Define general data of your project
This is where the project starts. Usually a name and maybe a code are used to identify each project. If known, a start date can also be set (though you can get back to this step at any time to set/change it). A short, concise description of the project objective could also be useful.
Use notes and links to track project related information
Notes are useful to remember important details.
You can define links to other important documents related to the project (project charter, product description, project deliverables, project objectives etc.). Attach brief, relevant descriptions that will help you to identify the link's target.
Define the project working time
Use calendars to specify working times for resources or to schedule project's tasks.Calendar editor helps to create custom calendars.
To define special days, click on Set holidays, days off and other special days tag.
Note the assumptions and constraints
During the planning phase assumptions are factors considered to be true, real, or certain and involve a degree of risk (e.g.: if the project development needs a certified staff in a certain domain, the project manager may assume that it will be available).
Constraints are restrictions that affect the performance of the project. The budget is the most popular constraint, which limits the scope, staffing and schedule. In construction weather can be a serious constraint for project success.
Both assumptions and constraints are important issues to be considered along the project life.
Identifying risks at the earliest stages of the project plan increases the chances for the project success.
Set the impact level and the probability to occur and think about a risk response plan to reduce threats to the project's objectives. Describe all these in the Notes area below the table.
Create the project's work breakdown structure
You should never start constructing a schedule for your project before designing a proper WBS; this is considered to be a poor practice.
To put it in simple words, a WBS (work breakdown structure) is a decomposition of a project into smaller components (preferably deliverable-oriented). The WBS is neither a project plan nor a project schedule (and it's not about a chronological listing of project's tasks).
To create the WBS you should first identify the project's major deliverables. You should then decompose those deliverables into smaller components until they are small enough to support definition of the activities..
Define the project activities
Human resources and equipment
Identify the necessary personnel and equipment based on each project's activities (in the Multi Project version all resources are shared between all projects from the company hence when creating a new project you may already have the necessary resources).
Each resource can use the company's calendar or you can assign a calendar for it as well as define unique exceptions such as vacation, days off etc. Different cost rates can be defined for normal working hours and overtime hours.
For each project identify the necessary materials and add them here. For each material resource you can define it's price per unit and measure unit.
These resources may include costs with tools, travel expenses, training or management fees or other kind of fixed costs. When assigning a cost resource to a task you will be able to specify the cost value for that assignment.
Assign resources to tasks
For each task of the project, decide what material resources are needed and select the human and equipment resources that will accomplish it by taking into considerations the skills and experience in that domain. Fill in the units of the resource-task assignment by considering the maximum units available from that resource. By setting a resource-task assignment unit of 0 means that that resource will not work on that task (it is just responsible for it).
Level project resources
Overallocated resources as well as resources that work overtime hours will appear in red, respectively yellow color. Check the time sheet area and zoom in/out to spot the exact period when the problem occurs. Both task and resource details are available in this view so you can easily reallocate resources or take other actions to solve the overallocation issue.
Manage costs distribution for tasks
There are cases when besides the costs with resources the projects involves some other costs for tasks. Here you can add them and also specify their accrual method. Tasks costs distribution in time is available at the right side.
Track the evolution of the project
Once the projects have been carefully planned and started the project manager must have a way to monitor the project evolution while updating the schedule with the information about the tasks completion. This view is where you can do this. The completed part of a task will be marked in the Gantt chart with a darker color.
You can also update tasks duration so the schedule will match the actual project's evolution.
- Notes & Links
- Assumptions & Constraints
- Create WBS
- Schedule tasks
- Human & Equipment
- Assign resources
- Level resources
- Define additional costs for tasks
- Update tasks completion
RationalPlan Single Project
WBS, Gantt chart, allocate resources, estimate costs
Use the Single Project version to handle independent projects (no shared resources, no links between tasks from different projects - if you need any of these you should opt for the Multi Project version).
- Associate general project information (name, notes, links, assumptions, constraints, risks)
- Create, edit and delete calendars
- Build work breakdown structure
- Create dependencies between tasks, set lead/lag time
- Manage task properties such as constraints, fixed cost
- Define project resources - human/equipment and material
- Define specific working time for each human resource
- Assign resources to tasks
- View timephased information about resources' work and cost
- View overallocated resources and resources that work overtime
- View project's critical tasks depending on a customizable slack
- Mark the task progress by changing the task completion value (%complete or %work complete)
- View timephased information about tasks' work and cost
- Filter tasks based on different criteria
- Easy to use Gantt Chart
- Project Guide assists you step-by-step with easy to understand explanations
- Icon Bar with specific commands for every view
- Export to Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel
- Import from Microsoft Project
- Printable reports (to printer or to file - pdf format)
- Strong Print Preview interface
- No annoying dialog windows unless strictly necessary
- Cross-platform (work on all major operating systems starting with Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and all other Java enabled platforms)
I recently downloaded Single and have found it to be a practical and well-design project interface. I've used MS Project, dotProject, JX Project, and MinuteMan, among others. RationalPlan is very usable and practical.