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Working with Teamwork and Dependencies

If you work with Teamwork due dates in the right way your dependencies will update reliably.

Throughout my career I have been working towards the goal of getting teams and organisations to adopt the principles of collaboration that the modern web has made possible. For the most part this has been a successful, although at times, painful process.

Introducing collaboration in project management has been one of the more successful areas. The exposure of the plan and allowing people to engage with tasks and timelines is invaluable as it helps people to really understand how their individual activity can impact on the overall success of a project.

One of the tools that I have used to help project teams adopt collaborative approaches is Teamwork. I will post more on these specific experiences in a later article, but I wanted to share my recent use of this tool to support the delivery of hardware roll out project which had a lot of critical dependencies.

Normally when managing a project with a number of significant dependencies I will make use of Omniplan or Project to outline and maintain these relations and identify a critical timeline.

However the people involved with this work were spread across numerous teams, office locations, and all had varying degrees of experience of working with project management tools. Teamwork was the immediate answer as it was already in use within the organisation for other projects so the framework was ready to go and just needed a few new team members adding.

We captured the tasks in the normal way, quickly identifying specific areas of activity and associated tasks and subtasks. Resources were assigned and estimations of activity duration were carried out. This took a couple of hours to do, but once complete we had our tasks all with assigned resources but with no specific schedule yet in place. I find this to be the better way to do this when working with a group. It allows the ideas to flow as they are captured rapidly without needing to pause for people getting out their diaries and checking for availability.

Images of Teamwork task view

At this point I shift from the task list interface for capturing tasks, to the Gantt view for aligning activity with dates and assigning dependencies. I find this visual way of working with a timeline much more intuitive, as you can visualise the time periods clearly. Its also allows your to see the delivery end point getting further and further away as you start to link things together (very useful for team understanding).

Image of Teamwork Gantt view

Things progressed well, but as we went along the dependencies started to get more and more complex. Normally I would align dates as I went, but in this case I thought I would let the system push out the timeline for me as we identified more and more connections between the areas of work.

This is where we started to hit a problem, I noticed that in some instances dependency dates were being pushed out and in other circumstances the changes were not being deployed to associated tasks. I checked the all the necessary options were enabled, but eventually had to raise a ticket with the very helpful Teamwork support team. They were initially unable to replicate the problem, but after a couple of back and forth communications it appears that they were working with the product in a different way.

The support team were making all changes to the due dates for tasks within the task tab, and could see that the dependent tasks were updating as they would expect. However when I mentioned that I was making the changes within the Gantt interface they took this away for further investigation. After a short time they confirmed that using this approach did not work and notified me that they had raised this with the Development team to address.

I was still confused though, I had been working in the Gantt and it had worked correctly for some tasks but not for others, so what was going on?

After looking at my working behaviour I realised I was doing things slightly differently. In some instances I needed to open the task for more detailed editing from the Gantt, adding context and the like, and had tweaked the dates. It was in these instances that the dependencies were getting pushed out correctly, it turned out it was my mix of behaviours that were causing the patchy problems.

Once I had the reasons for the issue and a way to reliably update tasks to make things operate as I wished I changed the way I worked with the tool. As I am a habitual dual screen user, I opened the Gantt view and the task view on two browser tabs and shifted one to each screen. This then allowed me to visualise the project time line while updating the tasks in an interface that I knew would reliably roll out the changes across the dependencies.

I still find it a little surprising that the support team have not come across this more often as I would have thought the Gantt to be a popular way of interacting for users over management through calendars. At least now though I have a working process I can use reliably.

I hope that the dev team do roll out some changes to the Gantt aspect of the tool, especially now they have updated the other elements of the interface. Overall I think its an excellent tool for working with teams on less complex projects, and long may it continue to develop.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you with project management and making use of collaborative tools please feel free to contact me through this site or LinkedIn

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