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Whiteboard planning for project management. Is it enough?

Project Management

Whiteboards are a ubiquitous office tool. And are an inexpensive and convenient way to collaborate during meetings and to make your ideas more visual. For project management however, whiteboards are less than ideal. They can be clumsy and chaotic. If you’re unsure whether you need to make the upgrade from whiteboards to something more, read on. We’ll explain when and why whiteboard planning may not be enough.

Managing projects with a whiteboard

Whiteboard planning is useful. There’s a reason why nearly every office in the world has one. Team members can easily collaborate, make pitches, and spitball ideas. Whiteboards foster creativity and transport us back to a time when learning was fun. Plus, they demonstrate why “there’s no dumb ideas.” Because with a quick swipe, Carol in HR’s suggestion of “bring your cat to work day” can be gone forever.

Making plans with whiteboards is great for the early stages of a project. There’s even science to back this up. And for many, just noting down a plan can make it more effective. However, there are numerous instances when whiteboards just don’t cut it. And to execute your plans, it would be wise to look towards investing in proper resource planning software. This article will go through 8 times when whiteboard plans are not enough. Plus, we’ll throw in some tips on how to solve potential dilemmas such boards may incur.

8 times whiteboard planning is not enough

 1. You have a lot of resources.

While there’s no magic number for what constitutes “a lot,” it should be apparent when you start to run out of space to write. Or when you’re scouring Amazon for whiteboard deals.

When your project contains a lot of resources, things begin to get confusing. Is Benny using the recording studio at 3 or is Bjorn? Who’s in charge of the yellow van now, and when will it be available? Which of your teammates is able to meet with your clients and which meeting room can they use?

Project management relies on properly scheduling your resources. But when you have an overwhelming amount of resources, the simplicity of a whiteboard is outweighed by the need to keep track of everything.

Tip to solve it:

Consider using a Gantt chart instead of a whiteboard. And if you’re truly dedicated to continuing to use your board, you can even turn that into a Gantt chart. Henry Gantt’s first ones were hand drawn and they were still incredibly useful 100 years ago. Turning your whiteboards into Gantt charts allows you to not only see your resources, but their tasks, and the dependencies between them. They are a handy way to keep track of your resources, and make sure you haven’t overbooked or overlooked anyone in the process.

And if you want to make things even easier for yourself, consider some online Gantt chart software instead. Here we put together some tips on finding the best one.

 2. You plan far in advance.

Whiteboards are good for making plans about a week ahead. And for giving an overview of your plans that’s front and center at your office. They’re a helpful, visual reminder that keeps everyone on task.

However, they aren’t so great if you need to plan further down the road. Or if you’re hoping to lock in upcoming, potential projects. It’s difficult to plan out next week’s tasks on a whiteboard, let alone next quarter’s projects. So if long-term planning is something your job requires, you may want to consider adding an additional tool.

Tip to solve it:

Resource management software can give you the best of both worlds. Not only do you get the overview of all your projects, tasks, and resources, but it’s great for long-term planning. For example, If all the project managers plan with the same resource pool, then using a common tool between them will be useful. They’ll be able to see if a resource is already occupied with another project and how long that resource will be occupied.

In Ganttic, you have the option of booking “unassigned tasks” for your resources. So even if you don’t know what the exact plan is yet, you can rest assured that you’ll have the right capacity to carry it out. Once you do have the kinks worked out and your projects are set to go, drag and drop the tasks for easy booking.

Plan your resources for the next year, in a matter of minutes. Then share it with everyone on your team. Everybody will be made aware of their tasks and will know what they need to do.

 3. You work with a remote team (or teams).

Working remotely is part of the modern, business landscape. And technology has played a big role in keeping everyone on the same page, even if there’s continents between you and your teammates. Plus, it’s helped make home office a staple in many corporations. So how are you still planning on a whiteboard?

Attempting to do your project management on a whiteboard and for a remote team is a feat in and of itself! It could really only work by attaching a lot of photos of the plans and sending out a lot of emails. Anytime the plan changed, you’d need to re-upload the picture and contact everyone involved. Not only is this time consuming, but it creates a lot of useless email “noise.” And your team can never be certain which photo is the definitive version of your plans.

Tip to solve it:

You’re already using technology to connect your team, so throwing a 60 year old tool into the mix is just cruel and unnecessary.

If your team or even a part of your team is working remotely, you’ll benefit immensely from resource planning software. Your remote team can see what’s going on from wherever they are. They can adjust the plans. Mark tasks as done. See what’s coming next. Collaborate with others. If you allocate a resource to another project, they will see it right away. There will be less confusion and more work.

Real-World Case Study: Pure Technologies

Allison Stroebele from Pure Technologies knew the difficulty of managing remote teams first-hand. With 3 teams strewn across the US, Canada, and Mexico she was looking for a more efficient solution to their human resource and equipment scheduling problems.

 “We needed a better way to schedule a project so that we could see who would be involved and what equipment would be in use. Especially when teams were coming from three different offices nationwide and equipment was being shipped from anywhere in the country.”

After Pure Technologies implemented Ganttic as their resource planning software, they immediately saw positive results. Noting the improvements, Allison added:

 “We’re more efficient in our jobs. We can track at least 80 pieces of equipment now as well, which wasn’t practical previously. As soon as we started using Ganttic, our tool support people said, ‘This is awesome, we can track every single piece of equipment. We can keep track of where everything is in real-time.’ So it gives everybody better visibility on where equipment and technicians are and what they’re doing.”

See the other ways Ganttic has made work easier for Pure Technologies.

Looking for a tool to help manage your remote team? Set up a 1 to 1 with Ganttic and we’ll show you how.

 4. Planning is done by a project manager.

Planning and managing your projects can be a creative and collaborative process. And that works well for many businesses. Used within this process, whiteboards can be helpful tools for the early stages of planning and for setting the strategic direction your company wants to pursue. However, if you have a dedicated project manager or a PMO, then whiteboards may not be the way to go. That’s because, if your corporation realizes that project management is important, then it should also recognize why whiteboards just aren’t enough. They’ll need a better way to organize, schedule, and prioritize projects.

Tip to solve it:

Most resource planning software features multiple levels of permissions for users. For example, Ganttic has users and administrators. And resource rights and project rights. Plus, view-only and editing rights. You can even combine those rights into different sets and customize it how you need it. This makes it easier to leave the planning to the professionals. While also giving viewing rights to anyone who needs to see the plans.

 5. You want your tools to do some of the work for you.

Let’s face it, whiteboard planning is pretty old school. Once you add info to your whiteboard, that’s where it stays. That is until you erase it. But, what if your data could do more for you? Perhaps, you’d like to know how efficiently your resources were working and at what capacity. Or maybe you’re interested in turning this data into graphs which would help you forecast better. Unfortunately, as of now, whiteboards aren’t able to tell you this, without you doing the calculations. But, there are tools that can.

Tip to solve it:

Don’t let all your important data go to waste, there’s so much that could be useful for future project management. To get the most out of your information, invest in some planning software which runs the calculations while you work. Whether it’s capacity utilization graphs, automatic reports, or tracking your resource’s utilization. See exactly how your resources are performing to gain better insights, make more informed decisions, and plan more accurately. Make your tools work for you.

Whiteboards are useful for short-term planning and team collaboration, but can’t compete with planning software that can do the calculations and run reports for you. 

 6. You need all your plans in one place.

It’s unlikely that whiteboards are the only planning tool your office is using. Most probably they’re used in conjunction with other free software for planning, such as spreadsheets. However, for anyone who has to use Excel for their project management, you understand what a nightmare that can be. And why it’s a habit you need to break. It’s too easy to forget to update the spreadsheets, miss a meeting, or overbook a resource. Plus, so many updates to be added manually, which is ripe for making mistakes. Whiteboards + spreadsheets = chaos. But there is a way that this can be avoided.

Tip to solve it:

There are alternatives to Excel. And what these various resource planning software can offer you is a chance to utilize a flexible and customizable tool. One that keeps all your plans, schedules, tasks, and resources in one place. And without having to deal with a mountain of out-of-date spreadsheets. No more resource conflicts or resource stealing. Stay organized and keep your team on task. If you’re not sure how to start, check out our how-to guide here.

Real-World Case Study: Innopolis Engineering™

Innopolis Engineering™ are a Scandinavian and Baltic Architecture and Engineering Company. They initially used Excel for their resource management, until that became a problem and they found a better solution. Lauri Reinart, the Chief Structural Engineer, told us:

“Like most of us in the engineering industry, we were using Excel for our resource management. At that time we had about 8 team members in the structural engineering department and more projects were adding up constantly.

When our team grew to more than 10 people, resource management in Excel became too difficult to follow. We knew it was time for a change. We were on the lookout for a tool to do resource-based planning.When we were planning resources with Excel, we had something like Ganttic in mind. Then we came across Ganttic and it felt like a perfect fit. It quickly became our main resource planning tool.”

To read more about Innopolis Engineering’s switch from spreadsheets to Ganttic, read the full case study here.

 7. You like your plans on the go.

Dragging your whiteboard around with you can be a… drag. Even if the whiteboard has wheels. People generally help to lift strollers to public transportation. Believe it or not, they aren’t so generous with whiteboards.

And although it’s obvious that you aren’t schlepping your whiteboard with you across town, it does open up the logistical issue with them. They are stationary and aren’t meant to be mobile. As we mentioned above in point 3, that’s not how business works these days.

Tip to solve it:

Resource planning software can help you mobilize. Much of the software is cloud-based so whether you’re at the office, on the train home, or enroute to meet with clients, you can double-check your plans to make sure you’re up to date. Use your computer or simply open an app on your phone. It’s not only convenient and easy, but helps you do your job better.

 8. You need to do project portfolio management (PPM)

If you are engaging in high-level planning such as PPM, whiteboard planning is not the way to go. PPM is about making sure your company’s overall strategy is being carried out by your projects. To do so you need a tool which gives an overview of all your concurrent projects and a centralized system in which you can track your projects and their resources. You need to be able to organize, analyze, and report on your portfolio. If you’re able to pull all this off with a simple whiteboard, then color me impressed. For the rest of us, we need a little help.

Tip to solve it:

Portfolio managers need a good overview and to see their plans from different angles. In resource management software, like Ganttic, this is easily achieved through project views. Gain a view of different locations, departments, and projects. Quickly click through the timelines and life-cycles of the projects to get an idea of the big-picture. You can also group the resources by projects for an overview of the entire portfolio.

Project capacity graphs show when your resources are at their busiest. Helping you plan ahead and reallocate resources before problems start. Plus, features like milestones keep track of the important dates in your projects’ timelines.

There’s better ways to plan than whiteboards

While there’s no need to throw out your whiteboard today, it’s important to see how much better your planning and project management can be with other tools. Resource planning software helps solve a lot of the problems that transpire when you’re only using your communal office board, or even a whiteboard plus Excel.

If you’re ready to upgrade your planning process, think about investing in some software to help. Sign up for a free trial of Ganttic, and see the difference.

Want to plan smarter? Set up a personal demo with Ganttic and we’ll show you how.

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