Your project communications must have impact


Clear communications are fundamental for success

The lifeblood of successful projects, according to experts, is clear communication. But, communicating project plans, current status, or results to team members, executives, clients and other stakeholders can be a roadblock for many project managers. A clear Gantt-style timeline can display project status and future plans in a visually impactful way. It can display the long-term overview or a close-up of potential points of concern. Communicating these points clearly is vital to the relationships with all stakeholders. It can help to set expectations and enable agreements.

What does your project’s timeline look like?

A clear, professional Gantt-style chart displaying the important points of the project can be created easily and quickly using the Office Timeline Plus timeline maker in PowerPoint. Office Timeline Plus is an easy-to-use tool which can import the critical data needed from sources including Microsoft Project, Excel, Smartsheet and Wrike. The intuitive layout helps you create an impressive visual that will be interesting and immediately understandable.

Clear professional Gantt Chart


Expert advice tells us that extra attention needs to be taken to ensure that the relevance of the visuals used matches that of the audience. Think of their needs and fight the urge to include anything else but the most critical and valuable data. Scrutinize each element to avoid the possibility of overwhelming your audience. As in all presentations, you are addressing the stakeholder in the last row, as well as the one in front. Is your visual having the same effect to them? Office Timeline Plus provides the ability to enhance or hide any timeline element for its greatest impact on everyone alike.

Customizing your visual

Office Timeline has powerful features for customizing the style of your visual so that it delivers the message you want with an elegant, quickly understood timeline.

Use color and scale: Displaying the information with distinct colors or shapes for emphasis can be impactful in its brevity. The size and color of a taskbar or milestone can indicate the importance, the requirements, or the function of a specific task, component, or group. This simple method of communicating vital information can be created in minutes with stunning, easily digestible, and professional results using Office Timeline Plus.

Customizing Visual Timeline


Use differing timescales: Long-running projects are important to be displayed in their entirety but also need to be shown in close-up to address immediate issues and concerns.

Different Timescale Project Timeline


Avoid all that data: You have plenty of it but leave the details off the presentation. Less is truly more for a presentation with impact. Your audience can easily understand the relationships and time commitments allocated to tasks and their respective milestones, even without dates or long, descriptive titles. Keep the use of these to a minimum.

Minimal Details Presentation Timeline


Use templates for professional results

Keeping it simple doesn’t apply only to the final slide, it means spending less time in creating the slide. Templates are invaluable in this respect. Office Timeline Plus provides several templates designed for different industries, interests, or style preference that will kickstart your timeline creation and are easy to customize for your specific audience. The templates will give you plenty of ideas on how to design this visual for maximum Impact.

Professional Timeline Templates


Office Timeline Plus improves communication results

Using Office Timeline Plus will dramatically improve your communications with your entire project team and the project’s various stakeholders. Office Timeline Plus is a powerful add-in for PowerPoint which imports and converts data from multiple sources into elegant, professional timelines that will be remembered by colleagues, executives, clients, and other stakeholders in your projects.

Try Office Timeline Plus for free


Useful Resources:

Pincello Quick Start Tips

Office Timeline Quick Start Tutorial


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

The Easy Way to Make Gantt Charts and Timelines on a Mac


Most timeline and Gantt chart maker software available in the market today has been developed for MS Windows, leaving Mac users with few options and less choice. Professionals working on Macs may have a difficult time organizing and communicating their project plans and schedules because of this. Constantly switching to a Windows PC to use timeline software or using a virtual machine is frustrating and time consuming.

Instead of using desktop software, an online Gantt chart maker such as Pincello may be a better solution for Mac users who need to regularly build, update and present project timelines or other visual plans to clients and executives.

Gantt Chart for Mac

Free, accessible software that anyone can use

Accessible on both Mac and Windows, Pincello is a free web-based timeline maker that enables users to create unique project visuals and manage them straight in their browser, without having to install anything on their machines. Besides making it easier for anyone to get started, an online application also allows professionals to adhere to IT department restrictions for installing new software or important updates.


Build beautiful timelines and Gantt charts instantly

To start building Gantt charts, Mac users simply need to access the free timeline maker at https://pincello.officetimeline.com/ and enter the key milestones or tasks of their project using the app’s intuitive interface. Pincello will automatically generate a graphic out of the data, which can then be fully customized and updated online or shared with just a few clicks.

Timeline maker Mac free


To save time and effort, professionals can also use Pincello’s Import feature to load an existing plan or schedule from Excel and instantly turn it into a clear, uncomplicated timeline or Gantt chart. This can be a useful feature for Mac users, who often need to keep their plans in Excel because of compatibility issues with popular Windows-specific management and planning apps.

Use this simple Excel plan template to see how easy it is to import spreadsheets into Pincello.


Pre-built templates to jump-start timeline creation

With Pincello, project planners and business professionals don’t need to be experts in design or data visualization techniques in order to create impressive graphics. The online tool comes with a series of elegant Gantt chart and timeline samples to serve as a starting point. These Gantt chart templates are fully editable and can be duplicated at the click of a button, so Mac users can easily update and reuse any design customizations they have made for future projects.

Gantt chart templates for Mac


Update your visual plans on the fly

Being cloud-based, Pincello is easily accessible, allowing users to view and update their Gantt charts from anywhere and at any time. Anytime access enables professionals who travel often or have a business meeting off premises to make immediate changes or updates to their plan regardless of where they are. In fact, with the tool’s drag & drop functionality, Mac users can instantly update Gantt charts on the fly.


Export your Gantt chart in the preferred format

Project managers and business professionals need to regularly communicate their updated plans to the team or include them in important presentations. To make it easy to share and present visuals created with Pincello, the tool enables professionals to download their Gantt charts and timelines in the format that fits them best: either as an image that can be printed or included in any document, or as a native .pptx slide, which can be opened and edited further with Mac-compatible presentation tools like PowerPoint, Google Slide, Keynote or Prezi.

Having to build, update and share Gantt charts and timelines regularly can become quite a chore on Mac OS – or any other operating system, without the right tools. With a flexible Gantt chart maker such as Pincello, Mac users will have no problem managing their visual plans.


Useful Resources:

Pincello Quick Start Tips

See What Pincello Plus Offers

How to Instantly Turn Excel Data into a Gantt Chart


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

How to Plan an Event: Tips and Tools for a Winning Event Plan


Event planners and professionals who have ever organized a conference or had to make an event proposal know how important it is to have a good plan in place – if they don’t want constant chaos and unnerving stress, that is. Whether it’s a product launch, a wedding or a convention, any event, regardless of size or complexity, can benefit from a clear, well-organized plan that will provide direction, clarify responsibilities, and ensure everything stays on track.

This article proposes a few simple steps and tips to help planners and coordinators create an effective event plan and manage it easily. It also discusses user-friendly event planning software and provides useful resources to get started faster and simplify the management and tracking process.

Event Plan


Best practices for successful event planning

Organizing an event can be an overwhelming process even for experienced event managers, and this is why they begin planning for it as soon as they possibly can – sometimes, this can be even a year or more in advance. The following steps will help professionals put together a coherent plan fast so that they can easily manage all of the moving parts involved in the event.


          1. Determine the basic event specifics

Before anything else, event planners usually ensure they have a good understanding of the event’s goal (what the client or organization wants to achieve through it) so that they can translate it into tangible, measurable objectives. Then they select an optimal date for the event, as well as a second-best as backup, taking into account the audience, religious or statutory holidays, and any other factors that may impact the event’s success.


          2. Make an event planning checklist

Once the goals are set and clear, managers can easily work backwards from them to create an event planning checklist that lists all key deliverables and activities involved in executing the event. These usually include - but are not limited to - details like:

  • Budget, logistics, catering and venue management
  • Volunteer management
  • Entertainment management
  • Sponsor management
  • Registration management
  • Marketing and PR activities

After mapping out all major activities, event planners can easily prioritize them, organize them into categories if needed, estimate the duration of each task, set deadlines, and assign responsibilities. This ensures that not only the manager, but everyone else on the team has a clear idea of what work is needed from them and when.

Event Planning Checklist


          3. Turn the checklist into a visual master plan

While a checklist can be a great start in event planning, it tends to be a more passive reminder of what needs to be done, and, in the case of large-scale events, it can get quite long and difficult to digest too. A plan that isn’t easily understood, checked on, shared and acted on by all parties involved defeats its own purpose because, for instance, team members may start to forget the original priorities as new opportunities come up or urgent matters approach.


To keep everyone on the same page and ensure the event stays on track, professionals may wish to turn their checklist into a simple, visual plan that clearly shows all the key aspects on a single page. One way to do this is to use a pre-formatted event planning template such as this one, which is a native PowerPoint timeline slide that users can download for free and manually edit with their plan’s data. More designs and ideas are available in this free timeline template collection.


Free Timeline Template Collection

Use an event planning app to easily manage your plan

No matter how carefully thought-out an event plan is, it is subject to change and it will need regular edits and revisions as the execution process progresses. While a PowerPoint template may provide a good starting point in building an event timeline, editing it manually to update the plan whenever changes occur will become a tedious, time-consuming task. This is why event managers often rely on automated tools to aid in their planning and tracking processes.


Using lightweight event planning software such as Office Timeline or Pincello will help professionals manage, track and update their event plan more easily and in less time. The tools were designed to be simple, familiar, and intuitive so that busy managers can get started right away, without having to learn complex functions and processes. Both event planning apps allow users to quickly enter or import their data and instantly turn it into a timeline similar to the templates presented above. Once created, the visual can be fully customized and updated with just a few clicks, as fast and as often as needed.

Event Planning Software

Although the two tools are quite similar in what they deliver, there is a major difference between them:


  • Office Timeline is a feature-rich desktop app that works on Windows and plugs into PowerPoint, allowing users to build, revise and share their plan right from within the familiar presentation tool. The plug-in integrates with management tools such as Excel, Project or Smartsheet, allowing for automatic timeline updates and data synchronization.

    Download and try Office Timeline Plus for free.


  • Pincello is a flexible online event planner that works on any operating system, including Mac. It lets professionals build their timeline directly in their browser, access it quickly wherever they are, and update it on the fly using drag & drop. Once ready, the visual can be saved as an image or as a native PowerPoint slide to be used in important presentations.

    Make event timelines online now.


Event planning is considered as one of the most stressful jobs, but it doesn’t have to be. With a coherent plan in place and the right tools to manage it easily, coordinators and their teams can stay on top of their event and ensure its success.


Useful Resources:

Pincello Quick Start Tips

Office Timeline Quick Start Tutorial


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

How to Use Colors to Create More Powerful Gantt Charts


Project managers often work hours on end to build accurate, thorough Gantt charts, only to notice that stakeholders have difficulties digesting this level of detail or that the team members are unclear about their roles and responsibilities. The problem in such situations may not necessarily be the message, but the way it is presented.

Gantt charts are useful tools for project planning, tracking and reporting, but they can often be overly complex, making them difficult for audiences to understand. This is why, when putting together Gantt chart presentations, paying attention to design and aesthetics is equally important as ensuring data accuracy. A simple, well-designed layout can help project managers successfully communicate essential information to teams, clients and execs.

Red and black colors

          1. Add meaning to project visuals using color semantics

Marketing and graphic design professionals rely massively on aesthetics to influence brand perception and consumer behavior. Similarly, project managers can use color semantics to add further meaning to Gantt chart data, inspire desired reactions, and transmit important messages instantly, without overcrowding the visual.

Although color perception largely depends on personal experience, there are certain hues that have a universal significance. For instance:

  • Red is an attention-grabbing color that usually indicates excitement, action, or danger and can be used to flag urgent, high-priority or problematic tasks.
  • Green inspires optimism and typically suggests the idea of “Safe”, “OK” or “Go ahead”. As an example, tasks that have been completed successfully or planned activities approved by upper management could be marked with this color.
  • Yellow stands for caution or warning and can be used to illustrate potential challenges.
  • Black suggests mystery and makes a good choice for tasks that require further clarification.
  • Blue is a calming color and can be used for tasks that are close to completion.

The following image illustrates just one of the ways the above color semantics can be used to make Gantt charts more meaningful:

Mix of colors

While this example is a good starting point, project managers can create their own systems of color meanings, as long as they are applied consistently throughout project visuals and are easily recognizable by all stakeholders.

          2. Use colors to depict hierarchies and correspondences

An effective Gantt chart should enable audiences to understand any data dependencies or correspondences at a glance. One of the best ways to achieve this is using colors to group objects. For instance, color-coding team members who have similar responsibilities will allow viewers to instantly see the connection between them.

Hierarchy and correspondence colors

Similarly, PMs can use colors to group together related tasks, for a faster comprehension of project processes and dependencies:

Color Dependencies

Aesthetics also play an important role in highlighting data priority. A color ranking that doesn’t represent the information hierarchy may steer the audience’s attention to less important project details. To avoid this, PMs can accentuate priority data - such as main project tasks - using bold hues, while secondary details, such as subtasks, can be marked with lighter, more subtle shades of the same color.

Color Ranking Aestethics

          3. Add contrast to enhance visibility

Of course, we are all trying to create elegant Gantt charts, but these efforts may prove pointless if data is not presented clearly, in an easy-to-understand way. Good color contrast will help audiences to discern important texts or visual elements. For instance, adding a standard black text over a dark blue task bar will most likely make the writing barely legible. Changing the text to white, on the other hand, will make the data easily stand out - as seen in the image below.

Low High Contrast

Last but not least, context and communication channels are also important aspects PMs should keep in mind when creating Gantt charts and other project visuals. For instance, while certain color combinations may seem just right on a certain computer screen, they may not look the same on others, on projectors or in print. Also, some viewers may suffer from vision impairments, and bad lighting and glare can make a chart’s details even more difficult to read. A high color contrast within project visuals will prevent these issues and ensure important data can be easily seen by the audience, regardless of circumstances.

Seemingly minor details can play a major role in ensuring effective project communication. Using colors to define semantics, highlight information hierarchy or dependencies, and improve visibility can help PMs build more powerful Gantt charts and present important data in a convincing, straightforward manner.


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

How to Identify and Manage Project Dependencies


English poet John Donne said “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main" – these words capture the realities of project management. No project, task or activity exists in isolation. One way or another, every activity relies on the output of others and contributes to the outcome of a project. The relationships between individual tasks or processes are called “dependencies”.

Keeping a record of all these linked activities and managing them effectively is essential for project planning, scheduling, tracking and execution. In the following article, we will take a brief look at project dependencies to help new PMs identify and tackle them more easily.

The Main Types of Project Dependencies

Dependencies can be classified in a number of ways based on criteria such as the causes behind them, predecessor-successor relationships, and whether the dependency exists between activities within the project or outside of it.

          1. Logical, resource-driven and preferential dependencies
Logical resource-driven and preferential dependencies


Based on what is causing them, dependencies can fall in one of the following three groups:

  • Logical or causal dependencies are those driven by the nature of the project or of the tasks themselves. For instance, a construction team cannot possibly build the first floor of a building without finishing the foundation first. Identifying these dependencies is essential for creating accurate project plans and schedules.

  • Resource-based dependencies occur between tasks that would be accomplished faster or simultaneously if there were more resources available. Where resource constraints are present, there usually are no logical dependencies to dictate the order of activities within a project. As an example, with enough manpower, it is logically possible to paint multiple rooms in a building simultaneously. If there’s only one painter available, however, the rooms will need to be completed one at a time.

  • Preferential or discretionary dependencies refer to tasks that could be completed differently, but their implementation is decided by the team or PM based on convenience or guided by best practices. In our construction example, a room’s ceiling and walls can be painted in any order, but the painter prefers to finish the ceiling first because it's more difficult to work on and he wants to get it out of the way.

While discretionary decisions may not seem that significant, it will make sense to document them, so that the logic behind them is known in future reports and reviews. Otherwise, this logic might be forgotten over time or questioned by clients, executives or any other stakeholders who weren’t initially involved in the task-scheduling process.

          2. Predecessor-successor dependencies
 
Predecesor-successor dependencies

Based on the relationship between the initiation and completion of individual tasks, dependencies can be classified into four major types:

  • FS (Finish to Start) – The predecessor task must be completed before the successor can start.
  • FF (Finish to Finish) – The successor cannot finish before the predecessor task is completed.
  • SS (Start to Start) – The first task must start before the second task can be initiated.
  • SF (Start to Finish) – One task cannot be completed before another one has started.

The most common and logical predecessor-successor relationship is the Finish-to-Start dependency, while Start-to-Finish is the most rarely encountered and may be puzzling to envision. To get a better grasp of SF relationships, it may be useful to think of how shift work is sequenced. If, for instance, a construction site requires 24/7 security services and there are a few guards working in shifts, the current shift cannot end before the relief security officers arrive, as the site would be left unattended.

          3. Internal vs. external dependencies

Internal vs external dependencies

Dependencies can also be classified based on the tasks’ relationship to the project, as follows:

Internal dependencies describe the relationship between two tasks or activities within the same project. The PM and the project team usually have complete control over these activities, and there is no involvement of any external parties. To manage these tasks effectively, discussing them with the project team is essential in order for each member to know exactly how their activities may impact other people’s work. This way, they will be more likely to notify the PM about potential problems, so that the necessary measures can be taken to manage the consequences.

External dependencies define those tasks that are dependent on outside influences, such as vendors, regulatory agencies, or even other projects. PMs and project teams don’t usually have much control (if any) over these dependencies. For instance, before construction workers can start building, renovating or demolishing, it is first necessary to obtain approvals from local authorities. The construction company cannot influence how long it will take the authorities to grant said approvals.

Although external dependencies are outside of a PM’s control, it is important to keep a thorough record of them, as they present risk to the project schedule. Also, it would be a good idea to notify any relevant third parties that the project team depends on them to be able to complete their own work. Explaining to non-project people how any late deliveries on their end can impact the project and encouraging them to provide timely progress updates can help PMs prevent possible issues and make any necessary schedule adjustments.

Tips for More Effective Dependency Management

Managing task dependencies can seem overwhelming for a novice PM, especially considering that any slip may endanger the project. While it is impossible to prevent all potential issues, with good organization, planning and communication, even the most complex projects can be kept under control. Here are a few tips to help beginning project managers handle task dependencies more effectively:

          1. Proper identification

The first step for effective dependency management is brainstorming all possible project dependencies and classifying them accordingly based on the criteria presented earlier. This can be done through a workshop or scheduled team meeting, where all team members - and, if possible, any other relevant parties involved - are brought together to discuss how their activities relate to one another, as well as how they may be affected by outside influences.

A common mistake that should be avoided at this stage is creating dependencies even when there aren’t any. Questioning and challenging the sequence of every step can produce forced or artificial dependencies, which may lead to unnecessary complications and delays.

          2. Recording dependencies

Once all dependent tasks are identified, experienced project managers usually create a comprehensive dependency log for the project, which should include:

  • an ID for each dependency
  • description
  • date
  • the activities or people impacted by the dependency.

Also, it may be a good idea to calculate the probability of something going wrong with the linked tasks and to include an assessment of what would happen if the dependency is not delivered as planned. Alternatively, this data can be added to the risk log.

In addition, it is also worth nominating “owners” for each dependency by naming the person or people who will be responsible for how the linked tasks progress. When it comes to internal project activities, the task owner will usually be the natural dependency owner as well. In the case of external dependencies, such as a reliance on suppliers, someone within the project should be assigned to monitor the relationship with the supplier and ensure everything is on track.

Having a log of all the details mentioned above will prove to be helpful during the project planning and scheduling process, allowing PMs to effectively sequence tasks and develop strategies to minimize and mitigate risks.

          3. Continuous monitoring and control

While identifying and documenting dependencies is important, it is their constant monitoring and control that will ensure the successful delivery of a project. Having a single session at the start of the project to examine dependencies is usually not enough. Therefore, experienced PMs schedule regular meetings to discuss how the linked tasks are progressing, if there are any changes in schedules or requirements, and whether those changes impact the connection between project tasks.

          4. Efficient communication

There is no substitute for good communication when it comes to effective dependency management, and there are two key elements experienced PMs pay attention to:

  • The project team. Ensuring all team members understand their responsibilities and are aligned when it comes to dependencies will help prevent many issues throughout the course of the project. In addition, day-to-day interactions and unity between team members can help resolve dependencies more easily and enable the project to move forward without constant manager intervention.

  • Stakeholders. Engaging with clients and executives regularly and ensuring they understand how all dependencies can influence the project’s progress is important in order to set realistic expectations and avoid unfeasible requests. However, such stakeholders may not be familiar with PM jargon and may feel intimidated by complex Gantt charts or other intricate project management tools. This is why communicating the data using simple, familiar visuals such as PowerPoint slides and color-coding the related tasks can be a more effective way to present project dependencies to non-project audiences.

Project dependencies are inevitable, but managers shouldn’t feel threatened by them. With good communication and organizational skills, PMs can leverage them to their advantage and find effective ways to keep the project on track or even accelerate its execution.


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL