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.
The New Year is a natural crossroads that we reach every year. It’s an opportunity to assess the realities of the past year and, from that, consider what you’d like to see happen in the upcoming year given the expectation of what is to come. With this perspective on New Years, we find that a commitment to Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is the perfect New Year’s resolution, since the recent past has solidified its prevalence and the near future will augment its importance.
In an earlier post, we covered how to gauge the value of using a more rigorous Resource Management approach for your organization. This post is aimed at providing a process-based framework for employing optimal Resource Management.
The famed Project Management expert Dr. Harold Kerzner often talks about how assessing project failures should go from the top-down, whereas most organizations have a bad habit of pointing the finger at the lowest man on the totem pole and moving on (see: How the Seven Deadly Sins Can Lead to Project Failure). (more…)
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…)
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:
- All phases, tasks, and milestones required to meet the project objective are loaded into the work plan.
- All resources are assigned to the tasks they will perform.
- Reliable work or duration estimates are assigned to each resource assignment.
- 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 .
Jim Colton and Project Assistants CEO, Gus Cicala, will be leading a webinar on Ensuring ROI through Effective Project Portfolio Execution. Project Assistants is pleased to announce the agenda for this webinar set to take place on December 11th at 3:00PM EST. Highlighting the event will be a demonstration on using Microsoft Project Server to facilitate PPM execution and a detailed methodology for improving organizational PPM. (more…)
Project Managers As Negotiators
In a lot of ways, a project manager’s success is tied to their abilities as a negotiator. Projects start out so nebulous that even when they go smoothly, it will involve negotiating a lot of gray area. But it’s when the plan doesn’t easily become reality—when things aren’t going as expected—when negotiation skills are truly necessary. There’s a triple constraint of time, cost and scope, so when something has to give, it takes a good bargainer to find a compromise that keep everyone happy.
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…)
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).
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…)