Constraints is the most commonly misunderstood feature in MS Project and understanding how to use constraints is one of the things that separates the amateurs from competent users that are in the know. Key 3 Constraints, thus becomes an absolute cornerstone of knowledge for any practitioner of MS Project that truly wants to understand and use MS Project effectively. In combination with Key 1 (Navigation) and Key 2 (Task linking courses) you have built the foundation to understand Constraints! Get ready to go and tackle one of the most difficult aspects of MS Project---but with videos that provide a clear explanation you can get your head around and conquer!
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.
In this lecture we will uncover the different ways you can expose the constraint information on your project tasks. This may be overwhelming for those of you that are new to constraints so take your time in this section if you are a beginner.
For those of you that are intermediate and advanced users this series of lectures will provide some new ways of looking at task constraints.
But the main takeaway from this lecture should be that you know at least ONE WAY to see a tasks information, as managing constraints is a key schedule skill you must have if you are going to create useful schedules, and it starts with knowing how to expose a task's constraint.
In this lecture we start with the simplest type of constraint: The Task Deadline.
We go over the basics of putting a deadline on a task and examine what happens when a task goes past its deadline date.
Adding a deadline to a task is a great way to have Project monitor a task's finish date for you. Unfortunately, the deadline feature has non obvious impact to the critical path: It can change the Total Slack calculation and actually make a task's Total Slack be a negative number!
That may not sound like a big deal, but when you are counting on your schedule's critical path to keep you focused, then you need to be very careful with how you use deadlines---or you may be in for an unexpected "critical" surprise.
Watch this lecture to see what I mean. The lecture concludes with some tricks and traps on removing deadlines and addressing this problem when you don't want the Deadline feature impacting your schedule's critical path.
We start constraints off with ALAP, As Late as Possible, and ASAP, As Soon As Possible. We have seen these two in earlier lectures, thus this will be a quick and easy review of what these two constraints do.
SNET, Start No Earier Than, is probably one of the most used constraints in Microsoft Project---whether it be intentionally or by accident! This lecture goes over how this constraint can be created and what it does to your schedule, and the lecture closes out by reviewing how you remove a constraint from your tasks.
FNET, Finish No Earlier Than, is the sister to the SNET constraint. This lecture goes over how this constraint can be created and what it does to your schedule. And then the lecture closes out with a demonstration of a quirk that occurs with the duraton when you enter an SNET and an FNET on the same task at the same time.
In MS Project 2013 there was a change to how the Task Type field works, and thus a change to how Fixed Units v. Fixed Duration impacts your task when you change the start or finish date. Watch this lecture to understand the changes Microsoft has made to this duration calculation field.
Now that you understand how to create some basic constraints, this lecture demonstrates how you can use this knowledge to create a project schedule without using links.
Now, this sort of static scheduling approach is not recommended, as the best schedules are dynamic schedules, but seeing that you can create a schedule in this way often results in an "ah ha!" effect as what constraints can do for you becomes more obvious.
Again, just using constraints is not a recommended way of creating a project schedule as the goal of using Microsoft Project is go create dynamic project schedule, schedules that change in total as inputs change. So what a dynamic schedule is, is reviewed again in this lecture to close out this knowledge "chunk".
SNLT, Start No Later Than, and FNLT, Finish No Later Than, are two "not ready for prime time" constraints.
Now there is nothing inherently wrong with these two constraints, it is just there are better and simpler ways to do what these constraints attempt to do. In the complex world of Constraints, anything you can eliminate is a good thing. Thus this lecture explains why you don't need to use SNLT and FNLT.
But you need to understand why this is so, thus watch this lecture and understand that SNLT and FNLT do not provide you with anything new. If you are happy with knowing you have two constraints you can forget about, feel free to skim this lecture and move on. But you may want to watch this lecture as you may get a schedule that uses SNLT or FNLT and you will understand and work with them or change them to the recommended constraints as needed.
MSO, Must Start On, is arguably the best constraint to use in your project schedules. This lecture presents a description of how it works and what it does.
In a subsequent lecture MSO is paired with the Deadline feature to show why this combination is such a good constraint pair to use for your project schedules.
But before getting to that solution, you need to watch this video and understand how the MSO constraint works, and what it does.
The MFO, Must Finish On constraint, is probably one of the biggest disappointments in all of MS Project. Seriously. It is a constraint that has great potential and should work, but unfortunately it is fatally flawed and cannot be counted on to do the job it should be able to do---hold a task in place by its needed finish date.
Watch this video to see what is wrong with MFO, and then in the next video lecture we discuss how to overcome this disappointment.
As we have seen from the previous lectures, there is a problem to be solved with constraints: Most schedules have certain tasks that need to be monitored by their finish date, but the MFO, Must Finish On constraint is flawed. And on other key tasks you need to watch the start date which MSO works fine, but some situations require possibly both the start and the finish to be monitored!
So the problem is that no constraint in Project seems to do either of these tasks very well by themselves. Thus this lecture solves this problem and boils the constraints needed from the eight given to a simple list of three.
But to get there, and understand why this works, you will need to watch the entire lecture.
In this final lecture for Key 3, the key take-aways for constraints are covered. In other words, the complexity of the eight constraints is boiled down into a short list that you can remember and thus effectively use in real schedule work. The lecture also closes out with a tip on how to use Task Notes to document your constraint use.
This story problem is a fairly straightforward project that will test your skills in using task constraints. Constraints are probably one of the more difficult concepts to understand in Microsoft Project, so hopefully this exercise will help develop what you have learned in the constraint videos.
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 architect and author of the organization’s project methodology and has been a lead project manager on a variety of enterprise projects including rolling out ITIL/ITSM, building data centers, FCC funding projects , deploying networking systems, upgrading Windows and Office for over 20,000 users---and not to mention deploying numerous healthcare products.
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 for some years as a project engineer in the manufacturing sector. He has taught Microsoft Project at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) since 1994 as an adjunct, which is basically one of his rat labs for course development.
Through all that---three decades of project work, four-plus industries, and teaching at IUPUI---Kevin has developed this approach to using Microsoft Project, called The Five Keys Method. The Method is jam packed with insights and tricks you won't find anywhere else.