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Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating


Like any small size engineering company (we are about 15 staff) the employees have to be ‘nimble’ ie be able to move from project to another.
It is often that tasks pop-up that are more urgent and a employee have to stop what they are doing to finish something else off.
Some is just the nature of the game and the priority of task/project can change with one phone call.

However, in or office I believe some is due to not having proper structure and tasks and due dates properly planned when a project starts.

We have been looking into using Microsoft Planner to over come this and hopefully get better organised.

Just wondering if anyone here have had any experience with it?
Any do and don’t?


RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Haha. Are you sure you're not in my old office?

This is a big issue everywhere. I haven't used Planner - have it, and just opened it for the first time to see how it works - but it looks like a good tool for managing tasks. The issue I see is that it probably wont solve larger issues created by the dynamic nature of the industry. If properly used, it will give project managers a good view of who has what to do and when it needs to be done. But in a small firm like that the project manager and project engineer are usually the same person, and they receive oversight from a principal engineer. So while it will help individuals track and run their projects more smoothly, it may not give you the bigger picture in a way that is easy to digest and act on.

You may want to look into a Gannt chart or similar resource management tool to use in conjunction with Planner. That way you can see at a glance what your resource utilization is and how best to allocate tasks. EDIT: Looks like Planner might have this built in after all. Maybe I'll play around with it and see what it looks like with data filled in.

It also requires a shift in management's philosophy about utilization. If your maxing out utilization in your 1 month planning, you're not leaving yourself any room to respond to last minute changes or "emergency" (real or perceived) projects without forcing your people to work late when they come up. Occasionally that's not a problem, but if it's frequent or you're forcing your star engineer to miss his/her kid's dance recitals and ball games every week, you're going to lose them fast.

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Ok, so I've been playing with planner for 20 or 30 minutes making tasks, assigning them, etc. It's more useful than I thought, but falls a little short. It gives metrics for the quantity of tasks to be performed, which ones are late, priorities, etc., but most firms operate hourly. What am I doing this hour and who can I bill for it? This lacks an hourly resource allocation tool or visibility at that level. Maybe there's a setting I haven't found yet. If there is one, then this program solves a lot of problems I've been working on (I wrote a VBA scripted scheduling tool for my projects based on hourly resource management, but it's only for one person).

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

So much for getting work done today. I've been sucked into this program. I think its biggest shortcoming is a lack of a global, managerial view. Looking around online this seems to be a big complaint, and several people have moved on to other options as a result.

For a small firm looking to manage production tasks, though, I think it's still functional. This is how I see it working at that scale:

1 Plan for everything. (The individual plan view is the highest level where the entire schedule and asset allocation can be seen in one place)
Break up your projects into "Buckets".
Break up project into tasks. For instance, Structural Analysis/Design is a task. Drafting is a task. Peer/QC Review is a task. Assign each task to the appropriate individual.
Fill in check lists to the level of detail desired by management to have access to ongoing progress.

As the firm grows and you have a separate marketing/business dev group you can make a new plan for them. Maybe a Plan for management to organize separately from general production. You just have to keep in mind that you don't have cross plan visibility of asset allocation and there's a risk of double booking or over allocating any individuals who show up in multiple plans.

Thanks for pointing out this program. I had access to it, but didn't know it existed. Pretty neat.

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

This is pretty common problem.

I worked at one place that used Trello. Basically the manager could assign you a job card and place it on your board. Under the card, you could keep updates like threads on message boards. Pretty easy system to use and adjust. Not a lot of time was required to go in at the start/end of the day/afternoon and reorganize or clear off your board as required.

I worked at another place where it was a central Excel sheet. Difficult to really get an overview, difficult to adjust on the fly, lots of time to pour into yet another administrative task.

I worked at another place where it was all paper/pen/file folders. Kind of disorganized, but very visual in seeing what someone was handling at any given moment.

I find that the programs that get a lot of mileage are ones that don't need a tremendous amount of input, or ones that you can only input what you want to keep track of. That's the most difficult thing for me as an employee: actually figuring in the administrative time to update hours, schedule, etc. while also hopping from one project to the next every hour.

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Glad I could help. This is something I have been struggling with for a while – how to ‘easily’ keep track of projects coming in and make others aware what we have coming up, due dates etc.
Yes, we can have weekly meetings but as you mentioned – the industry is very dynamic and one phone call might through the whole week out.

I think Planner has great potential, but it is how it is implemented that will make the difference ie how staff are embracing it. Some employees are inherently hard to convince to use a different system than post-it notes on the monitor.
The more I dig into Planner and the suite of tools I realise there are much more behind the scenes with the likes of Yammer etc. This might be useful if we have start to work remotely.

I have had a slightly different approach to setting up Planner.
To start somewhere I created a Planner where I have listed current jobs and due dates. Where possible projects have been assigned to staff.
This Planner is shared with everyone in the office. This is also to give everyone an appreciation for what projects we work on which will hopefully make them feel a bit more involved.

For larger projects we create a separate Planner as there are more tasks and milestones involved.
This also gives us the ability to divide task between Structural and Civil. At this stage we have a bucket for General, Structural and Civil.
An advantage with a separate Planner for a project is that a group is created. A Group has its own email address and mailbox. Everyone who is assigned to the Planner will have access to the Group Emails which will be visible in Outlook.
This is an excellent way of sharing project specific email. Emails are forward to the Group email address and then everyone have access to them.

The above workflow is WIP and will for sure evolve as we get input from staff.

The issues I foresee with the above process might be to complicated and involves to many steps and is maybe to detailed. To make it useful and intuitive for staff it must be easy to use.
Task entered are more ‘high-level’. For example, I am not going to add tasks for individual rafters, connections etc. The task added are, Steel Framing, Foundations, Earthquake analysis etc. It is more a checklist.

Also, we might do over 300 projects a year which means we will have a lot of different Planners. Of course, all project do not require a separate Planner.

It might be that we revert to an easier system – similar to your described process.

Worth mentioning is that all Tasks being assigned to user are visible in Microsoft To-Do.


RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Just be sure the planning tool doesnt suck up all of your time.

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Quote (PhamEng)

I think its biggest shortcoming is a lack of a global, managerial view.

Yep, that kills it for me. A shame, should be fairly simple (ha, says the non-programmer!) to implement.

just call me Lo.

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

johk02 - how do you tie them all back together? That's a lot of individual plans, and like I said I don't see a "manager view" that allows be to track the utilization of all employees. In a small firm, somebody is likely to be listed in several plans (at my last firm, I usually had between 15 and 30 projects on my board at any given time). How do you ensure that they don't need to be working on 12 of them on the same day? Or do you leave it to the employees to raise the flag and let you know they're overbooked?

RE: Managing / keeping track of projects -> delegating

Quote (skeletron)


This is what we use, we're doing between 1000 and 1200 projects a year (3 engineers and a drafter, 2 of them working remotely). I actually love it. We do small projects that don't need to be broken up into separate tasks, so each project card just gets moved to review and ready for invoicing columns when applicable.

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