Understand project timelines

In this video, you will learn about:

  • Basic project timeline management
  • Scheduling projects from the start or completion date
  • Task constraints
Project Manager Jennifer is managing the design and development of a website for Cruiser. Her organization uses project templates to build each project. There are immense benefits from using templates including settings for basic and repeatable timeline management success. In this video, you’ll learn basic project timeline management. To start the project off on the right foot, determine if you’ll schedule it from the start or completion date. Selecting from start date places start time of tasks as close to the project’s start date as possible. Choosing from completion places the start time of tasks as close to the project completion date as possible. Best practice is to schedule from the start date, even if you have a hard deadline. We’ll show you why throughout the session. We then select our start date. Now set the condition type, manual or progress status. Selecting manual allows the project manager to set the condition of the project manually. Selecting progress status allows Workfront to automatically update the condition of the project based on the condition of the project’s tasks. Let’s plan our project’s timeline. As you become a more advanced user in Workfront, you may find you want different information about your project on your project plan. In this case, I’m going to use the power of views to show some key timeline information that will help with decision making. I’m going to use a view called Constraint. This view includes the task name, who the task is assigned to, the duration of the task, planned hours, any predecessors, the planned start date, the planned completion date, and the constraint. The definition of duration is the window of time or opportunity during which a task should be completed. The definition for planned hours is the amount of effort or man hours required to accomplish the task. And predecessors allow you to sequence your task to determine which tasks need to start or finish before others. But why do they matter? All three impact the plan’s start date and completion dates for tasks in your project. For example, if I change the duration of the market research task, the due on date changes. If I add a predecessor to design and engineering, the start and due on dates change. As I input duration and predecessors for the entire project plan, the start and due on dates adjust dynamically. The best practice for planning your timeline is to manipulate the duration and predecessors to get the start or completion dates you need on your project. Your tendency when establishing your timeline will be to manually change dates. But what happens when you manually set start or completion dates on a task? When you manually change dates, you constrain the start or due on date. You’re telling the system to keep that date at all costs. When we manually change the completion date, it changed the task constraint from as soon as possible to must finish on. Task constraints tell Workfront how those dates will behave. If we manually edit a date, this tells Workfront we must start or finish on a particular date no matter what. When we decided to schedule our project from the start date, it automatically sets all of your tasks you create to as soon as possible. This loose constraint makes our timeline dynamic. If we need to tack on another week to a task, the entire project adjusts accordingly. No need to manually change all of your task dates. Be aware that your project templates may have constraints other than as soon as possible as the default. What happens when I want to push dates around by adjusting durations in my project now? It prevents dates from adjusting dynamically, because of these constraints. No longer are our dates scheduling as soon as possible. Bottom line, don’t constrain your tasks’ dates, otherwise you go back to manually changing your timeline. You’ve eliminated Workfront’s automating features. Let’s say I want to push back my projects start date beyond the dates of my current project. All tasks in my timeline with a constraint will ignore my predecessors and be set to the date closest to that constraint. For this project, all tasks with a constraint move to the new project’s start date. A lot of customers wonder how to manage timelines that do have hard dates. For example, my team has to have an asset built before our scheduled start date with a contractor or the campaign launch, date is X. If you have a hard deadline at the end of your project, still schedule from start date, but give the last task a constraint. Make sure you give your plan some buffer time to allow tasks to go over time, especially if that is normal, so your delivery dates are realistic. Something to consider is the difference between delivery dates and project end dates. If your delivery and project completion date are the same, then go ahead and use scheduled from completion date option. Be aware of how it works. All tasks have a task constraint of as late as possible now by default. As late as possible does not adjust start and end dates when you finish a task early. -
For a more complete explanation of duration types and task constraints see Understand and manage duration types and task constraints.