Microsoft Project: The Five Keys - Key 2 Task Links (Part A)

This is Part A, Task Mechanics. The next module, Part B, covers the application of task links (Critical Path, etc).
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  • Lectures 13
  • Contents Video: 1.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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About This Course

Published 2/2013 English

Course Description

This is Part A of Key 2, and covers Task Entry and Task Linking in MS Project.

Here is a summary of where this key fits into the Five Keys Method:

  • Key 1 covered Navigation.
  • Key 2 has two modules: This Task Linking Mechanics (Part A) module and then is followed by a second module on the Application of Task Linking (Part B) in project schedules. Thus Key 2 covers not only how task linking works (Part A), but how it enables the application of key scheduling features (Part B)---such as the critical path method---to help you create effective project plans.
  • Key 3 covers Task Constraints---one of the most misunderstood components of MS Project.
  • Key 4 covers Project Calendars.
  • Key 5 cover Tracking Actual Progress.

In total the Five Keys gives you the essential skills needed to use MS Project in a way that keeps the tool lean but powerful, and thus the Five Keys teaches you to use MS Project in a way that actually helps your projects be more successful.

What are the requirements?

  • Key 1 - Navigation

What am I going to get from this course?

  • By watching the videos in this module, the result should be that you have developed a basic competency in understanding how task links work in Microsoft Project. This is a core skill needed to be able to develop effective dynamic schedules in Microsoft Project.

What is the target audience?

  • Beginners
  • Intermediate Users
  • Advanced Users

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Task Entry

This lecture explains how this key fits in with all the Five Keys---and it does this review in less than five minutes! Look for the other keys in additional lectures of the same name that you can purchase through Udemy.

This lecture starts with an introduction to Key 2 and describes its two parts (Part A Mechanics and Part B Application).  Then basic task entry is covered along with the use of the Project Start Date, how Row Numbering works, default Durations, and setting Column Widths.  
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of the basic Paint schedule covered in the lecture (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).
This lecture covers the Start and Finish Date column task entry Trap and provides a brief exposure to constraints and how to reset a constraint (constraints are covered in detail in Key 3).  Different approaches to renaming tasks are also covered, along with task insertions.  Basic concepts, but important descriptions are provided to cement these core concepts.
The different types of duration values are covered, along with a discussion of some unusual type durations such as Milestones and Elapsed Durations. Again, core concepts are covered here that lay the foundation for the effective use of tasks in a project schedule.
Section 2: Task Linking
This lecture includes a detailed discussion of task linking.  It begins by explaining the importance and difference between a task predecessor and a task successor.  Then a detailed demonstration of the different ways tasks can be linked is presented, with explanations and demonstrations on how to to deal with things such as non-contiguous tasks. How to insert the Successors Column is also covered.  At the end of this lecture you will have seen all the different ways to link tasks and thus have the foundations for the next lecture, the all important task linking dashboard.
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of the basic Paint schedule covered in the lecture (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).
In this lecture the all important Task Linking Dashboard is presented.  The lecture starts with presentation of the split screen view, and introduces the Form View.  From there the form is customized to create the task linking dashboard. If you are going to be successful with creating, maintaining, and troubleshooting your project schedules in MS Project, it is absolutely essential you understand how to create this view.  

Since MPP files are  not available as a type of attachment in Udemy, a picture of what your split screen dashboard is included in the downloadable materials section to help you understand how to create this view.
This lecture covers how to create complex links using the Task Linking Dashboard, and the different ways links can be created or changed with this view. Additionally adding the Task Inspector tool to the view is covered, along with shortcomings with the Task Inspector. 

At the end of this module you should be fully competent in understanding how to create complex links and will have at your disposal a set of invaluable views to make task linking schedule work easier and effective.
In this lecture a more complex scheduling scenario is covered, the New Product project.  Here you will make use of the dash linking dashboard, and then move on into how to deal with the autolinking feature in MS Project, and other fine points to task linking such as simple ways to clear links and creating complex links. 
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of the basic New Product schedule covered in the lecture (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).
Understanding lag and lead time is essential to creating effective schedules.  Especially the use of lead time as it allows you to fast track a project schedule and thus be able to complete key task sequences early.  This module lecture covers lag and lead and in the process opens the door to your understanding the complex task link "hieroglyphics" that are often found in the Predecessor and Successor column fields.  Thus this lecture takes you into the Inner Sanctums of MS Project task linking!  
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of the using task lead time on the basic Paint schedule covered in the lecture (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).
Section 3: Link Types
With all aspects of how to create links covered in the previous lectures, the Method now moves on to the four different types of task links. The first two are covered in this lecture, the FS, Finish to Start link type, and the SS, Start to Start link type.  

The quirks and subtleties of the Start to Start link type are covered in detail, and the concept of the "Project Wind" is presented to help give you a visual way of remember how the Start to Start link works, and how to troubleshoot it if it doesn't react the way you would expect.  Very helpful stuff.
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of a basic Start to Start link type similar to that one covered in the lecture (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).
This lecture module continues the exploration of the different types of links that are possible in MS Project and explores the FF, Finish to Finish link type. The lecture starts out first by demonstrating different ways to expose link types and then goes into the FF link in detail.  Thus the quirks and subtleties of the FF link is covered, along with a pictorial using the Project Wind to help you remember how to use the FF link successfully.  Finally the concept of JIT (Just in Time) task links are presented using the FF link.  This is an important concept to understand if you are going to use the FF link productively in your project schedules.

Download the Start to Start link file from the previous lecture and see if you can develop an FF link schedule from that starting point as found in this lecture.  You can handle it!
The final link type is SF, Start to Finish.  While the name sounds like this would be the most common link type, that is a common misunderstanding!  The SF link type is actually a unique and unusual type of link that has its greatest functionality in creating Just in Time (JIT) links.  

This lecture closes out with a comparison of the different ways JIT links can be made, and argues for the SF link as the preferred method.  
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of a basic Start to Finish  (SF) link type similar to that one covered in the lecture (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).
Closing out this module and Key 2 Part A on the Mechanics of Task Linking, is a presentation on something I call the ALAP Trap.  It is an introduction to some of subtleties of Constraints covered in Key 3, but is introduced here as it is a somewhat common problem encountered when creating Just in Time task links and a subtlety about constraints that needs to be understood if you are going to create successful project schedules.  Again, Key 3 covers constraints in details, and Key 2 Part B, The Application of Linking is the next course in the sequence, nonetheless the ALAP trap is a necessary element to cover and a great way to get you ready for the subsequent Five Keys Method courses.
An xml file is included in the downloadable materials that is an example of the ALAP Trap.  Use this file to explore the enigma so that you understand the trap. (Use Project 2010 to open this xml file).

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Instructor Biography

F. Kevin Gaza, Enterprise Project Manager

F. Kevin Gaza, PMP

Kevin has been an enterprise project manager for over fifteen years for a multi-state healthcare organization. In that role he has been a primary author and architect of the organization’s project methodology and has been the lead project manager on a variety of enterprise projects including rolling out ITIL/ITSM, building data centers, deploying networking systems, upgrading Windows and Office for over 20,000 users---and not to mention deploying numerous healthcare applications.

Prior to healthcare Kevin worked as a PM for the Indiana Secretary of State, and had fun for several years as the IT Director at the Indianapolis Zoo---but only after paying his dues as a project engineer at Inland and Bethlehem Steel. He has taught Microsoft Project at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) since 1994 as an adjunct, which is basically his rat lab for course development.

Through all that---three decades of project work, four different industries, and teaching at IUPUI---Kevin has developed his approach to teaching Microsoft Project: The Five Keys Method.  The Method is jam packed with insights and tricks you won't find anywhere else.  Period.  (And btw, he also graduated summa cum laude in business at Purdue many, many years ago---back when he had hair).

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