Guest Post: Using Office Timeline to Communicate Detailed Engineering Schedules

Hello, I'm Mannix and I've been working for years in project control roles on industrial engineering projects in the oil and gas, pharmaceutical and infrastructure industries. Over the years, I have experienced several poorly planned, chaotic and demoralizing projects. These experiences motivated me to find and document the tools, process and techniques that allowed for the thoughtful, efficient and well executed project delivery.

In this article, I will explain how I use Office Timeline to convert Primavera P6 schedules into easy to understand project plans. I have found this approach to work really well when planning, communicating and executing on engineering projects.

How to Plan for Engineering Projects

Planning an oil and gas engineering project means coordinating thousands of activities. The activities define how the engineering, procurement and construction phases of the project interrelate with each other, and therefore must be developed and organized in great detail.

Enterprise planning systems such as Primavera P6 are typically used to plan the activities and align the project schedule to the cost estimate. The finalized detailed schedule then forms the basis of the contractual relationships between the contractors and suppliers who will work on the project.

One of the dangers of a detailed project schedule is that the forest gets lost for the trees. A comprehensive project schedule for a large oil and gas engineering project quickly turns into a very large document, often up to forty pages long. While it describes the work that needs to be done, it does not communicate the overall plan for the project very clearly. All the pages of data hide the key project activities and deliverables that need to be understood in order for the project to be a success.

As a project planner, I get around this problem by creating two documents. The first is the project schedule, which breaks the project scope into executable chunks and identifies the logical steps needed to get the work done. The second is a project plan, which clearly communicates the key phases and milestones for a project. Read on, and I’ll try to explain the differences in more detail.

Project Plan versus Project Schedule

Simply put, a project plan tells us about where we are going and a project schedule tells us how we are going to get there. Let's discuss them one by one.

What a Project Schedule Does:

1. Defines what - Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The WBS is the basis of project management. It breaks the project down into logical pieces and allows the time, cost and scope of a project to be managed.

2. Defines who - Organisational Breakdown Structure (OBS)

This allows each person working on the project to see the activities that they are working on and the key interfaces that they are responsible for.

3. Schedules the work

This means that the logical relationships between project activities and work packages are correctly applied. The resulting sequence means that activities are started and finished in the right order.

4. Defines the time phased budget

The project schedule can be matched with the cost estimate to produce a time phased budget. This gives the project team the likely manpower and cost over the project timeline. This is critical for accurate project staffing and cashflow.

What a Project Plan Does:

1. Identifies the products and milestones

The key project deliverables and milestone dates are identified. This allows the project outcomes to interact with the business objectives of the project.

2. Allows non-experts to understand the project

Project decision makers often do not have the knowledge of the experts who work on a project. The project plan should give everyone involved with the project a working knowledge of the execution strategy and the project outputs.

3. Allows a project manager to sell the value of the project

Being able to clearly tie the project objectives to a detailed project schedule makes everyone feel confident about the overall project management team. An easy to communicate project plan is a vital part of doing this.

How I use Office Timeline to create a project plan from Primavera P6 data

For a project management team, the plan must be sold to a client group and possibly a number of vendor and supplier organisations. In order to do this effectively, the project must be communicated succinctly, preferably on a single page.

When I develop a detailed schedule in Primavera P6, I export the activities and dates into an Excel workbook. I can then import this file into the Office Timeline plugin in Powerpoint. The benefit of this is that as the project details are tweaked, I can easily update the P6 schedule and the Excel export and have an accurate project schedule and project plan for the project team to use.

To do this in Office Timeline is easy. I take my schedule in Primavera P6 and copy the data by clicking select all in the edit field and pressing control+c to copy all the text.

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I then paste the data into an Excel file and save the file in a suitable folder. This file will be the link between my Primavera P6 schedule and the project plan in Office Timeline. Whenever I update my Primavera P6 schedule I update the Excel file and refresh the changes into Office Timeline.

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I then open PowerPoint and use the import function in the Office Timeline ribbon.

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From here I can select the activities and milestones that I want included on my project plan. I generally use a mix of WBS descriptions, activities and milestones from my Primavera P6 schedule to create a meaningful project plan.

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And here you have it, a concise and easily understood project plan.

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I hope you have found the distinction between a project plan and a project schedule useful as you develop engineering schedules with your project teams. And when it comes to communicating your plan, I have found the combination of Office Timeline and a detailed Primavera P6 schedule to work really well. It brings together two powerful professional tools to make a project planner's life easier.

Related content:

Top 10 Task Management Software Based on User Reviews

Your project communications must have impact

How to Add Meaning and Logic to Your Timelines


Mannix Carney
Mannix Carney is a project planner based in Calgary, Canada, with over 15 years of experience in planning in the oil, gas and pharmaceutical industries. He writes about Primavera P6 and project planning for large scale projects at www.ProjectPlanningHq.com.







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Top 10 Task Management Software Based on User Reviews


Best Task Management Software

Task management software has become a common “assistant” for project managers, helping them and their teams to properly plan and carry out their work, meet client requirements, and manage time, budget and risks. However, selecting which application will work best for you can be confusing, since there are many task manager apps in the market and they are constantly expanding their range of functionalities.

To simplify the selection process, we've gathered 10 of the best task management tools in 2019 based on user reviews and ratings. These are:

1. TimeCamp

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius): 4.9/5

Encompassing features such as graphical timesheets, invoicing and reporting, or manual and automatic time tracking, TimeCamp is an intuitive task management software that integrates with platforms such as Harvest, Xero, and Trello.

The tool has a free version with limited features, as well as multiple paid plans that can cost between $63 and $75 per year depending on the package you choose.

Best Task Management Software

2. Office Timeline

Average rating (Capterra, TrustPilot): 4.55/5

Designed as an extension for Microsoft PowerPoint, Office Timeline is a lightweight task manager and project scheduler that automatically turns task and milestone data into easy-to-understand Gantt charts and timelines. Equipped with pre-formatted templates and task tracking features such as Percent Complete or Time Elapsed, the add-in also integrates with applications like Microsoft Project, Excel, Smartsheet and Wrike.

The PowerPoint task tracker comes in two versions, Free and Plus. While the free tool is fully functional, the Plus edition – which costs $59/year – unlocks more customization options and productivity features.

Office Timeline Customer Review

3. ActiveCollab

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, TrustPilot): 4.42/5

A desktop and mobile task management app, ActiveCollab allows you to organize tasks based on their priority, generate a variety of reports, and create a collaborative work environment.

Users have access to a 14-day trial that enables them to get familiarized with the tool's interface and processes. Those who wish to purchase can choose between monthly billing ($7/month = $84/year) and annual billing ($75/year).

ActiveCollab Customer Review

4. Evernote Business

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, TrustPilot): 4.41/5

Allowing users to create, edit, upload, and share documents, Evernote Business stores all relevant information in one place and promises to unify workflows across teams and departments. The Business plan is priced at $14.99 per month ($179.88/year), but users can test it for free for 30 days.

Evernote Business Customer review

5. Smartsheet

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, TrustPilot): 4.24/5

Smartsheet is a work execution platform with a spreadsheet-like interface and real-time task management, collaboration and automation tools. Enabling you to view data in different formats ranging from card and Gantt to calendar and grid, Smartsheet can be used for sprint and waterfall projects, sprint planning and product roadmaps.

The online task manager comes with a free 30-day trial and several pricing plans, the standard Individual plan costing $14/month ($168/year).

Smartsheet Customer review

6. Intervals

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd): 4.07/5

Intervals is a web-based task management app that combines comprehensive time tracking and reporting features with task management options such as fully integrated and interactive Gantt charts. Built for small businesses to create a collaborative framework, it is ideal for web developers, consultants, IT firms and communications companies.

Users can test Intervals free of charge for 21 days, and subscription prices range from $59 to $299 per month ($708 – $3,588 per year) depending on the plan chosen.

Intervals Customer Review

7. Wrike

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, TrustPilot): 4.03/5

A cloud-based collaboration and task management software that offers enterprise-level security and scalability, Wrike is ideal for teams of more than 20 members. With features such as task assignment based on status, Gantt charts, workload view for resource management, custom dashboards and templates, as well as proofing tools, Wrike appeals to project managers and marketers alike.

Users can choose from several Wrike plans depending on the number of users and features required: Free (limited to 5 users and basic features), Professional, Business, Marketers and Enterprise. The featured Business plan costs $24.80/month ($297.6/year) and comes with a free trial as well.

Wrike Customer Review

8. Agile CRM

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, TrustPilot): 4/5

Marketed as an all-in-one Marketing, Sales and Service automation platform, Agile CRM provides a drag-and-drop task management tool designed to simplify communication and task tracking between multiple teams or departments.

Prices start at $8.99/month ($107.88/year) and go up depending on the plan chosen. There's also a free task manager available, limited to 10 users and basic features.

Agile CRM Customer Review

9. Bitrix24

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, TrustPilot): 3.3/5

Used by companies and small businesses as a team task management tool, Bitrix24 comes with a broad range of organizational features to enhance efficiency at the individual and group level. Among the most used ones are task templates and roles, Gantt charts, supervisor view, task delegation and time tracking.

Bitrix24 offers multiple pricing packages, depending on the number of users and amount of online storage required. The Free plan allows up to 12 users and offers 5 GB of storage, while the popular Standard plan (for 24 users and 24 GB of storage) starts at $35/month ($420/year), but will be discounted to $31/month ($372/year) if you choose to pay for two years in advance.

Bitrix24 Customer review

10. AceProject

Average rating (Capterra, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius): 3.56/5

AceProject is an online task management tool that offers time and cost tracking functionalities to help users manage projects from end to end and keep them on time and on budget. Its intuitive project dashboard gives you easy access to relevant data with color-coded graphs, and the Gantt chart feature lets you view the details and status of a certain project so you can make informed decisions.

AceProject comes with a free version, limited the amount of users, projects and storage available, as well as four paid plans that range between $24 and $199 per month ($288 - $2,388 per year).

AceProject Customer Review

As more and more Project Managers and teams are using cloud-based project solutions, we recommend trying the free, online task manager from Office Timeline. Relatively new to the market, the web tool lets you make Gantt charts and timelines directly in your browser, update them easily using drag & drop, and download them as PowerPoint slides or .png images to present in meetings.

Choosing a task management system comes down to the specific needs and preferences of users and teams. We hope this user review analysis will help you form an opinion on which tools and functionalities may be best suited for you.


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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.

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Matthew McConaughey Timeline

Matthew McConaughey Timeline

Having played in a variety of movies, ranging from romantic comedies and dramas to horror, crime and science fiction productions, beloved actor Matthew McConaughey has garnered a panoply of awards and nominations, including an Oscar, Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.

To celebrate the one whose early performances inspired critics to call him the new Paul Newman, we have created the Matthew McConaughey Timeline, which summarizes his life and acting career, including some of his best known films.

After his breakthrough role in Dazed and Confused in 1993, the debutant McConaughey was then cast in two 1996 high-profile films (Lone Star and A Time to Kill), becoming a sensation and gaining the attention of numerous other directors. Throughout the early 2000s though, he had a series of appearances in romantic comedies that caused him to be typecast, for which reason he took a two-year hiatus to seek new opportunities and to move away from the genre.

He returned to the big screen in 2011 to portray a criminal defense attorney in the thriller The Lincoln Lawyer, giving what was considered one of his best performances until then. Two years later, losing 47lbs for his role as an AIDS patient in the biographical drama Dallas Buyers Club, he reached the prime of his career, winning 4 awards and multiple nominations for Best Actor.

The Matthew McConaughey chronology was designed with Office Timeline, a PowerPoint extension that enables you to easily create stylish timelines and other similar visuals. The slide, which is available to be copied and shared for free, can be further restyled and updated using Office Timeline Plus Edition.

Download the Matthew McConaughey Timeline for PowerPoint here.



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

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. The Office Timeline Plus add-in 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:

Office Timeline Add-in Quick Start Tutorial

How to Use Templates in Office Timeline

Create Gantt charts online


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 Make Gantt Charts and Timelines on a Mac


There are many advantages to using a Mac. You may love it for its sleek look, its attention to user experience, the invulnerability of its systems, but also because it works so seamlessly with your iPhone and iPad.

But when it comes to creating important project visuals like Gantt charts or timelines, as a Mac user you may find yourself without many options or guidance. Most of the tools and tutorials available online today have been developed for Microsoft Windows because of the wide adoption of this operating systems, leaving Mac users out in the cold. And there's nothing more annoying than having to constantly switch back and forth to a Windows PC or a virtual machine just to use a professional timeline or Gantt chart maker when you have a tight deadline breathing down your neck.

That's why we've decided to show all of you Mac users around the world how you can make timelines and Gantt charts using Apple's iWork office suite of apps: Keynote, Numbers, and Pages. This new series of tutorials contains step-by-step instructions to help you get started and templates you can download to practice anytime.

We'll show you different options and guide you through different ways to do them. Some may take you longer, and some may save you precious time. Take a look, choose which procedure suits you best and start making Gantt charts and timelines that wow your audience.


1. How to make professional timelines for Mac

Gantt Chart for Mac

Timelines are a great way to visualize a series of events that happen over time, making it easy to understand and remember essential data. If you're a Mac users who needs to create timeline for important presentations, you can use the iWorks suite, as all three apps have functions that can produce timelines one way or another. Check out the links below to read the tutorial for the app you want to use.

Learn how to make a timeline in Keynote for Mac

Learn how to make a timeline in Numbers for Mac

Learn how to make a timeline in Pages for Mac


2. How to make Gantt charts for Mac

Gantt Chart for Mac

Similar to timelines, Gantt charts are powerful planning tools as they show activities or tasks and their corresponding timeframes in a simple visual format, making it easy to see the big picture at a glance, coordinate work, and track progress. As a Mac user, you can use your iWork applications to create such visuals. Just choose which app you want to use and explore the tutorials below.

Learn how to make a Gantt chart in Keynote for Mac

Learn how to make a Gantt chart in Numbers for Mac

Learn how to make a Gantt chart in Pages for Mac


Depending on the software you use, making clear, impressive timelines and Gantt charts can become quite a chore on Mac OS – or any other operating system. That's why using an automation tool like Office Timeline Online may be a better solution for Mac users who need to regularly build Gantt charts, update and present project timelines or other visual plans.


Related content:

Office Timeline Online Quick Start Tips

See What Office Timeline Online Plus Offers

How to Instantly Turn Excel Data into a Gantt Chart


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