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Any other Architects, Designers & Creatives using OF for large scale projects? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Are there any other Architects, Designers and Creative individuals out there using OF for large-scale, long term projects? I'd like to be able to learn and share with others using this software system (and the GTD system) in this kind of work context.

As an architect we tend to have projects that are very long term ones, with multiple heirarchies of projects, actions. As a "project" they are full of "sub-projects" (or action groups in OF terminology) that together form to complete the actions of the overall project at large. For this reason I have found OF somewhat limiting in dealing with large scale projects like these. Wondering if any other designers, architects and creatives have run in similar problems and overcome them in the system?

For instance, I've been experimenting with whether making what we call in the office an "project" (eg. a new building) an OF folder or an OF project. Each option has pros and cons. If I make the "project" an OF folder full of OF projects, then you can't put it on hold because folders don't work that way in the OF system; even though in my office overall "projects" do. Nor can I have the ultimate satisfaction of entering in that magnificent feeling final check off in the box when I complete the overall "project" because OF folders don't have that function. If I make the overall "project" an OF project then I can't put the tasks on hold, as often they do in reality.

Now I've sensed some resistance (more like animosity) in this OF community to terming things sub-projects; even though things tend to work that way in my reality... and I gather in other people's realities as well. But whether one calls things projects with actions and sub-projects (with further actions), or one calls things projects with actions and action groups, the hierarchical relationship is still the same despite what you call it. Actions often time become action groups, which do in fact behave as "sub-projects" in reality. Action groups do need to go on hold occasionally; so I'd like to have a way for them to go behave more like a project and go into a hold mode. Why can't they? And for that matter, why can't folders have the option to behave more like projects. Perhaps future versions of OF can respond to these dynamics better-- allowing for actions to become projects more easily, or at least let action groups behave more like projects. I don't want this to turn into a rant about action groups vs. thinking of them as sub-projects.

What I really want is some feedback from other architects, designers, creatives or others with actual field experience organizing and facilitating larger projects (like designing and documenting and constructing buildings) that have multiple layers of heirarchies of actions and action-groups. Actions that over the course of time manifest into larger groups of actions that require "project" management functions. How do you organize your folders, projects, actions, etc. How do you organize your contexts as well. How do you manage it more seamlessly, which is my ultimate goal. Because I don't want to spend all my time "managing" the actions, but would rather be doing them.

I'll show you mine and you show me yours.

Last edited by smiggles; 2008-07-02 at 08:49 AM..
I'm an academic now, but I previously spent 6 years as an engineer and project manager doing large industrial installations. Some of those projects had similar complexity to building projects. (I also designed my own house and worked with a general contractor to build it, so have some sense of the relative scales.)

OmniFocus didn't exist at the time, but I wouldn't be inclined to use it for projects of that scale. I'd use something with industrial strength project management functionality, like OmniPlan. Even now where my largest project was to redesign and implement two large computing labs, I used OP to manage the timeline and dependencies. I just copied my personal tasks into OF. That was a bit redundant, but the Omni gurus are planning on my integration of OF and OP in the future. As far as I know they haven't indicated timing for that.

I agree with Curt. If you're managing very large projects, with complex dependancies and multiple people, it's probably better to step up to OmniPlan.

That being said, I'm a software engineer for a major telecommunications company. We provide infrastructure (hardware and software) for cellular messaging systems to some of the biggest mobile phone service providers in the world. Our software releases are typically over a year in length and involve the coordinated effort of roughly 50-100 engineers. I'm not sure how that compares in scale to your situation, but they're the biggest projects I've handled in OmniFocus.

Now, I'm not a product/project manager, and I don't manage the work of others. My use of OmniFocus is as a system for managing my personal responsibilities - the features and fixes that I'm assigned. Depending on my level of involvement, the complexity of the release, and how I decide to break things up, that seems to come to about 40-50 distinct projects in OmniFocus along with a collection of maybe another 50 single actions.

I typically set up an OmniFocus folder for the software release and create projects in it for the features and bug fixes I'm working on, along with a single action list for miscellaneous items. Sometimes I also create additional sub-folders based on functional areas (e.g. message routing, message queuing, statistics, user interface, etc.) to help break things down further.

Like you, I sometime run into the issue of needing to temporarily suspend one of those sub-folders. Although I can't place them on hold, OmniFocus does allow me to mark them as "Dropped". This allows me to control their visibility and get them out of the way until I'm ready to work in them. I've never liked the term "Dropped". It sounds too much like "Canceled" or "Abandoned". I think more neutral terminology would be better, maybe "Active" and "Inactive". But either way, the functionality is the same: get it out of the way temporarily.

As the release moves forward, I check off my individual actions and projects but keep them in their folders so I can go back later to read my reference notes, check dates, see what's already been done, etc.

When the release is finally completed and handed-off to our deployment people, I drag the whole release folder into my "Archive" folder, which is also marked as dropped. The release folder inherits the dropped state and disappears from my regular OmniFocus views. However, if I ever want to go back to review the release, I still have all the projects, completion dates, and notes stored away in my database.

I've only been using OmniFocus for about 9 months, but so far, it's been working well for me in this environment.


Last edited by Toadling; 2008-07-05 at 09:58 AM.. Reason: Fixed typo
curt.clifton... Thanks for your response. i just bought a license to OP to give it a shot. The dependency thing and overall picture is what I'm looking for help with. I'm really happy so far with my OF progress as far as my personal tasks. I seem to be moving through things faster than without it... not getting stuck as much. Hopefully, one will be able to integrate OF with OP at some point. I'm going to see what it can do for me in the big picture for my next project.
Thanks toadling. I'm going to modify my structure a bit to use folders more. That tip of using the 'dropped' function as an 'inactive' mode is a help; don't know why I didn't notice that before. Thanks. I agree that more neutral terminology or that would probably be more useful. Based on your post, I just laid out a fairly exhaustive folder/ project/task list for the entire design development phase of my next project which is slated to begin shortly. I'm hoping that this will catapult my into productive action once it gets started. And I'm hoping that this will act as somewhat of a template for future project planning. I'm kind of excited about the potential. I've geared it more to my personal tasks and my personal duties of managing/tracking others efforts. I also bought a copy of OP which I will experiment with. Of course I want to avoid any redundancy in managing things, but it may be useful at least a a project schedule to use it, noting dependencies and critical paths. I'm interested in following any potential OF/OP integration that is out there now or is being developed.

When I get the organization completely figured out I will post the structure for others to see and respond to.
Oh dear,
I just completed a five month project. I started it as a newbie to OF after moving over from the OmniOutliner. I made a folder for each phase of the project. It was neat and well organized. But now that it is done I cannot mark the folders COMPLETED. Only dropped. This is heart sickening to me. But Dropped does get it out of the way. I worry about years of Dropped folders cluttering up my database of OF information.

Am I not approaching this program correctly?
Originally Posted by Goldendog View Post
I worry about years of Dropped folders cluttering up my database of OF information.
How would years of dropped folders clutter up your database anymore than years of completed projects or folders?

Besides, OmniFocus 1.1 brings a new feature where items that have been dropped or completed before a user-defined date get archived, keeping your main database nice and slim.


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