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How Task Dates Are Automatically Set in Microsoft Project

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Have you ever been unable to change the start date of a task in Microsoft Project?  You type in 11/2 for the start date and it changes back to 11/19.  In most cases, Project is not misbehaving; you need to understand what Project assumes when it schedules tasks. In this series, we’ll explore how Project’s scheduling algorithms use links, constraints, preset options, and dates to automatically set your task start and finish dates. 

Part 1 of 3 introduces the topic and covers the first two considerations to keep in mind regarding MS Project’s scheduling priorities.

(more…)

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Simple Ways to Optimize Your Project Plan in MS Project

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The process of ensuring that resources are realistically scheduled in your work plan is referred to as load leveling. When you level the planned load for your resources, you may have to balance several factors. These include:

  • The amount of work a resource can do in a time period (e.g. Hours per day)
  • The sequence of tasks in the project as defined by dependencies
  • The skills required to perform particular tasks
  • The expected timeline for the project
  • The utilization rate for the resources.

Typically you will have to trade off some of these factors to arrive at the “best” schedule for your particular project.  As we covered in our last post on Resource Workload Information, this means that you will have to check and adjust information across multiple views. (more…)

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Using Microsoft Project Views to Gauge How Realistic a Project Plan Is

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Introduction

One of the key ingredients to managing a successful project is to start off with a Microsoft Project plan that is complete and optimized. An “optimized” plan is one in which:

  • Everything that is known is put into a plan that meets the overall project objectives and
  • The project delivers on the objectives of on-time, on-budget, with high quality, and a satisfied client.

It can be somewhat subjective to determine whether your plan is optimized but the minimum requisites ar as follows:

  1. All phases, tasks, and milestones required to meet the project objective are loaded into the work plan.
  2. All resources are assigned to the tasks they will perform.
  3. Reliable work or duration estimates are assigned to each resource assignment.
  4. The resources can realistically perform the work assigned according to the current estimated task start and finish dates, and all tasks can be completed by the target finish date and budget for the project .

(more…)

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How to Isolate Unfavorable Start and Finish Variances in Microsoft Project

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Introduction

In our last post, we introduced the basics of variances and demonstrated how to isolate for unfavorable Work Variances.  It is equally important, however, to analyze how your dates are progressing. If Baseline Work is 1,000 hours, Actual Work is 500 hours, and Remaining Work is 500 hours, then Work is equal to 1,000 hours and Work Variance is zero.  Sounds pretty good, right? But what if you are 8 months into a 10-month project? Assuming an even resource load, you should have consumed 800 hours by now, but your actual work is only 500 hours.

This example highlights the importance of analyzing Start and Finish Variances in addition to Work Variances. If we were to look at the Start and Finish Variances in this 1,000-hour project, we would most likely find that tasks are not starting or completing on time. (more…)

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How to Isolate Unfavorable Work and Cost Variances in Microsoft Project

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Introduction

Keeping your project under control requires a periodic look for tasks that are not progressing as originally planned. As a first step, you must track progress by entering Actual Work, Remaining work, Actual Start and Actual Finish. Once you have captured this information you’re ready to analyze plan variances–that is: tasks where progress is out of sync with the baseline (original estimates).

(more…)

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Which Project Management Software Is the Best for Your Organization?

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A month ago, we outlined what businesses will be best suited to invest in project portfolio management (PPM) software. But once you determine that your organization has the three basic project characteristics that indicate that you might benefit from a software solution, you still have the daunting task of determining which solution will work best.

We should be clear that every solution will have its own set of flaws, and even the products that lack flaws require a massive budget and a lot of support. This often tempts organizations to give up on all of the options altogether, but this would be a mistake. Way back in 1986, Harvey Levine wrote, “The project manager who is waiting for the perfect project management solution will still be waiting 10 years from now.” 26 years later, this quote still rings true. Organizations should not be scared away from viable project management solutions because of a few imperfections. The focus should be implementing the technology that best fits your organization’s processes, while minimizing the investment of the implementation process. (more…)

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Latest Information on Microsoft Project 2013 Release

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Microsoft shook the world of project management when they announced on their blog that they had reached a Release to Manufacturing (RTM) on Project 2013.  They have promised Project Professional 2013, Project Standard 2013 and Project Server 2013 to all be available on the Volume Licensing price list on December 1st, with each of these products available to those with Software Assurance in mid-November.  Since then there has been an overwhelming amount of information to wade through, so we would like to offer a helping hand in guiding you through the most relevant pieces in preparation for the release.

The biggest upgrade is that all of the software will be through Office 365, which is delivered in the cloud.  Microsoft is also boasting better flexibility and scalability to fit your specific business needs. (more…)

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Is Microsoft Project Worth It?

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One of the most pressing questions that is always buzzing around the project management world is a very simple one: is the investment that goes into project management solutions software worth it?

We will break this question up into two parts: 1) Would our organization benefit from PM software solutions and 2) If so, is Microsoft Project the best choice? (more…)

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