart file from iCloud to local (the device), and also supports to copy from local organization to iCloud Drive

if one day, iCloud Drive will support “version” control, this risk will not exist

Some users may expect to edit same project (open from iCloud Drive directly) on multiple devices at same time, the changes will be reflected on other devices automatically – this is impossible.

Because tasks in project schedule are in TREE structure, there are tight relationships (parent-child, link) between tasks, and there are constraints for tasks such as project calendar, resource and etc. (which is not same as the app like Apple Number, there is no tight relationship between row/cell data maintained by Number). Changing task on multiple devices at same time will cause many logic problem. For example, if to change outline level of tasks in a same task group on multiple devices, there is NO WAY for the app to keep tasks be lay out correctly. The way is that change on one device, after sync complete, open it on other devices.

QuickPlan for macOS

After “QuickPlan for macOS” (downloaded from Mac App Store) be installed,  QuickPlan iCloud Drive folder will be created, and files in the folder will be sync automatically to all the devices with same iCloud account, by iOS or macOS.

QuickPlan supports to access the .qpp file in the QuickPlan iCloud Drive folder directly, and changed file will be sync to other devices automatically.

Our practice is NOT to directly access the files in the iCloud Drive directly

  • Copy project file from QuickPlan iCloud Drive directory to another directory before editing. For example to create a new directory with name “working space” out of iCloud Drive directory and copy the project file to “working space” directory.
    (Check the project modified date to make sure the project file sync completed if project has be changed on other device.)

  • Open the copied project file (in “working space” directory)

  • After saved and checked, replace the project file on the QuickPlan iCloud Drive directory by the updated file in “working space” directory.

QuickPlan for iPad & QuickPlan for iPhone

the Project files stored on device and the project files stored on iCloud Drive are displayed separately

  • Directly open the project file on iCloud Drive.

    QuickPlan for iOS supports to open the project file on iCloud Drive directly, and the changes to the opened project will be saved and sync to other devices via iCloud Drive. Also please pay attention the file last updated date,  to check if iOS has completed sync the file to this device already before you open it.

    IMG_0563

  • Copy from iCloud Drive to Local, and copy from local to iCloud Drive

    QuickPlan supports to COPY project file from iCloud Drive to the device (to be shown as a tile), and also we can open a local project, and to save (copy) it to iCloud Drive, there is options for us to if need to replace a existing file, or to create a new project.

    IMG_0564

    IMG_0567

As preceding, we can open project files on the iCloud Drive directly and the changes will sync to other devices directly (after opened project be closed).

One good practice is (plus the backup on Mac devices) to copy the project on iCloud Drive to local as a backup on the local device, then to open the iCloud project directly. If we changed the project on iCloud incorrectly and be sync to all the devices, we have chance to use the local backup project to replace the one on iCloud Drive

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Data safety

The projects created by the users are stored on the storage of the users (on the devices, on the iCloud Drive of the users, on the Dropbox Folder of the users. We the app developer has NO server to store the sensitive user project data). Although it’s not normal, but ther users are always facing the risks that app data be losted and app data be changed incorrectly

  • Device may be damaged, or lost
  • Projects be removed incidentally (for example, removed by cat on the iPad)
  • Project data be changed incorrectly on the iCloud Drive, and be sync to all the other devices
  • And more …
  • Is it a good practice to see too many tasks together on an iOS device? (Although QuickPlan is the most smooth Gantt chart app, there is no performance issue, to navigate in a list with thousands of items is still not a good practice) or even on a Mac device?

It’s NOT normal we will face the problem, our suggestion here is for to keep data be very safety, especially for the very important project plan

The best practice we will suggest for the important project data on the iOS devices.

  • Enable “Auto backup to Dropbox” property of the project

    Pad.help.backup.2

     

  • Store the project on iCloud Drive and save a copy on local (on the device)
  • After a big chang, manually export project to Dropbox, or export project to Box cloud storage (in-app sharing, just a few taps). If you want keep multiple versions of one project, when uploading, please specific another project name, for example a project “dev plan”, we can upload a copy to cloud storage with name “dev plan version 1″.  (so if the project has be changed incorrectly someday, we have chance to restore by finding the backup file using version or date)

  • Duplicate project as a temp backup on the device to another project group (we can name the group like “temp back”)

The best practice we will suggest for the important project data on the macOS devices.

  • Multiple copies of project files in multiple directories.
  • Install Dropbox app on the Mac and set automatic sync between the directory on the Mac with a folder on Dropbox
  • Or using other backup tool on the Mac

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About task duration

Planning tasks in short duration is probably cost inefficient for project management activities sometimes

For example if the project schedule includes some tasks with the duration like 9:00 – 10:00, 10:00 – 12:00 and etc.

  • Team may need to change the schedule too frequently because of the short task duration
    – Suddenly there is a meeting at 9:00, your boss asks all or some of your project members to join
    – Some project members take leave
    – Some predecessor tasks has been delayed
    – Or something wrong (such as power off, …)

  • Management efforts/cost for rescheduling may be much higher than expected (the management cost may be even higher than the cost of task execution if there are many short duration of tasks).
    Project schedule should reflect the changes, normally for a project team, to reschedule a task, following actions may have to be taken:
    – Meet with team to review the progress
    – Assign to suitable team member(s) to discuss and re-estimate
    – Update project schedule, review and finalise schedule with project team
    – Communicate with stakeholders (include your customer, bosses, related teams and etc.)
    – Documentation and reporting

For a project team, there are various types of tasks. Project schedule is NOT the only tool to manage ALL the project tasks

Normally there are some different concepts (and tools) used to manage project tasks.

  • Scheduled tasks in project schedule document (when start, when finish, who, cost …)
  • TODO tasks (named like “action registration”, “team actions”, “customer action registration” or etc.)
  • Risks
  • Tasks managed using Kanban or Agile board (the stage of the task in a process map)
  • Others (such as tasks not planned or tracked)

Project schedule is to set the tasks to

  • Guide the team how to executed the tasks – when to start, when finish, who do it, how much efforts, and etc.
  • Reflect the actual status of the project implementation – project team should be initiative to review the status and reschedule the task to reflect the actual status (if not be rescheduled for the changes, how to guide the team?)

So the tasks in project schedule

  • Tasks should be scheduled before execution
  • Tasks should be updated (reschedule) when executing if tasks can not be executed according to existing schedule
  • The progress of tasks should be tracked well

Comparing the TODO task and project schedule task

  • Normally team just cares about when to finish the TODO task, who owns the task, and the current status
    (normally not care about when to start, who (not the owner) to execute, cost …)
  • The management cost of project schedule is normally much higher than the management cost of TODO list. (Too accurate schedule means unacceptable management efforts)

For some cases, it’s useful to schedule task with duration of hour (or even minutes). I’d like suggest to think about if we can use other methods to manage the tasks before we follow project schedule process

  • If the short duration activities are in a stable workflow, can it be defined in a PROCESS?
  • If it’s suitable to using agile board to manage the tasks
  • If TODO list is enough to manage the tasks
Normally Project Schedule is NOT the only tool for project team to manage tasks

According the project process, different tools are used to manage project tasks (and something more than tasks, such as risk)

  • Project Schedule
  • Action registration
  • Kanban, Agile board, White board…
  • FMEA
  • Meeting minutes, and more…
The project team may need some other tools for short term activities
  • Define suitable process for the work-flow of short and related activities
  • Using tools like agile board or KanBan for short duration cycle.

Not all the tasks should be and is able to be scheduled in project schedule, The project manager needs to balance the use of the tools

Our suggestions

We don’t mean that task duration can not be short, we just mean that normally very short duration is not a good practice, and QuickPlan is to fine-tune the useful features for normal use cases, which is not to include 100% features and also not for all the possible projects. Also we’d like that QuickPlan is the app to help doing RIGHT thing more than providing features.

  • Plan the task in one day, and plan the effort (work) the hours you expect, leave the team member be flexible to manage the time in one day – better solution to balance schedule flexibility and management cost.
  • Using project schedule to do the work of project schedule
  • Balance management cost and accuracy (to be accuracy, but let project member be flexible enough)
  • Schedule is high cost activity (as it is guide how to do, and reflect actual status), no need to manage todo tasks in project schedule (for example, a call to customer, if the call has no tight relationship with other tasks, or the call can be part of a task)

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