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Open Source Gantt Chart For Self-Build


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#1 hazymat

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 12:35 AM

I appreciate this may be niche, or at least something that appeals to Business Management / IT people. In the world of project management we are used to reducing large, complex projects down to a blueprint, something that can be applied to any situation. Even if the scope of the blueprint is vastly different to what we are trying to achieve, this can be useful. For example, a blueprint might contain a project plan for building a home from scratch, all the way from procuring a plot of land through planning permission, design, building regulations, setting up contracts, undertaking the works oneself. Yet we may only be interested in a basic renovation, or maybe even just doing up the bathroom.

Home building can be viciously complicated, and for rookies like me with little or no experience in building but a good mind for managing a project, this could be very useful.

At the very least it could help others save a few weeks of wasted time because, despite trying to think ahead, they came across something they hadn't thought about.

I guess I'm proposing a collaboratively edited, open-source, self-build Gantt Chart for homeowners.

It might start with 2 lines: demolition and build. Then it may be broken into further sections including first and second fix. The more it's developed, the more granular it becomes, such that any home builder could benefit from knowing in what order you might want to install underfloor heating, vapour barriers, bathroom tiles, basement underpinning and steels, sewage, joists, walls, shower pumps, waterproofing systems... you get the idea.

Everyone's project is hugely different - I get that. The blueprint might include external wall insulation or MVHR, and you may not need this. But project plans can be modular, allowing tailoring to needs. They may also be granular, allowing you to drill-down to a fine level of detail (e.g. "Install dry wall timber frame").

To achieve such a level of granularity could only be done with the combined force of you lot and your experience.

So before I get started with the top-down blueprint and put it on GitHub, I wondered if I can stand on the shoulders of any giants?

Has anyone seen such an effort before? Even if we scrape different sections together from tutorials and fill in the gaps manually, this could be achieved.

Please chip in your ideas.


#2 SteamyTea

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 06:52 AM

Not quite the same, but may be worth you reading though:
http://www.ebuild.co...-when-building/

#3 Mackers

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 07:21 AM

If your using Libre office I'm sure I saw an extension for it along these lines. I'd be interested in this and to help out

#4 DamonHD

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 09:06 AM

Gantter, an apparently-free app on Google+, seems capable of handling pretty complex projects, FWIW.

Rgds

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#5 1anR

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 09:26 AM

View PostDamonHD, on 26 December 2015 - 09:06 AM, said:

Gantter, an apparently-free app on Google+, seems capable of handling pretty complex projects,

I'm using Gantter within Google Drive. Very capable and very easy to control collaboration with others.

However the one-size-fits-all Gant Chart for self-build, I see as bordering on impossible, unless it stays very high-level.

#6 SteamyTea

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 09:29 AM

I used to work for a company (very close to Damon's house) that just loved GANTT charts and all sorts of PM tools.
As far as I know, they never delivered the right amounts to the right places on time.
I kept my own records for my project there (as I was told that the transport manager could not count). At the end of the second week my figures did not tally with the company figures. Put that down to me making a mistake. Same happened the next week, then the week after.
So I investigated a bit. Found out that the DEC system they were using could not cope with an over delivery (more parts sent than asked for). So every time you tried to catch up on late deliveries it never showed up as being delivered.
When I asked the IT man about this, he said "Yes, I know about that, don't tell anyone". Must have cost the company £100,000s.

Edited by SteamyTea, 26 December 2015 - 09:30 AM.


#7 ProDave

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 09:51 AM

In the latter years of me doing a proper job, the company I was working for became obsessed with gantt charts and such like, to the point I swear I spent more time planning what I was going to do and when, than actually doing any useful productive work.

I had little regard for the things as they were at best a hope of how long a task would take and at worst a pure guess just to keep the software happy. I knew in the real world what I was doing and a task would take as long as it would take and nobody could accurately predict that depending how well it went or foresee any problems along the way. I also knew what order things needed to be done without having to look at a chart to tell me.

All the project plan for my new house is in my head and basically I make it up as I go along, doing anything I can. If something holds me up on one task, say waiting for a delivery, I just look around the site and think, what can I usefully do with the stuff I have to hand, and just get on with it.

Edited by ProDave, 26 December 2015 - 09:52 AM.


#8 SteamyTea

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 09:58 AM

That has tended to be my experience.
I do find sequential check lists useful, especially if I have to fit in with other peoples systems or I have to give a task to someone.

I think one of the problems to project managing a self build is that there is no history for build that house on that site, this compounds the belief that 'every house is different'.
And it is that belief that causes a lot of the problems.

#9 jsharris

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 10:49 AM

I've project managed a few fairly big programmes and projects and have yet to find a really effective project management tool.

Back in the early days PERT was the preferred method (only because POLARIS had used it) and for years I used PERT charts and got to like the way that this method intrinsically showed up the slack in the programme and the critical path. We then went through a stage where government was inundated with people trying to sell the latest project management tools, to the extent that knowledge of project management tool usage became more important than project management. The worst afflicted part of government was any area associated with IT procurement (and the government track record in that area shows how bad things were).

My last two programmes before I retired were both run at the project level by the very simplest tools possible, and the true project and programme management was done by managing risk. The first time I did this I got a lot of flack, but it was a big (as in £1.4bn) programme and when I took it on no one could answer one very simple question: "What is the greatest risk of this programme failing to deliver the desired outcome?". I had managers with Gantt charts coming out of their backsides, who were updating Microsoft Project plans once or twice a day, but the only answer they could give was that they were worried that the main rotor head may not tolerate the anticipated MTOW.

Now, although I was a scientist and not an engineer or project management expert, even I knew enough to know that physical problems like a bit of metal (in this case a titanium forging) was extremely unlikely to be a significant risk, let alone the greatest risk to the whole programme. A lot of backsides were kicked, the entire approach to risk management was reviewed and, funny old thing, what had been the biggest risk shifted down to being outside the top 100 risks. The big risks were all those I'd expected to hear of on day one, political, the ability of the man-machine interface to work with the reduced crew numbers and a host of finance risks associated with everything from costing through to cash flow and programme approval stages.

What I found shocking was that many "project management experts" in government suddenly thought that what I'd done was revolutionary and that I'd created a new form of programme management. This shocked me more than the initial shock I had when discovering that my team hadn't got a clue as to what the greatest risk to their project was.

My approach worked, but it did make me deeply unpopular. I insisted on only ever being briefed about the top 5 risks in each area of the programme from my project managers, and carried out random independent audits to try and gain confidence that their risk management was adequate.

The problems arose from those whose business is selling very expensive project and programme management tools to organisations that spend a lot of money (and government comes close to topping that list). The last thing the big software houses wanted was a maverick like me gaining popularity with a programme and project management methodology that relegated the status of their product back to the level of software tools that are used to help people write letters or design components. These companies had been used to selling their products on the fallacious basis that the product did all the grunt work of project management.

Sadly, when I left I saw that things were reverting to the way they had been ten years earlier, when I was dropped in to the deep end of the major government programme management pool. The moral is that those industries that lobby ministers always get their way. Democracy is just an illusion we have.

Edited by jsharris, 26 December 2015 - 10:54 AM.


#10 recoveringacademic

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 10:59 AM

Hazymat, I appreciate the sense in not re-inventing another wheel. I've tried Gantter and, to an extent, I like it.

But a simple spreadsheet will do. You don't even need to be able to write basic stuff like conditional formatting statements. A simple spreadsheet coupled with close attention to this discussion board is what I now use. I can't remember how many times this board has dug me out of the a hole before I fell into it.

Plenty of time to prove myself wrong.

#11 ferdinand

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 11:01 AM

I might tentatively suggest that the biggest risks in self build are associated with the builder not the build.

Or mini-diggers.

Ferdinand

Edited by ferdinand, 26 December 2015 - 11:02 AM.


#12 jsharris

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 11:14 AM

View Postferdinand, on 26 December 2015 - 11:01 AM, said:

I might tentatively suggest that the biggest risks in self build are associated with the builder not the build.

You'd undoubtedly be right. People are usually pretty good at recognising the important physical stuff, but are often poor at recognising the failings in themselves or others in project management or organisational positions.

Self-build is very much a single-person managed process, be it the self builder, a project manager, a prime contractor or an architect, and the biggest slice of the risk is that that individual will make a significant error.

Edited by jsharris, 26 December 2015 - 11:14 AM.


#13 joiner

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 11:16 AM

An old friend of mine was involved, as a WO1 in the RAOC, in 'organizing' the establishment of Donnington as the army's central ordnance depot, producing the PERT chart that controlled each phase and that was considered by his colonel to be so "classic" that he had it framed.

I agree with Jeremy that PERT is an order of magnitude better than GANTT in the real(ish) world.

Anyway, it's always been my understanding that you're not allowed to even mention "GANTT" unless you're standing in front of a flip chart, wearing red braces, having left your sense of humour in the boot of your BMW or Audi.

(Incidentally, WO1 Julian volunteered for any and every course going, in consequence often finding himself in the same lecture room as some VERY senior staff officers, quite a few of General rank. When his colonel was tasked with getting the move(s) to Donnington sorted he handed the whole job over to Julian.)

#14 jsharris

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 11:58 AM

View Postjoiner, on 26 December 2015 - 11:16 AM, said:

An old friend of mine was involved, as a WO1 in the RAOC, in 'organizing' the establishment of Donnington as the army's central ordnance depot, producing the PERT chart that controlled each phase and that was considered by his colonel to be so "classic" that he had it framed.

I agree with Jeremy that PERT is an order of magnitude better than GANTT in the real(ish) world.

Anyway, it's always been my understanding that you're not allowed to even mention "GANTT" unless you're standing in front of a flip chart, wearing red braces, having left your sense of humour in the boot of your BMW or Audi.

(Incidentally, WO1 Julian volunteered for any and every course going, in consequence often finding himself in the same lecture room as some VERY senior staff officers, quite a few of General rank. When his colonel was tasked with getting the move(s) to Donnington sorted he handed the whole job over to Julian.)

Funny old world, but I was seconded to Donnington to advise them on how to project manage the SA80 refurbishment programme, where the armoury there were sub-contracted to do a lot of preparation work in readiness for Heckler and Koch producing the new version (which used around 60% of the old versions parts - essentially just those parts that RO hadn't managed to design badly in the first place..............). To say that the people at Donnington experienced culture shock when asked to work to H&K standards is a small understatement!

#15 joiner

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 12:12 PM

:) Not sure when Julian was there. He told me that story in 1994 when we were reminiscing about our service days on a beach in Torquay. He'd bought the house he was living in then, in Telford, whilst he was still in the army and in married quarters, in preparation for his retirement. Not sure if that PERT chart of his wasn't on a wall somewhere in the offices at Donnington.

When I first met him (actually via his wife, who opened a shop close to where we lived) he was working as a business consultant and couldn't understand why I burst out laughing when I saw the red braces he was wearing.

"I can't see what's so funny, I just bought them because I liked them."

But I never saw him wearing them again. :rolleyes:

We became, and remain, close friends.

#16 SteamyTea

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 01:09 PM

There is a few acronyms/abbreviations for the thread about them. ;)

#17 Alphonsox

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 01:25 PM

I posted our project cost and task spreadsheet in the following thread. (Post 19)

http://www.ebuild.co...ear-and-simple/

It's not a GANTT chart but may provide a starting point

#18 SteamyTea

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 02:22 PM

I spent a few minutes playing in Excel (so either open with Excel or change the txt extension to xlxs)
Ended up with something like this.

Attached Files



#19 hazymat

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 02:45 PM

Red braces, flip charts, I hear your points. My background is IT and my preference is to get things done not mess around with systems for the sake of systems. I'm a meeting-hater, not a meeting-lover.

To be clear, I'm not looking for a system. Like others have said here, an Excel spreadsheet will do. Frankly so would a plain text file, but as you can imagine both of these options are limited when it comes to not wasting loads of time formatting / messing with colours / etc. So perhaps something a little more nuanced than a spreadsheet.

My interest here is in getting the process down. By "process" I don't mean "how long things will take" or "how much they will cost" but rather "what order things need to be done in".

I'm guessing that the experienced self-builders amongst you probably don't realise how much you know about the above. More to the point, some self-builders will be highly experienced in one area and others in another area so it could be mutually-beneficial.

As for 1anR's comment about it being impossible unless it stays very high-level. This is the crux of it. Your point may be true, but if done well it needn't be. My original point applies: a project plan can be modular. As long as tasks are categorised, an e.g. Gantt chart can essentially hide areas of complexity, or hide the aspects that don't apply to your own project.

So far I've not seen anything resembling a list of tasks with dependencies - this is the blueprint I'm wanting to make.

I'm going to go off and think about how this could be best documented (although not for long, I hope) and come back to this thread with a suggested top-level project plan, with flexibility to expand by adding more detail.

Edited by hazymat, 26 December 2015 - 02:45 PM.


#20 SteamyTea

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 02:54 PM

Almost what I suggested on that other thread, but about the non building issues i.e. planning, certificated etc.
I found there was lack of enthusiasm.

Expandable lists are good.