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
Is it true or false that twenty is a number?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Top 10 Qualities of an Excellent Manager

The word excellent on a virtual interface with a businessman standing behind it

What are the most important qualities of an excellent manager that allows them to tap into talents and resources in order to support and bring out the best in others.

Project Planning Essentials

Tablet computer with project manager app and documents with Gantt and financial charts

Planning a project requires putting a series of tasks in order and determining dependencies between them. In practice it's never so straightforward.

Is Project Management Certification Worth It?

University students in a classroom watching a presentation

Do recognised professional credentials increase your worth in the jobs market? Will the effort of studying to pass the exam improve your career prospects?

But What is Best for the Customer?

Four business people's hands holding puzzle pieces

Ideally our project management methodology in a box process works perfectly for everyone. But clients come in all types and sizes and one size doesn't fit all.

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

Michelle Lim commented on…
PMP Exam Day Tips
- Thu 15 August 11:53pm

Michelle Lim commented on…
PMP Exam Day Tips
- Thu 15 August 11:51pm

Stanford Komba commented on…
Project Planning a Step by Step Guide
- Mon 12 August 2:07am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Project Plan https://t.co/4HsDgia1BH about 7 days ago

RT @NestorAlemanPM: @ProjectSmart Reading the question posted in the link attached, where a fresh engineering graduated would like to work… about 14 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Future Project Manager Needs Advice https://t.co/2FK1KgbhYk about 15 days ago