Microsoft Project tips & tricks – Project Management Tools Part 03

Critical path memeHere we go! In the last post we discussed how to get started with Microsoft Project, building a work break down structure, Gantt charts, and project calendar kind of stuffs. So in this post we are going to discuss further about some of the essential functionalities in MS Project that you can use for project management.

Assigning Resources to Tasks –

You can use the Resource Sheet in Microsoft Project (Task -> View -> Resource Sheet) to create a list of the people, equipment, and material resources that make up your team and carry out the project tasks. Your resource list will consist of work resources or material resources.

Resource Sheet

Resource Sheet

Work resources are people or equipment. Work resources like people may have hourly rates that we should pay. Sometimes for the equipment we using, we’ve to pay a rental. A cost analysis can be done after assigning these costs to particular resources.

Material resources are consumable materials or supplies, such as concrete, wood, paper etc…

The main goal of the resource assignment is to allocate properly the resources and to provide valuable information regarding the effort of the team.

With respect to the scenario of your group project, the resources are your group members.

Once the resources are created, you can go back to the View menu, and click Gantt chart to see again   the tasks, and then when you double click a task you can add a resource to this task by using the tab “Resources” or just select the resources from the drop down list.

Resource List

Resource List in the drop down

Network Diagram –

A graph that is drawn with activities represented as nodes and the links between nodes representing precedence or sequencing requirements is called a network diagram. Network diagram is an essential element of project management as it can used to identify the slack time of a task, critical path etc…

Network Diagram

Network Diagram

In Microsoft Project, by selecting the task -> view -> Network Diagram we can get the network diagram of the project.

To calculate the free slack of a task, the easiest way is to add a new column in the Gantt chart view.

Critical Path –

There will be at least one path through the network that defines the duration of the project. Any delay to any activity on this critical path will delay completion of project. This path is known as the critical path. The activities or the tasks in the critical path cannot be delayed. That means the free slack of these tasks are zero.

In the network diagram view, critical path(s) is indicated in red color. So it is easy to identify the tasks that we should pay more attention.

Reporting tools –

When we carrying out a project, time to time we have to do progress presentations. Sometimes we have to submit progress reports for the clients. In Microsoft Project it’s very easy to generate reports. These reports can attach with Word, PowerPoint or can be exported as an image and use in any place.

Project Overview Report

Project Overview Report

Simply go for the “Report” in the menu and try out different reporting queries provided with Microsoft Project.

If we want to make the project file available for everyone in the team we can use Project Online coming with Office365 or can use a SharePoint server to host the Project file.

This is just a glimpse on what we can do with Microsoft Project. Keep using it and you’ll find out how easy it is to manage projects with this awesome tool.

Keep commenting the troubles or anything to clarify about Project Management tools. Will try my best to help you.

Without good management everything becomes a disaster. So keep practicing good project management principles always. 🙂

Avoid Deadline Phobia – Project Management Tools Part 01

Hello Microsoft Project– Project Management Tools Part 02

Hello Microsoft Project– Project Management Tools Part 02

ms_project_logoAs we discussed in the previous post, there are many computer based project management tools. From them Microsoft Project is a tool that is widely used today because it has become so easy because now Microsoft Project comes with Office365.

Though the Project software comes as a paid one, for the DreamSpark account holders Microsoft Project is free. 🙂 So Keep calm & download it through your precious DreamSpark account undergrads! Ok, the others… if you really interested on the software, don’t hesitate. The investment you making worth a lot. If you going to try it for managing the projects in your organization, trust me you’ll see a huge improvement of productivity.

Or you can try Microsoft Project for a trail period & am pretty sure you’ll fall in love with it.

Let’s get started. Here I’m using Microsoft Project 2013 for the demonstrations.

Microsoft Project Start

At the first sight you’ll see an interface that is seems very familiar for you. For those who are familiar with Microsoft Office applications such as Word, excel & PowerPoint this wouldn’t be an alien software for them. Most of the controllers and the UI looks same. So it’s easy to cope with even for a newbie.

For the demonstration I’ll go through this scenario.

You are the team leader of a software developing project at the university. Your task is to develop a student registration system within 4 months of time. Your team consist of 5 members including you. Most of the system requirements can be fully extracted in the initial phase. You have to present the progress of your project to your supervisor weekly.

Here we go! For this I selected a blank project. Let’s start from the scratch.

Blank Project

                                                                             A blank project file

An Excel like screen comes. Don’t worry we’ll run through all the gadgets one by one. Basically MS Project based on the Gantt charts. So the rows are for the tasks. Before going for defining the tasks let’s define the project schedule.

Project Information & Project Calendar-

Go to Project -> Project Information

You’ll get a dialog that can define the start date, end date kind of information about the project. Here you can mention the working time too. Normally the work calendar is set for an 8 hour work shift per a day with weekend holidays. In this standard calendar, week starts on Sunday. Here the project status date means the date that we wish to consider when generating progress reports in the future. You can change it as you want.

Project Information dialog

                                                                     Project Information dialog

If you wish to change the working hours and wish to make your own calendar for the project go to Project – > Change working time and customize your calendar.

Project Calender

                                                                     Project Calender

When the project is ongoing, you can change the working time. But note that the project schedule will automatically adjust according to the new calendar.

Gantt chart –

Gantt chart plays the main role in each project. You have to select task – > Gantt chart to get the spreadsheet where you can enter the task information. Task name, duration, start date, end date, predecessors and many more information about each activity can be inserted to this spreadsheet.

To list out the tasks, it’s better to get a clear idea on the Work Break down Structure (WBS) of your project. WBS is a hierarchical and incremental decomposition of the project into phases, deliverables and work packages. It’s a tree like structure. It’s better to decompose the complex tasks into sub tasks and put them in separate rows. Here you can see the developing phase has decomposed to four sub tasks.


         Work Break-down Structure

There are two task modes as Auto scheduled & manually scheduled. You can choose the desired mode according to your requirement. The duration for each task can be given in weeks, months or days etc… Note that when counting days the holidays and the weekends are excluded. Only working days are counted here. The software itself calculates the start date and the end date.

Predecessors –

The Predecessors field lists the task ID numbers for the predecessor tasks on which the task depends before it can be started or finished. Each predecessor is linked to the task by a specific type of task dependency and a lead time or lag time. Simply you can say what draw the relationships between tasks by predecessors.

After mapping the relationships between the tasks in the WBS the software draws the Gantt chart for us. Further we can adjust the durations and WBS according to the submission requirements we have. In a case if a university project, you can align the WBS according to the schedule of the progress presentations that you’ve to do.

Gantt Chart

                                                                                      Gantt Chart

That’s it! 🙂  We took the first step. Milestones, Critical path, Network diagrams, etc… let’s discuss about these cool features of Microsoft Project soon.

Avoid Deadline Phobia – Project Management Tools Part 01