How to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner like a Project Manager

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year for all generations of our family to come together in celebration and share the things we’re grateful for. Boomers, millennials or gen-Z, we all put their differences aside for a brief, shining moment to pass the gravy of kindness and carve the turkey of tolerance.

Naturally, the catalyst here is the lovely Thanksgiving dinner we’re gathered around. So, how can you make sure everything runs smoother than the 15-year-old brandy you're waiting to share with your uncle in the study, later that evening?

We all know how stressful the planning of this event can get and how important it is that every little detail is absolutely perfect, from the roasted turkey right down to the heirloom silverware. As such, let us come to your aid with two Thanksgiving preparation timelines. We guarantee that your guests will get up from the dinner table feeling like a stuffed turkey and will have ‘pumpkin’ to talk about for months! Feast mode, activate!

Start early to get a (turkey) leg up on the competition!

Last-minute Thanksgiving preparations will leave you spread thinner than the pumpkin pie dough. Don’t wait until the stores are jam-packed with revelers battling over the last frozen turkey. There’s plenty you can do ahead of time, and you’ll be glad you checked them off the list down the road. Have a look at this Thanksgiving preparation timeline and start planning like a pro:

Thanksgiving preparation timeline

The ‘baste’ day of the year!

Come Thanksgiving morning, you’re probably scrambling to get everything ready in the most efficient manner possible. The trick here is to make the best use of what would normally be downtime, waiting for your dishes to bake or roast. While the key to a successful Thanksgiving dinner is the tur-key, there’s no reason to gobble aimlessly while it’s in the oven. Check out our Thanksgiving dinner timeline and don’t be afraid to delegate some responsibilities, so you can be there for the traditional snapping of the wishbone instead of still slaving away over the hot stove!

Thanksgiving dinner timeline

The Thanksgiving preparation timelines were created using Office Timeline, a simple yet powerful project management solution that allows you to generate attractive visual representations of data within minutes.

Give the free version a try here or check out the Pro version, which comes with additional features that are better suited for more complex roadmap applications. You can download the Thanksgiving preparation timelines as a PowerPoint file and you can even tailor a new schedule, based on your own favorite dishes! Happy Thanksgiving!



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How to cut the time spent reviewing projects by half [Case study]

Aptos Case Study

Reporting in the business world has the primary role of keeping your stakeholders well informed about the ongoing operations. By tracking the critical key performance indicators (KPIs), you can evaluate the effectiveness of current strategies and take course-correcting decisions to mitigate the negative impact before it’s too late. But what if you don't have a centralized format for reporting project status? Read on to find out how a retail solutions provider solved this problem and drastically reduced the time spent in project review meetings.

Challenges of reporting in the absence of centralization

Reports come with several intrinsic problems that are in direct correlation with the size of the company and the complexity of the work. For instance, in non-centralized reporting environments, the organization relies heavily on a handful of star employees, rather than leveraging the full potential of the entire team; centralization lowers this dependency.

Being able to track and report the progress of an operation accelerates the integration of junior staff members within ongoing projects and makes optimal use of available resources. Other challenges that can be overcome by switching to a unified reporting model might include:

  • Lack of understanding regarding the current project status
  • Inconsistent interdepartmental communication
  • Limited awareness about key performance metrics and their impact
  • Very few means to accurately benchmark performance
  • Inability to determine and reproduce the most effective solutions
  • A lot of time spent collating and interpreting the data

Another caveat, according to a study made by EY Global, is that well over two-thirds of CFOs consider the growing volume of data collected nowadays has a negative effect on the relevancy of the insight obtained. In other words, being bombarded with a flood of unstructured information can, in fact, be counterproductive for decision making. As such, the requirement for a centralized reporting strategy is crucial to the success of your business.

Case study: how Aptos standardized their project reviews

To better understand the impact, let’s examine how report standardization helped Aptos, a company specialized in the development and integration of cloud-based solutions for the retail world. A quick look over their client list reveals major players from various industries, including but not limited to J.C. Penney’s, CVS and Bed Bath & Beyond, but also niche brands like Michael Kors, Movado and Tommy Bahama.

Peter Taylor, the Head of Global PMO for the company, was on the lookout for a centralized reporting tool, one that could build standardized Gantt chart-like reports in a consistent and easy to update format. His main concern was to eliminate from the equation reports that were clunky and difficult to read, by providing Project Managers with a one-size-fits-all solution.

The answer came from one of their project admins, who discovered Office Timeline, a PowerPoint add-in that creates professional-looking project visuals in seconds. Because it’s such a straightforward application, implementing it in her daily reporting process was a breeze. Soon, other employees in that branch started using it as well, and news reached the head office.

Rolling out Office Timeline as a standardized reporting solution was seamless, and it wasn’t long before the benefits became noticeable. In short, the company reported that project reviewing time was effectively sliced by half and the reporting procedures were simplified a great deal.

To put that into perspective, prior to integrating Office Timeline, there were four weekly calls (1.5 hours each) just for reviewing project progress with the PMs. After the implementation, everything is handled in just two meetings. The PMs are now free to put more time into working closely with the clients and developing better solutions to answer to their needs.

Read the full case study

5 tips & tricks to help you address your reporting challenges

Selecting a suitable reporting tool is just the first step towards optimizing the process of reporting, albeit a critical one. In order to really make the most of it, we’ve selected a couple of tips to help you get started:

1. Setting strategic goals

Diana Scharf-Hunt, the author of several best sellers on time management techniques, once noted that "Goals are dreams with a deadline", and deadlines are an excellent reminder to always keep the endgame in mind. Defining what a successfully-achieved objective looks like allows you to reverse engineer the KPIs and divide it into 3-4 subordinate goals, as well as splitting the tasks accordingly.

2. Selecting the correct KPIs to track (according to the audience)

Don’t put all your KPIs in one basket, conventional wisdom teaches us. To capture the attention of your viewers, a good place to start is to ask yourself who the audience is. For instance, a Marketing manager will be interested in a completely different set of data than the team leader of the Sales department. Filter the KPIs in your report accordingly and deliver each bit of information to the correct recipient.

3. Transforming data into a storyline

According to modern adult learning theories, the human mind can absorb data much easier when it is structured in the form of a linear story. Hard data featuring numbers and percentages must, therefore, be outlined in the context of a narrative. One way to achieve this is by creating timelines that display historical progress. Bonus: Place the KPIs on the roadmap and contrast them against past values to create trend predictions.

4. Creating clear and visually appealing graphical representations

Still on the subject of how our brain processes and interprets data, there’s a limit to how much information you can feed the audience before they feel overwhelmed. As a result, this translates into decision fatigue, the inability to make high-quality choices. In reporting, the rule of thumb should always be ‘’less is more”, especially in terms of selecting the KPIs to present. When you’re creating graphs, place the emphasis on an average of 3 major KPIs. If others must be included, make sure they don't share the same spotlight.

5. Shifting from paper to digital

Paperback reports may have been all the rage in the past, but the advent of technology allows us to move past the outdated model and towards the digital age. Significantly easier to compile and update, reporting software can help you create clear, simple, professional-looking charts and graphs. At the same time, some solutions integrate collaborative features. These allow other teams to offer their input, based on which management can reach accurate conclusions and take grade-A business decisions.

Conclusions

In the words of Henry Ford, "Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them". Improving the way reporting is conducted in your organization will have a major impact on how resources (time, funds, employees, etc.) are allocated and, in turn, productivity will grow. Centralized reports guarantee that all stakeholders have access to the information they need when they need it, and all business decisions are made based on real data.


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Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Timeline

El Chapo Guzmán Timeline

On July 17, the Mexican drug kingpin and former leader of the Sinaloa cartel Joaquín Guzmán, known as “El Chapo”, was sentenced to life behind bars in a U.S. prison. The sentence was handed down by a federal judge in Brooklyn, within a 11-week trial that followed Guzmán’s conviction five months ago. The 62-year-old drug lord was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in ill-gotten proceeds acquired through the massive distribution of cocaine and other drugs in and around the United States.

The Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Timeline gives a visual summary of the illegal activities that made him one of the most powerful and most-wanted drug traffickers in the world.

Known as “El Chapo” (meaning “Shorty” in Spanish) due to his 5 ft 6 in (1.68 metres) stature, Guzmán was born on 4th of April 1957 in Sinaloa, Mexico. Raised in a poor family and subjected to physical abuse by his father, the young Guzmán was introduced to drug trade by the very same person. Starting to work for a local drug lord in the early 1970s, he soon learned the ins and outs of the industry and gradually received increasingly important responsibilities within the drug cartel. By the start of the 90s, he was already a well-established leader of the Sinaloa faction due to his (in)famous and fierce ways of doing business.

Not only did this propel him at the top of Mexican drug traffic hierarchy, but also made him the target of countless attempts of assassination plotted by his rivals and wide-range manhunts organized by the Mexican government. He was captured and sent behind the bars by the national authorities twice, but managed to break out of prison each time only to return to leading his drug empire with renewed, more violent strength.

Overseeing operations whereby a wide range of drugs was produced, smuggled, and distributed in the U.S., Europe and Asia, he gained notoriety for pioneering the use of tunnels to move drugs, which enabled him to export more narcotics in the U.S. than any other trafficker ever.

The Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Timeline was created with the intuitive PowerPoint add-in called Office Timeline, which allows the fast creation of stylish timelines, Gantt charts and other types of similar visuals. You can copy and share the slide for free, and further edit it with the tool’s Plus version.

Download the El Chapo Guzmán 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.

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The Chernobyl Disaster Timeline

The Chernobyl Disaster Timeline.png

Sometimes, it takes years or months for certain events to unfold and reveal their full-scale magnitude and long-term effects. However, others take just only a day to make a major impact on humankind and the course of history. So it goes for the accident that took place at the Chernobyl nuclear power station on the 26th of April 1986, permanently altering that region and making the area around the former plant uninhabitable for an estimated 20,000 years. Initially denied as having happened by the Soviet authorities, the disaster is now considered the worst of its kind in history.

To illustrate how the Chernobyl nuclear accident escalated to a historic calamity, we created The Chernobyl Disaster Timeline, which gives a blow-by-blow narrative of the missteps that triggered this tragic meltdown.

Background Facts

  • The nuclear accident occurred at the V.I Lenin Nuclear Power Station, near the city of Chernobyl (65 miles north of Kiev, Ukraine), in the former URSS.
  • The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was considered a model of Soviet engineering, using four RBMK nuclear reactors to produce electricity for about 30 million homes and businesses.
  • The power plant’s newest reactor (the fourth one) was the scene of the tragedy. It contained 1,600 radioactive uranium-235 fuel rods. Due to the unstable nature of U-235, its atoms are capable of releasing neutrons that hit other U-235 nuclei, which in turn release new neutrons. All this causes a chain reaction, the byproduct of which is the release of huge quantities of heat and energy which are used to turn water into steams. The steam then drives a turbine, thus generating electricity.
  • To contain the chain reaction within limits, control rods made of a neutron-absorbing substance need to be inserted between fuel rods. For Reactor No. 4’s control rods (a total of 211), the element boron was used. Raising the control rods leads to the acceleration of the chain reaction, while the lowering of the control rods causes the chain reaction to slow down.
  • Ironically, it was a safety test that brought about the destruction. Coinciding with a routine downtime for maintenance, the test was scheduled to determine whether the reactor could still be cooled in case of a power failure. In preparation for this process, Chernobyl’s operators initiated power reduction on the 25th of April (1:00 pm) and, after twelve hours, Reactor No. 4 reached 50% power. According to the standard procedures of the safety test, the required threshold was of 30%. However, due to an apparent need for electricity in the region, the Soviet authorities called for the reactor to remain at 50% for another 9 hours. Meanwhile, the emergency core cooling system was switched off...
  • With power plummeting far below the level at which the reactor would be stable, operators were asked to remove almost all control rods against safety guidelines. The violation of these protocols led to a sudden power surge inside the plant. Despite the attempt to shut down the reactor altogether, control rods jammed upon entering the core, causing a series of explosions inside and then the final one, that literally blew apart the reactor and the 1,000-ton roof above it, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Killing 31 people directly (28 workers and firefighters dying of acute radiation poisoning), the Chernobyl calamity is considered responsible for thousands of premature cancer deaths as well. Encased in a massive steel structure deployed in 2016, the remains of the reactor still require containment and monitoring efforts, with its cleanup expected to last until at least 2065.

The Chernobyl Disaster Timeline was built with Office Timeline, a user-friendly add-in that helps you easily produce clear and beautiful timelines and other types of visuals right inside PowerPoint. The slide is free to share and copy, and can be edited and updated using the Plus version of the tool.

Download the Chernobyl Disaster Timeline for PowerPoint here.



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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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A History of Software Updates for All iPhone Models to Date

IOS History Timeline

Apple is one of the top brands within the global smartphone industry, its high status being owed to a series of qualities such as sleek design, cutting-edge functionalities and vigorous marketing. However, another factor that has contributed to its popularity among smartphone users resides in the company’s constant software updates.

To illustrate how long Apple supports older iPhone models, we have created a simple visual summary of the software updates the technology giant has offered for all major iPhone models to date.

With the introduction of every new iPhone model, Apple guarantees upwards of four years of major iOS updates to the customers that buy the newly-launched device. According to data sourced by Statista, this interval has only gone up for the latest released iPhones.

Looking at Apple’s ‘genealogy’, one can confirm and trace this trend back to the iPhone 4s. Starting with its release, every major subsequent model has received at least five important iOS updates before being cut off. So it’s the case with the iPhone 6, the most recent Apple smartphone to be deprived of the yearly updates with iOS 13.

If we compare the number of updates iOS and Android devices get during their lifetime, the former have a clear upper hand over the latter, which have reached three updates at most. This ascendancy is noticeable even in the distribution numbers, with Android’s latest version being installed in only 10.4% of devices as opposed to a crushing 87% of iPhones with the last major iOS software upgrade.

Not only do these constant updates enable the older models to benefit from the latest features Apple offers to the newer devices, but they also add to the product’s value retention. This is why many owners hold on to iPhones for so long. Let’s take iPhone 6s users, for instance, who got to enjoy Apple’s 2019 extension for the iOS13 update all the way back to devices released in 2015. In other words, they were granted an “extra lease” and they don’t care much if they are cut off next year. After 5 years of upgrades, it is acceptable to move on to a new smartphone which is likely to see a similar lengthy lifespan of updates.

Of course software upgrade frequency is not the only criterion to be considered before buying a smartphone. However, for those prospects who care for this aspect, Apple has definitely got an ace up its sleeve.

The History of Software Updates for All iPhone Models to Date was built with the intuitive PowerPoint add-in called Office Timeline. It is designed to enable the creation of simple yet stylish timelines, Gantt charts and other types of chronology graphics in a hassle-free manner. The slide is free to copy and share, and can be updated and further styled using the Plus version of the tool.

Download the History of Software Updates for All iPhone Models to Date 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