Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

Using a Time-Sequenced Network Diagram

~ By Dave Paradi

Man working with a laptop on the balcony at home

Almost every MS Project user is familiar with the Gantt chart as a graphical view. The problem with many Gantt charts is that when printed, they are so large that trying to follow the flow of tasks through the project for tracking is almost impossible. Also, the chart gets so cluttered if you try to display more than a few characteristics about the task, such as resource name or start date, so you don't always have to use a ruler to line up with the dates at the top of the diagram to figure out what date the task is supposed to start at. I suggest project managers instead use a time-sequenced network diagram to be able to track what needs to be done each day and how those tasks affect others in the project.

To create the time-sequenced network diagram, switch to the Network Diagram view in MS Project. The default view shows you a number of key pieces of information for each task and lines and arrows between the task boxes show the relationships. There are two things you will want to do to the default view in order to make it more useful.

First, the default view is not time sequenced, it is simply sequenced by how the tasks have been entered in the software. To generate a time-sequenced view, click on the Format menu and click on the Layout menu item. This will display the Layout dialog box. In the Arrangement drop down list, the default is "Top Down From Left" - change it to be "Top Down By Day." This will arrange all the tasks by start date from left to right, essentially creating a chart where there are columns of tasks with a timeline that flows from left to right.

The second change you will want to make is to the information shown in each task box. Make sure that you have the necessary information shown, such as start and end date, duration or work effort, resource, task name and others that may be important to you. To change the task boxes, click on the Format menu and click on the Box Styles menu item. This displays the Box Styles dialog box. The task box layout can be different for different categories of tasks, such as critical path tasks, milestones and so on. The arrangement of information is determined by the Data Template and by clicking on the More Templates button you can enter the area where you can modify a current template or create your own. Then select your new template for each task category you want to display in that way.

As a project manager, this diagram can be extremely useful for communicating the project to the team or sponsor. One client of mine prints out the time-sequenced network diagram on a large plotter and puts it up on the wall of the project room. For sponsor progress reports, the sponsor comes into the room, finds the current date in the diagram and puts their arm vertically up on the wall at that point on the diagram. Then they ask, "Is everything to the left of my arm done? If not, what are we doing about it?" This is a very powerful, clear way to check project progress and cuts through most of the muddy presentations and charts usually used for progress reporting.

As a project manager, by using a time-sequenced network diagram you can increase the clarity of team meetings because everyone will be clear on what they have to do this week and how, if they are late, other tasks will be impacted. Try using a time-sequenced network diagram in your next project and see how the clarity improves your ability to bring the project in on time and on budget.


David Paradi, senior associate of Business Improvement Architects, is an experienced facilitator and Project Leader. He specialises in the areas of Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic Planning. He has developed and facilitated workshops in a variety of industries and has led sessions ranging from project team kick-off meeting to a strategic planning off-site for senior management. David uses a process-oriented structured approach that is customised to help each client. For more information or to contact David email dparadi@bia.ca


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Enter the third letter of the word castle.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management

Three red dice reading: Manage your risk

The benefits of risk management in projects are huge. You can gain a lot of money if you deal with uncertain project events in a proactive manner.

The 8-Step Guide to Creating a Quality Project Schedule

Businessman with a Gantt chart

This article looks at a simple, practical approach to creating project schedules. After reading this article, you will have a sound approach to creating schedules that you can use for future projects.

PMP vs. PRINCE2 Certificates

Senior lecturer in front of his class

What's the difference between the PMP and PRINCE2 certifications? Which one should I choose? Which one's better for my career?

How Agile Practices Reduce Requirements Risks

Road warning sign - Risks Ahead

Every software project carries some risk, but many of these risks can be mitigated. That's true of problems related to product requirements.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Selestina Seyala Mandumbwa commented on…
How to Avoid Project Burnout
- Sat 20 April 8:32am

Tora L. commented on…
The Role of the Project Manager
- Tue 16 April 1:03pm

Quinsey Moyo commented on…
Top 10 Qualities of a Project Manager
- Mon 15 April 4:35pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Writing a CV for a Project Manager role https://t.co/yKHLVie1Dm about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Re: Recently passed the PMP exam. Read my story https://t.co/XCvxVpt1sc about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Re: Writing a CV for a Project Manager role https://t.co/uEzvcwb9tf about 4 days ago