Scheduling Sucks (Or The Problem With Rampant Success)
Life as a Project Manager at MINDSCAPE used to be pretty nice. I know, because I was a project manager for a couple of years.
We had a solid team and plenty of work to keep us busy. What made it nice is that it was manageable. Between two designers and two or three programmers, it was not so bad keeping their schedules straight.
We had a nice process. The salesperson would enter a form with the information I needed to make the schedule. I would take the form and create a Basecamp project using the information provided.
The Basecamp project would hold all of the tasks we needed to complete and the communication that we had on the project. Basecamp still works pretty well for this, and we use it daily.
Once a week I would sit down, write out by hand the hours needed for the different projects that came in, and get to work on Google Calendar. Each person in the company had a calendar, and I would put an All Day event in place for what they should be working on each day.
In this way, I could model the 4 days it would take for design, the 2 days of design revisions we would need in a week, and then the HTML and other programming that a different resource would need to do when the design was complete.
It took a little while, but it was manageable. And it was free. Each person could check their calendar each day, and know the main projects they should be working on. Here is a look at a schedule from February of 2010:
Pretty crazy looking, right?
Well, those quaint days are long gone, and yet we have not updated our scheduling methodology. We tried sticking with this process, but now there are two project managers, an entirely new department for marketing and double the number of programmers. It has become onerous to keep track of what project has priority and what each person is working on.
Want to find when we can fit a project in or get a new project completed? Good luck tracking that date down. We just don’t have it right now.
The issue came to a head over the last few weeks. New projects started pouring in, as our two salespersons worked their magic and Mike, Pete and Paul got in on the sales too. It became very clear that we needed to find something new. It was time to evolve.
So what is that something new? We don’t know for sure yet, but I have really enjoyed LiquidPlanner so far. It certainly makes scheduling a breeze compared to what we have done in the past. I have spent the last three days adding nearly two dozen projects into the system, assigning them to resources and adding tasks and estimated effort to each. And every time I add a new project Liquid Planner updates the schedule for me.
I am pretty sure I cannot go back to Google Calendar.
I will circle back to this subject in month and let you know a bit more about how we have solved the scheduling problem.
(If we have not solved the problem by then, Sisyphus and I will be best friends.)