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CD-ROM includes sample projects, bonus appendixes, and demo software.
Part I: Project Management Basics.
Chapter 1: The Nature of Projects.
Chapter 2: Exploring the Microsoft Project Environment.
Part II: Getting Your Project Going.
Chapter 3: Creating a New Project.
Chapter 4: Building Tasks.
Chapter 5: Creating Resources and Assigning Costs.
Part III: Refining Your Project.
Chapter 6: Understanding the Basics of Views.
Chapter 7: Using Views to Gain Perspective.
Chapter 8: Modifying the Appearance of Your Project.
Chapter 9: Resolving Scheduling Problems.
Chapter 10: Resolving Resource Problems.
Part IV: Tracking Your Progress.
Chapter 11: Understanding Tracking.
Chapter 12: Recording Actuals.
Chapter 13: Reporting on Progress.
Chapter 14: Analyzing Financial Progress.
Part V: Working in Groups.
Chapter 15: Coordinating Multiple Projects Outside ProjectServer.
Chapter 16: Using Project in an E-mail Workgroup.
Part VI: Project, Project Web Access, and ProjectServer.
Chapter 17: Preparing to Use Project Server.
Chapter 18: Installing and Configuring Project Server.
Chapter 19: Organizational Roles and Project Server: TheAdministrator.
Chapter 20: Organizational Roles and Project Server: TheProject/Resource Manager.
Chapter 21: Organizational Roles and Project Server: TheDay-to-Day User.
Chapter 22: Organizational Roles and Project Server: TheExecutive.
Part VII: Advanced Microsoft Project.
Chapter 23: Customizing Microsoft Project.
Chapter 24: Using Macros to Speed Your Work.
Chapter 25: Customizing Microsoft Project Using VBA and ActiveScripting.
Chapter 26: Importing and Exporting Project Information.
Chapter 27: Project Case Studies.
Part VIII: Appendixes.
Appendix A: What's on the CD-ROM.
Appendix B: Project Management Worksheet.
Appendix C: Available Fields and Functions for Custom FieldFormulas.
Appendix D: Project Management Resources.
Everybody does projects. Building a tree house is a project; so is putting a man on the moon. From the simplest home improvement to the most complex business or scientific venture, projects are a part of most of our lives. But exactly what is a project, and what can you do to manage all its facets?
Some projects are defined by their randomness. Missed deadlines, unpleasant surprises, and unexpected problems seem to be as unavoidable as the weekly staff meeting. Other projects have few problems. Nevertheless, the project that goes smoothly from beginning to end is rare. Good planning and communication can go a long way toward avoiding disaster. And although no amount of planning can prevent all possible problems, good project management enables you to deal with those inevitable twists and turns in the most efficient manner possible.
In this chapter, you begin exploring tools and acquiring skills that can help you become a more efficient and productive project manager. The goal of this chapter is to provide a survey of what a project is, what project management is, and how Microsoft Project 2003 fits into the picture.
When you look up the word project in the dictionary, you see definitions such as "plan" and "concerted effort." A project in the truest sense, then, isn't a simple one-person effort toperform a task. By this definition, getting yourself dressed-difficult though that task may seem on a Monday morning-isn't a project.
A project is a series of steps that are typically performed by more than one person. In addition, the following items describe a project:
* A project has a specific and measurable goal. You know you have finished the project when you have successfully met your project goal. * Projects have a specific time frame. The success of a project is often measured by how successfully the project has been completed within the amount of time allotted to it. * Projects use resources. Resources aren't just people; resources can include money, machinery, materials, and more. How well these resources are allocated and orchestrated is another key measure of a project's success or failure. * All projects consist of interdependent, yet individual, steps called tasks. No piece of a project exists in a vacuum. If one task runs late or over budget, it typically affects other tasks, the overall schedule, and the total cost of the project.
Projects can last for months or even years. By their nature, projects are dynamic; they tend to grow, change, and behave in ways that you can't always predict. Consequently, you, as a project manager, have to remain alert to the progress and vagaries of your projects or you will never reach your goals. Documentation and communication are your two key tools for staying on top of a project throughout its life.
Exploring project management
Project management is a discipline that examines the nature of projects and offers ways to control their progress. Project management attempts to organize and systematize the tasks in a project to minimize the number of surprises that you may encounter.
Project management and project managers concern themselves with the following key areas:
* Scheduling * Budgeting * Managing resources * Tracking and reporting progress
To manage these aspects of projects, certain tools have evolved over the years. Some of these are conceptual, such as the critical path; others involve specific formats for charting progress, such as a Gantt Chart. The following sections introduce some key project management concepts and tools.
Critical path and slack
The critical path marks the series of tasks in a project that must be completed on time for the overall project to stay on schedule. For example, suppose that you are planning a going-away party at your office. You have three days to plan the party. The following table lists some of the tasks that are involved and indicates their time frames.
The shortest task, reserving a room, takes only one hour. Assuming that plenty of rooms are available for holding the party, you can delay reserving the room until the last hour of the third day. Delaying this task doesn't cause any delay in holding the party-as long as you accomplish this task by the end of the longest task, which is getting everyone to sign the good-bye card. Therefore, the task of reserving a room isn't on the critical path. However, you can't delay the task of signing the good-bye card, which is projected to take three days to accomplish, without delaying the party. Therefore, the card-signing task is on the critical path. (Of course, this example is very simple; typically, a whole series of tasks that can't afford delay form an entire critical path.)
The following points further define and clarify these concepts:
* The critical path changes as the project progresses. Remember that a critical path is a means of identifying tasks that have no leeway in their timing to ensure that they don't run late and affect your overall schedule. Knowing where your critical path tasks are at any point during the project is crucial to staying on track. Figures 1-1 and 1-2 show the same schedule-first with all tasks displayed and then filtered to show only the tasks that are on the critical path.
Cross-Reference See Chapter 7 to find out how to filter for only critical tasks and to see more information about changing the view of your project.
* Slack, also called float, is the amount of time that you can delay a task before that task moves onto the critical path. In the preceding example, the one-hour-long task-reserving a room-has slack. This task can slip a few hours, even a couple of days, and the party will still happen on time. However, if you wait until the last half-hour of the third day to reserve a room, that task will have used up its slack and it then moves onto the critical path.
Durations and milestones
Most tasks in a project take a specific amount of time to accomplish. Tasks can take anywhere from five minutes to five months. The length of time needed to complete a task is called the task's duration. You should always try to break the long tasks in a project into smaller tasks of shorter duration so that you can track their progress more accurately. For example, break a five-month-long task into five one-month tasks. Checking off the completion of the smaller tasks each month reduces the odds of a serious surprise five months down the road-and makes you feel like you're getting something done.
Some tasks, called milestones, have no (0) duration. Milestones are merely points in time that mark the start or completion of some phase of a project. For example, if your project involves designing a new brochure, the approval of the initial design may be considered a milestone. You can assign a duration to the process of routing the design to various people for review, but assigning a length of time to the moment when you have everyone's final approval is probably impossible. Therefore, this task has a duration of 0-that is, approval of the design is a milestone that simply marks a key moment in the project.
Resource-driven schedules and fixed-duration tasks
Some tasks take the same amount of time-no matter how many people or other resources you devote to them. Flying from San Francisco to New York is likely to take about five hours, regardless of how many pilots or flight attendants you add. You can't speed up a test on a mixture of two solvents that must sit for six hours to react by adding more solvent or by hiring more scientists to work in the laboratory. These tasks have a fixed duration, meaning that their timing is set by the nature of the task. (These tasks are also called fixed tasks.)
On the other hand, the number of available resources can affect the duration of some tasks. For example, if one person needs two hours to dig a ditch, adding a second person will likely cut the time in half. The project still requires two hours of effort, but two resources can perform the task simultaneously. Tasks whose durations are affected by the addition or subtraction of resources are called resource-driven tasks.
In real-world projects, this calculation is seldom so exact. Because people have different skill levels and perform work at different speeds, two people don't always cut the time of a task exactly in half. In addition, the more people you add to a task, the more communication, cooperation, and training may be involved. Although Microsoft Project handles additional assignments of resources as strictly a mathematical calculation, you can still use your judgment of the resources that are involved to modify this calculation (see Chapter 10).
Diagrams that aid project management
Gantt Charts, network diagrams, and work breakdown structures (WBSs) are tools of project management that have evolved over many years. These tools are simply charts that you can use to track different aspects of your project. Figure 1-3 shows a Microsoft Project Gantt Chart, and Figure 1-4 shows a Microsoft Project network diagram. Figure 1-5 shows a typical WBS, although Microsoft Project does not include a WBS chart as one of its standard views.
On the CD-ROM
You can purchase an add-on product (WBS Chart Pro) to create a WBS chart from a Microsoft Project file. The CD-ROM that is included with this book features a sample of the program.
Before people used computers to manage their projects, managers drew these charts by hand. Any self-respecting project war room had a 10-foot network diagram, WBS, or Gantt Chart tacked to the wall. By the end of the project, this chart was as marked up and out of date as last year's appointment calendar. Thankfully, project management software makes these charts easier to generate, update, and customize.
A Gantt Chart represents the tasks in a project with bars that reflect the duration of individual tasks. Milestones are shown as diamond-shaped objects.
You can find out more about the various elements of the Gantt Chart in Chapter 2. For this chapter's purposes, you simply need to know that a Gantt Chart enables you to visualize and track the timing of a project.
Network diagrams, on the other hand, don't accurately detail the timing of a project. Instead, a network diagram shows the flow of tasks in a project and the relationships of tasks to each other. Each task is contained in a box called a node, and lines that flow among the nodes indicate the flow of tasks.
In Project 98 and prior versions of Project, network diagrams were called PERT charts. PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. The Special Projects Office of the U.S. Navy devised this method for tracking the flow of tasks in a project when it was designing the Polaris submarine in the late 1950s.
The U.S. defense establishment uses the WBS as its primary tool for managing projects and describes the WBS in Military Standard (MIL-STD) 881B (25 Mar 93) as follows: "A work breakdown structure is a product-oriented family tree composed of hardware, software, services, data and facilities ... [It] displays and defines the product(s) to be developed and/or produced and relates the elements of work to be accomplished to each other and to the end product(s)."
MIL-STD 881B was superceded by MIL-HDBK 881, 2 January 1998. The forward of the newer documents states that there were "no substantive changes in work breakdown structure definition." The full text is available on many DOD sites (e.g., http://dcarc.pae.osd.mil/881handbook/milhdbk881_cover_chap1.pdf).
On the CD-ROM
Project doesn't contain a PERT chart view. However, on the enclosed CD-ROM, you can find a sample version of PERT Chart EXPERT, a program that converts the information in any Project file to a PERT view.
The final project management concept that you should understand is dependencies. The overall timing of a project isn't simply the sum of the durations of all tasks, because all tasks in a project don't usually happen simultaneously. For example, in a construction project, you must pour the foundation of a building before you can build the structure. You also have to enclose the building with walls and windows before you lay carpeting. In other words, project managers anticipate and establish relationships among the tasks in a project. These relationships are called dependencies. Only after you have created tasks, assigned durations to them, and established dependencies can you see the overall timing of your project.
Chapter 4 covers several kinds of dependencies.
Managing projects with project management software
Many people manage projects with stacks of outdated to-do lists and colorful hand-drawn wall charts. They scribble notes on calendars in pencil, knowing-more often than not-that dates and tasks will change over time. They hold numerous meetings to keep everyone in the project informed. People have developed these simple organizational tools because projects typically have so many bits and pieces that no one can possibly remember them all.
To manage a project, you need a set of procedures. Project management software automates many of these procedures. With project management software, you can do the following:
* Plan upfront: By preplanning the various elements of your project, you can more accurately estimate the time and resources that are required to complete the project. * View your progress: By examining your progress on an ongoing basis from various perspectives, you can see whether you are likely to meet your goal. * Recognize conflicts: By identifying time and resource conflicts early, you can try out various what-if scenarios to resolve them before the project gets out of hand. * Make adjustments: You can make adjustments to task timing and costs, and automatically update all other tasks in the project to reflect the impact of your changes. * Generate professional-looking reports: You can create reports on the status of your project to help team members prioritize and to help management make informed decisions.
With improved workgroup, intranet, and e-mail capabilities, Microsoft Project also makes communication and cooperation among workgroup members much easier and more productive.
Excerpted from Microsoft Office Project 2003 Bible by Elaine Marmel Excerpted by permission.
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