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Introduction to 2-plan Team

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2-plan Team is an online project management tool that, just like its desktop counterpart (2-plan Desktop), addresses the typical problems (e.g. inaccurate status measurement, schedule/cost forecasting on a regular basis etc.) that are faced by the users of various web-based project management tools. Moreover, 2-plan Team is seamlessly integrated with the 2-plan Desktop in order to give the best and the most flexible combination of desktop and web-based PM tools that communicate with each other perfectly. And the best part is that it is open source so you don’t need to pay a penny to get or use it.

What is 2-plan Team?

2-plan Team is a web-based PM tool that has been developed by 2-plan GmbH to fill in the gaps between user requirements and what is being offered by various web-based project management tools that are available in the market today. 2-plan Team is a PHP-based application that is easy to install (it just takes a few minutes) and is very simple to use. 2-plan Team is based on the open-source software Collabtive.

Consolidated portfolio dashboard, earned value analysis, easy time-tracking/recording interface (with the option of specifying time-to-complete), differentiation between workpackages / tasks, messages and tasks as RSS feeds, configurability / flexibility, role-based access, assigning work package to a team (and not an individual) are some of the remarkable features of 2-plan Team.

You can either use 2-plan Team on a standalone basis or couple it with 2-plan Desktop scheduling in order to gain the maximum benefits.

What’s special about 2-plan Team?

The market is full of all sorts of web-based project management tools that do different things. At 2-plan GmbH, we have done a deep analysis of the user requirements and the web-based project management tools that crowd the market. While doing this we have also paid special attention to the problems that are faced by the users while using current set of project management tools that are available in the market. And we also took into consideration all the various stake holders that work with or utilize such web-based project management tools and also the desktop scheduling tools.

Finally, the idea for 2-plan Team was laid out. The aim is to give people a simple online open source project software that they can install on their own server for free or use a hosted version out of the box. A software that combines agile methods, collaboration features with the ability to cooperate with a traditional desktop scheduling tool. A tool which really supports project management methods mentioned in the PMBok. A tool which could be used as standalone project management software or as simple time-tracker software. A tool that uses “effort to complete” as the most (and only) useful status report method.

Let’s take a look at some of the distinguishing features of 2-plan Team:

  • 2-plan Team differentiates between work packages and tasks -- A work package is a defined piece of work or deliverable whereas tasks are the activities that you need to perform in order to complete the workpackage. Typically, you would break your project into several work packages and assign each work package to a team…the designated team leader would then create tasks for execution of that workpackage and assign them to the team members. So, there is no micro management and the team is happier too.
  • Accurate status tracking and monitoring: 2-plan Team deploys methods to track the ‘real’ status of a workpackage/task/project. It helps do away with the false reporting of progress (e.g. the 90% syndrome wherein the project progress is reported as steady until a plateau of 90% is reached and thereafter the progress is reported to be really slow). With 2-plan Team, each work package is divided into several smaller tasks and the completion status is computed as percentage of forecasted effort actually spent. This helps in getting a more accurate picture with respect to completion status.
  • Better control on cost through accurate forecasting of time required to complete the work package and using burn-down charts:2-plan Team has a feature through which the team members can enter the ‘estimated time to complete’ for the tasks that they are working on. So, at any point in time, you can aggregate the ‘estimated time to complete’ for all the tasks linked to a work package…and hence control and plan your project in a better way.

    This information is used for earned-value analysis for which we have work package charts…you can see 2 charts for the project/ workpackage -- First one is a burn down chart that helps check whether your project is on schedule and the second chart helps keep a tab on effort/cost. By interpreting these 2 charts together, at any point in time you can accurately track the 2 most important parameters of your project – Schedule and Cost. This will give you a good idea of effort/cost slippage and help you take corrective actions earlier in the life of the project. Since the effort/cost is booked on work package level, you know the exact problem areas very easily.

  • Right level of granularity for the various stakeholders and at the same time providing better control without micro-management:2-plan Team offers a portfolio dashboard and a project dashboard in order to group and bring out the right level of granularity for the various stakeholders. So, when you login to 2-plan Team, you are presented with a consolidated view of the projects you are working on (or want to track), your tasks, calendar and your messages. This bird’s eye view is useful both for project managers and individual team members. It gives a quick idea of the overall status of various projects you are involved in and the actions you need to take.

    Similarly, you can drill down to project dashboard (by clicking a project name) and you will be presented with the burn-down charts and information related to that specific project. The information presented will include description, plan effort, actual effort, time left, % completion of project, calendar, time tracker and activities.

  • Simplified and more manageable work breakdown structure: As mentioned earlier, 2-plan differentiates work packages and tasks. A work package can be divided into tasks by various team members and allocated to each other (or a team lead could do this job). With the workpackage/task differentiation, it is really simple and easy to create and schedule workpackages (and the team too get’s more power in the planning process). You can set plan values for workpackages and use the burn down charts to track schedule and budget.
  • Integrated desktop + web-based project management tool: 2-plan Team integrates very well with the desktop version of 2-plan. This can be a great advantage in providing flexibility to your team and managing deliverables at the same time. You can create your work packages and a stable time schedule in 2-plan and then transfer the workpackages/deliverables to 2-plan Team server for the team to break it into tasks (and assign it among themselves…or a team lead can do the assignments).
    As the team members complete the tasks, they can mark them as complete and also specify time-to-complete for in-progress tasks. The project manager can read the actual values into the time schedule in 2-plan…when he/she needs to do that. In 2-plan Team, it is possible to assign a task to a team (instead of assigning it to only individuals). This capability is of great use and helps reduce micro management.
  • Simple and easy collaboration features that aggregate at the project level: You can send project related messages to other team members and these messages will show in their list of messages for that particular project. Messages can also be assigned to milestones thereby ensuring that all milestone related information and messages too are at the same place. Similarly, you can add files to a project, specify permissions for these files and notify other team members about it. So, all files for your project are at one place.
  • Project Activity: With 2-plan Team, you can check all the activity that has happened for a particular project. It is like a running log of everything that has happened in the project e.g. task completion, assignments and other updates

So, unlike several other web-based project management tools, 2-plan Team is not a tool meant just for collaboration; it has all the planning features together with great collaboration features.

Whom is it meant for?

2-plan team is meant for anyone who need a low cost solution (2-plan Team is free) to effectively manage one or multiple projects in an easy way. With some great collaboration features, extreme flexibility, easy tracking, accurate forecasting and seamless integration with the desktop scheduling tool (2-plan Desktop), 2-plan Team is really useful for any organization/ department/group that doesn’t want a whole range of tools to do different things.

2-plan Team can be one tool that you can use for all the important project management functions and it is free as well, so you don’t need a company-wide decision or a budget approval in order to be able to use it.

It does away with the problems related to traditional project management tools by providing the facility to add actual values (actual time worked on a work package, ‘Effort to complete’). So, the project manager always has a real time view of the cost and schedule (the two most important things that you need to track for any project).