Welcome to the part 3 (final part) of the LibrePlan review series. On part 1 we learn how to install and configure LibrePlan, in addition we also established our case study. On part 2 we showed you how to configure the application globally, set the calendars and prepare the team resources. Today we will actually create the plan and finish off with concluding pros and cons, enjoy!
Creating our Work Breakdown Structure
Normally the first thing that we need to think about are the tasks and their dependencies. So login into your LibrePlan installation and from the main screen click on Projects List. It’ll be empty since we haven’t got any project yet.
Press the add project button and define our project data. You can get LibrePlan auto-generate codes for your projects too, but in this case I’ll define the project code manually.
When you have entered the Name, Code and Customer, press Accept and you’ll be greeted with the default Work Breakdown Structure screen. Make sure you select the correct calendar as defined in the last post. Otherwise all the information here is editable from the General Data tab.
So now let’s try adding a couple tasks that we would likely do when we create online shop.
Groups in the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) window is basically started as a normal task. This is similar to what you would have to do in Ms Project.
So let’s add the Graphic design group stage and their tasks. In this instance my graphic design work group will consist of the welcome page, product listing, single products listing, checkout process and order confirmation design. We’ll define those as separate tasks. In order to make sure that they are under the graphic design group all we have to do is indent the task one level below the graphic design group.
To sum it up, we should enter these tasks below. Now again, this is an exercise to demonstrate what LibrePlan can do. A real plan would have been much more detailed than these tasks below. Also yes, in this case study, we have decided to use an out of the shelve open source online store application, therefore we can assume not much development is required for the admin and accounts side of things.I hope that illustrates the way we add tasks into the WBS listing. To move further we should add more groups and tasks so that our example project looks more real.
- Stage 1: Graphic Design
- Welcome page
- Products listing
- Product details
- Checkout process
- Order confirmation
- Design presentation
- Final design sign-off
- Stage 2: Development
- User Interface Development
- Design slicing and static HTML mock-up
- Main CSS definitions
- Responsive mock-up
- Welcome page design integration
- Products listing design integration
- Product details design integration
- Shipping selections design integration
- Payment selections design integration
- Confirmation design integration
- User account design integration
- Core Application Development
- Customisation of open source online store application
- Shipping logic integration
- Payment gateway integration
- User Interface Development
- Stage 3: Testing
- High level
- Product display and listing
- Shipping modules
- Payment gateways
- Order confirmation
- Customer account settings
- Admin reporting
As you can see from the above picture, things are starting to shape up. Now the only thing that we have to do is insert the hours listing. See the picture below for the completed listing with hours. I will ignore budget for the time being as it’s beyond the scope of this series.Now notice that some of the tasks above will have some dependencies. It’s easiest to link the dependencies from the project scheduling view.
Assigning Team Members
Now that we have all the tasks listed we will assign our team members to each of the tasks. To do this, move to the project scheduling mode and expand all the groups.
In addition, to make things easier I have enabled the show resources mode.
You’ll see all of the tasks that we have defined previously with tiny little bar. Don’t worry, it’s normal. As we assign the correct team members the task length will then be calculated automatically.
Assigning resource to the task is pretty straightforward too, simply type the name of the person and LibrePlan will autocomplete it.
Once you press add, you’ll see that the task now have a correct bar length. All we have to do now is follow through and do the same with the rest of the project items.
Managing Dependencies and Task Resource Load
What we just did in the previous section is assigning designers and developers to the specific tasks with no regards to dependencies or their load. Obviously one person cannot do more than one tasks in parallel unless they are only working at certain percentage each, which makes things complicated. LibrePlan actually tells us about load problems on the bar at the bottom of the Gantt chart.
So in order to avoid having this issue we need to schedule so that one person’s task happens after another.
Firstly, let’s make sure that the stages are happening one after another. To do this, simply right click at the end of the stage boundary and select add dependency. Then choose the stage that it depends on. I think this is very useful for proper planning.
Lastly, for simple project like this, we’ll just put the task dependencies depending on who’s doing what. This way our resource allocation will be correct and we’ll get the proper estimated dates. Again, this is similar with assigning the group dependencies. Simply right-click on task and add the dependencies to the next task. See the picture below for the completed dependencies assignments.
As you can see, modifying the dependencies automatically modified the schedules and load. We can be sure there is no overload because there are no orange indications in the load graph.
One of the most important things that we want to track in a project is our progress. In order to do so we will need to assign percentage complete for each of the task as it moves forward. Let’s just say for the sake of this article that the Welcome page task has been done by roughly 30%. To assign this all we have to do is right click on the task bar and click on Progress Assignment. You’ll be greeted with the progress assignment page and you can add a measurement and its value. The beauty of this is that we can actually assign different measurements other than percentage should we choose to do so.
Since I want to show the progress reports and tracking screen, I will make a couple task to be 100% completed. so that we can see some changes in the overall project progress. So you don’t need to be too pedantic with the percentage calculations.
To see the overall project performance and metrics such as total hours required, etc; navigate back to the Project Details screen. As mentioned above, we want to see how many percentages this project has progressed after modifying the Progress Assignment. Click on the Progress tab to see the total percentage progress of the project. At this point we can see that we have 5.90% complete out of the whole project.
In a real project you will definitely see a graph in the progress evolution area. This is one of the helpful indicator of how the project is tracking.
LibrePlan supports vast array of reporting options. You can explore their reporting features from the Reports tab. In order to maximise the usage of the reports, we need to input all the correct project progress information, which of course we do not have in our example.
Pros:To conclude this LibrePlan series I’d like to close up with a couple pros and cons of this tool.
- Free open source product.
- Great gantt chart which is very usable unlike other tools that I have tried. This is actually very close to what Microsoft Project can do.
- Very flexible global configuration. Basically we can customise this tool to suit almost any type of projects, for example: it can measure machine resources, track progress in units, etc.
- Very flexible reporting tool. There are vast amount of reporting options that we can make use of.
- Truly online project management tool, with the ability to give user logins to each of the team members.
- Easy installation on popular Linux servers.
- Moderate community support is available from ask.libreplan.org
- The application can be resource intensive at times. Decent server hardware is expected to run this application.
- Reply for questions in the forum (http://ask.libreplan.org/) can be a bit slow, but obviously this depends on the uptake of this project. Hopefully by doing this article more people will be interested.
- The application can be unstable at times. Therefore save often, especially when there are racing conditions; such as two persons modifying the same task at the same time.
Looking at the pros and cons above, I personally can suggest anyone to give this project management tool a go. There should be nothing stopping anyone from trying this, simply install the application on a virtual machine and try it on a smaller scale projects. Lastly, implementing this tool will cost so much less than any other commercial tools such as Office 365 in my opinion; especially if you are running a small project team.
Hopefully this three part series help giving you ideas about your next project management tool. Stay tuned for more interesting articles. Until next time!libreplan, project management