Few would disagree that good communication between project managers and resources is vital to the project’s success. Nonetheless, communication lines often get tangled, causing deadlines to be delayed and project quality to suffer. But there are tools that can help. Microsoft Project Server 2002 has three new features that enable communication between project managers and resources: timesheets, issues, and status reports. They can all be used to improve both the quantity and quality of project manager/resource collaboration.
In this first installment on project manager/resource communications, I’ll cover timesheets. Check back with IT Manager Republic to see future installments on issues and status reports.
The most basic aspect of communications between a project manager (PM) and a resource involves the PM conveying to the resource the tasks needed to be accomplished and the time in which to complete them (according to the schedule). In turn, the resource has to inform the PM how many hours he or she has worked and how many hours he or she still must work before the task is completed.
Project Server 2002 provides timesheet functionality that serves both of these lines of communication. It is the place a resource can go to find out what the PM has assigned, and the place for the resource to let the PM know how the task is progressing.
Setting up the timesheet
Once you, the project manager, have built the project plan and assigned resources to the project tasks, you’ll need to decide how you want your resources to report status on this project. Clicking the Tools | Customize | Published Fields menu, shown in Figure A, will bring up a dialog box that will show you your choices.
This dialog gives you a choice between three reporting methods:
- Percent of Work Complete
- Actual Work Done and Work Remaining
- Hours of Work Done Per Time Period
If you pick Percent of Work Complete, then the resource will be able to edit the Percent Work Complete field in the timesheet and also be able to indicate how much work is remaining. If you pick the second option, the resource will still be able to enter remaining work, but instead of a percentage of work, the resource must enter an Actual Work value in hours. The last choice will be familiar to most users, as it calls for the resource to enter the number of hours per day or week that the resource has worked on each task.
This dialog box can also be used to allow the PM to publish additional fields to the resource timesheets. The text on the right indicates the fields that will be displayed on the timesheets.
It is important to remember that the project server administrator can pick the server default for the reporting method and can force PMs to use that default. Figure B shows what it would look like if your administrator decides to enforce a particular method.
In this case, the server admin has decided that all projects should use the Actual and Remaining Work reporting method.
Using the timesheet
Once these decisions have been made, the PM must publish the assignments to Project Server in order for them to appear on the resource’s timesheet (see Figure C).
Now when the resource logs into Project Server Web Access, the resource will see a screen like the one in Figure D.
Note that in this example, the resource, Dell Griffith, has a link on his Home page telling him he has a new task assigned to him. If he clicks on it, he sees a Gantt chart view of all the tasks to which he is assigned (see Figure E).
This screen is at the heart of the communication cycle between a PM and a resource. Here you can see that Dell is assigned to tasks on two different projects, the Design Review Process Improvement project and the Software Development project. This view allows Dell to see all his project work in one view on a timeline. It is this view that shows Dell how the work he is expected to do lines up over a period of days, weeks, or months. Since the reporting method for both of Dell’s projects is the Actual and Remaining work method, then he can fill in his status in this view using the Actual Work and Remaining Work fields. If the method had been the Hours of Work Per Time Period method, then Dell would have needed to switch to the Timesheet view by clicking on the Timesheet link to the left of the Gantt chart. Figure F shows the timesheet view.
When it is time for Dell to report his hours for the Review Specifications task, he’ll need to enter the amount of hours that he’s worked on this task (in this case, 25) into the Actual Work field, as shown in Figure G.
Web Access automatically reduced the number of hours of remaining work to 15. Let’s say that Dell believes that he will be done in less than 15 hours. In order to let the PM know this, he reduces his time remaining from 15 hours to 5 hours. Figure H shows this change and how it changes the % Work Complete and Work Fields.
When Dell is satisfied with his entry, he clicks the Update Button at the top of the page. Figure I shows the confirmation message.
Now it’s up to Neil Page, the PM. The next time that Neil logs into Web Access, he will see a message similar to the one that Dell saw, letting him know that there is an updated task that requires his approval. If Neil clicks on this link, he’ll be taken to the Updates page shown in Figure J.
This view features updates grouped by Project name and then by Resource name to help the PM work with multiple projects and still keep everything straight. This is Neil’s chance to review the time submission before it’s updated to the project plan. At this point, the entries made by Dell and other resources are simply held in the database. They have not become part of the “real” project plan. They will not become part of the official plan until Neil accepts the submission by selecting Accept in the Accept column and then clicks the Update button. Once this is done, Web Access will open the plan into Project 2002 and update the tasks with the actual work submitted and approved.
If the PM disagrees with the submission or notices a mistake in the entries, the PM can choose to decline the time entry by selecting the Decline option. Then the Update button will send a notice back to the resource letting that person know that there was a problem.