Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
I was wondering if anyone has evaluated any project management software for planning and tracking progress in building a homebuilt. Being a software developer, I routinely deal with Jira and occasionally Microsoft Project. I know there are builders logs out there, but I think they just track what you did and not what you will be doing.
You're trying to take the fun out of it? (smiling)
The thing about building an airplane and the thing that will bite you most in using project mgmt products is that you don't know that much in advance. Unless you've built the same model previously that is.... If you just follow the metal part of the plans, you'll quickly find that you might take a break and do some systems work. Something like, "Hmm....maybe stop the fwd fuselage for awhile to mount the landing gear so I can install the brakes & lines while I have easier access." Put another way, you don't know what you don't know about what will really come next once most of the subassemblies are complete.
Stuff like that pops up all over the place. If we (or any kit plane for that matter) had detailed steps for doing this, then that, then the other, it might work to create a Gantt chart. Let me backtrack; if you're building an RV-12 where you must build it exactly as the factory says, *that* might be able to be project-ized, but I can't think of others.
As an example, on my prior build, I determined that if I worked 3 hrs over the course of M-Fri in the evenings, and 10 hrs over Sat/Sun, I'd be done (1200 hrs) in 2.5 years, allowing time for travel, vacations, etc. Never did get to put that many hours/week in it; life happens. Family first. Happy Wife, Happy Life. Then work happened where our project ran into trouble. Took me 4 years to reach first flight. But I did it in 1189 hrs vs 1200 projected. ;-) Yeah, I was a SW mgmt toad for 30 years. I might still be OCD, but I had to look up how to spell "MS Project" since I retired 7 years ago.
BTW, I use Kitlog. I use it to tell more of a story as opposed to "fab'd flaperon". With Kitlog, once you buy it, you can add multiple builds to it, so my old project is still on there as well as my Cruzer. http://mykitlog.com/corton
"You're trying to take the fun out of it? (smiling)"- That does not sound like someone who was a manager for 30 years. :)
In my minimal project management knowledge, what you describe is what would be called a waterfall approach to project management. Everything planned in advance and any deviiation from the plan is very difficult.
Using current software project management terminology, a methodology called Agile software developement is what I am familiar with. The technique (when it is not abused by managers) assumes that there will be changes and also that you do not plan too far ahead. It even uses the term "story" for describing the use cases. I think some of the techniques from this could be adapted to managing and planning the construction of a homebuilt. Of course that is what Jira is designed around and what I will probably try to use if I decide to apply it to this situation.
I'm just havin' some fun here, so don't get too concerned about my comments (didn't take it that way to your approach so far...) I know you're serious about planning-out your project, and that's fine; building a plane *is* supposed to be for education and most important (my emphasis here...) RECREATION. Let's just say that when you're not allowed to plan a project but have it dictated to you, the "management" aspect becomes a bit ethereal. Fortunately, my career was only project mgmt centered the last 8 years or so, so I still had plenty of time to center on the fun stuff.
I'm familiar with Agile. We weren't allowed to use it for mission-critical portions of our projects, as our customer (USG) couldn't stand it. "Too many unknowns." It was pretty much relegated to lower support-oriented tasks. Had its fans - especially with the typical requirements creep we'd encounter.
Hadn't thought about using it to document a build, but I can see where it would present an interesting twist. Just remember to include pics as the DARs like to see them. And include yourself in the some of the pics so they feel comfortable that *you* built the plane and didn't hire it out.
It would never have occurred to me to use PM software for a project where the individual builder is essentially the sole participant with responsibility for all the project deliverables. I've always thought of PM software as a tool to keep multiple contributors on track with regard to parallel tasks, milestones, and critical path.
I can see where it might be helpful in tracking delivery of vendor supplied items like specialized hardware, avionics, etc., but for the overall project it would seem to me to be a waste of time. Just my $.02.
I think there would be some value to this for many builders.
I had no plan whatsoever, just kept doing the next thing in front of me. This method can add to the frustration of building since you're not really sure where your at, and more importantly, how far you have to go.
Another big benefit would be in planning material purchases. For instance, I would just put my blinders on and focus on the task at hand. Then I would complete the task and decide on the next one. The problem with this was that every new task seemed to require new materials, tools, hardware, whatever. If I had planned ahead I could have ordered the materials for the next task while I was still working on the current one.
Building was frustrating for me since I never had any real concept of how far I had to go. I'd think I was nearly done with something and then realize there was significant extra work that I hadn't realized (or taken the time to plan in advance).
Another benefit of the software would be to see how far you have come. You can get a psychological boost when you can see a list of all the tasks you have completed.
For me , the more I could have planned ahead, the less stressful the build would have been. It probably would have saved quite a bit of time.
I realize not everyone is a planner. Some just do (Yoda???). For me, such a system for planning the build would have been valuable.
This is an interesting idea, not one I had thought about during my build. I’m a Product Owner and engineering team manager that uses SAFE (yes, being PO and dev mgr is not a good idea but....).
My initial thought is that you could,go through the manual and create epics for the each component, stories for the tasks. My biggest problem would be story estimates. I found that everything took longer than I expected, even after I kept increasing my formula (which was basically take, a guess, double it, and prepare to be amazed how much longer it took). But it would,provide an interesting view on the progress of the project, work rate, time to complete.
its also impossible to get people to tell you what order to build things in, or even assemble them. Many times I started to put things together only to realise I would be preventing a future step, or in some cases not realizing and having good fun later on.
Being a software guy I did I a Wordpress blog, and tracked a time spent diary and a money spent log in google docs.
I say go for it, sounds like entering tasks, completing workflows etc might add some extra interest for you.
Even though I have been a programmer for almost 20 years, I have managed to stay out of management side of things. I use Jira when working with other teams, but usually I am working solo on various special projects.
I think first and foremost my interest would be in defining tasks and putting them into backlogs. I keep miscellaneous notes and spreadsheets to help me plan, but things do tend to get scattered about. Trying to consolodate tasks into a single app might make it easier to see what step I need to take next. I would not get hung up on time. It takes as long as it takes. I have learned that after about 7 or so years of scratchbuilding. Probably just barely getting to what could be called the kit stage.
I could see using the sprints to group together related tasks. Again time is not considered. I would be doing good if one task took two weeks much less multiple tasks in a sprint. If I could keep good track of time, then maybe I could get velocity estimates.
It is hard to say where the concept of epoch would fit in. Maybe just for defining major operartions like build the rudder, stabilizer, fuselage, etc. Then stories might be fabricate the nose gear, fuel tanks, fabricate wing skins.
Probably the biggest issue would be setting up Jira and insuring always on availability. For 10 users or less, a jira license is $10. It would be nice to run it on something like a raspberry pi, where I can always leave it on. However based on what I have read, running on a pi is iffy.
I have been batting this idea around in my head for while. I just have to decide if it is worth the time to setup and will I actually use it.
Everyone has different approaches to an EAB build and does the build for different reasons. Some are thinkers/planners and get immense pleasure from planning and visualizing the build process. Some simply enjoy building and sell the completed plane almost immediately so they can get back to building. Some are obsessed with craftsmanship and customization and will spend hours on the most insignificant component (they've forgotten to chant the mantra, "It's not a F-16, it's not a F-16!" Ha!). Others simply want to proceed as quickly and expeditiously as possible to get the darned thing built and into the air!
I think it would have been difficult for me to follow any sort of programmed process for my build. I agree with Carl's observations that it seemed helpful to occasionally take a break from some portion of the build and turn to another. That gave me time to think about some problem, order some accessory, tool, or component necessary for that portion of the build, etc., but keep on building on some other assembly in the meantime, which kept advancing the build toward completion with little or no downtime.
What the novice builder will discover IMHO the single most important factor to steady progress and completion in a reasonable amount of time is to keep the project as close to your home as possible! That way, you can slip out at any time of the night or day and get a little done. I built mine in my home's attached garage, so it was just a few steps away and impossible to ignore! It took me about one year and a thousand hours (1000.6 to be exact!) and I did not feel like I was "rushing" at any time. Just like an instrument rating, if you constantly work at it without long periods of inactivity, there's no "backing up" to get back up to speed on the learning curve to completion!
Different strokes for different folks! :>)
6 yrs/550 hrs/still grinning!
Agree with your observations, John. I don't recall where I heard it (certainly not my original idea), but the old adage is that you should touch your project every day, if if only for 5-10 minutes. Caress it. Wipe some dust or sweat corrosion away. Main thing is to stay connected with it. Just clean up and put away tools if nothing else.