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About Tim Calhoon
Tim Calhoon is the Director of the California Community Colleges Technology Center at Butte College, which helps facilitate and coordinate the work of California Community Colleges (CCC) systemwide technology projects in coordination with the CCC Chancellor's Office Telecommunications & Technology Unit. Prior to this, Tim accrued more than 10 years experience in managing educational technology organizations for PLATO Learning (Nasdaq:TUTR) and CyberEd, Inc. This work, in conjunction with a talented development team, lead to more than 17 educational technology awards and a Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) CODIE nomination. Tim lives in Northern California near Chico with his wife, son and daughter. His children are both currently attending college.
TechEDge eNews Update
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 March 2010 Written by Tim Calhoon Monday, 25 January 2010
I don't see many folks using burndown reports to manage their projects. Maybe because it is not a standard Microsoft Project (MS Project ) report and it is a pain to generate from raw MS Project data using a spreadsheet. More on this in a moment.
In general, a burndown report shows the trend for how much work is left to do by adding the estimated effort left for each of the tasks and showing how the estimated effort is changing over time. The ideal burn down trends at a gentle slope down to your promise date as remaining work on the project dwindles.
- If the trend is up, you are in trouble. Remaining work is increasing due to poor planning, scope creep, etc. Amazingly, this seems to be the norm.
- If the trend is flat, you may have a lazy, crazy, good-for-nothing staff playing video games and instant messaging their buddies. Time to crack the whip. If this goes on long enough you've got trouble.
- If the trend is down significantly, you may finish early. You have either cut the project’s scope, or it is time to get religion—a miracle may be in the making.
Even though we are moving to LiquidPlanner for many of our projects, we still use MS Project for some. Recently, I found a nice MS Project reader that will generate a burndown report with ease. Adept ProjectSimple produces what they term an Intelligent BurnDown Chart. There is a free trial, and the cost to own the reader to generate the charts automatically is modest.
LiquidPlanner generates a chart called the Remaining Trend report that is very similar to a traditional burndown chart. You may recall in my last blog that LiquidPlanner specializes in probabilistic scheduling based on calculating Best Case, Most Likely and Worst Case scenarios for the project.
From LiquidPlanner’s Web site: The Remaining Trend chart directly above “shows the history of remaining work for projects and tasks plus a projection to the probable landing zone. You see three lines representing the expected remaining work (black) and the low and high estimates (blue).”
Burndown charts are extremely valuable. If you track them regularly, for better or worse, you can get immediate insights into where your project is headed. Do you use burndowns? Got a better way to track projects? Post a comment and let me know. <>