Spreadsheets In Virtuoso

Mastering the black art of project management.


The looming tape-out deadline is the nightmare that keeps most design managers up at night. Managing schedules and tracking progress is always a black art that few, if any, can master. Various project management tools and methodologies have been developed that can help, if followed diligently. However, the learning curve of the tools, or the training and overhead of the process, often result in the tools and methodologies either not being deployed effectively or not being deployed at all.

Therefore, most managers revert quickly to the old faithful — the Excel spreadsheet. It is the Swiss army knife of software that is good enough for most tasks and readily available. So wouldn’t it be nice if a spreadsheet-like capability is built right into the design browser or the library manager? Let’s think about this for a moment:

  • It would provide a familiar paradigm that would not require much training.
  • The spreadsheet would be shared and visible to all team members. That would allow for both managers and designers to keep the status updated.
  • The information would be directly available in the tool they use everyday. So it is always in sight, and therefore always in mind.
  • Schedules and progress data would be tracked right along with the design module or cell.

ClioSoft’s SOS Virtuoso provides just such a capability built right into its Library Manager. Any type of value can be tracked as a custom attribute and displayed in a column. Each custom column can be associated with a built-in function such as count, total or average. You can also create and associate custom functions using Skill. And voila, spreadsheet in Virtuoso.

Let’s take an example to show how this would be useful. Suppose you want to manage and track progress of the design and layout of some major blocks in your design. You could define the following attribute columns with the associated functions:

  • Effort in days: total (effort in days)
  • Percent complete: weighted average (effort in days, percent complete)
  • Completion date : Count delayed (completion date)

The design manager would assign the ‘effort in days’ and ‘completion date’ to the schematics and the layout manager would do the same for the layouts. The ‘percent complete’ would start at 0%. Engineers would be prompted to enter this value with each check-in, finally ending in 100% when it is complete.

The Library Manager will display these attributes as three additional columns and the calculated value of the associated function. With minimal effort, any user or manager would be able to tell the total number of person days needed to complete the project, how much of the project has been completed, and how many cell-views are behind schedule. Everyone is always aware of project status and red flags are raised before it is too late.

Users also can filter the display in different ways. The functions will recalculate the values based on what is displayed. For the Excel geek, this is like having dynamic on-the-fly pivot tables:

  • Filter using patterns for cell or view names. So, a layout manager can use a pattern ‘lay*’ to filter and show only the layouts. This lets the layout manager track progress of just the layouts.
  • Display only cells in a selected hierarchy. A designer, working on a high-level cell, can manage and track progress of just that cell-hierarchy.
    By using a familiar paradigm of a spreadsheet and minimal overhead, the entire design team is kept aware of progress. This visibility will ensure that schedule slips are identified early, so corrective action can be taken before it is too late.

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