Dependencies - Linking Activities & Milestones
Merlin Project is one of the best Mac based project management software available today. It is feature rich, very flexible, designed for both the individual user as well as collaborative groups. I find that one of the best features is the easy to use user interface.
Most people who come to software such as Merlin Project, do so because they have a very specific need for which they are in search of a solution. The creation of a Gantt chart is on the top of that list. This is not as complicated a task as some might think. It simply requires some organization, some planning and forward thinking. Often users will create a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) and manually start moving the items, in order to get their desired result, but not necessarily accurate. With this very same information, Merlin Project can not only generate the desired Gantt chart, it will also give you the tools to manage your project in a way that you were unable to before. The true power of Merlin Project is to allow it to do the work for you.
Here is a short recipe for creating a Gantt chart that will actually reflect the reality of your project.
  1. Create a list of the actions that need to take place. This can be done directly in Merlin Project, in a spreadsheet or the old fashioned way with paper & pencil.
  2. Now that you have all the items listed, it is a good idea to group them into phases for easier reading. I would also consider adding milestones as a way to measure progress.
  3. If you have decided to use another electronic method to plan your project, you should be able to import the data. Merlin Project has a very wide range of data import/export built into it.
  4. Once you have the structure of your project in place, you are to input the additional data.
  5. In place of manually moving the activity bars to create the Gantt Chart, we need to add only those start/end dates that we know to be fixed, leaving the rest as they are.
  6. Now we can start linking the activities and milestones as per our projects needs.
  7. As the links are being added, the Gantt chart will start to morph into something that you probably had in mind, only this version is really going to project the data in your hand.
It is very exciting to learn about linking and watch the chart change. This is also where many users stumble. They get ambitious and start linking activities & milestone in all sorts of ways. Quite often it renders the project unreadable or even useless. My recommendation is to keep the structure and linking simple. You can always experiment once you have a firm handle on how the basics work.
If you want to get hands on experience with this and learn a lot of ways in which Merlin Project can bring your projects to higher levels of success, reach out for our consulting services or a training class.
A note on links:
There are four types of links that can be used when linking activities End to Start (ES), Start to Start (SS), End to End (EE) & Start to End (SE)(See Diagram). In addition there is no restriction on how many activities may be linked together. Be very careful if you should start linking multiple activities at the same time, as you can easily loose yourself.