So you’ve successfully onboarded your team to a new project management software (hopefully, Wrike), and you’re ready to start planning your first project. Before you start assigning due dates and deliverables, do you know how you’re going to visualize your project management timeline? Who’s going to be responsible for making sure the timeline is up to date? And how are you going to share this timeline across your team, or even across multiple teams?
Making the most out of your timeline in project management software is not about plugging everything in and hoping for the best. Your timeline should be the control center and knowledge hub for everything related to project deliverables and due dates. Without an optimized process for tracking work, expectations get derailed, bottlenecks stifle productivity, and your fancy, new timeline becomes obsolete.
Here’s how to make the most of your timeline project management software:
1. Make sure it’s always up to date
Plans get derailed. Your productivity shouldn’t have to. If you’re spending time adjusting every single deliverable and due date in your timeline when something changes, it might be time to get better project management software. Not to mention, the accuracy and distribution of your timeline is compromised when you move dates manually. What if you left something out? How do you notify everyone so they’re aware of the new deadlines?
Your timeline should be interactive, so when plans change, the timeline automatically shifts to reflect the new due dates. Wrike Gantt Charts automatically adjust everything around your changes. Drag and drop tasks right into their due date and all adjustments are automatically shared with your team.
2. Communicate constantly
And no, we don’t mean through meetings. In fact, cancel those excruciating status meetings you schedule with your team every week. It’s a huge time suck, and it’s difficult to establish accountability over next steps. But how do you communicate constantly sans meetings?
With the right project management timeline tool, action items are clear from the start and red flags are instantly visible. The timeline is shared so everyone can clearly see what tasks they’re responsible for and there’s no confusion around who’s doing what. If something doesn’t look right, simply @mention the owner of that task and instantly inquire about the status inside the tool.
Trust me, you won’t miss those meetings — plus, you’ll be a hero for giving your team that hour back.
3. Identify the critical path
When looking at a project timeline, it’s hard to know exactly how a delay in one task will affect the others. Even if a small delay won’t have any impact on the final deadline, what are the limitations? What can be shifted, and how do you know when you’ve reached the limit? How late can one deliverable be before the whole project deadline is compromised?
Critical Path Method (CPM) is based on the idea of limited resources or constraints. In other words, every project includes core tasks that are crucial to seeing the project through.
Workamajig gives a great example of this in the form of making an omelet. There are three core steps to making an omelet:
- Beat the eggs.
- Heat the pan.
- Cook the eggs in the pan.
There are other steps to make a delicious omelet that aren’t listed, such as seasoning the eggs, oiling the pan, and adding desired ingredients. However, those steps are in addition to the three core steps above. If you skip one of those three, you won’t have an omelet at all.
This method is key when your project management timeline falls behind schedule. Identifying which tasks can be deprioritized and which ones absolutely have to happen keeps your team focused on the right objectives and your project moving in the right direction.
4. Dependencies, dependencies, dependencies
Some tasks can’t even be performed until another task is completed. How can you possibly capture that in a timeline? By using dependencies!
Dependencies specify the relationship between tasks. Using the omelet example again, you can’t cook the eggs unless you heat the pan first. Each of those tasks are dependent on one another and the objective is obtained only when they are completed in a specific order.
In Wrike’s project management timeline tool, there are 4 types of dependencies you can create:
Wrike Gantt Charts allows you to create these dependencies and tie them to a specific project. When you move one, the other moves with it — maintaining the amount of time you need to complete both.
Having dependencies on hand make it clear to other teams and stakeholders why certain tasks need to be completed first so you can prioritize effectively.
You’re Ready to Start Using Your Timeline for Project Management
Congrats! You’re ready to build your timeline and sail smoothly through your project. Make the most out of your timeline by:
- Always keeping it up to date
- Communicating directly in the timeline to maintain accountability
- Finding the critical path in case deliverables fall behind
- Utilizing dependencies to prioritize work
By following these simple best practices, you can be sure you’re using your time(line) wisely.
For Further Reading on Using Your Timeline in Project Management
- Review our Best Project Management Software Success Stories
- Not everything is as great as it seems: Learn about the hidden cost of free project management software
- Check out these Simple Yet Powerful Must-Have Project Management Features
- Want to play around with a Gantt chart? Check out our interactive Gantt charts
- For a step-by-step guide on creating a timeline, read this Simple Guide for Creating a Project Management Timeline.
- Whether you’re a project manager or not, you pretty much always go through the 4 Phases of Project Management.