Monday, March 19, 2012

Gantt Charts As A Project Management Tool

An effective tool for a project manager to communicate activity or task schedules in a project is the Gantt chart. The chart is extremely crucial in project management since it enables the project manager to comprehend the direction of the tasks in the project. Hence, through the use of such a chart, people who do not have managerial skills can also understand the flow of the project and thereby analyze the progress of the project.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, a mechanical engineer born in 1861 in the United States, Henry Laurence Gantt created the concept of the Gantt chart. Henry Gantt, who was also an industrial consultant by profession, died in 1919 leaving behind him an indisputable heritage in the arena of project planning for all kinds of projects, small or big. The chart is used today not only in small organizations but also in large-scale projects like the construction of Hoover dam where the chart was used during the project planning and project scheduling stages.

The project manager must understand the construction of the chart to effectively utilize it for his project. The rows in the basic Gantt Charts represent various activities or tasks and the columns represent time. Hence, if one has to check time of a particular task, one must check the horizontal bar against the row. The start of the bar indicates the date of commencement of the task while the end of the bar indicates the date of conclusion of the task. Various types of bars may be used in the charts depending upon the nature of the project and desire of the user. For instance, a color-coded graph may be used to indicate progress of the corresponding task or gradually darkening bars may be used with an empty bar indicating that no work has been done with the gradual darkening indicating the progress of the task.

The more technical the charts, the more complex they become. Such technical charts may include details of the person assigned to the task allowing the project manager to evaluate performance of his team members. Charts used for long projects usually involve breaking down of the long tasks into smaller and easier sub-tasks which may further be broken down, if need be. It has been observed that the complex charts may also end up exhibiting complex dependencies, if required.

The pictorial representation of the Gantt chart has made it unquestionably functional and important for a project manager. The visual representation enables the project manager and his team to have a high-end view of the overall project and hence help them to estimate a realistic estimate of the project duration. Having drawn all the required tasks for completion of the project in the Gantt chart, depending upon their requisites, the manager may reschedule or rearrange various tasks. To some extent, the chart may even give an idea about the project manager's future predictions to enable important decisions and identification of solutions beforehand.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gantt Software Makes Scheduling Projects Easy

Gantt software is a product meant to streamline the production of Gantt charts, which are used to produce and follow project schedules and progress, by automating the individual aspects of Gantt charts for ease of customization and control. Without the aid of Gantt chart software, Gantt charts are time and labor intensive products to produce, even if they are invaluable tools to monitoring and moving forward with projects. The software also creates visuals to work off of so that the end product will be clear and exactly to the specifications and desires of the creator without any nasty surprises or errors that may hurt or delay projects.

The concept behind Gantt charts was originally devised by Henry Gantt. Gantt's works were later used to help produce the Hoover Dam in the 1930s and later projects enacted by Eisenhower in the 1950s. Proving their worth in these projects, it became evident the practical purposes of Gantt charts in even basic tasks for companies, and so they were named after him.

A Gantt chart is not outrageously complicated or unreadable by the untrained, instead it is a bookkeeping tool meant to keep projects together and on schedule, as well as to outline where work performance may have fallen behind. A Gantt chart measures individual aspects of a project as well as the time that those aspects are meant to take up. The project as a whole is divided into reasonable time units in terms of length and quantity and then those time units are assigned to individual tasks. Adding valuable details to each task and establishing important connections between tasks make it easy to keep a project organized and together.

While each individual portion of the Gantt chart seems simple enough to write up that it shouldn't require specialized software, Gantt software has the benefit of offering a simple and easy-to-use user interface that allows quick customization and creation of Gantt charts. Essentially, Gantt charts are just plain old time-consuming beasts when done manually, while not insurmountable tasks. Gantt software is saving time and preventing user error that can frequently occur with these types of tedious, monotonous tasks.

The best part of Gantt software is that it is often available for free. It is not a hefty investment and does not require intense training to use; it only serves to benefit companies and individuals that employ it. There is, without a shadow of a doubt, definite benefit to utilizing Gantt charts in every project to keep it running on schedule while tracking major achievements and their connections, as well as virtually no cost or downside to using them. So as to better assess projects and their goals as well, keep tasks sequential to prevent hitting needless road blocks, wasting time and energy as related key tasks are waited on to proceed. Gantt charts and the software that builds them are a must.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Taco Bell Breakfast
Taco Bell Breakfast - YUM!
Taco Bell  breakfast is the new exciting talk of the office.  They call this amazing new concept "FirstMeal" as a complement to their existing late night binge concept called "FourthMeal".  This sounds like how a hobbit would refer to their various meals: second lunch, first breakfast and so on.

A total of 11 breakfast items are available on their breakfast menu including sausage, egg, steak or bacon burritos, wraps and hash browns starting at $1.49.

It's a more effective use of their space and it makes sense for any restaurant to serve all possible meals, even if they have to make up new meals to justify mass consumption -- they have the equipment, hiring process, and are already paying rent on the space, why not use it for another meal?   Good for them.  Maybe if the people who created the menu were put on commission, they would have come up with this crap long ago.
So, now it's more of a time management issue such as determining who opens the store, when to make the transition from breakfast only to lunch only.  These are the complex issues that are the basis of modern overstress that make people go ballistic (or postal as you Yanks say).  Let's hope they get it right, for all of our sakes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cutting out sales commissions means happy salespeople?! WTF?

Okay, so maybe those people in the land of Hippies over at Fog creek (wherever that is) think that sales people can all join hands and sing Kumbaya together and "focus on what's right instead of getting the sale", but you know what?  They say it's not fair to pay their people on commissions because it's manipulative to pay people for the work they do.  I'm all for a Theory Y workplace when the work your people do is creative and requires teamwork.

Customers reward and reprimand based upon the product and quality of products they receive.  If I shipped crappy barrels, we make crappy wine, nobody buys the crappy wine and eventually I'm out of a job.  It's pretty darn simple.  But, I get paid whether we get the barrels in or not.  Maybe I don't care so much about how important those new 220 barrels are to to the new flavors we're creating.   So, what gets me going?  Prunes.  Okay, after the prunes, what gets me going is knowing the customer is going to enjoy my products.

So, the sales guys have to convince people to take on that wine.  They have to go around and get it in the stores.  If they don't... it doesn't matter how good it is, sitting on a shelf, impressing the everliving bejesus out of me.  Sell my wines, you whimpering little snots!!  If you don't, I'm out of a job.  I love my job!

So, all this Theory X vs Theory Y mumbo jumbo is fine, when the people spend all damned day drinking and carousing on the company dime... it reminds them that they actually have to do some work.  So, quit whining about how hard it is, and start wining... and dining... some prospects and move our product!