I’ve been playing around with the project timeline that comes in the out-of-the-box template when you create a project site. It uses lists of tasks but you can then display them in a visual timeline similar to a Gantt chart. It looks like it could be a useful management tool, where a project site acts as a hub for a manager wanting to monitor multiple projects.
I created my project site as a subsite of my personal site, and then shared it with the staff – a mixture of managers and front-line staff – who I would like to be updating it. From your profile page, choose the cog wheel menu at the top right, select Site Contents and, at the bottom, click the new subsite link. On that page, there are templates under the Collaboration tab – choose project. The resulting site is just like a team site but there is some extra functionality built around tasks. You can create tasks, store documents, and all the other things you can do with a regular site.
Unlike normal tasks, you can apply project names so that the project rolls up and you can view just the project you want. You can apply assignments to others (doesn’t appear to notify them, just tags them), and you can note whether the task is completed and by what percentage.
Tasks can be color-coded but it’s done manually. It would have been nice to have one project be all one color and different from the next. I can see how manually applying color can also have benefits: certain types of actions, or critical dates/milestones, might be colored differently from others.
Another manual process is getting the items on the timeline. When you create new tasks in the project site, they do not automatically appear on the timeline. You need to select them, click on the ellipses (three dots), and choose to add to timeline. I’d hoped that you could create a project template as well – say a set of a half dozen or so tasks that you could just activate, and that would fall out in a predictable time frame so that you could create a repeatable set of activities. It doesn’t look like that’s possible; every task is recreated individually.
This looks like a useful tool for a manager or staff who like to visualize their work. People working on projects could be given access to the site and update or add their own tasks. Workflows and alerts can be set on tasks if, for example, they’re completed or are overdue. The overseeing manager could go in and view the dashboard without having to round-robin with regular requests for updates on project status. It will be interesting to see if this would be a good replacement for status updates via e-mail or meetings.