One of the tools I use often on projects is the DevOps integration with Excel in order to gain a better visual of To Do, In Progress and Done Tasks associated with each Product Backlog Item. The Azure Integration Tool for Office 2019 allows you to link your Excel Spreadsheet with your Azure DevOps Queries.
I wrote a post earlier in July 2019 about Smartsheet here and some of its features. After using Smartsheet for some time it is obvious that it has some benefits over Microsoft Project but it also has some limitations that may be a showstopper for you. I know for me that (at least on certain projects) it was. In this post I want to attempt to briefly unpack a key benefit and shortcoming so you can make an informed decision on which tool is right for you my fellow PMs.
So lets start with the main reason I am still using Microsoft Project. Resourcing. Resourcing. Resourcing. Smartsheet does not have a way to capture your resources(teams) capacity for the duration of the project for single user plan types. This means if your resources are not 100% resourced to your project you most likely will be sharing this person with another project manager and another project. You will need to know how many hours he or she is realistically available for each week so you can plan out how much work is likely to get done to meet your projects deliverables. With MS Project you are able to do this in the Resource Sheet view as well as the Resource Usage view which I personally find essential to planning project schedules effectively.
I am finding my self using MS Project to create my project plan then importing my MS project file(.mpp file) into Smartsheet(via the web browser) in order to gain a visual gantt that I am able to share with clients and stakeholders. Any change however to the project schedule I would then adjust in MS project and then re-import into Smartsheet. Not the best use of essentially two tools that are competing in the same market. This is time consuming but until the gap is bridged (or an Enterprise License is utilized at your organisation) between fully collaborative fully featured project planning tools for the single user I will continue to pursue extreme transparency and visibility with all clients and stakeholders by hacking together any tools available for the best outcome.
So have you been working on projects where some of your team members are in different time zones? I have. And its super annoying opening my outlook calendar and thinking to myself…okay, if I set a meeting at 13:00 then what time would it be in Sydney? (Being based in Wellington, New Zealand)
So here is a a super simple site that I found pretty useful that has a slider for selecting the current time and displays the time zones across different cities – https://everytimezone.com/
You often hear the phrase that it’s the little things that make a big difference. In this post I’m going to show you how a simple calculated field showing the number of days it has taken to resolve a Case can help you to quickly identify trends and pinpoint areas for service improvement.
First of all let’s create the field. To do this go to your solution, navigate to the Case entity and select Add Field.
I’m going to call the field No. Days to Resolve. Data type is decimal number and it’s a calculated field.
Once the field has been saved, I need to setup the calculation. In the calculation, I want to set a condition to only perform the calculation for Cases that have a status of Resolved.
Moving onto the calculation, I want to calculate the difference in days between the Created On date and Modified On date.
Once that’s done I can save and close the calculation form.
Now I can add the field to the Case form and Resolved Cases view so users can easily see how long it has taken to resolve a Case.
Something to point out here is that this calculation is the total number of calendar days it has taken to resolve a Case i.e. not number of working days. This may not be ideal for everyone but personally, given the level of insight this field can provide, I think it’s good enough.
Now the real power of this field is when I start to use for analysis. The dashboard below gives you some examples of how I’ve used this field generate insights into service level performance.
If we take the example of Average No. of Days to Resolve by Owner, straight away this chart highlights that there’s a big difference in resolution timescales for each team member which prompts the following questions:
Do we need to do more training with certain team members?
Is there inconsistency in our case resolution process i.e. is each team member dealing with cases in their own way rather than following a defined process?
Are some team members perhaps cherry picking easier cases to work on?
Are we assigning certain Case types to the wrong subject matter experts?
You see just how many questions this one example has prompted! These are questions I might not have considered without the data being in front of me. Now I can start to dig deeper into the data, find the answers to my questions and use that to drive continuous service improvement.
There’s so much more you can do but I hope that this has shown you just how useful a simple calculated field can be in helping you to pinpoint areas for service improvement.
Recently I have tried out Smartsheet on one of my projects. To sum it up, it is a web based collaborative project management tool similar to Microsoft project with a few noticeable differences straight off the shelf. Check it out here: https://www.smartsheet.com/.
When you create a Case in Dynamics 365 the Case has a Created On date which is useful for determining how old a Case is. However, what I find more useful is using a simple out of the box tool called Calculated Fields to calculate and display the number of days a Case has been open. The reason I prefer this is it’s a nice simple, but meaningful, visual for Customer Service Representatives and Customer Service Managers. They can use this field to help them quickly hone in on those Cases that have maybe been open for a while and understand why they are still open.
To setup this calculation I need to create two new fields:
A ‘Today’ field which displays today’s date
A ‘No. Days Open’ field which calculates the difference in days between today’s date and the Case Created On date
To create the fields I go to my solution and edit the Case entity.