Project Management with Microsoft Project

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The importance of Project Management

Projects are the means to achieve business objectives. They, along with ongoing operations represent the activities that make organizations run. They deliver the goods and services that satisfy customers and owners.

All organizations have projects. A project may be a large task or a complex activity, in fact, any work that is done to achieve an objective on time and within budget.

When you change the way people work, you are managing a project. When you launch a new product you are managing a project. Projects are ideas in motion. They may be efforts to move an office full of people to another location, put on an event, merge two organizations, institute a new training program, put together a budget, create a new product, change or produce a web site, put a new process into place, etc.

More and more people recognize that their ability to effectively manage projects is now key to their success within the organization. The ability to better manage projects is a way to achieve the edge over competitors and deliver greater value to owners and customers.

Project management is a complex discipline. It requires years of hands-on experience and of study. There are techniques to learn and tools to master.

Microsoft Project software is one of those tools. With this short tutorial we want to introduce you to the software in its most elementary form.
Even though we'll be covering only the basic application of MS project, we hope that you will gain an appreciation of its many capabilities and will be drawn to study it in more depth afterwards.

Getting started with MS Project - Update

This tutorial was created using MS Project 2003. At the moment, the latest version of Project - Microsoft Office Project 2007 - is now being distributed.

Fortunately, the 2007 interface is virtually identical to the earlier version. There are some functionalities that have been added but, for the beginner it makes practically no difference.

You can study these lessons with version 2003 or 2007, as you wish, with no difficulties whatsoever.

If you then decide to look at the improved features in Office Project 2007,
I have created a tutorial for that which you can access at:
MS Project 2007 tutorial

Defining the project

Start by defining the properties of the project that you are going to manage.

You need to know the start date and the basic operating rules of the organization.

First: break the whole project into individual tasks.

This may not be as easy as it sounds. You want the tasks to be small enough to be manageable but,
not so small as to involve the atomic level. This will draw on the experience of the project manager.

Normally, a task involves one person or a small group of people over a span of time that can be measured in days.

Don't worry that the tasks all last 1 day and start on the same day. We'll get to that later.

Now, you will probably want to group tasks under phases.

In MS Project, grouping is done from the top down with Final total at the very top,
with Subtotals below and so on.


Defining a Timeline

The next step is to define the duration of all the tasks.

Again, you will draw upon the experience and knowledge of the project manager and the participants.

You want to obtain a value that is as realistic as possible for the duration of each task.
That may have to be negotiated.

If there's disagreement, a simple formula to establish a value has been around for years:
find an optimistic value, D(o), a pessimistic value, D(p) and a realitic value, D(r) .
Then: Duration = ( D(o) + D(p) + 4 x D(r) ) / 6

You now have a duration for each of the tasks but they all start on the same day.

Obviously, you will have to specify the sequence of the tasks and the links between them.

In MS Project a task that must be completed before another task can start is called a predecessor.

The first task has no predecessor and each of the following tasks has to have at least one.

In some cases a task may have several predecessors meaning that several tasks have to be completed before that one can start.

In other cases a task may be predecessor to several others - its completion can allow several other tasks to start.



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