Looking for Project Management assistance

I’m managing my Maintenance Department, and getting it under control. But I’ve got an issue I hope someone can help me with.

The situation;

I’ve got the week of 26 – 30 December slated as a maintenance shutdown period in the foundry, and I’ve coordinated events so that I have a list of projects, parts ordered, contractors and specialists arranged to be on site at various intervals, and estimated times.

The issue;

My boss, the President of the company, had an outside contractor once give him a project timeline in the form of a Gantt Chart.

The President is now enamored of Gantt Charts, thinks that is just the cat’s meow, and just sent an email to me telling me that I need to provide a Gantt Chart, tomorrow, of my project management plan for the shutdown week.

The mission;

Create a pretty Gantt Chart with the information I already have, WITHOUT Microsoft Project (which is the only software I’ve ever used in the past to make them), and hopefully without hard-coding the entire thing from scratch in Excel like a moron.

The plea for help;

Can someone, anyone please tell me if they know of freeware software, Excel templates, or anything I can use where I can take my project lists, my time estimates, my pre-reqs of “Project C cannot be started until Project A is complete”, and all that and plug it in so that a pretty Gantt Chart is the output?

Seriously, I ain’t gonna spend $400 on MS Project just so I can meet his expectation by tomorrow, but the idea of making pretty little charts and graphs by hand in Excel is, oh hell no.

Help me Obi Wan Managerio, you’re my only hope!

Oh, and for those of you who don’t do project management, who don’t know what a Gantt Chart is… God bless you, each and every one, and cherish your innocense while you can.

21 thoughts on “Looking for Project Management assistance

  1. If it’s a PRINCE2 solution you’re looking for, google for ‘Project in a box’

    Elegant and has a free version, this potential solution may be late, but could be useful in the future πŸ™‚


    • Thank you all for the advice.

      I did download and install Gantt Project, and while there are some features I wish I could do with it, I’ve done my project with it and it’s going very well.

      Again, thank you all!

      For those curious, the things I want to be able to do that I can’t, include;
      Zoom into the timeline so that I can schedule specific task sequences by hour in one day. I do manage large crews with multiple skill sets, and for one project in one day I may need to have two mechanical techs spend two hours doing prefab welding work as a dependency, then an outside contracted electrician to run conduit and wiring for an estimated 2 hours, and then have someone from the production department and two of my maintenance techs scheduled to pick it up, and the final hour being a PLC programmer on timing sequences. Being able to show other department team members that I will be calling for support of one or two bodies for a couple hours in the morning on Tuesday is a big help in making sure I get the support I need.
      Really, that is the one big thing. Being able to drill down deeper into the timeline and assign tasks not just to solid blocks of days, but individual hours within the days. Many of the most basic tasks I know won’t take more than 4 hours, so I hate just blocking out an entire day for it on the timeline. Then when I have a second task using the same assets on the same day, it looks like I’m booking the asset twice.

      It would be nice, not critical but nice, if you could also within one task, assign assets that will only be part of the task for part of the time. Like, I could have a three day project where I will need a job foreman all three days, but the first day will have two techs and a mech engineer working for him, but the other two days only the engineer and one unskilled assistant. As it is now, if I assign someone to a task, it assumes that person is on that task 100% of the time.

      Multi-tasking. It’s the future.


  2. In pinch until you can find a permanent option, I think you can download a trial version of MS project for a limited number of days.


  3. I saw this too late I think and I haven’t seen it mentioned, but have you thought about using OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org)? I love using OO instead of Office but it does have its problem when you try to go back and forth between the two applications. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QGC8_W5N8s is a nice tutorial for using OO to make gantt charts)

    I hope this isn’t so late for you BBB.


    • OO is good solution, if you are using it for your own.
      Using OO while you have to cooperate with other people, and e.g keep corporate standards, its terrible.
      Using styles is completely different in MS and OO, tracking changes is missing somewhere in-between.

      Im using OO once a year when I have to fill annual evaluation application.
      after that I remove OO ASAP.
      Ofc I have an access to legal version of M$ thanks to my company.


  4. I was forced to use
    Gantt Project: http://www.ganttproject.biz/
    Its working, HOWEVER there is no good free software which can be ‘synchronised’ with MS Project.
    If my boss is using M$ Project I cannot send him my Gantt Project version after few edits, because MS Project wont read it in 100% (yes, you can import it without problem, BUT some problems with sequences and connection appears).

    Therefore, if you need to make single gantt to print it or send a screen, this software is more than enough.


    • I’ve downloaded and installed Gantt Project, I’m going to try that today and see how it goes. it looks damn solid, and the more I dig into this, the more I’m finding that the President really has no idea what a Gantt Chart is, he just likes the pretty timeline graphs.



      • I’m a bit late to the party – but I’m pretty sure I used to use GanttProject (although I think it might have been named differently). There were tricks for importing from MS Project, but if all your boss wants is pretty Gantt Charts then it’ll work for you.

        Thankfully, I took a new job and dropped the project management side of things… so I haven’t touched it in about 5 years. Still I have times when I think – “It’d be really rewarding to manage a team through a big project”


  5. BBB you can get a 120 day, full working version for free from MS. If the Big Bada Boss likes it, then he can spring for a copy for you.

    My 2Β’.


  6. Does it have to be free or are you willing to spend a tiny amount? Also, online or download?

    Not free, but cheap with 14 day trial. Online:

    Free version, but somewhat limited. Online:

    Free download, but I have no experience with it:

    Also, I love Gantt Charts. And if your boss is all hot for them now, it might be worth it to talk him into budgeting for a tool for 2012. πŸ™‚ Good luck with your shutdown!


    • Well, it didn’t have to be free until so many people were so damn helpful. I actually think this is going to work!


  7. Yeah, what he said. I was going to point out that there are GANTT chart templates out there for Excel, and having spent a lot of time with Microsoft Project, dumping values into Excel isn’t that big of a step back and will probably produce a chart of the clarity and simplicity your boss sounds like he might require. πŸ˜‰


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