Typiclly, a common project management system allows visualizing the project plan, the timeline, milestones and resource allocations with a Gantt chart. Nevertheless, both the jobs and the resource planning module which are designed to help Microsoft Dynamics NAV users to manager projects do not offer any kind of project visualization. Although you could export data from Dynamics NAV and use external products to visualize them, that is not the most suitable way since you would have to deal with two – often not very much integrated – software applications. Besides, when using this method, it often happens that only project reporting will be realized and not the interactive project planning taking into account the available resources.
If you want to close this gap in an integrated manner, it is recommended that you enahnce your Dynamics NAV system with an add-in which is based on the unchanged standard NAV project structure and data model of jobs, job tasks, job planning lines and resource allocations. This data model can best be understood, if you look from two angles and provide answers to (at least) two questions:
What is the timeline of my project, and how will changes/ delays of certain tasks affect my (crucial) milestones?
How busy will my project teams be in the coming weeks/ months: Where are still resources available? Which people will be very busy? And how will a change in a task’s date change my overall resource situation?
The different questions lead to different views on the data that should be applied in any visual project management solution for Dynamics NAV.
A project Gantt chart (jobs view) should show the data by job status, jobs, job tasks, job planning lines and resource allocations. It should provide users with the capability to drill down from a high-level view to a detailed view understanding both the project structure and the dependencies between single job tasks or even planning lines. Of course, as a project management tool (and not a static “report generator”) it must enable the user to change the schedule by simple mouse interactions, i.e. drag & drop of jobs, jobs tasks and job planning lines. A sample project Gantt chart is shown in the screenshot below.
The above description of a typical project Gantt chart revealed one obvious lack of functionality within the standard Dynamics NAV jobs module: NAV completely misses the capability to define dependencies between job tasks or job planning lines. This is something where a visual project scheduling tool can provide a great value to better manage and change projects within NAV. Firstly, simply defining dependencies with the mouse in the Gantt chart enhances the information value of the visual schedule. Secondly, once these dependencies are defined, they can get used automatically move all dependent tasks if a predecessor is moved. This increases the decision value of the visual schedule.
In addition to looking at the entire project and the task and planning line dependencies and as such keeping the milestones under control, a project manager also always has to manage resources and resource groups. This is where a resource Gantt chart comes into play when designing a visual project scheduling product for Dynamics NAV.
Of course, it should show the project data by resource groups and resources, and it should visualize the resource utilization in a comprehensive manner and highlight resource conflicts at one glance. The latter can best get achieved with a so called “histogram” which is a special charting technique to show the workload of a resource or resource group over time. As the project Gantt chart, also the resource Gantt chart must enable the user to change data via drag & drop.
Above all, it must allow reallocating tasks from one resource to another. A sample of such a resource Gantt Chart is shown below.
The histogram below the Gantt chart shows when and to which degree resources are (over)loaded. It also updates automatically: If moving a job task results in an overload, an optical warning will be given so that you can react immediately. Of course, this happens in real-time giving the user an immediate feedback on the consequences of his schedule changes.
Summing this up, a comprehensive visual scheduling solution to better plan and manage jobs and projects within Microsoft Dynamics NAV should
Be based on the unchanged standard NAV jobs and resource planning module.
Provide different views from both a project and a resource perspective on the same data.
Enable users to interactively create, define and save dependencies between job tasks and even job planning lines.
Deliver immediate answers to the typical milestone- and resource-oriented questions of a project manager’s day-to-day work.
In order to achieve this, apply intelligent and context-sensitive visual alerts.
Want to learn more about Dynamics NAV visual scheduling? Read our complementary Ebook "Introduction to Visual Scheduling for Microsoft Dynamics NAV".