[multi-part demo] Project Management with Visual Paradigm

modeling
project-management

#1

Disclaimer: If you want to try the things I’m about to demonstrate on your own then please be aware that several features are only available with the Professional edition and up. Both the Professional edition as well as the Modeler edition are two of my personal favorites and sometimes I like to share some of the awesome things you can do with them. Here it’s time for a “professional approach” :wink: , but you can definitely expect a “modeling session” to happen somewhere in the future.

Editorial

In my opinion the Visual Paradigm software is best known for its outstanding support for modeling standards. And why wouldn’t it be? I honestly believe that making diagrams has never been easier: you don’t need to drag items from a palette (also known as the diagram toolbar); just double click somewhere on the canvas to open the resource catalog, select a relevant model element and you’re well on your way. Need to connect one element with another one? Select the first, find the resource catalog icon in the upper right corner, drag and drop and select the connection you need to make (optionally with the new model element which you need to place).

But there is so much more which Visual Paradigm can do… Sometimes it even can perform tasks which might not seem obvious at first. So here’s an example at one of those things: Project Management. But… in a different way than you might think :slight_smile:

Project management, but what is that exactly?

At the risk of sounding a bit simplistic, but: project management (in a nutshell) is basically all about making sure that a project is feasible to undertake and that it will be successfully finished. Awesome, so what exactly is a project? In its basic form (yet still in a nutshell!) it is an undertaking, usually done by several people, with the intent to reach a certain goal.

Projects obviously come in all shapes and sizes. My current project, the writing of this forum post, is a rather small one and undertaken by one individual (me) yet also relying on a certain infrastructure (this forum). It really wouldn’t need much management.

But once you start working on larger projects where multiple people get involved and several individual targets need to be reached… then it becomes a whole different story. You need to stay informed about progress, you need to anticipate for setbacks, you need to keep set deadlines in mind and make sure you avoid those.

Basically: you need to stay in control over what is happening.

So how does Visual Paradigm fit into all this?

Simple really: Visual Paradigm, however: the Enterprise edition, provides a very impressive “Guide-through” feature which also addresses the project management lifecycle. A feature which I shall be addressing in more detail at a later time (and maybe on another platform).

But we’re not going to be using the Enterprise edition here :wink: (note: although I do have an Enterprise license I’m making fully sure that I won’t be using any “Enterprise only” features).

So, not a problem: Visual Paradigm online, usable through Visual Paradigm desktop, provides us with Agile as well as specific collaboration features such as Tasifier. Even the Modeler edition can use those.

Well… we are going to be using some of those features as well but not just right now.

See, the reason for my post in the first place is to demonstrate some of the cool things which Visual Paradigm can do for us when it comes to project management. But I never said that it would be holding our hand, we will actually need to actively use the tools at our disposal as best as we can. And all on our own accord. I also never said this was going to be easy :wink: But it will be very efficient, trust me on this one for now.

Identifying our goals.

Every project needs a goal, and my demonstration project will be no different. We will be managing the project of writing this thread about project management. I know it might sound silly, but that’s also what can make this both fun for me and easier to understand for you guys.

So… I made a new Visual Paradigm project and, as I always do, I am relying on Visual Paradigm online to keep my work safe.

We are going to be doing some analysis so I created an Analysis model and added a breakdown structure diagram, called initial goals:

I know, I know… I can already hear at least one of you virtually screaming: “What about planning and schedules? What about our resources? What about deadlines?”.

One step at a time. Haste makes waste, we’re going to focus on the main goals for now. So here is my breakdown diagram so far:

This project may be intended to be a bit silly and/or comical (“entertaining”) I will still be doing my best to make this look legitimate :wink: From my point of view this thread honestly needs to be both entertaining and educational, as such that’s included.

Investigating goals

So, my main goals should be obvious at this point:

  • Writing a guide on project management.
  • Educating people about Visual Paradigm features.
  • Demonstrating specific Visual Paradigm features.

I already broke some of this down into smaller parts (like 1.1.1; I didn’t even have to do anything myself to get this identifier) but I still need a bit more. Even so: 1.2 and 1.3 are closely related to each other and I want to visualize on that. I’m also not happy with the shout out box because every time I move 1.3 and its underlying elements then the shout-out box gets in the way.

Lets fix this…

image

Personal todo: look into options to use inline images on Discord Discourse (forum software) :stuck_out_tongue:

SO: I start by adding a 2 head arrow which you will need to drag out of the palette if you want to use it (hover your mouse over the toolbar / palette, then scroll down with the mousewheel).

Next I need to group 1.3 together with the shoutout. Here’s how:

Select all relevant elements, right click, and then select the Grouping section. I know that this is all cosmetic stuff, but that too can be important.

But back to investigating…

How does one write a guide on project management? It’s most likely a process one has to follow of some sort, so… I decide to add a sub-diagram which can help me identify the process in further detail:

We’re going to be adding a business process diagram which will become a sub-diagram of the 1.1 model element. What this diagram will contain?

Well, it’s getting late here (no joking) so I am going to postpone this for my next post, which (if nothing goes wrong) you can expect to appear tomorrow.

Summary of this post

We made a break down diagram which showcases the main goals for our demonstration project. Next to the goals it also contains some additional (“break down”) aspects of several of the steps. And I just thought of something new:

Next post:

Diving deeper into 1.1 to provide us with more, hopefully useful, details.


#2

And here is Part II of the first part of my multi-part thread :wink: Sorry for the delay, sometimes things get in the way of my planning.

In the previous part we’ve started our project management project, we’ve set up a ‘break down structure’ diagram to list all the main goals of our project:

  • 1.1 Writing a guide on project management.
  • 1.2 Educating people about Visual Paradigm features.
  • 1.3 Demonstrating specific Visual Paradigm features.

Yes: the goals are a little ‘cheesy’ but hopefully that also helps to keep this guide a bit lightweight.

So the next step I took was to create a BPMN diagram to investigate how doable item 1.1 would be, and this is the result:

Now, the reason why I used a BPMN diagram is because I favor the standard: it provides a certain flexibility which allows you to make the diagram as in-depth or abstract as possible. Something I somewhat demonstrated with the sub-process “Store information”; because this is only an analysis it doesn’t really matter how this is done.

But by using a sub-process like this it also provides me with a solid starting point to expand on the concept later provided that the project actually gets considered to be doable and will be officially started.

Which brings me to the next step:

Assessing the steps to reach our goal

Ayups: Visual Paradigm actually has a ‘Project Management’ tab available in the specification window of a model element (as shown above). If this doesn’t show for your edition right away try clicking on the black downwards arrow in the upper right corner and then select it to add the tab.

And there’s more: if you try to follow my steps one on one you’ll end up disappointed because you won’t find the “Doable”, “Unsure” and “Bad idea” difficulty ratings in your project. But that’s really easy to fix:

image

All configuration items neatly combined under one easy to find menu option, how easy can it be? :smile: Select this option and you’ll be able to add, remove and completely change all the pre-determined project management values to totally match your own specific needs.

This is one of the reasons why I started this thread. Because these features are so easy to overlook (in my opinion anyway) yet also so immensely powerful once you learn how to use these… you might end up hooked for life :wink:

But back to our diagram. It’s nice that we can now determine on a per-task basis if the task at hand is doable or not, but… I suppose we’ll have to guess their values while looking at the diagram?

Fortunately Visual Paradigm foresaw this problem as well and gave us the On-Demand Model ETL:

See also:

Now we get to see in the blink of an eye which tasks are doable and which are not. It couldn’t be easier, wouldn’t you agree? As you can see the on-demand ETL is also perfectly usable with BPMN and not just Use Case diagrams (which seems to be used in most examples, or so I think).

So we have one doable task and one medium rated task however that task was also tested so we don’t have to expect any weird surprises I suppose. As such we’ll just mark the 1.1 element in our breakdown diagram also as “doable”.

Please keep in mind that just because I used a BPMN diagram it doesn’t mean that you should do this as well. I’m going to take it easy and mark “1.2” to be ‘doable’ just like that and then we’ll dive into 1.3: “Demonstrating Visual Paradigm features”.

…using one of my favorite diagrams, Mind Mapping:

This is a classic example of what I’d describe as the “Visual Paradigm workflow”. Because all I did here is exactly the same as I did with the BPMN diagram above; I added my ideas, I used the project management options to specify certain aspects of the nodes and then I added an ETL table to clearly display that otherwise hidden information. It doesn’t really matter what diagram you’re using.

One important detail though:

Some diagrams, such as the Mind Mapping diagram, use “auto-shaping”, this means that any model element you place will have a specific automatically assigned size. Sometimes this might not be what you want, and if that’s the case then here’s the menu option you’ll need to stop that effect (I used this on the ETL table to make it a bit wider).

And that concludes this part…

Summary of this post

We made several sub-diagrams for our main goals in the break-down diagram to examine if these goals were actually doable. To document our findings we used the “Project Management” tab in the model element specifications to add specific values for ‘difficulty’, ‘priority’, ‘status’ and ‘discipline’.

We then added an ETL diagram table to showcase this extra information.

Next post:

Now that we have set our goals and examined them it’s time to finish our project analysis and determine if this project is doable or not. To do this we’re going to set up a decision table in our goal overview which should help us decide on whether our project is feasible or not.

But there’s more… We’re also going to be creating a document (template) which we can then use to inform both upper management (?) and/or other project team members about the results of our projects analysis. This should also help us to make our case for this project.

And if time permits (read: if my upcoming post doesn’t become too long) then we’re also going to start preparing for our actual project.

As always: thanks for reading, don’t hesitate to comment, and expect the next post somewhere within the upcoming week.