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Updated: Project Management Beta – NOW AVAILABLE

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Updated – Sun 7 Nov 2010:
All accounts can now turn on the project management beta by selecting the option from the side bar:

Please use this forum to discuss the new beta….

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The big news is that we’re now really close to a public beta of the new projects tool (for real this time).  I’ll update this post once we have made the beta link available in all accounts.

In the meantime all we need to do is migrate accounts across to a new, more powerful and dedicated database server and turn on the beta  This will likely mean between 1min and 5min downtime for all accounts, randomly, from Friday evening through to Sunday as we copy each database over to the new server.

More importantly, it will mean noticeably improved performance on all accounts and access to the new project management beta.

The best way of illustrating how massive this change is to show the same screen, from the same project, side by side.  You’ll also notice that projects will upgrade and degrade seamlessly between the old project style and the new project style.

Old vs New. click to zoom

Click to zoom

Unfortunately a few planned improvements have not made it into the beta release, but will be progressively built during the beta phase.  The reason we’ve excluded these items is they weren’t finished and we didn’t want to hold up releasing the guts of this update any longer.  The most notable exceptions are:

  • Resource utilisation.  This is a calendar heat map showing how much each employee has assigned for a particular day (or stretch of time).  Useful to quickly understand how busy everyone is going to be and what they are going to be busy on.
  • Budget planner.  The existing budget tool is available in the new projects beta, but the plan is to develop a more visual approach to understanding whether your project is on target.
  • Move around.  This is the ability to simply move an object such as a sub-project or to-do from one parent project to another.  I’m still to design an interface method of making this dead simple to do.
  • Project templates.  Currently we have a simple duplicate project option.  I want to make a more robust and intuitive project template tool and am keen to discuss this at the Suggest a Feature forum.

During the course of the beta we’ll be progressively making these components available and announcing them either here or in the Announcement forum.

Here is what’s coming real soon.  Click any image for larger view.

The above screen shot highlights the new project’s interface.  Currently we display the project details, followed by the Gantt chart and then the actual contents of a project – which on a large project results in a massive, scrolling page.

The new approach is to put each of those project elements into their own tab (and also add in some new views):

  • Calendar.  This is the traditional Gant chart view, but with a whole lot of extras added.  For example, you can view a history or a project by hovering on a particular day.  This new version also allows you to create dependant projects and decide what project “triggers” another project to start. It is also a massive improvement in terms of all round “prettiness” from the current Gantt chart.
    When you would use this view: The calendar view is handy for setting up a new project and visualizing how and when all the components of a project need to come together to meet a deadline or finish a project.
  • Hierarchy. This view shows the nested structure of a project, organised by relationship. For example, consider a project that is made up of a bunch of sub-projects and under each sub-project is a list of to-do’s that need completing. Hierarchy shows this structure in a threaded or “tree” view.
    When you would use this view: The Hierarchy view is best suited for setting up a quick project when time and dates are not so important. I’ve also found it good to use as the project manager to quickly see what work has been done for each sub-project or to-do within a project.
  • Timeline. The timeline view organizes all parts of a project into collapsible groups for the current day, previous days and future days.
    When you would use this view: The Timeline view lets you quickly see what everyone should be working on today and what has been scheduled for the future. It is also geared up to highlight items that are new or that have changed since you last logged in.
  • Priority, Progress& Documents. These views are pretty straight forward. Priority organises all items under a project by groups of priority and Progress sorts all items in order of completeness. The big change here is that you can now change the priority of an item on the fly, rather than having to go into each item separately. The documents view captures all attached documents from the projects and makes them available in the single view screen.
  • People and Budget.  As mentioned above, these items are active, but are still using the old projects style.  These will be updated during the beta phase.

The following are a number of screen shots that further explain the release.  We’ll have documentation and a video ready by the time this project piece makes it out of beta and into full release.

Calendar / Gantt View:

Hierarchy View:

Timeline View:

Priority View:

More soon…

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