Can you improve your productivity by using EA?

I start with a question which I have often asked myself when using tools since, as with time I often discover that a tool can offer so much more than may appear at face value.  This is certainly the case with EA.

When starting with EA it was its API that would provide access from other applications that was a key attraction (and protection) but it was several years before I started to take advantage of its capabilities.  It so happens in the last few years I have spent most of my working life writing AddIns so this is a facility for which I have some detailed knowledge!

So what more?  This was what I asked myself when working on my current project, developing yet another AddIn.  I was thinking that there are probably things within EA that would aid my productivity, if only the benefit of keeping information in a single place; an area that I have struggled with over the years, not least due to different working environments that have presented their own challenges.

As a lot of my developments are single user projects I typically run them using Excel – a list of tasks with descriptions, priorities and status; a simple format that works for me for many years, however could I bring this information into EA in a usable form and manage it as easily as Excel; filtering, sorting, reporting?

As an aside, one of my background development projects has been an AddIn that links EA and MS project – well 2 AddIns one for EA and one for MS Project with the aim that whether you are an EA user or MS Project user there is access to the information within the environment in which they normally operate. I’ll be writing a separate post on this in due course – with some of my observations of trying to match those 2 tools.

But one thing that did come out of this work was something I have come across when looking at the productivity issues – and this is the different ways in which “stuff” is represented.  In the case of EA models,  “task” stuff is implemented in different,  and to me incompatible,  ways; there are element tasks, task elements and project tasks. It would seem natural to me that they are similar and so would be implemented in a consistent manner, however this is not the case and leads to some challenges with consolidating the information.

Now coming back to the idea that I could bring my project / task information from Excel into EA.   looked at whether I could put my project stuff into EA (it’s not the practical moving from EA – I have AddIns that do that), it is more about where I would put the information and how it would provide the functionality I needed.  Well I tried many different things but without writing an AddIn none of them provided me with a compelling solution.  There are bits of EA that would allow me to manage tables of stuff, setting status, priorities etc but they are not part of the EA project stuff (!) and hence I’ve made the decision to pause i.e. I will continue to use Excel and as needed will use other AddIns to transfer information between the 2.

So no real change – no single tool – so perhaps my current solution is as good as it gets.  Perhaps one day I’ll write some code to better organise myself!

In the meantime, just putting out the idea out there and perhaps somebody has some useful insights.

Of course there are other areas of EA that do provide benefits and I continue to explore (and have fun) as time permits.

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