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Been wrecking my brain on this for several weeks now.

Suppose I am a project manager. I have a task in a series of tasks that I need people to complete. A task can't start until one or more tasks are finished and it must be completed before the deadline. People are also working on lots of tasks from multiple projects. So I shouldn't assign somebody a task in a time period where they are busy. I should also ensure the person have enough time to complete this task.

What is an intuitive way that allows the project manager to assign a task to a particular person and slot it into their schedule so that they'll have enough time to complete it and the task must not start before specific tasks are finished and the task must be finished before the deadline?

Final output requirements:

  • Username of person assigned to the task
  • Task start date
  • Task end date

Dependencies:

  • Task must start after the end date of X other tasks
  • Task must be completed before deadline date
  • Task requires 20 hours to complete. Assigned user must be able to complete this within the period assigned given they only work 8 hours a day
  • User has also been assigned to other tasks. Current task must fit within their existing work schedule

Preferred workflow:

  1. Planning: Create the task and assign a user to the task (this is the preferred person for the task)
  2. Resourcing: Look at project timeline as a whole and assign dates to tasks and confirm who works on what when.

This problem is dealing with the second step.

Ideally I, the project manager, want to be able to see the project timeline as I am determining the task start and end time. AND I want to be able to keep an eye on the assigned person's schedule while I'm doing this.

I'm hitting walls when it comes to combining both of those views and would appreciate help if somebody would like to work on a challenge. Thanks!

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    Isn't all this built into project management software? Nov 21, 2014 at 10:00
  • Couldn't you just show each users timeline as a row, tasks as blocks of time and show dependencies as arrows? Any non-project tasks are shown as (possibly immutable) time blocks too. It sounds like something similar to a UML-sequence diagram. I guess I don't see any conflicting requirements. You want to show several peoples timeline, and several tasks timeline at the same time; fortunately they're not allowed to overlap so just showing them all at the same time seems easy.
    – Odalrick
    Nov 21, 2014 at 15:21
  • @SteveJones You would think so. But no, I've looked at project management softwares out there. They seem to have simple tracking for individual projects. Nothing that accounts for multiple projects.
    – nightning
    Nov 21, 2014 at 17:56
  • @Odalrick Could you throw up a diagram? I'm not sure whether I understand what you meant.
    – nightning
    Nov 21, 2014 at 18:00
  • @nightning I suspect that isn't really correct, it's just that free/cheap ones aren't very sophisticated. I worked for a company that did complex project management software back in the 90's, so this is possible. It was expensive, but very good if you need that kind of thing. Nov 22, 2014 at 9:38

1 Answer 1

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Every user has a timeline showing the timeslots available for allocation. The diagram shows weekdays, halfdays would probably be better for original question.

Tasks for the project being planned are shown in colour; otherwise occupied timeslots are marked with grey transparent tasks.

Dependencies are marked with an arrow pointing at any tasks that must be complete before that task can be started.

Unallocated tasks are outside any specific users timeline.

Arrows must point left. Vertical arrows are possible but indicate a mini-deadline; the pointed at task must not overrun. For a planning tool, it's probably not a good idea to forbid invalid connections, but they should be clearly marked.

Since a user cannot work on two things at once, overlap is invalid. Again, preventing overlap is probably not good; better to mark it with a warning.

Planning is accomplished by dragging tasks around.

Timeline

The basic view could be implemented on a whiteboard with post-its, string and silly-putty.

Lots of "upgraded" interactions occur to me.

Several projects can be visualised at once by making project have colours; rather than tasks.

A checkbox to hide arrows should be added to prevent visual overload when there are many tasks.

Hovering, or otherwise focusing a task, should highlight connections to and from that task.

Multiple users working on a single task could be visualised by connecting two task-bubbles with a vertical line, and locking those two together horizontally. This was also the intention behind colouring the tasks, however colour blindness and a limited number of visually distinctive colours prevent that from being a full solution.

An "autoplan" button would be useful. I'd try using Prolog to calculate it.

Timeslots allocated by other projects and timeslots allocated by outside systems should probably be visually distinctive. For example, tasks are bubbles, planned holidays are marked by the timeslot being filled.

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