VIDEO: Lesson Four – Dependencies
We’re back for our fourth video lesson. This week is all about those tricky little dependencies and to use them properly when planning a project.
In the real world, a dependent is someone who depends on you to support them financially or emotionally. In the project management world, it’s not so different.
A dependency is commonly understood as a task that is dependent on other tasks being completed before it can move forward. However, there are several kinds of dependencies which we will cover in this video. The truth is that it’s rare to end up with a project that exists in isolation, so the chance that you’ll be relying on many people and processes is inevitable.
There are four main types of dependencies.
- Finish to Start
- Start to Start
- Start to Finish
- Finish to Finish
Let’s take a look at all of these in turn. I want to use one of my favourite examples which is the cake shop example. (Who doesn’t like Cake, right?)
Finish to Start (FS) This is the most common type of dependencies and it the default dependency for most projects. So let’s say we’re going to bake a cake. The cake can only be iced after it has been baked. Common sense right?
Start to Start (SS) are tasks are simply two tasks that must start at the same time. So for example, if you’re making the icing from scratch, and you know it takes about the same time as the baking process, it must start as soon as the baking begins.
Start to Finish (SF) So this one is a little bit tricky in the sense that the second task in the relationship cannot finish until the first task starts but the second task can finish at anytime after the first task starts. So we can look at the example of billing the customer. The Cake can be delivered and then the customer can be billed, or the customer can be billed for the cake even before the delivery of the cake.
Finish to Finish (FF) It simply means that two tasks must finish at the same time. With the cake that we’re baking, let’s say that there are unique fondant roses and flowers that need to be added at the same time the cake is delivered so that they are not destroyed during the delivery process. This would be completed simultaneously, making it a Finish to Finish dependency.
From my own personal experience here at Easy Projects, I’ve found that marketing projects for example are not as large as IT projects however, because we are a SaaS company Marketing is involved in every project and in every area of the company. Call us nosey neighbors, but its our job. If IT is coming out with a new release for example, Marketing is dependent on that new release to be completed before we can make the announcement. To make it more complex, IT is dependent on marketing for providing them with information about what users need to actually come out with the next release. I’ve found that the the following set of best practices really help you manage dependencies:
Plan and Track: Many of us project managers tend to spend more time focusing on what comes next rather than what has to come first. Track the progress of your dependencies so that you can forecast future tasks if need be. (Upstream Internal)
Communicate: Make sure that the relevant people outside your project know that you are waiting on them in order to carry on with your own work, as they may not realize. Explain the impact of any late delivery and encourage them to keep you informed of progress. (Upstream external)
Update: make sure your project management tool is up to date with all the relevant links between tasks. this way any shifts in the timeline are instantly clear and can be recalculated. (downstream internal)
Keep Communicating: As obvious as it may sound, make sure that the people downstream know what you are doing and that you are aware that they are waiting on your project to complete something. As soon as you can, let them know that the work is done or release the resources, so that you don’t hold up other work in the company. (downstream external)
Take a look at your current projects and see how many dependencies they have. The more you know, the better you can help the project stay on track and end successfully. After all a project is really just an amalgamation of these dependencies.