As part of managing the project, the project manager lists down the tasks and estimates the time needed for each task. Then he prepares the project schedule. In the project schedule, apart from assigning resources to the project, the start date and end date of all tasks are input and the deadlines are finalized for all tasks. It is important to set the deadlines correctly for all tasks so that there are no overlaps, no dependency issues and there is enough time for all tasks to be done and at the same time, team members do not remain idle. Usually the project manager creates a Gantt Chart to schedule activities, assign resources and add deadlines. Let us look at some tools for managing deadlines –
Dynamic Scheduling in MS Project
MS Project is widely used for project management. If used correctly, it is a great tool to schedule the project. You can create a Gantt chart to list down tasks, assign resources and add start and finish dates for tasks. Dependencies and constraints for tasks can be added. A visual tool like a Gantt chart helps in getting a good overview of the tasks and their details. MS Project 2013 has a feature – ‘Deadline’. Once the project schedule is created, the user can add a column – ‘Deadline’ and add a date for the tasks. This date will be the deadline. The deadline can be a date after the finish date also in cases where the project manager has built in some lag. A deadline can be set for critical tasks different from the finish date for some flexibility. The actual start and end dates will be tracked in MS Project and if a task exceeds the deadline, a warning will appear on the plan thus alerting the project manager.
Manage Deadlines in JIRA
JIRA is a great management tool that is highly customizable. One can organize tasks, assign tasks, set deadlines and follow up with team members on tasks. It can be used for managing tasks in a project or manage bugs or even for purchase orders. JIRA can be used effectively to manage deadlines. Here are two ways to manage deadlines using JIRA –
- One can create filters in JIRA. For example, you can create a filter subscription for search results returned by a JQL query. You can set a JQL query to return all tasks for which deadlines are set for TODAY and if the result set is greater than 0, an email notification to be sent to your email.
- Another way JIRA can help in managing deadlines is to track estimates and get notified when the estimate time remaining is very less. You can create a search filter for all tasks for which remaining estimate is 6 hours for example and get the search results by email. This will help you stay on top of things in the project and can work around issues if any.
Use Trello to manage tasks’ completion
Trello is a great tool for project management where the project size is comparatively smaller and the project work is not fixed and can be dynamic. It is similar to having whiteboards and post-It notes. The difference is that it is web-based. It is based on Kanban, the Japanese tool used in supply chain management.
A project in Trello comprises of boards, lists and cards. A board is the space for a project. If there are distributed teams or different work packages, different boards may be set up for each. Each board has a list comprising of tasks and the lists have tasks defined in cards that are like post-it notes. Each card has details of the task such as members working on it, deadlines, description of the task, checklists etc. The card should have an actionable detailed task. For example, a high level task would be “Test Registration Module”. But this is not detailed enough. It can be broken down into tasks such as “Unit Testing – Registration Module”, “Integration Testing -Registration Module” and “System Testing – Registration Module”. The deadline for the task can be added by selecting from a calendar. A badge with a due date will appear. The deadlines are colour coded. If a card has more than 24 hours to the due date, it will be in light grey. A card that has less than 24 hours due will be in yellow and a card that is due today will be in red. This visual definition makes it easy for project members to see what is important to be completed. At the same time, notifications can be configured for boards and cards so that the relevant team members get alerted of deadlines and other information.
Comprehensive tool and widely used.
Good for small dynamic projects where requirements are not fixed.
There are many other tools that help the project manager manage deadlines. Depending on the project type, organization policies and team comfort levels, an appropriate tool can be used.