Looking for the how-to guide on the scheduling feature? Click here.
Examples from clients
A large agency building business applications for large enterprises:
- Has about 40 projects running at the same time. Projects are usually between 300 to 2000 hours.
- Would use allocations to set the team on projects, and make sure that they, in bulk, have enough available resources for their project pipeline.
- Uses sprint planning on projects for short term planning.
- Makes sure no resource is above 60% allocated to projects, because of the need to reserve 20% of their time for support and maintenance tasks. This can be planned on a day-to-day basis using the card scheduling view. The remaining 20% is the buffer for internal tasks and drinking coffee.
A medium-sized digital agency specialized in websites for SMEs:
- Has over 150 projects running at the same time. Has a subscription model and hosts their customers' websites.
- Uses the templating ability of Forecast. Upon a project creation, the user can select a predetermined template, with a set workflow and already estimated tasks. This model works well for repeatable work, e.g. Large, medium, and small websites.
- Uses card scheduling to distribute the cards from the template to available resources.
- Doesn’t use allocations at all, because projects are small (max. 100 hours) and very similar to each other.
- Distributes support tickets from the card’s scheduling, where they use the unassigned cards as their total company backlog.
Can Forecast schedule waterfall and agile?
Yes. In fact, Forecast lets you do both, even in the same project - if you need it. That's because many of our clients’ projects start out with an agile phase; where they, together with their client, decide on a statement of work (SOW). When the SOW is agreed the project might convert into something very waterfall-like, with a clear defined set of requirements (e.g., high-definition wireframes) and milestones.
Remember, Forecast’s Customer Success team is always happy to point you in the right direction and available for sparring sessions - free of charge!
Project planning examples
Let me show you two examples that, combined, are quite good explainers of the scheduling features in the platform. I will start out by planning a waterfall project, and afterwards show the planning process of a typical agile project.
First, you scope your project. Scoping is the activity of defining some tasks, putting estimations to these tasks and arranging them with logical milestones. Milestones and cards provide two levels of grouping for your work, but you can simulate an extra one by choosing to have sub-tasks inside a task (you can do this in project settings). You can also convert sub-tasks into cards, if you desire.
Below, you see that I have divided all of my cards into four buckets of work, or milestones. The granularity level of the tasks is entirely up to you.
Some companies choose to scope in larger cards, and allow the assigned resource to breakdown the work into smaller bits further down the line.
Others just scope in small bits from the very start, by defining and estimating cards in a precise manner, or use a t-shirt sizing system with relative sizing. Forecast can support all types of scoping and estimation techniques, and also provides the user with the choice of estimating in hours or story points.
If you fold out a milestone you will see all cards in the milestone. You easily add new cards in the milestone using the action icon at the bottom of the milestone.
In order for a card to be part of your budget (and workflow) it needs to be approved by someone with the correct rights (Admin, PM). Cards that are not approved will show in the milestones, but are not visible in the rest of the system.
From here I can actually navigate to each card and see the detailed description, subtasks, comments, files, etc.
Each milestone has a start- and end date. These are set by you! Therefore, the first thing you do, is to set a start- and end date for all the milestones, and all cards in the milestone will inherit the start- and end date of the milestone, and will keep it until you actively go to the card and set another start or/and end-date. Setting deadlines can be done in many ways, but the easiest is to use the Timeline feature, because there you can see the context of the task as well, i.e. the order of other tasks. More about the timeline later.
Roles in Forecast are defined as to what function a resource performs in a project. You can assign a role to a card, and that will define what type of work it is (i.e. Development, Design) and most importantly, defines the rate at which that card will be billed to the client.
If you are an agency scoping a project in order to make a, hopefully winning, proposal, then the AI engine, together with the rate card selected for the project, will set a price that is aligned with your risk aversion and willingness to win.
The Forecast AI team is also working on an algorithm that, based on your roles input, will propose a draft plan for your project based on your organization's current resource capacity. This is set to be released to beta-testers by early 2018.
But let’s return to the next step of this particular project - setting your team.
You might already know, because you know your resources on your backbone, who to put on this project and if they are available. But if you don’t then Forecast can help you. For this, we have Quick Booking and the People scheduling view.
First, you need a good view on your need for resources. If you are a "numbers person", you get this on the project budget page. (Choose the hours tab and view by roles - filter option found in the top right corner), but if you are more visually oriented (like me) the best way to set your team is to navigate to the Scheduling tab and use the Projects Overview to staff your project.
Expand your project, hover each of the milestones to see what roles you need for how many hours, and click on the milestone to prompt the Quick booking feature.
The Quick booking feature can also be prompted from the People scheduling view. Here it's more evident who is available.
- Tip 1 - use the filter and filter by role or skill.
- Tip 2 - Get two screens on your desk. It's awesome to have the Projects overview on one screen, and the People scheduling screen on another screen.
Great - Elisabeth is available. Book her.
You can now click on your booking and see further details. Here is also where you can make changes to how she distributes her time on the project, e.g. keep Fridays free for other stuff. As you can see, she is now allocated to the project for 192 hours, which, according to the Project overview is the needed amount of hours.
After allocating her into the project for a certain number of hours, we can then switch views and assign her to all of the designer cards for that project. We can do this by navigating to the “viewing cards” in the top right toolbar, opening the unassigned drawer in the far right, and filtering the backlog of cards by project and role. All the remaining cards are the designer cards and we can place them into our chosen designer Elizabeth’s slot. Do the same procedure for the rest of the project team and you will end up with a fully allocated and assigned project. We are also working on new releases that will put even more automation and intelligence into this area of your process.
Another thing you can see in the People Schedule is whether your resources are overloaded with work, or the opposite, and you can adjust their workload accordingly.
You can also assign cards to people on the cards themselves, but this might be a more time-consuming effort, if you are to do the full team at once.
You now have your team ready for the project, but we haven’t decided on the order the tasks have to be dealt with.
The Timeline feature can be used to fine plan your waterfall project. It can be found by navigating back to the project and selecting Timeline from the left hand side menu. Planning your work over a timeline ensures that you do tasks in the right order, and that it's aligned with the overall milestone's deadline.
In the cards scheduling view you can filter on the project, and see your project team over the period you choose when zooming. What you are looking for is red blocks, meaning they have too much work, or all white space, meaning too little to do.
Below, it’s quite clear to see that PM Kasper has too much work on his plate in the week shown, and that your other three resources on the project have too little to do. You can resolve this by packing your tasks better.
Forecast will alert you if you schedule them outside the milestone dates, but a good tip on waterfall projects is to have two screens open. One showing the overall card schedule, and the other showing the project's timeline. Refresh the timeline screen when you have done some repacking, and see the result on your Gantt-chart.
That way you have a well planned project, and a clear view of when you might need some assistance from other resources, or when you can lend your resources to other projects in the company.
The agile project follows a similar process to the waterfall project.
- Scope your project by using the project scoping tab.
- Some companies don’t use scoping in agile projects, and go directly to just booking a SCRUM team for three sprints at a time. In that case you start at step 2.
- Find resources according to the needs of the project and their availability and book them in Project Scheduling.
- In the waterfall project you would now go to the Timeline and move cards and milestones around, but in agile projects you instead navigate to the Sprint page on the Left Hand Side menu.
In this case, the settings of the project dictates that sprints run over 14 days. At our team in Forecast, we use weekly sprints. The length of the sprint is up to you, so is the name. On the left drawer, you can find the prioritized backlog of the project. Everything is drag and drop, and you are able to see when your sprint reaches it’s maximum capacity.
The card will get the start- and end date of the sprint.
- You can now go to the card scheduling view, and see if your team overall has too much or too little to do in general. However, plenty of organisations just plan sprints without assigning cards to any particular person. In these cases the resource would just apply a filter in the workflow to see what is in the current sprint, and then just grab the card at the top if it falls within their skillset.
- We recommend that you take a look at the overall card schedule view every day, because, even in an agile organisation, resources can also run into idle time.
These were just two examples on how to use Forecast to plan a project. Coming soon, there will be an article on how to deal with firefighting (e.g. support tickets), and also a practical example of a blended project, where agile is used at first and then it's followed by a waterfall approach.
Until then, reach out to us via the chat. We are always happy to help.