Microsoft Project For Windows 95 For Dummies


Multicolored sticky notes and wall calendars only go so far when it comes to serious project planning. For that, you need a sophisticated tool like Microsoft Project. Microsoft Project For Dummies reveals how to stay in control of projects large and small by using this sophisticated software from Microsoft. But more than just showing you how to use the program, author and educator Martin Doucette gives you a solid foundation in what project management is all about-and how to do ...
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Multicolored sticky notes and wall calendars only go so far when it comes to serious project planning. For that, you need a sophisticated tool like Microsoft Project. Microsoft Project For Dummies reveals how to stay in control of projects large and small by using this sophisticated software from Microsoft. But more than just showing you how to use the program, author and educator Martin Doucette gives you a solid foundation in what project management is all about-and how to do it right. You'll find helpful advice on how to:
  • Build your own schedules in minutes
  • Use Gantt charts to communicate visually and efficiently
  • Compare your planned and actual tasks and budgets
  • Find effective ways to reduce or eliminate waste
  • Get the most out of your schedule by optimizing your calendar
  • Dazzle your boss with customized reports
  • Put graphics, audio, or movies into your project pages
  • Manage your projects successfully and enjoy your evenings and weekends somewhere other than at work Plus, Microsoft Project For Dummies comes complete with a bonus disk containing sample Project files for you to experiment with.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764500848
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/1/1997
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition description: BK&DISK
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.36 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Part I: Basic Project Stuff
Chapter 1: Basic Project Management
Chapter 2: Tasks, Schedules, and Resources
Chapter 3: What Microsoft Project 4.1 Does (And Doesn't Do)
Part II: Putting Your Project Together
Chapter 4: Creating a Schedule
Chapter 5: Outlining Your Project
Chapter 6: Task Relationships
Chapter 7: Resources
Part III: Viewing Your Project
Chapter 8: Kinds of Views
Chapter 9: The Gantt Chart
Chapter 10: The PERT Chart
Chapter 11: The Calendar
Chapter 12: Resource Views
Chapter 13: Using Filters
Part IV: Making Project 4.1 Work for You
Chapter 14: Multiple Projects
Chapter 15: Setting and Viewing Costs
Chapter 16: Optimizing Your Plan
Part V: Project Management
Chapter 17: Tracking Your Project's Progress
Chapter 18: Personalizing Your Project Environment
Part VI: Telling the World How It's Going
Chapter 19: Previewing and Printing Views
Chapter 20: Using and Customizing Reports
Part VII: The Part of Tens
Chapter 21: Ten Terrific Templates
Chapter 22: Ten Innovative Things You Can Do for Your Project
Part VIII:
Appendix A: Working with Workgroups
Appendix B: Working with Data from Other Applications
Appendix C: About the Disk Glossary
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First Chapter

Chapter 17
Tracking Your Project's Progress

In This Chapter

  • Understanding baseline, current, and actual information
  • Tracking with tables
  • Tracking with the Gantt chart
  • Updating schedules and tasks

In this chapter, I assume that your project is beginning or has already begun. As you're about to see, Microsoft Project is an important asset in your project-management responsibilities. It's ready and waiting to help your project plan succeed in the cold test of reality. Although you'd like the project to go without a hitch, you know that's almost impossible. Besides, if the project had no problems, it would need only a project planner -- not a project manager.

A project manager has to know what's going on to be proactive to the process of change. This requires keeping a close watch on the schedule, tasks, resources, and costs. Programs such as Microsoft Project provide a tremendous capability to analyze present circumstances against the original plan and to make adjustments to better ensure future success. The term for this is tracking.

Tracking has a double meaning. One meaning is keeping track, as in remaining informed. It also means to keep on track -- to keep the project going where and how it is designed to progress.

Tracking has three major components:

  • The baseline plan. The baseline is the fully developed plan that you save before the start date of the first project task. The baseline is like a set of completed blueprints and specifications. It's your best prediction of how the project should go. You use the baseline throughout the project to maintain goals and to get things back on track.
  • Current information. After the project begins, Microsoft Project keeps a dynamic model of the project. This model may or may not be the same as the baseline. As you see in this chapter, Microsoft Project calculates upcoming start and finish dates based on the latest information. You use Current information to determine how upcoming tasks are being affected by the present and by what has already occurred.
  • Actual information. Tasks that have already started or have finished are referred to as Actual. As you see in this chapter, the Actual start and finish dates for tasks are designated NA until they begin.

Using Microsoft Project, you can perform either minimal or detailed tracking. Minimal tracking refers to keeping records of the start and finish dates for each task. Detailed tracking isn't a specific action, but a range of possibilities. You can track start and finish dates plus percentage of task completion, duration, costs, and work. You can then use the information to maneuver your tasks through complicated situations.

In this chapter, using the Smith Home example, you track a project after it has begun. You work with baseline, current, and actual information.

If you haven't copied the files from the sample disk to your hard drive, you might want to do so before proceeding with this chapter. See Appendix C for instructions.

Open the sample project file called Smith Home 17.MPP from the Practice Files folder. To do so:

  1. Click the Open button on the Standard toolbar.

  2. Open the Practice Files folder.

  3. Double-click Smith Home 17.MPP.

    The file should open in the Gantt Chart view.

Viewing the Baseline

You've put a lot of time and effort into creating your baseline. Wouldn't it be nice to see it? Get ready to meet your baseline:

  1. Choose View-->More Views.

    The More Views dialog box appears.

  2. Double-click Task Sheet.

    The screen changes to Task Sheet view.

  3. Choose View-->Table: Cost.

    The Table submenu appears.

  4. Choose More Tables.

    The More Tables dialog box appears.

  5. Choose Baseline.

    Baseline, meet your project manager. Project manager, this is your baseline (Figure 17-1).

For the rest of your project, this information doesn't change unless you need to modify it for some reason. (For example, you might need to modify the baseline so that you can add a task to the project.)

You probably won't have a reason to use this specific table in your project, but you'll be using various parts of this information on an ongoing basis. For now, change back to the Gantt Chart view by choosing View-->Gantt Chart.

The Baseline in Other Tables

The baseline shows up in some of the most important places. For instance, it's in the Work table, the Cost table, and the Variance table. To see the baseline in these tables:

  1. Choose View-->Table: Entry.

    The Table submenu appears.

  2. Choose Work.

    The Work table appears.

  3. Drag the vertical bar to the right until the entire table is exposed (Figure 17-2).

The Work table provides you with resource information about each task. The Work column is the total amount of work scheduled to be performed by all resources assigned to the task. The Variance column is a calculation of the difference between Baseline and (Current) Work. Actual is the amount of work that has been performed by all resources on the task. Remaining is the total amount of work that has yet to be performed. Percent of Work Completed (% W. Comp.) is the percentage of each task's work that has been performed.

The Cost table performs the same kind of function as the Work table except it tracks -- you guessed it -- cost. To see this table:

  1. Choose View-->Table: Work.

    The Table submenu appears.

  2. Choose Cost.

    The Cost table appears (Figure 17-3).

The Fixed Cost column contains the fixed cost for a task, such as contractor fees. Total Cost is the total projected cost for the task. The remaining columns are set up in the same way as the Work table.

The Variance table compares the difference, if any, between the project's baseline start and finish dates and the scheduled start and finish dates after the project has begun. For example:

  1. Choose View-->Table: Cost.

    The Table submenu appears.

  2. Choose Variance.

    The Variance table appears (Figure 17-4).

The Variance table displays current start and finish dates. As mentioned, the term current refers to calculated information based on the latest changes or lack of changes to the project. The project is only beginning, so no variances exist between current dates and baseline dates.

Tracking Project Progress

Enough of the baseline stuff already! It's time to do some project tracking:

  1. Change back to the Entry table by choosing View-->Table: Variance.

    The Table submenu appears.

  2. Choose Entry.

    The Entry table appears.

  3. Drag the vertical bar back until it is to the right of the Duration column.

  4. Click the Zoom Out button on the Standard toolbar.

    This makes the Gantt chart easier to use.

Suppose that the project has been progressing for a number of days. Everything was going according to plan until the construction ran into a rain day. This not only delayed construction, but also affected the availability of some upcoming resource commitments.

You need to make some changes to the project. This won't affect the baseline. Instead, the baseline will tell you how the changes affect the overall project.

For this example, today is July 15, 1997. You need to inform Microsoft Project of this, as follows:

  1. Choose File-->Project Info.

    The Project Info dialog box appears.

  2. In the Current Date text box, type 7/15/97 (Figure 17-5).

  3. Click OK.

  4. Choose Edit-->Go To.

    The Go To dialog box appears.

  5. In the Date box, type 7/15/97 (Figure 17-6).

  6. Click OK.

    The chart jumps to July 15.

Microsoft Project informs you of the current date, July 15, by inserting a vertical dotted line on the Gantt chart.

Updating the schedule

As work is performed on project tasks, you feed progress information into your project file. The term for this is updating. Updating the schedule adds a record of work performed. Microsoft Project provides some shortcuts to aid you in this task. Some of the most common shortcuts are grouped together on the Tracking toolbar:

  1. Right-click anywhere in the toolbar area.

    The toolbar menu appears.

  2. Choose Tracking.

    The Tracking toolbar appears.

Using these tracking tools and a few others, you'll make the following updates to the project.

Tasks 1-10 were completed on time and without difficulty. Task 11 is half finished and is one day behind schedule because of mud. The ground conditions aren't affecting just the Smith project. The Electrical service task is behind schedule and won't be performed until July 21. This affects the building inspector -- the Foundation Stage inspection can't take place until electric service has been installed.

Update as scheduled

One of the friendliest tools on the Tracking toolbar is the Update as Scheduled button. Louis Armstrong should be singing "What a Wonderful World" in the background when you use it. To update as scheduled means that you're a genius -- as of the current date, everything is going as planned. For example:

  1. Select the task Project begins, ID 1.

  2. Hold down the Shift key, and select the task Excavation, ID 10.

  3. Click the Update as Scheduled button on the Tracking toolbar.

    Microsoft Project updates the selected tasks. The black bar all the way through the tasks indicates completion.

Scroll the Gantt chart to expose Tasks 1 through 10. The chart should look like Figure 17-7.

Update tasks

The Update Tasks button on the Tracking toolbar is a more specific tool than the Update as Scheduled button. The Update Tasks button updates schedule information for the task or tasks you select. With this button, you can do some detailed project management, as follows:

  1. Click the Zoom In button on the Standard toolbar.

  2. Select the Footing/foundation task.

  3. Click Goto Selected Task on the Standard toolbar.

  4. Double-click the Footing/foundation task.

    The Task Information dialog box appears. The task is 60 percent complete and one day behind schedule.

  5. In the Percent Complete text box, type 60.

  6. In the Duration text box, type 9d.

  7. Click OK.

    The Footing/foundation task reflects your changes.

Another task needs your attention. The Electrical service task can't be performed until July 21. It's currently scheduled to start on July 18. To change the task's start date:

  1. Move the cursor to the Electrical service Gantt bar.

  2. Drag to the right until the pop-up date box says that the start date is July 21.

  3. Release the mouse button.

    The Planning Wizard appears. It tells you that you might be creating a task relationship problem. You can turn off this option by selecting the Don't tell me about this again option. I suggest that you wait awhile before you choose this option.

    The Planning Wizard says that there's a problem because the link between tasks will not drive the start date of the later task. The Wizard is saying a task relationship exists between the two tasks (Electrical service task and Footing/foundation task) that requires the later task to begin upon the completion of the previous task. By moving the first task's start date, everything is getting messed up.

  4. Choose the first option, which lets Microsoft Project remove the link (Figure 17-8).

  5. Click OK.

    The Electrical service task is moved to July 21.

Now you need to link the Electrical service task again. To do this:

  1. Double-click the Electrical service task.

    The Task Information dialog box appears.

  2. Click the Predecessor tab.

  3. In the text box below ID, type 11. (See Figure 17-9.)

  4. Select the green check mark.

  5. Click OK.

One last thing. The Inspection task has a one-day lag from its Electrical service predecessor. You need to remove the lag. To do this:

  1. Double-click the arrow point touching the Inspection task.

    The Task Dependency dialog box appears.

  2. In the Lag text box, type 0 to replace the 1d (Figure 17-10).

  3. Click OK.

The Tracking Gantt table

One visually powerful view of tracking information is the Tracking Gantt table. It's best to access the view before you read the explanation. To access the Tracking Gantt table:

  1. Choose View-->More Views.

    The More Views dialog box appears.

  2. Double-click the Tracking Gantt view.

    The Tracking Gantt view appears.

  3. Select the Footing/foundation task and click the Goto Selected Task button on the Standard toolbar.

  4. Adjust the screen to match Figure 17-11.

A lot of visual messages are in this view, based mostly on changes of color:

  • Dark gray bars are the baseline tasks.
  • Dark blue bars are completed tasks or portions of tasks.
  • Red bars are critical path tasks.
  • Light blue bars are noncritical tasks.

The difference in horizontal location between the baseline bar and its partner is an indication of the schedule status. The more distance, the further the actual date is from the baseline date. The number at the end of each colored bar is the percentage of the task that is completed.

Tracking can be a blast as well as rewarding proof of your excellent planning. But all good athletes know that backslapping is for the end of the game, not during it. Tracking is your first defense against previously unforseeable problems. If you do it well, you'll be able to see to the horizon and -- with your Microsoft Project tools -- beyond.

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