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Project Planning

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To-Complete Performance Index (TCPI) Explained
Project Management 7 min read

To-Complete Performance Index (TCPI) Explained

TCPI is a forecasting tool used to inform project managers how to use their residual project budgets efficiently. Read on to learn how to use the TCPI formula.

RICE Scoring & Framework Explained
Project Management 7 min read

RICE Scoring & Framework Explained

In this article, we’ll define the RICE model and what it stands for. We’ll also explain how RICE scores work, plus the benefits and challenges of using this framework. Keep reading to discover how to strategically apply this method to project management. What is the RICE model? RICE stands for reach, impact, confidence, and effort. The RICE framework is a project prioritization method used for quantifying the potential value of features, project ideas, and initiatives. It’s a great tool for facilitating Agile teamwork.  How do RICE scores work? RICE is a score that measures the effort needed to get an item to its goal. It helps us identify which items are most important and which ones are least important.  Reach This metric shows the number of people who would be affected by a feature or service in a given time period. It could be a reduction in churn or a spike in transactions. Impact A feature's impact is measured by how much it contributes to the overall success of your product. It can also be used to determine how much of a boost it will provide to your conversion rate. This is often used for product management but can also be applied to projects involving user-facing parts or experiences.  There are many ways to measure the impact of a feature. Some key questions to consider include: will it improve conversion rates, or will it make the experience more streamlined? Confidence This metric is used to measure the confidence that you have in the estimations that you made for a project. It asks how confident you are in the data to back up those estimations. Rated on a scale, this metric involves both internal and external validation to score properly.  Effort This is the amount of work it takes for a team to build a feature or complete a project. It can be a long-term project or a simple requirement that only needs a few people. Your exact definition of effort may vary. But most product and project managers use metrics such as time and budget.  RICE model example RICE is calculated using this formula: (Reach x Impact x Confidence) / Effort It’s up to you to create your own scoring system within each part of the formula. But reach is usually a whole number within a time frame, impact is a number on a tiered scale you define, and confidence can be a percentage on your own custom scale, with 100% being the most confident. Effort is almost always quantified as time, but it can be defined as any resource type, such as labor.  For example, let’s say the school lunch team is deciding if they should make more peanut butter or tuna fish sandwiches for the upcoming field trip. Using the RICE model, we’ll calculate the scores of both sandwich types to determine which should be prioritized.  Reach There are 100 students going on the one-day trip, so we’ll use one day as our time frame. Of those 100, 80 have signed up for school lunch. Therefore, peanut butter’s reach is 80, and tuna fish’s reach is also 80.  Impact Our tiered scale will be small and define student interest based on what we know about leftover sandwiches from the last trip.  1 = lots of leftovers from last trip 2 = some leftovers from last trip 3 = few to no leftovers from last trip  There were few to no peanut butter sandwiches leftover from the last trip, but half of all tuna sandwiches were left untouched.  From this, we can now see that peanut butter’s impact is 3, while tuna fish’s impact is 2.  Confidence We’ll define how confident we are that students will want to eat the sandwiches on a scale of: 0% = extremely unconfident 50% = somewhat confident 100% = they love the stuff We know in this particular example that there are no nut allergies in this group, but there are some vegetarians. Therefore, pulling from the data on leftover sandwiches, we can ascertain that peanut butter’s confidence is 100%, while tuna fish’s confidence is 50%. Effort Peanut butter sandwiches can be prepared by simply spreading it onto bread, while tuna fish requires opening cans, mixing mayonnaise with spices, and then spreading it. Our effort scale will be defined as: Peanut butter’s effort = 3 minutes per sandwich Tuna fish’s effort = 6 minutes per sandwich Final calculation Peanut Butter’s RICE Score = (80x3x100%)/3 = 80 Tuna Fish’s RICE Score = (80x2x50%)/6 = 13 From this analysis, we know that peanut butter sandwiches have scored higher, so their production should be prioritized for the upcoming school trip to maximize the efficiency of supply ordering and division of labor.  The benefits of RICE prioritization In a nutshell, RICE helps you make better-informed decisions in Agile project management. The scoring system helps identify when to make the most advantageous trade-offs and minimize potential biases.  It also helps empower teams to take the next steps with minimal supervision since task prioritization is made simple when using this tool. And even when you’ve got a project underway, RICE makes it easy to organize all of your incoming work requests without disrupting active work.  RICE scoring asks users to defend their choices when measuring their work and resource usage against defined priorities.  Challenges of using the RICE framework Due to the complexity of RICE, product managers often have to consider multiple metrics across multiple features to create the best possible outcome. This is time-consuming, and much of the decision-making is at the manager’s discretion, which may defeat the purpose of the method in the first place.  Another challenge is the potential lack of information. Data isn't always available for every product, and for most physical products, these metrics are often hard to measure. And last but not least is implementation. After putting in all the effort to create your RICE framework, you still need to get your team on board. If they aren’t frequently referring to the metrics or don’t fully understand what it means for their work on a practical day-to-day level, then the framework creation was a waste of resources.  How to use RICE in project management Most project managers have at least some understanding of how to prioritize tasks. They may also have preconceived notions about how to do this.  But due to the complexity of project management, it can be difficult to make informed decisions without a system for some of the most complicated factors. Some of these factors include team capabilities, personal biases, and the impact on companies or stakeholders. That’s where RICE scoring and frameworks come into project management. Rice scoring allows project managers the opportunity to make data-driven decisions with objective considerations that are related to the goals and the experiences of their customers.  While a good project management system can help minimize this subjectivity by allowing people to easily prioritize tasks even when everything seems important, RICE frameworks also contextualize these choices.  How to use RICE in product management A scoring system for product prioritization is not new. But finding one that works seamlessly across different ideas can be a challenge.  Using the RICE scoring system outlined above, product managers can create a score for their many competing priorities. Once those are calculated, managers can draft a roadmap based on the order of product prioritization.  This framework communicates which initiatives are most valuable to teams while providing a clear way forward no matter how complex your product to-do list has become.  Combining RICE scoring and framework with a product management solution that allows you to carry out your new plan is crucial. Abilities such as performing critical path analysis that prevents conflicting resource usage or expectations and updating tasks with customized statuses so that teams can stay true to their RICE analysis results can make or break your prioritization efforts.  Ready to maximize the efficiency of your project and product management plans through strategic task prioritization? Get started today with Wrike’s two-week free trial. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Using a Punch List
Project Management 10 min read

A Step-by-Step Guide to Using a Punch List

Got a never-ending list of project tasks to complete? A punch list can help. This project management tool is frequently used by construction managers, but it can help teams in any industry manage both old and new tasks that need to be revisited or monitored.  In this article, we’ll explain what a punch list is in construction, why it’s so helpful, and how you can benefit from using one. Keep reading to discover how to create an effective punch list that works for your unique projects, all while adhering to best practices.  What is a punch list? The term punch list comes from the construction world, where managers would have their team punch a hole in a paper task list next to an item they had finished. A punch list is a list of tasks that must be completed before a project can be completed. Tasks include active work, work that has been completed, and notes on delays in the project. Task deadlines and big-picture project deadlines are also saved here.  A punch list does not always include the major work but rather smaller tasks that must be completed. Punch lists are used to keep track of work that needs to be completed to meet the terms of a contract.  Project and construction management software can help you create and maintain a punch list that works seamlessly with the rest of your workflow. Project details are updated in real time and can be accessed anytime from anywhere. Each punch list item should have its own name, location, and deadline. Not all items on the list will be urgent, so it’s important to mark priority items.  Punch lists are created by managers but used by all members of the team. They’re also useful for communicating with stakeholders. Project owners should regularly check in with them and confirm they are satisfied with the process. A punch list is only made once the project is considered almost finished. It consists of minor tweaks and usually only addresses major issues. When drafting the punch list, all team members involved should address issues they encounter before the project closes. This step typically involves reviewing the original project specifications and addressing any changes or updates.  Afterwards, everyone comes up with a plan to address the remaining tasks. The contractor or manager then provides a schedule for when the project will likely wrap up.  Why are there punch lists in construction? Have you ever used the phrase “punch out”? The term originally refers to the process of completing a construction project's punch list. A construction punch list is a step-by-step plan that outlines the work left to be done before the project's final inspection. It's typically created before the project's final inspection. Before the contract can be finalized, the general contractor and the owner will do a site walkthrough to make sure all the necessary work is done.  A punch list structure is a great way to align your team's quality control efforts throughout the construction process. It's also a great way to keep track of all the details of a project. Site walkthroughs are usually carried out by a crew member who may also contribute to the punch list. During this walkthrough, they will note down all the items that are missing or that require attention. Even though this walkthrough is visual, tasks are not just identified by what you can see but what someone says must be done in order to fulfill the agreed-upon project needs. These notes are all used to create the punch list.  Doing it this way will eliminate the confusion and misinformation that can cause delays and unnecessary expenses as the project progresses. It also gives teams a way to communicate clearly and schedule the remaining work, making it easier for everyone involved to efficiently collaborate.  Many construction companies will create punch list templates. A punch list template helps to organize all of the information that's needed to manage a construction project, including details such as who, what, and where. This template can be created once and then used repeatedly, saving managers the time it would take to make each new punch list from scratch.  The goal of every construction management project is to have zero items on its punch list. Once this has been achieved, the contractor and the owner enter the substantial completion phase. When the punch list is zero, the project owner and the contractor can reach a mutual agreement, which states that the work is finished and ready for payment. Having one person responsible for the punch list's maintenance is very helpful. This person is typically in a management position. They’ll be responsible for answering questions, following up on task progress or delays, and keeping the list up to date. As you can probably guess, having an open line of communication between the punch list manager and the rest of the team is critical for this tool to be effective.  Many people play key roles in the construction punch list, including the project owner, the architect, the general contractor, and the designers. Project owners create and manage the list while the general contractor reviews and carries out the details. While that’s happening, the architects, designers, and subcontractors complete the tasks.  Punch list examples Looking for ideas for your own punch list? Here are some punch list examples you can use to build your template, along with our insight on what makes each unique and how to use them:  Example 1: Life of an Architect In this example, architect Bob Borson shows us his punch list for the inside of a 12,000 square foot construction project. What’s unique about Borson’s punch list is that he includes a ledge at the top with numbers that correspond to tasks. He then uses the numbers as a shorthand for each of his tasks, adding details if needed.  Example 2: Levelset’s Template Levelset has created a general template for construction punch lists. It takes the form of a chart with headers that say: item number, location, item description, the subcontractor responsible, status, and date completed. The simplistic nature may be appealing to managers who prefer to use paper and pencil.  However, projects with tasks that require more details, frequent status updates, or approvals may want to add more to it. Going digital also makes it easier to view, share, and revise as you go along.  The benefits of punch list management Build better relationships This type of communication tool creates a better working relationship between a project owner and a general contractor because it allows them to be on the same page about task statuses. A punch list also ensures that everyone’s voice is heard. You may feel like the project is finally finished, but keep in mind that everyone involved has their own thoughts. Improve communication The entire team plays a part in creating the punch list. They're also responsible for maintaining it. Although there is a point person, everyone becomes a stakeholder for the remaining tasks in the project. It's also easy to reference and share if you use electronic tools such as project management software. Stay on track  Failing to deliver all of your tasks on time and under budget can create major problems, especially when there are contracts involved. A punch list not only keeps a record of what you and stakeholders agree to but also paves a clear path for what still needs to be completed before the project deadline.  Set expectations When you use a punch list, everyone on your team knows exactly what they are responsible for and when it is due. Employees don't have to worry about going above and beyond the punch list since that may involve time and expenses that are unaccounted for. Instead, they can focus on providing high-quality results for the most important tasks. Keep teams accountable Punch lists are visible to everyone on the team. Because there are names assigned to each item, it's easy to see who is completing their tasks on time and who isn't. Team members can support one another when someone falls behind and feel motivated by the progress that is being made in other areas of the punch list.  What should be included in a punch list checklist? No matter what industry you are in, your punch list checklist should include each of the following: Punch number: The total number of tasks on the punch list or what number the specific task in question is on the list. Location: If there is a construction site involved, this is where the task will need to happen. If your work is all digital, you can use this space to designate which software tool this item will live in so that it’s easier to look up later on.  Trade or department: Choose which specialty this task falls under. For example, signing off on the final design for a Times Square billboard campaign may fall under the marketing department’s responsibility. In construction, this may look like carpentry, plumbing, etc.  Task name: A shorthand for what most team members will remember and understand.  Task description: A paragraph describing what the task is, any general guidelines needed to complete it, and important details the assignee absolutely has to know.  Files: Ideally, your punch list will be digital and have the ability to link out to or store supporting files. Things like photos, images, videos, and documents are all useful here as long as they directly relate to the task.  Task type: What general task category does this punch list item fall under? Your team can come up with a list of specific categories that fit your unique project needs.  Priority: Note this using a word or color designation. At a minimum, your priority scale should include low, medium, and high, but feel free to include more variety.  Due date: As the name implies, this reflects when the task is due and absolutely must be completed.  Owner: The person responsible for making the task happen.  Approver: The quality control person who must sign off on the task completion, if needed.  Task status: Commonly used tags include completed, awaiting approval, and in progress.  Notes: Use this section to discuss the project, loop in other participants for opinions and updates, and elaborate on anything in the task that needs to be explained.  Pro tip: As you can tell by now, each individual task will include a lot of details, which is why it is also important that your punch list is short and concise so that you maximize the effectiveness of your to-dos. It’s not a list of what you could do but what you have to do. Doing so will make sure you’re using the remaining resources wisely while maintaining compliance with the original project agreement.  How to create an effective punch list template Start by using data from reports on similar projects you’ve done in the past. Look for things they have in common and add some of your initial task ideas to the punch list draft. Your team will help you decide whether or not to keep them later, but for now, they will form the foundation of your standard punch list template.  Then, use a premade punch list task form or a project management task template to define each individual item. If you don’t have a premade one available, use the list outlined above to draft your own.  Make sure that your template is simple and clear so that everyone on the team can understand how to use it. The key is to keep it streamlined, especially if your tasks are complex.  Finally, add drop-down menus for categories such as task type or location if there are a limited number of options available. If the section requires a little more personalization, leave space for users to enter the text below the header.  Using Wrike as an alternative to punch lists Wrike is a project and construction management tool that makes it easy to create, manage, and assign tasks. As you can imagine, it’s extremely hard to track punch list items on paper. Doing so leads to many errors and inefficiencies, and it can also hinder collaboration among various parties.  Even a digital punch list tool has its limitations. Features such as asset storage and accessibility controls that Wrike offers aren’t typical of traditional punch list software. And yet, these details can make all the difference as you strive for efficiency in the final stages of your project.  While a project management software may not have its own designated punch list outline, it does offer productive alternatives such as Kanban boards.  A Kanban board is a visual representation of your workflow. Instead of a punch list, it uses columns and cards to represent the stages of your work. You can also set specific priorities and attach customized tags. Wrike also offers secure cloud storage. A project collaboration system powered by the cloud will allow you to keep track of all your team members and issues in real time.  Wrike even works seamlessly with mobile platforms, which maximizes visibility. Blended teams across the globe can easily make and view changes in real time.  Added all together, the features of a digital project management system combine to create a powerful alternative to traditional punch lists.  In conclusion Using punch list and project management technology, team members can now communicate even when they're not in the same physical location. Wrike helps streamline this process by allowing you to assign, track, and monitor people for specific tasks. Start your two-week free trial of Wrike and see for yourself how you can get projects done on time and within budget through advanced task organization. 

How to Use Rolling Wave Planning in Project Management
Project Management 7 min read

How to Use Rolling Wave Planning in Project Management

Rolling wave planning is a project management technique where teams work within smaller periods. Learn more about wave planning with Wrike.

A Complete Guide To Schedule Management Plans
Project Management 7 min read

A Complete Guide To Schedule Management Plans

Create an effective schedule management plan for better, more accurate project delivery. Get it all done with robust project scheduling software.

4 Best Practices for Using a Timeline in Project Management Software
Project Management 7 min read

4 Best Practices for Using a Timeline in Project Management Software

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. How do you best use project timelines?

How to Create the Ultimate Risk Response Plan
Project Management 10 min read

How to Create the Ultimate Risk Response Plan

What is a risk response strategy and how do you create one for your project? Learn to create a risk response plan with the 4 risk response categories.

How To Create a Construction Management Plan
Project Management 5 min read

How To Create a Construction Management Plan

Build an effective construction management plan that helps you control budgets, timelines, and communication protocols. Use Wrike to create a management plan.

The Definitive Guide to Aggregate Planning
Project Management 10 min read

The Definitive Guide to Aggregate Planning

Aggregate planning is the process of balancing capacity with customer demand. Learn more about the best aggregate planning strategies with Wrike.

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Strategic Annual Plan
Collaboration 10 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Strategic Annual Plan

The first step to achieving goals is to come up with an annual plan. A strategic annual plan makes it easier for managers, team leaders, and company owners to execute their vision for growth. Not only does creating an annual plan give you time to reflect on past accomplishments, but it’s also a great way to make ideas actionable. Keep reading to learn more about what annual planning is and how you can create one that has a significant impact on your organization.  What is an annual plan? An annual business plan is a set of goals and milestones that guide a company's operations for the year ahead. It helps guide employees and investors in the right direction. For many people, this year's new year begins with a review of their previous year. They then set goals and make plans for the coming year. Annual planning is a combination of two other important elements: a business plan and an annual plan.  A business plan is a document that a company or organization uses to set goals and improve performance. It's similar to a belt-tightening exercise. An annual plan is a strategy that a company uses to set goals and expectations for the coming year. It helps employees visualize where they are headed and how they can get there. The annual plan also sets out a company's long-term goals and helps guide how it will reach these targets. An annual business plan helps workers set goals and holds them accountable for achieving those goals for the upcoming 12 months. Then, there’s strategic planning. A strategic planning process helps an organization identify its mission, vision, and strategic goals. The strategic plan combined with the annual business plan are two key components of a successful strategy. The former provides a framework for the company's goals and intentions, while the latter provides the necessary tools and processes to execute those goals. Overview of a strategic annual plan Here is what is typically included in a strategic annual plan:  Analysis of past performance. Reviewing your goals can help you identify areas where you can improve and become more productive. Budget estimations. Financial projections are often included in budget planning. They help you plan for the coming year and identify the right course of action for your projects. A clear vision statement. Expectations must be clearly stated, as well as responsibilities and clear OKRs. Having these elements in place can help keep teams on track and motivated. SMART goals. Set specific, measurable goals and deadlines for your company. This will help you measure how far you've come in terms of meeting the key results. Buffer room. A well-written annual plan should include space for emergencies as well. Having a contingency plan can help avoid unexpected expenses. In a nutshell: the annual plan is a strategy used to plan and execute the organization's goals and objectives. It is usually composed of three phases which are strategy, projects, and timing. The importance of an annual plan Annual planning helps define what's important to achieving goals and driving performance. An annual plan also helps keep the workforce united and can be used to motivate and retain employees. A well-written annual plan can help you set the direction for your company while providing the team with a sense of direction. Examples of annual strategic planning Here are some ideas to get you started with your own strategic annual plan:  1. Coca Cola HBC 2020 Integrated Annual Plan  Coca-Cola's 246-page report details all aspects of their business. They start by celebrating their wins with statistics. They also include photos of actual customers and partners. Their CEO writes a letter to their stakeholders sharing their biggest accomplishments over the past year.  Then they go through their vision. Throughout the strategy, you can see that they are using the pillar method for goal planning. Key areas of focus include leveraging existing business, continuing to win the beverage marketplace, making competitive investments, focusing on employee growth, and expanding their licensing. The overall report is designed well and is reminiscent of a well-crafted white paper. Because the CEO's letter was addressed specifically to stakeholders, we know that this is a tool for increasing investment as well as project planning. Because of this, a lot of the content within it answers the question, “why should I invest in you?” Throughout the rest of the annual plan, each pillar gets its own section. At the top of each section, there is a list of accomplishments from the past year and priorities for the coming year. They also summarize risks, stakeholders, and KPIs. This makes the packet easy to skim but also easy to remember. 2. pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) PepsiCo recently announced that their new 2022 initiative will revolve around “the planet and people.” While this is a long-term process for the brand, the launch will mark the core of their strategic annual plan for the foreseeable future. Their keywords include positivity (hence the “+”), sustainability, and “a fundamental transformation of what we do and how we do it.”  On their dedicated landing page, readers can dig deeper into their annual plan. Also well designed, this presentation shows what the future looks like for PepsiCo through refreshed branding and imagery. Symbols such as smiling farmers and healthy, green fields drive the message home.  To achieve these new goals, the company will focus on supply chains, inspiring consumers, and driving sustainable change among all its product lines.  They link several documents throughout the report, including a comprehensive list of goals which is a great example for your own annual plan template inspiration. This three-page chart names pillars on the left-hand side and targets or actions with due dates on the right.  If their goals have numerical metrics, they include data from past years, along with key benchmarks they hope to reach by the end of the year or in the future. Otherwise, their goals are measured in actions.  For example, as part of their sustainability pillar, they plan to “develop and deploy disruptive sustainable packaging materials and new models for convenient foods and beverages.” This task is specific and clear, despite the fact that it’s not as quantifiable as some of their other goals.  3. Nestlé Global’s Annual Report  Their annual plan is not public but they have shared an annual report on past wins from 2020. In addition to a financial review, Nestlé also shares a new strategy. Starting with important facts and figures the company highlights statistics from organic sales growth and more. They also visualize data about which types of products are selling most and where in the world the company has grown over the past year. As Coca-Cola did, Nestlé also includes a letter to shareholders. They discuss ways in which they plan to grow in the coming year. This includes what product areas they will invest more in and where they will pause or halt efforts. They also emphasize a new product area which will be the focus moving forward in the short term. In this section, Nestlé touches on long-term strategies and how these short-term goals will affect them.  In general, their annual report focuses on the word innovation. It mostly has to do with developing new products and revamping old ones. Like PepsiCo, they are using sustainability as a pillar as well as e-commerce. The report goes on to elaborate on each strategy individually. Nestlé lists action steps and provides clear evidence as to why each is important. They also highlight statistics for growth in key areas and name even bigger numbers for where they hope to be in a year.  Throughout the report, they include images from ad campaigns that demonstrate the change they wish to continue implementing as part of their marketing plan. Again, branding imagery makes a big difference when creating your own strategic annual plan. It sets the tone for what's written on the page and can help visual learners better understand what you're going for at a glance.  Although Nestle's strategic annual plan is designed more like a white paper than a chart, this layout is the most magazine-like by far. It serves as a great example of how you can organize ideas on the page in a way that is interesting and attention-grabbing. One of the most notable aspects of their annual plan is the Materiality Matrix. They use this chart to visualize key areas of interest and prioritize them according to stakeholder values. Within each box, they’ve listed bullet points of business areas this value will impact. It’s a great method for summarizing goals that cover a wide variety of departments and business engagements.  Understanding strategic planning best practices Everyone has their own way of thinking about annual plans. Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, the following strategic planning best practices will help you get there:  1. Use SMART goals A variety of SMART goals are commonly used to help guide and motivate people. They help set realistic benchmarks and are designed to help teams achieve success. It will also help you plan for the ups and downs of your business. To reach your goals, divide them up into smaller goals and set specific deadlines. These goals will help you measure how successful you are at reaching them. 2. Include contingencies For example, having an emergency financial reservoir is a good idea to prevent a potential financial disaster. It can help your company navigate slower seasons while still sticking to your annual plan.  3. Build in flexibility  Even minor shifts in external factors can significantly impact on how effective you are at creating and implementing your strategic plan. Never forget that, while we are creating our annual plans in a vacuum, the world will undoubtedly go through more changes this coming year. Even though we can’t predict the future, we can make our plans foolproof by being flexible now.  What is an annual plan template? An annual plan template is a document or tool that can be utilized repeatedly to outline the various stages involved in creating an annual plan. Its purpose is to provide a clear understanding of the annual planning process by specifying the actions to be taken and the timeline to follow in order to develop an effective business plan. By utilizing the annual planning template, individuals or organizations can ensure that they have a systematic approach to reaching specific goals, and can enhance the quality of their business plans. Using Wrike to assist with an annual plan template Wrike’s project management software can help you keep track of all your company-related information in one place. It can also streamline your work and help you stay on track. It can also help you keep track of your annual plans and develop a strong strategy. Start by using last year as a reference. By understanding the issues that affected the previous year, a company can improve its performance in the following year. Draw reports of time spent per project and see where your team went over or underestimated. Then look at which tasks tend to drain resources the most. Determine whether or not the ROI is worth it moving forward.  Next, set realistic goals. Reflect on last year's statistics from Wrike Reports and put together a plan with a realistic metric for improvement.  After, break down big plans into individual steps. Start by focusing on the business goals of the company then outline your key objectives that align with those. Make sure that everyone knows who is responsible for executing and approving each task.  Draft a Gantt chart that includes each step broken down into relevant tasks. Remember to add deadlines to every action to keep teammates accountable and keep to realistic deadlines. Then, delegate tasks according to strengths and weaknesses. Use project reporting and individual job performance to assess team members. You may find that those with specialized talent are being tasked with unskilled work when they could help solve major problems elsewhere.  Don’t forget to involve the whole team. Start early, plan ahead, and keep everyone involved in the process. Doing so will make it easier to overcome obstacles once the projects are underway.  Additionally, ask them for direct feedback on your ideas for the next year. You will learn from the front line what obstacles they may be facing that will affect the timeline.  Another bonus of getting your team involved is that it creates more transparency in the workplace. Using Wrike as a part of the process is not only helpful, but the team also keeps learning how to use the system more efficiently as they go.  Having a work management platform that enables you to plan and execute annual plans is a good idea. Plus, it's also a good idea to use tools that allow you to collaborate and manage complex processes. Create an effective annual plan today with Wrike’s free trial. 

The Chemistry Behind Every Great Project Kickoff
Project Management 7 min read

The Chemistry Behind Every Great Project Kickoff

Kicking projects off with all essential information in place is the catalyst to successful projects, reducing the amount of activation energy your team needs to get started and stay on track.

The Ultimate Guide To Using Project Planning Tools
Project Management 7 min read

The Ultimate Guide To Using Project Planning Tools

Which project planning tools are right for your team? Discover the techniques and online planning tools you need for your next successful project.

Collaborative Project Planning Helps Avoid Micromanagement
News 3 min read

Collaborative Project Planning Helps Avoid Micromanagement

Micromanagement can be a serious problem for a person who is in charge of a project or a whole business. It can hamper the development of a company and prevent managers from taking advantage of the creative initiatives of their teams. Engagement of collaborative planning can help with this problem and allow you to discover the full potential of the team. At the same time, it’s important for the manager to keep control of the team’s actions and to guide them. Only with the combination of bottom-up collaboration and top-down leadership can the business be truly successful. LearnItFirst.com, a fast developing online IT training company, found a way to create and maintain such a combination. Read the story, told by Scott Whigham, the founder of  LearnItFirst.com, and find out what helped him to make the business more productive.

What Is a PERT Chart in Project Management?
Project Management 7 min read

What Is a PERT Chart in Project Management?

What is a PERT chart? Get an overview of PERT chart advantages, disadvantages and examples — plus how to make PERT charts work for your project.

Everything You Need to Know About Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)
Project Management 7 min read

Everything You Need to Know About Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

A resource breakdown structure is a list of resources needed to complete a project. Learn more about RBS project management with our guide.

3 Step Process to Building a Project Work Plan Template in Wrike
Project Management 5 min read

3 Step Process to Building a Project Work Plan Template in Wrike

A project work plan allows you to outline the requirements of a project, project planning steps, goals, and team members involved in the project. This provides visibility to everyone involved, keeps project deliverables organized in one place, and helps you stay on track to reach your objectives.

When Rules of Thumb Can Be as Effective
Project Management 3 min read

When Rules of Thumb Can Be as Effective

Another valuable heuristic is to analyze the scope of the work and come up with the minimal project scope that’s most important. Then try to schedule this “must have” scope before some other work that your stakeholders could live without. Let’s say you’re planning to paint the walls in your living room and whitewash the ceiling in the kitchen by the time your spouse comes back home from a business trip. So if you promised your spouse only to refresh the living room, then it would be important for you to finish painting the walls there first. Only then, if you have time, you’ll get down to whitewashing the ceiling in the kitchen to please your spouse even more. Another heuristic method would be helpful when you have some tasks with unclear and risky estimates. In many cases, due to underestimation, such tasks might not even be on the original critical path, but if a task takes much longer than you planned, it will become part of your critical path when it’s too late. A feasibility study is crucial to ascertain whether the project is possible and worthwhile to complete. To mitigate this risk, you might want to put such tasks with unreliable estimates sooner, rather than later, in your schedule, or at least allocate sometime early in the project schedule to elaborate on blurry estimates with a project time tracking app (prototype, research, detail). This will help you to adjust your estimates for the project and proactively manage the risks. Heuristics or rules of thumb are models based on experience and applied in situations when you have a choice. When you use heuristic methods, it's important to remember that these models have their limitations and often involve trade-offs. It’s important for you, as a project manager, to constantly evaluate the decisions you make and adjust your practices and processes based on what works and what doesn’t. This might seem obvious, but as it turns out, many people miss great learning opportunities along the way. Each iteration is a chance to learn. Each problem is a chance to do a “5 whys” analysis and improve the process. As you grow in your career, you’ll be able to build your own “project management intuition,” a body of experience that includes tools, practices, and processes, and an understanding of when they work best and when they don’t. What rules of thumb do you find helpful when managing your projects? Please share your experience in the comments below.

10 Steps to a Kickass Project Kickoff: A Checklist for Project Managers
Project Management 3 min read

10 Steps to a Kickass Project Kickoff: A Checklist for Project Managers

With the start of fall and a new football season, we can't help but notice the similarities between kicking off football and kicking off new projects. The contracts have been signed, hands shaken, and you’re now officially hired to lead a new project. Get ready to roll up your sleeves — now the real work begins!   Similarly to football, the success of a good project is determined by a productive kickoff meeting. Setting the right tone from the get-go can make or break your project. So time to huddle up and go for a touchdown by following our 10-step project kickoff checklist. Go team, go! Want to improve collaboration on your team? Start a 2 week trial of Wrike today! You can share this infographic on your site with this copy-and-paste embed code: Infographic brought to you by Wrike     Read Next: How to Combat the 4 Main Sources of Scope Creep The 3-Step Guide to Choosing the Right Project Management Methodology 6 Steps to a Foolproof Project Plan

Tips and Tricks for Smart Project Planning
Project Management 7 min read

Tips and Tricks for Smart Project Planning

I promised to share some tips and tricks that can help you make your project planning more efficient. So here they are: Pay close attention to the human factor. Critical path analysis and project management tools can be really helpful in administering and managing projects. The dependencies that you put on your project are usually fairly easy to grasp. Thus, the formal critical path for small projects is often obvious enough for project managers and for project management software. Project management tools are helpful in the visualization of the schedule, and in quick calculation of an approximate end date when there are estimates in place. However, they are not a substitute for the "human factor." Experienced project managers know that tools are important, but they always remember that they are dealing with human beings when planning project tasks, deadlines, milestones, and implementation dates. This human factor should be taken into consideration when creating your project schedule. I already mentioned the “resource critical path” method earlier in the post series. Another method that can complement your use of the critical path method and help you deal with resource constraints is called the critical chain. The Critical Chain Method (CCM) is a way of planning and managing projects that puts the main emphasis on the resources required to execute project tasks. A critical chain tends to keep the resources levelly loaded, but it requires them to be flexible in their start times and to quickly switch between tasks and task chains to keep the whole project on schedule. Dependencies used to determine the critical chain include both logical, hands-off dependencies (where the output of the predecessor task is required to start the successor) and resource dependencies (where a task has to wait for a resource to finish work on another task). The identification of the critical chain uses a network of tasks with "aggressive but achievable" estimates that is first "resource leveled" against a finite set of resources. What is resource leveling in project management? It's the act of adjusting the start or end dates of a project based on resource constraints. Involve your team in the planning process. The people doing the work should be actively involved in scheduling.  They're motivated to get it right. They have the skills to understand the dependencies, and they need to accept the schedule. It also is helpful to involve your stakeholders and clients. They can provide you with valuable insights on when they need the project to be completed, etc. When choosing project management software to build your project plan and your critical path, keep in mind that the application should give your team members and clients an opportunity to contribute to the plan.  It also is important to continue team involvement throughout the project lifecycle.  Constant communications with your team will provide valuable information on bottlenecks, leaves of absence (planned or unplanned), and other issues that may arise during the project that may impact the critical path and overall project schedule. Iterate your plan. With the traditional approach, tasks usually should be completed one after another in an orderly sequence, so that a significant part of the project or even the whole project should be planned upfront. Traditional project management practices are geared toward examples of project assumptions that events affecting the project are predictable and that activities are well-understood. In addition, once a phase is complete, it often is assumed that the phase will not be revisited. Very often, this approach proves to be not very effective, taking into consideration the level of uncertainty on many business projects. Iterative planning is an approach borrowed from Agile project management. The Agile approach consists of many rapid, iterative planning and development cycles, allowing a project team to constantly evaluate the evolving product and obtain immediate feedback from customers or stakeholders. The team learns and improves its working methods during each successive cycle. After a streamlined planning and requirements definition phase is completed to get the project underway, iterations of more detailed planning and requirements take place in waves. So for example, it can be helpful to organize your plans into time-bound iterations, usually two to four weeks in length. During those iterations, you and your team focus only on one part of your project and do everything to take this part from an idea to a reality. This approach allows for immediate modifications in the project as requirements come into view. With iterative planning, portions of the project are delivered on a regular, frequent basis. This gives stakeholders a much better idea of the status of the project because they can see and may be even use the end result of each phase as it becomes available. Iterations make your schedule more realistic and allow you to better ensure your project’s success, as well as its delivery on time and on budget. Even with more traditional waterfall project management, opportunities to break down deliverables into stages can provide iterative benefits to the stakeholders and reduce overall project delivery risk. Move tasks that involve risks closer to the start of your project. All projects have activities with potential risks that can lead to problems or delays. Some of these can be averted or reduced through advanced planning. This is always a better approach and carries a greater chance of project success, compared to relying on crisis management. Identify the most risky tasks on your project. These will need your special attention.  If you manage to complete them earlier, you’ll be able to ensure your project’s success earlier. Therefore, putting these tasks closer to the beginning of your critical path, if this is possible, is highly recommended. When your critical path is delayed, you need to check the plan and see whether there are any tasks that can be completed a little earlier. It’s also often a good idea to communicate it clearly to stakeholders that your project may be delayed, along with reasons for the original deferral and the actions you’ll take to compensate for it. If the delay is unavoidable, you have to make a decision and consult with stakeholders about whether to deliver later than the due date or to reduce the scope of the work to be on time. This will change your initial critical path. Leverage technology to save time and make your project planning more efficient.  If your projects have parallel activities, doing the scheduling calculations for the critical path method is quite laborious and feels like using pen and paper, instead of calculators, to do math, especially if you consider the fact that frequent updates to the schedule will force you to recalculate things. For large and complex projects, there’ll be thousands of activities and dependency relationships that need to be up-to-date. Fortunately, there is relatively inexpensive, Web-based project management software that can handle this with ease on the “pay as you go” basis. Project management applications, like desktop-based Microsoft Project or Web-based Wrike.com, will help you visualize your project schedule in the form of a Gantt chart and draw dependencies between your tasks. Such a tool will automatically calculate your project’s end date, as well as the length of your project. The tools also will help you identify the tasks that will not be on the critical path. Additionally, some of these software applications will allow you to easily reschedule your tasks as your project develops. You’ll be able to put the tasks on the path and take them off it easily. You’ll also be able to move whole task chains on the chart, according to your real project conditions. The Gantt chart you’ve seen above is an approximate schedule for our sample project created in an online tool, Wrike.com. Web-based tools focused on collaboration can be more useful when you work on a team. They allow your team members to update the schedule, making it realistic. This way, you immediately see the progress and changes on your project, without having to pull the information from your team members and put it into the project plan manually by yourself. You also may get the benefit of more realistic time estimates for future projects as the people who are doing the work are updating the tasks themselves, instead of relying on a project manager to estimate work and record actual completion dates. I hope you find these tips useful. Do you have your own tips and tricks on how to make project planning more efficient? Please post them in the comments!

Planning a Project: the Problem of Telling What’s Important
Project Management 5 min read

Planning a Project: the Problem of Telling What’s Important

You’ve read and heard it so many times: “Efficient project planning is vital for your project’s success.” However, when you’re dealing with a complex project, building an effective project schedule may be really hard, to say the least. You have to first create a long list of tasks that should be completed to deliver the project, then assign team members to these tasks and also make sure you pay special attention to tasks that are critical for project success. Very often, identifying the tasks that need special attention turns out to be the trickiest part of the planning job. Another big challenge may be to differentiate between the tasks that should be completed first and assignments that can be delayed without delaying the whole project. Are you familiar with this problem? If yes, then you should be familiar with its consequences. When you cannot identify the most important tasks, you’ll end up focusing on the wrong parts of your project work.  While you’re busy with things that are less important, critical tasks will be missed, and your project will be late. Project delays may need budget extensions. Your stakeholders may be unhappy about that. I have met many project managers who have faced these difficulties, so if you’re finding it tough to tell what’s important on a project, you’re not alone. I also have heard a lot of stories of how project leaders managed to overcome such problems. This is the first post in a series that consolidates what I learned from my colleagues and my own experience in project planning. Diagnosis: See the Warning Signs To cure a disease, you should first analyze the patient’s current condition. The problem of telling what’s important on a project has distinct symptoms. Here are some of them: •    You’re not confident in determining which tasks should be completed first and which can wait a little longer. •    You don’t know which tasks you need to prioritize, and you keep changing priorities on the go. •    Your team is unsure about what tasks they should be working on and complete first, so they try to do everything simultaneously. This leads to unproductive multitasking and a lot of stress in the group. •    You don't know the external dependencies that affect work on your project. •    Parts of your project get delayed, and this jeopardizes your project’s success. Cure: Mix Standard Methods with Unconventional Approaches There are standard project management methodologies to define the most important tasks. One of them, critical path analysis (CPA), is a popular method and a powerful tool that helps you schedule and manage complex projects. Building a critical path will help you identify the tasks that should be completed on time and the ones that you can delay without jeopardizing or delaying the whole project. CPA also allows you to identify the minimum length of time needed to complete a project. The path acts as the basis for schedule preparation and resource planning. When managing a project, it allows you to monitor the progress toward meeting the deadlines. It helps you to see where remedial action needs to be taken to get a project back on course. Another benefit of using CPA within the planning process is to help you develop and better understand the constraints and dependencies in your project. Critical Path Analysis usually is used together with a Gantt chart, as this chart clearly visualizes your project schedule. To simplify and energize the planning process, you can leverage the latest project management technologies that will help you build your critical path and create a structured plan. Software applications that have Gantt charts with task dependencies can be extremely useful in defining clear task sequences. They also will save you time when you need to adjust your schedule due to changes in the project. However helpful the traditional critical path method may be in theory, applying it in practice may involve quite a few challenges. These can be only dealt with when you employ your creative thinking and use some unconventional approaches. Read my next post to find out how this can be done on your project. Meanwhile, if you have interesting stories of how you managed to overcome your difficulties in planning a project, I encourage you to share them in the comments below.

New Wrike Calendars: A Unifying, Real-time Window Across Your Business
News 5 min read

New Wrike Calendars: A Unifying, Real-time Window Across Your Business

Whether you're planning marketing campaigns and events or launching new products, Wrike Calendars help you plan, visualize, and share your work.

5 Most Common Mistakes in Managing Multiple Projects: Project Planning (Part 2 of 5)
Project Management 3 min read

5 Most Common Mistakes in Managing Multiple Projects: Project Planning (Part 2 of 5)

Once you fail to keep your project plans updated, you fail to monitor and influence the progress of any of your projects.

How to Develop a Process Improvement Plan
Project Management 5 min read

How to Develop a Process Improvement Plan

A process improvement plan is beneficial for teams looking to streamline their workflows and boost productivity. Learn how Wrike can help you create one today.

Using Wrike's API to Calculate Project Budgets
Project Management 5 min read

Using Wrike's API to Calculate Project Budgets

  As a creative digital marketing agency, Rotterdam-based Pixelfarm has been using Wrike for over a year to manage daily project work ranging from Facebook campaigns to website/mobile apps to creative pitches. Because some projects require a quick turnaround, Pixelfarm chose Wrike as their main project management tool. The efficient and fast workflow in Wrike allows them to switch, assign, and track tasks for a project and easily keep track of the time spent working. But Pixelfarm wanted to utilize Wrike further by integrating budgeting and account management to get an even more efficient workflow. Integrating BARN with Wrike Previously, Pixelfarm had been using Google Drive to create and log project estimates and then Dropbox to store customer files. They then wanted to combine these two services with the task management capabilities of Wrike. “We had all these different tools and platforms but unfortunately there was no perfect integration for our needs," says Stephan de Graaf, Digital Strategist at Pixelfarm. "Using the API from Wrike, Dropbox, and Google Drive we had a chance to offer our clients a great experience, cut back on the hours spent managing projects, and gain more time to do work." They developed their own platform called BARN: a system where the agency’s clients can log in to find their latest project files and track progress. But more importantly, it allows Pixelfarm to automatically generate projects in Wrike based on their project planning. It also creates project summaries using Wrike's time tracker which records time spent, and therefore overall costs. Now Pixelfarm spends less time creating and assigning projects. By integrating Wrike financial management into BARN, their workflow is much smoother. This is how it works: An account manager begins by creating new project estimates in BARN. A Google spreadsheet is generated based on a chosen template, and the account manager fills out task names, descriptions, responsible staff, time estimated, and predicted costs. Once a client approves the project plan and budget, the account manager clicks "Convert to Project" in BARN. By calling up Wrike's API, BARN immediately generates a project folder and pre-filled tasks in Wrike using the information stored in the Google spreadsheet. It also automatically creates a Dropbox folder for client deliverables. For the duration of the project, team members use Wrike's timer feature to track the time they spend on this new project. BARN automatically stores that information in the original Google spreadsheet. Once a project is completed, the PM clicks "Close Project" in BARN. This marks the Wrike task as complete, collects the timer information, calculates the project cost for the client, and creates an end report. It keeps these reports in a spreadsheet so Pixelfarm can gain insight into their overall performance. BARN then sends a notification to the financial administrators so they know the project is ready to be invoiced. With their BARN platform successfully integrating Wrike, Google Drive, and Dropbox, Pixelfarm has custom-built an efficient way to track project budgets and keep their clients up to date. Future Plans “Of course this is just the first step,” says de Graaf. "The way we set up BARN right now allows for a whole new way of working. For example, we’re already using an online service for invoicing and they have an API, so we can quite easily implement automatic invoicing. That would mean that when we close a project, an invoice is automatically generated and sent off to the client. Integrating bug tracking, implementing Google Analytics’ API to generate campaign statistics, and creating a mobile app for our clients are also high on our list of priorities.” BARN has been a way to add more value to Pixelfarm's core services and products. By integrating Wrike's useful API, they have been able to build a tool perfect for their team. We're pleased to be the connecting tissue between all the vital organs, helping this team provide great service for their clients.