This MICROSOFT PROJECT 2013 COURSE IS APPROVED BY PMI® for 5 PDU POINTS IN CATEGORY 'B'. This course "Microsoft Project 2013: Get Promotions, Respect and Mastery!" is intended for project managers who are just starting out, as well as experienced project managers who are new to Microsoft Project 2013.
In short, when used properly, Microsoft Project 2013 will make you a ROCKSTAR. Some outcomes will be: getting on fast-track for promotions, earning the respect of your peers, seniors and juniors alike.
Course Update 20 Dec, 2016:
Microsoft Project is a powerful Project Management tool. It automates the process of organizing, scheduling, recording, calculating, tracking, reporting, and analyzing schedule data for any project. The tool will help you achieve your project goals on time and within budget. You will learn all this and MORE in this course.
For the new PM: MS Project can appear very intimidating to a new user. For a new Project Manager who is learning the art of project management - having to learn the software tool can be very taxing without someone to hold your hand and walk you from start to finish.
For the experienced PM: This course will make your skills really shine. You know that there are so many aspects to a project - the schedule, resourcing, quality, costs, reporting. And everything must be reported from a microscopic to a 20,000 ft level at the drop of a hat. This course will allow you to do just that.
What you will get from this course:
GREAT EMAIL FEEDBACK AND REVIEWS:
"Life Long Learner(LLL) - A part of me !! First and foremost thanks for a course which worth more then just certain $. I have been on MSP 2010 for a long now, so I thought of upgrading to whats new in 2013. I have been through your course and indeed a complete package that an professional would expect. I have been doing project coordination for a company , and now completed with my PMP in June. Project management is something I love doing, by completing the course it good to be upgraded on application side also. Also i am collecting PDU's for PMI's CCR. So this course offered me to learn a new MSP 2013 along with PDU's."
"I really think you've done a really great job. And you are a pure Ms Project expert. I will go back to the course for sure, when I will have a specific Ms Project cases"
"I reported your course completion to gain the PDU for PMP in category B (I reported 5 PDU) and it was very quickly approved."
Hi, I am Srikanth and let me congratulate you on your desire to learn Microsoft Project 2013.
MS Project 2013 is one of the most user friendly and widely used project tools in the world. I will help you get to speed organizing, scheduling, recording, calculating, tracking, reporting, and analyzing schedule data for literally any project. Project 2013 will help you achieve your project goals on time and within budget.
In this course you will look at short topic specific video lessons - starting at the very basics - and moving on to more advanced usages. I will explain how you can create a new project schedule from scratch - setting up new tasks, managing different types of resources that you use on the project and how you can setup their costs and availability.
Then we will discover the power of Microsoft Project in linking tasks, showing true life dependencies, constraints, analysing risks and being able to create fantastic reports for senior management, peers, team members and any other stakeholders.
Whether you are a project manager who is starting out or well experienced juggling multiple projects - Microsoft Project 2013 is a very powerful tool in your bag and ally by your side.
So, lets get started and your efforts invested in this course will pay you rich dividends.
At the beginning, let me clarify that this course will deal with teaching you how to manage projects using Microsoft Project. However, it does not cover project management in depth. You can find pointers to this in the description area or ask me questions in the forums. I will also be sharing useful tips and pitfalls from experience both on the video lessons and in other resource areas of this course.
Microsoft Project 2013 versions comparison page: https://products.office.com/en-us/Project/compare-microsoft-project-management-software
Get your FREE 60-day trial here: https://products.office.com/en-us/Project/try-or-buy-project-management-software
There are different editions of Microsoft Project 2013 available - as you can see on this Microsoft Office Products site. If you have to make a choice to purchase - this is the place where you can compare. As you can see, Project Pro (with a cloud subscription based payment model), Project Professional and Project Standard are the options available for typical Project Management related activities. In this course we use Project Professional. There is also a 60 day trial download available if you wish to evaluate the product for yourself - you will need a Microsoft Live account - which you can create for free.
Welcome to the new section - where we will first get familiar with the user interface that Microsoft Project offers. Before you start creating project schedules like a pro - it is important that you understand the functionality of the tool itself.
On this screen you will see the various features of the Interface. This screen may look intimidating to a new user because of the number of buttons and controls - but this is very natural and one should not fear - as over the next few videos I will walk you through all aspects of the interface and make you familiar and comfortable with it.
So let us look at them one by one:
a. Microsoft Fluent Interface (also known as the Ribbon) - if you have used any MS Office product like Word or Excel - you would already be familiar with this interface.
b. Quick Access Toolbar - this is a customizable toolbar - similar to those found on Internet Explorer and similar products. As the name suggests, this is designed to give you rapid access to the commands that you use the most.
c. Mini Toolbar
d. Contextual Menu - accessed by right-clicking at different locations on the interface. Options on this menu will change dynamically depending on the context where you right click.
e. Status Bar: By default, the status bar includes a Task Mode for New Tasks control, quick links to the Gantt Chart, Task Usage, Team Planner, and Resource Sheet views, reports and Zoom control. Right-clicking on the status bar brings up a contextual menu which shows several other options.
f. Backstage: When you click on the File Tab (notice this tab is in a different colour) - you enter what is called by Microsoft as the Backstage View. Here you have commands and controls to manage file operations and also manage options for controlling behaviour of MS Project itself.
We will look in-depth into these in the following lectures of this section.
Ribbons are a familiar interface feature on all Microsoft products now - such as Word, Excel or Outlook.
You will find the ribbon design to be very intuitive after using it for a short while - because they are structured around the same way somebody managing a project would go about constructing, updating, analysing and reporting a live project.
The key tabs are classified under tasks, resources, projects and reports. View tab and Format tab revolve around how information is presented both on the screen and in other formats.
The File tab (which is in a different colour) - leads to view called Backstage and we will see about this - in detail in a video lecture later. Backstage deals with file management, print facilities and also important configuration settings for Microsoft Project 2013.
Now let us look at the ribbon tabs one by one.
Task tab - This is the tab where you can create new tasks, view information, link tasks together, update work completed. Of special mention is the 'scroll to task' - which makes viewing tasks easy on the Gantt Chart .
Resource Tab - various types of resources allocated to a project can be configured here, tasks can be allocated to resources, resources can be balanced for work allocation - and making sure over allocations don't occur.
Report tab is a new addition to Project 2013 - which brings in a whole lot of pre-designed reports including the burndown report, project overview report etc. You can also create your own customized reports and make them available over any other project you manage.
The Project tab is used to configure the key parameters of the project being managed. For example - the project start dates, working days and hours for different types of resources. When the project is running you will find the baselining options particularly useful to monitor progress and view plan changes over time.
The View tab helps you analyse project information in a variety of ways on the screen. You will find it particularly helpful when juggling with a large number of tasks, resources and timelines.
The Format tab is a bit special - because it is dynamic and the buttons change depending on the view that you are looking at. If you notice - there is a coloured label over Format tab that changes to indicate which view is active and the buttons change according to the view that is active. Again, the Format tab is useful for a graphical visual presentation of the data that is being worked on.
When you feel you are short on screen space - you can collapse the ribbon. Just click the up-arrow icon on the bottom-right of the ribbon here. When you want to restore the ribbon - just clcik on any tab. If you want to keep it permanently ON - just click the pin icon.
Typically while creating a new project, more time will be spent on the Task tab than others. You will find that a few buttons are used much higher than others - and in the proceeding lectures we will see how to configure the interface for easier and faster access.
When you first load Project 2013, you will see this screen - with a lot of options on the right side of the screen on how to create a new project. You can choose from either creating a new project with options from the right side of the screen OR on the left side you might see a list of recent projects if you have already opened project files earlier.
For this lesson I am going to load an existing recent project file like so - and we can look at the backstage view.
To enter into the Backstage - you have to click on the File tab - and by default the the first tab 'Info' is shown. The Info tab is where you can get high-level status about your project and make related changes. This is a convenient place to reference the location of your document, and copy it to the clipboard.
You can also view and edit key properties of your project here. For example, you can click on the Status Date to directly edit inline. We will look at this in more detail in subsequent lessons.
The New tab brings together a number of ways to start a new project file, Blank new project, many types of online and offline templates, New from existing project, from Excel workbook, or from a SharePoint task list.
Print tab combines print preview with changing common print settings, providing a convenient all-in-one interface for printing.
The Open tab - lets you browse your computer for existing files - and also Project 2013 is now integrated with Microsoft's OneDrive cloud based storage space. You will be required to have an account to use this feature.
Let us look at the export features available. To share project details with stakeholders you can create read-only versions of your project in PDF and XPS formats. XPS is a Microsoft designed format that is functionally similar to PDF and needs an XPS viewer to view it.
Options tab takes you to Project's options interface, where you can control the behaviour of the entire application. While we will keep returning to the Options dialog box several times in this course - there are a few options that control the backstage view and we will look at them now.
First click on the Advanced tab - go to the group marked "Display" - and here we have an option marked "Show this number of Recent Projects". By default this is marked to 25 - and you might choose to change it to your convenience and screen resolution.
The next option is more interesting - called as "Quickly access this number of Recent Projects". I will turn this checkbox ON - and when I return to the Backstage - voila! at the bottom of the left side I see 4 of my most recent projects available as single click links! This is a fast and convenient way to keep returning to the projects that you are working on.
So, in conclusion, you can get familiar with Backstage very quickly and it's full screen view that is very convenient.
In this lesson we explore some ways to customize the interface to our preferences.
The first thing we will look at is to customize the ribbon. Let us look at a case where you want to modify the tab sequence on the ribbon. The current sequence of tabs is - Task - Resource - Report - Project. Now, say you don't want the Report tab here - and you want it placed further down the line.
To do this change, you can first right click anywhere on the ribbon - and choose "Customise the Ribbon" - and the Project Options dialog box opens up. You can see in the right side box, is the listing of the Main Tabs on the Ribbon. All you have to do now is to select the 'Report' row and click the down arrow - bringing it to the location that you prefer.
When you click OK, you can now see the Report tab has been moved further down the line - to its new location - and nothing else has changed. You still have the same controls available as before in all the tabs - only the order has changed.
Suppose you want to add a new Tab of your own - where you can place all the command buttons that you most frequently use in one single tab.
You can do that by going back to the "Customise the Ribbon" option - and in the dialog box - choose 'New Tab'. When you click it, you can see a custom tab and a custom group were created together.
The first thing you will want to do is to rename them appropriately... I will give their names as "LearnGood" and "My fast buttons". Now on the left side box - I can choose the commands that I use the most and Add them to the group that I created. Hint: make sure the correct Tab and Group is kept selected.
Before you exit this dialog box, make sure your tab is placed properly in the list. I will move them to one end here and click OK button.
Now I have added four command buttons to my custom tab. If you don't need the tab any more, you can choose to 'remove' it in the same method.
There is an even faster way to get access to your most used commands - and that is through customizing the Quick Access Toolbar. This area on the top here is called the Quick Access Toolbar and it is designed to provide exactly what it's name suggests - a quick access to your favourite commands.
When you find a favourite command, just right click it, and then click Add to Quick Access Toolbar. Now the command is only a click away.
There will be some commands that you can not directly right click - if you frequently create PDFs, or do something else that requires going to the File tab, here's how to add that command to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Click Customize the Quick Access Toolbar, and then click More Commands. In the Choose commands from list, click 'Commands not in the Ribbon'. Select 'Publish as PDF or XPS' and click Add. Do not forget to click OK. And now you can see the PDF button is available on the Quick Access Toolbar.
When a command is no longer your favourite - you can remove a command by right-clicking it on the Quick Access Toolbar, and then clicking Remove from Quick Access Toolbar.
To conclude, in this lesson we saw multiple ways in which you can customize the command interface - adding / modifying both the Ribbon and Quick access toolbar. As you get more familiar working with Project 2013 - you will want to set things up exactly the way you like - and Project makes it very easy to do so.
In this section we will learn how to create new project files and then we will configure the project file to hold the first important parts of project information. Microsoft provides multiple ways to create a new project file.
There are three primary ways in which to create a new project file - 1. Creating a project file from scratch 2. Create from an existing Template and 3. Create from an Excel Workbook. In this video we will look at the first option of creating a blank project file. And in subsequent lessons we will explore the other ways. But this is not an exhaustive list - there are more ways in which you can create project files - like from a Sharepoint task list, or an XML file - but these methods are used much less frequently. And the same techniques that you will learn in the course lessons will be employed elsewhere - so you are covered.
OK, so in this lesson we will be creating a project file from the beginning. When you start Project this is the first screen that you will see. The first option on the right side says "Blank Project" - and this will give us a clean slate project file - and we just need to click it.
So - we have created a blank project file. You will see a message on the status bar "New tasks created in Manual mode" - we will look at that in a later lesson - so you can safely ignore it for now. But keep in mind that during the life of a project, various messages are displayed in the status bar - and you need to keep an eye on it.
Let us understand this screen a little bit. The view that you see on the screen now is the most important view on Project - it's the moneymaker!!. This view is called as the Gantt Chart View. You can see there are 3 windows (top, left and right)- and they are related to each other. This is the screen where project scheduling is created and we will revisit this completely in the section dealing with tasks.
As a best practice, one of the first things to do when you create a new project is to configure the basic project information. So, let us click on the Project Tab and then on the 'Project Information' button. The Project Information dialog box opens up. There are 3 key things to notice here - the 'Start date' box, the 'Schedule from' box and the 'Calendar'.
One of the key reasons to use Microsoft Project is because of it's auto-scheduling features. Now, this box 'Schedule from' is asking us whether we have to set 'Project Start date' or 'Project Finish date' should be set as the scheduling default. Now, the first option of using 'Project Start date' as a scheduling default will be a little obvious - but when will we need to schedule from the Finish date? That is not so obvious. This type of reverse scheduling MIGHT be useful in situations when you have a hard deadline to finish the project.
In this case we will set the 'Schedule from' box to Project Start date - and you can use this in most cases - even when you have hard fixed deadlines. Scheduling from the end date is recommended only when you are more experienced using Project's auto-scheduling features.
Finally we will look at the calendar box. The project calendar defines the working time for your project: which days are working days, which hours are considered working time in a typical workday, and which days are non-working time (such as holidays and so on). Project comes in with a default calendar called as the Standard Calendar and this is what you see selected by default here.
The Standard calendar has working times set as Monday through Friday and 8am to 5pm with a one hour for lunch. In a future lesson we will see how to customize this for individual projects or individual resources. But for now we will just go with the Standard calendar.
And now to click OK. And we are done with doing the basic setup for a project file that has been started from scratch.
Now, once this much has been done, it is ideal to save the project file. And to do so, we first have to enter into the Backstage - by clicking File tab. Now, because this is the first save, even though I click the Save button - Save As is opened - and here I will save it on my Desktop.
In this lesson, we will look at creating new project files from Templates.
When you start Project, you will see Microsoft's featured templates on the right side of the screen. Or you can even search for some industry specific templates on the search box at the top. If you find something resembling what you want to do - you can load that template with a click.
I am going to show an example now - I want to create a project file for a software project based on Agile. So here I search for Agile - and I have one result returned. A preview is also shown - with some info on the template itself. I can also set the project start date conveniently here. In a previous lesson we had seen that this was one of the first things we have to set. And when I click on create - the template is downloaded and a project is created.
Now let us step back for a moment and understand what actually this is about.
So what exactly are templates?
A template is a project that has been specially designated to be used more than once - by you or somebody else. A template has special characteristics, one being that it is saved into a special location reserved for templates.
Templates are specifically useful for establishing consistent and repeated activities in a project so you do not have to start a project from scratch every time. For example, if you were in construction, you might be building condominiums, and each condo project requires similar activities. You could set up the project once with all of the tasks already entered, and save it as a template to be used over and over for each condo project.
As another example, suppose you are working on a major acquisition project; you can easily make a template that has custom fields that can be used by both the buyer and the
seller. Project templates do not have to be very detailed or include all project information. Instead, project templates need to contain the common and repeatable project details that you can easily modify to fit to the new project you are creating.
A template can help you to set standards for projects within your organization, especially if the project structure and setup can be reused by several different project managers. A template enables you to reuse common tasks, project information, customized fields, calendars, and notes in a template project. It also lets you set up shared standard resources and equipment lists.
Most organizations repeatedly deliver similar projects. Templates can be extremely useful for capturing the best practices developed into repeatable standards and reporting, giving new projects a jumpstart to success. The top two levels of the WBS can often be used consistently across an organization. The project management elements can be standardized, as can many other cross-cutting elements. Standard templates will minimize the amount of startup work required to determine process use for each project and will also improve the organization's ability to control scope on the elements that are consistent across projects.
But please note: If you choose to create your project schedule from an existing template, you have to modify the data that is stored in the template to tailor it to your specific project. To do so, use the same methods described in the upcoming lessons.
You can also designate a location to store your templates conveniently. To do this, let us again go to the Options. First click the File Tab, then Options. The Project Options dialog box opens up.
Here look for the Save tab - in the Save Templates section you will find the "Default personal templates location". In this box I will browse a new location on my computer like so - and click OK.
What this does is - if I now go back to New tab in backstage, I can see a new heading has been created for my personal templates - and this location will hold the templates I have stored. This is just another convenient method to access your template.
So, in this lesson we saw the power of templates - and when it will be a good idea to use them. As you get more familiar with Project, you can start creating your own library of templates for future usage.
This lesson will teach you how to import tasks data from excel files (works exactly same for CSV or XML files also).
In the "Downloadable resources" tab, you can download the following:
Please feel free to ask questions in the discussion area.
One of the first major assumptions you have to make in any schedule is how much time is available to complete tasks. You need to account for all holidays, vacation time, and all other foreseeable non-working time to build a schedule with any degree of accuracy.
Microsoft Project provides the calendar tool to allow a project manager fine tune the project calendar with a great deal of flexibility.
We can control the working times on our project by first going to the Project tab and then clicking on Change Working time. A dialog box pops up - where you can see how working hours are currently allocated on your project.
The "project calendar" defines the working time for your project: which days are working days, which hours are considered working time in a typical workday, and which days are non-working time (such as holidays and so on).
Three default project calendars already exist for you to select in the Calendar field drop-down list, as follows: 24 Hour— Continuous time from midnight to midnight, 24 hours a day. Night Shift— Used for overnight work that begins at the end of one night and finishes the following morning. Standard — The standard work week 40 hours, 5 days (Monday through Friday), 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with an hour lunch break from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
You can see in this drop-down that the calendar Standard is the default Project calendar as it says so in the brackets. On the right side you can see the work hours for a particular day that is selected in the visual calendar in the middle. Now if I click the Work Weeks tab here - default is selected and you can click on the details button to examine it. As mentioned earlier for Monday to Friday on the Standard calendar the times show here - in the grayed out text.
If you want to create a custom calendar for your project you can do it here. We will see a simple example of creating a new project calendar - and then assigning it as our project calendar.
First, click on Create New calendar button - a small dialog box opens up. In this case we will just create a copy of the standard calendar and give it a new name. And click OK.
So, that creates a new calendar. But if you see here - it is not yet our project calendar. To configure that I click OK here first and return to the main window.
Again in the project tab - I will the Project Information button - and the dialog box opens. Here we can configure the default project - I just need to select my newly created calendar and click OK. The default calendar will be changed now.
To test this - I can go back and click the Change Working Time button - and we see our new calendar marked as the (Project calendar).
There are a lot of ways in which you can configure the calendar options - you can mark holidays and other non-working days. When we get to the section on resources and scheduling - we will see that individual project resources can have their own calendars. For example if you have a consultant who works for 20 hours per week on a project - you can reflect that into your project.
As a best practice, you should fill up as much information as you can about the calendar at the very beginning of the project. That is before you start creating assigning resources and doing actual scheduling work. This is to control complexity issues at a later stage.
So in this lesson we saw that project comes in with multiple default calendars that you can use. Also you need to set up work days and other holiday related information for a project as early as possible. We also saw that you can create your own customized calendars for your project and set them as default.
What is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?
WBS is the hierarchical and iterative decomposition of the complete work of the project into manageable work packages. Once the scope of the project has been defined the Project manager with the assistance of the team has to break up the scope iteratively into smaller and smaller pieces of work.
Why is creating the WBS important?
The WBS ensures 2 things - firstly 100% of the scope is addressed - and secondly nothing other than the scope is addressed.
The vast majority of projects that fail - do so because the scope and requirements are not clear. The use of the WBS is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that a project comes in on time, within budget, and with the quality and functions that were expected. Do not skip this step.
Show me a sample of the WBS.
In this sample you see the first and the second iteration of the WBS. Initially, we have broken down according to the phases that will occur on the project - this is logical to begin with. You might also notice that Waterfall methodology is used here. However, any other methodology you were using, the WBS process does not change.
In the second iteration, the one more level of breaking up is done. There are some simple rules to breaking down the work - we will look at them shortly.
Think of your WBS as an outline of the work, designed in a tree diagram. The lowest level of the WBS contains the work packages—that is, the tasks and actions to complete the work. You can create this diagram using Microsoft Office Excel, Visio, or any other tools, or you can draw it on a whiteboard. No matter how you choose to build it, creating a WBS is a project management best practice and an opportunity to
brainstorm and organize before creating the actual schedule.
You can download a simple WBS sample from this course's download section.
Who creates the WBS?
You as the project manager own the WBS. Typically, the first and second level of the WBS is created by the Project Manager. Subsequent detailing needs to be done by the person best suited to do it - in this case, the Architect, Technical Lead, Creative lead and the Quality lead.
When should you create the WBS?
You should create the WBS after the scope has been defined and definitely BEFORE creating the project schedule.
In this lesson, we have seen what the WBS is, why it is important, who should create it, and when it is to be created. In many cases, the first 2 or 3 levels of a WBS can and will be re-used in an organization. So it is great practice to create one for yourself and keep using it as a template.
In this lesson, we will see the 10 most important rules - or tips and pitfalls to creating the WBS. There is only one way to become good at creating WBS - and that is to practice and practice. This lesson will teach you some very important guidelines on how to create a great WBS.
Rule 1. create wbs with your team - not alone - as you want their complete involvement and understanding
Involve your team in the planning stage of the project. Build the WBS interactively by first defining what deliverables need to be created. You will have a more complete WBS and a team that understands what they need to do.
Rule 2. wbs should have atleast 3 levels - highest level is the project itself
For medium to large projects you might have several levels more - depending upon both the complexity and the size of the components.
Rule 3. Don't confuse WBS to a task
WBS is a work component that will be decomposed into tasks. This is also a pitfall that awaits many project managers. For example the "Registration Page" is a WBS item - but not "Write bad password lockout logic". The latter is a task and you should not look at tasks while creating WBS.
Rule 4. Naming Convention: Name a WBS item as a noun (and not a verb)
This makes it very easy to identify WBS items and tasks on the project schedule in the future. Again taking the same example - "Registration Page" is a noun - but "Write bad password lockout logic" uses a verb at the beginning.
Rule 5. The WBS lists your work breakdown, the task list is the breakdown of the WBS into actions
This is almost a repeat - but is a very frequent pitfall - to elaborate on this, tasks belong to the Project Schedule - don't do task breakdown while doing the WBS. Schedule comes AFTER the wbs.
Rule 6. The 100% Rule:
Each lower level of decomposition must represent all of the work of the higher-level element; conversely, all higher-level scope must be reflected in one of the lower-level elements. This is called the 100% rule, which ensures that all of the scope has been captured and that nothing unnecessary is included.
Rule 7. WBS is almost never complete or right in the first iteration.
The more you learn about your project - the more you will alter your WBS. This is absolutely great - and you should be prepared for this.
Rule 8. Tasks have to be small enough to be assigned to individual resources - NOT the WBS
Please read this carefully. You should decompose WBS items only enough that they make logical sense as a component and not more than that.
Rule 9. The lowest level of the WBS—the work package — will be represented by a summary task on your Project plan.
This is a great tip especially if you are going to use a tool such as Microsoft Project to create your Project Schedule in the next step. Each of your WBS work packages should become a summary task. Summary tasks are collections of logically grouped tasks.
Rule 10. The 8/80 Rule:
This is the single most asked question everywhere about WBS decomposition: "When should I stop?" The answer to this given in a thumb rule: the 8/80 rule says that "All work packages should be greater than 8 hours and lesser than 80 hours". This should give you a fair indication of when you can stop working on the WBS.
So, in this lesson, we have seen 10 rules or tips and pitfalls of how to create the WBS - and also on when to stop. The next step after WBS is to create the project schedule. Please ask your questions in the comments section - share your own WBS with the rest of the learners on this course. It is very helpful if you share and also see the WBS that others are creating to improve your skills on the WBS.
As you know, work on a project is broken up into tasks. These tasks are the building blocks of a project's schedule. In project management a task is an activity that needs to be accomplished within a defined period of time.
In this lesson we will see how you can start using Project to create your own tasks. A blank project file can be daunting, especially if you're new to project management. But with a few clicks, you can tap the power of Project 2013 to convert your to-do list into a full-fledged project for you to manage and share with your team and stakeholders.
So here on the screen, I have created a blank project file and in this lesson we will see how tasks are created. I have already saved this file and this will be available for you to download in the files section of this course.
The first thing I am going to do is - setup the project information and working times. To do that I click on the Project Tab and Project Information. A dialog box opens up. I want to change the Start date to an upcoming date - so I change that. The 'schedule from' box is correctly set to 'Project start date' - so I will leave it as it is.
I will retain the project calendar to 'standard' - no changes there for now. So I click OK and I am ready to add a few simple tasks.
When we return to the Gantt Chart view we have to make one more change - in the status bar at the bottom left - you can see a pin icon that says - New tasks: Manually Scheduled. We will want to change that to automatically scheduled. This will be explained in the upcoming lessons, so let us just do this for now.
Now I am going to add three tasks for my project.
This is my first task.
Then the second.
And the third task.
You can see that Project automatically populated a few columns for us - when I typed in the task names.
They are duration, start date and finish date. The start date is defaulted to the project start date that I had setup in the project information dialog box just a bit ago.
Also, you can notice the Duration has defaulted to 1 day with a question mark. This question mark is just Project's way of indicating that it doesn't know what the duration for the project is - and it has made it's best guess.
If you look at the right hand window pane - you will also notice that three small blue boxes have appeared on the Gantt chart - and they coincide vertically with the task names. They are the visual representations of the 3 new tasks we have created. They will always continue to coincide vertically - but might move horizontally depending on the number of tasks your screen space.
Now while we will stop here in this lesson, if you want you can go ahead and download the exercise file and play around with setting the duration and dependencies.
So in this lesson - we have seen how new tasks can be added. That tasks at the very minimum will be associated with a duration time, start and finish dates. We have also seen how Project creates a Gantt chart for you automatically. In the next few lessons we will explore tasks in more detail.
In this lesson, we will look at the types of task modes. Task mode refers to how Project will handle a task that you specify in your schedule.
There are two types of task modes for scheduling tasks - Automatic and Manual.
In the Gantt view here on the screen, you can see a column called "Task Mode" that indicates the mode for each task row. Automatic task has this blue box with a small arrow icon; and manual tasks have a push pin icon - which we will see later. Currently all the tasks on this schedule are automatic and we will shortly add manual task also for you to see.
Also, in the task bar, there is a command button that lets you specify how new tasks will be created by default. You can change it anytime.
If this control is not visible, just right like so - and enable "New task mode notification".
OK, let us now understand automatic tasks first.
For a task marked as automatic, you typically indicate the task name, duration and the predecessor task. And Project will automatically calculate when the task should occur, and when it would finish. This is similar to how things work in real life - assume you have 2 project tasks assigned to you. You can start the second task when the first task is completed. So the first tasks end date will determine when the second tasks start date will be.
Let us see how that works in project.
For task Id 3, "Client Meetings" I will mark the duration as 5 days. Then set the start date as project start date, and keep the predecessor as empty (because this is the first task).
Then for the next task "Project definition workshop", I will mark duration as 2 days, I will not touch the start or end dates - but I will only indicate that the predecessor is the previous task - that is Task ID 3.
As soon as we do this, Project auto scheduling kicks into action - and we see a few beautiful things happening.
Firstly notice, the second task's start date has now changed - how did project calculate this? From the ending of the previous task. As I just mentioned, this task will start when the previous task ends.
Secondly, the second task's end date has also changed. How did Project calculate this? From the duration that we entered.
Thirdly, if you look at the Gantt chart, you can see an arrow is now linking the two tasks together. They have been effectively tied together.
In the future, for these two tasks - the dates are coupled together and changing duration for first will automatically affect the second.
This makes a lot of sense - and this is one of the key strengths of Microsoft Project. You can imagine that when projects get complicated with hundreds of tasks - this will be a great power to have in hand. We have only skimmed the surface now and auto-scheduling shows it value when you have to make resource assignments, do rescheduling and balance work for teams.
As much as possible you should use automatically scheduled tasks but it will require you to get more familiar with how project auto scheduling works. Practice makes perfect.
Just note, that you can also break the link between the tasks at any time - just by removing the predecessor value marked for the second task here - and the two tasks will become unhooked.
Now that we have understood automatic tasks a bit - let us look at manually scheduled tasks. Here Project does not do any scheduling on your behalf. You will be required to plan the start date, duration and end date yourself.
Let me insert a new manually scheduled task to see how they work.
First, I will change the new task setting on the status bar.
Then I click on the new task button to insert a new task. My new task is created - and I will give it a name "Signoff by client".
There are 2 things to notice here.
One, Project has not pre-populated the duration, start and end dates like it did with auto schedule tasks. This is a little obvious because Project wants to indicate to you that these are to be fixed by you.
Secondly, you can see a tiny question mark in the task mode icon. This indicates that you have not yet fed any information about this task yet.
Now let us say our client commits to signoff on 15th March. And it will take 1 day for this to be communicated. I will enter these values.
Now you can see that the tiny question mark has vanished.
There are only specific times when you would want to employ manually scheduled tasks - for example - when you have very little information about a task and you dont know when it is starting or how long it will take. But you want to keep a placeholder on the project schedule. This is one instance when you would want to make a manual task.
The second example would be when for some reason or other a task should be scheduled on a very specific date. For example, software updates have to occur on midnight of last day of every month. For such tasks also you can setup manually scheduled tasks.
So in this lesson we have become familiar with auto schedule feature of Project. We have also seen an alternative with manually scheduled tasks.
I would recommend that you download this file and try out the scheduling features for yourself. There are some tasks here on the screen which you can play with. Remember again - practice makes perfect.
In the subsequent lessons, we will learn more about auto and manual tasks.
In this lesson, we will look into understanding auto-scheduled tasks a little bit more.
First, let us look at this project plan where I have a set of tasks already typed in, and marked as auto-scheduled, you can tell that by this blue box with an arrow icon.
Now, these tasks are all to be assigned to a single resource, the architect. Also, notice that the durations and start/end dates are default pre-populated by Project, when the tasks were first created.
Now, I have the actual duration estimates with me and I will enter them into the project, link them and demonstrate how Project's auto-scheduling feature works.
So let me enter the durations first - and if you keep noticing on the Gantt chart also the individual taskbars also start reflecting the durations accordingly.
Now, I have entered the durations - but they all seem to start on the same day! How do we resolve that?
We can do that by setting their dependencies. Let me do that now. And while I am doing this - please notice how the tasks on the Gantt Chart get linked to one another auto-magically.
That's not all - now Project has calculated what the start dates and end dates for each of these tasks are going to be. The blue highlighting for the cells indicate where Project changed values.
Now, let me add a new task at the end. I just have to select a position at the end and start typing the task name.
But this new task is a manually scheduled task. I can tell that by this pin icon - instead of the blue box icon. But no worries, I can just change that instantly by clicking on the task mode cell and changing it to automatically scheduled.
I will also change this on this status bar - so that new tasks get automatic by default.
Now suppose you want to add another task into the center - how do we do this? Easy.
Just select the place where you want your new task, right click and you get a context menu. Just choose Insert task - and you are done.
In this lesson we have further understood automatically scheduled tasks and how they develop a project schedule. In the following lessons, we will look at other types of tasks and also changing task attributes.
Very often during the planning phase of a project, you will have a lot of tasks for which you do not have complete information. But they still have to be represented in your plan.
That's when manually scheduled tasks come in very handy. In this lesson, let us see some examples of creating manually scheduled tasks.
To create a new manually scheduled task, in this project schedule, I will select the location and start typing in the name.
Let's say for this task I know the start date - and I will put that in. Now it still doesn't have a duration. Now let us see how this is represented in the Gantt. Here I see that Project has only put in a start point indicator - because Project has no clue what the duration of the task-bar is going to be. This is perfectly fine. Also if you glance at the task indicator, you will see there is a question mark saying Project doesn't have all the information it needs.
Now, let us say the testing team gets back with a duration of 5 days. I will that into the task. As soon as I do that multiple things change.
Firstly, the end date is auto calculated because Project knows the when the task starts and how long it takes. Second, on the Gantt chart, the task-bar has taken shape completely. Thirdly, the question mark has disappered from the task mode indicator.
Let us look at one more example. I will add one more manually scheduled task.
For this task I don't know the start date - but I do know the duration it takes. So let me configure accordingly.
Here if we see the taskbar on the Gantt chart - we see a another way in which Project represents this visually. You can see the ends of the task are blurred - but the duration is accurate. This is another way in which Project tells us that more information is still needed to properly fill out this task.
If we come to know of the start date for this task later and we fill this in - the ends of the taskbar take proper shape and the blurred effect goes away.
In this lesson we have seen how manual tasks can be created and used as placeholders in the project schedule. While actually using this in practice, we must try to fill in as much information as possible - as soon as it becomes available.
In projects, some tasks are scheduled to occur repeatedly. Some common examples of these type of tasks are team status meetings, project reviews or code-walk throughs.
In this lesson we will see how to automatically schedule tasks that occur with a frequency.
Let us see an example of a weekly status meeting that has to occur every Monday morning for one hour.
I will first select in the table the location where I want to insert these meetings. And then, on the ribbon's Task tab - I will click on the bottom half of the Task button. Notice that there are two parts to the button. If you click the upper half - it will simply insert a task. If you click the bottom half - a small drop down menu opens up. Here you can select the Recurring Task option.
When we do this - the Recurring Task Information dialog box opens up - where we can configure the recurring task.
Let us understand the options a little more. The first thing we would like to do is give a name to the task. I will do that now. <Weekly Project Status Meeting>
The next box is to tell the duration of this recurring task. The meetings are planned for 1 hour - so I put that in. I can put it as 1h - and Project will correctly interpret it.
Let us look at the Recurrence Pattern group a bit closely. Here you can set if your task is Daily, Weekly, Monthly or Yearly. In the Daily option, you can choose something like "Every 3 days" and Project will correctly interpret the days on your project calendar.
If you choose Weekly, you can select on which day of the week the task occurs - you can choose multiple days if you want also - because we have check boxes here.
You can also make also change the pattern if you want. For example, if I wanted a fortnightly meeting, I would set this to Recur every '2' weeks.
I will select Mondays for now.
Let us also see how the Monthly option works for a bit. This very conveniently allows me to choose a particular date - or a particular day when the task should be scheduled. For example I can say day 2 of every month - or I can say 1st Monday of every month. I can also make this a quarterly or half-yearly if I so choose - just by increasing the month count in this box.
Yearly option has the same type of config settings as Monthly.
Now we wanted a weekly meeting for 1 hour. So I will go back to Weekly and make sure we are set right.
Now before we close this box, you can also plan the life of this task - by setting the Range of recurrence. By default, this box always fills in the project start and the calculated end date. You can also just set a number of occurrences - if that makes more sense.
Last point to note - is that you can assign a separate calendar for the recurring tasks. For example, if you want a specific meeting for the night shift only - you can select that here. However, for this example we will leave it as it is.
OK, we are all done on this and good to click OK.
You can see, now Project has cleanly inserted these tasks for me - with a nice summary task here that I can collapse. We will look at summary tasks in a lesson to follow.
Some other things to notice - Each occurrence has been given an unique name automatically. And you can see they are all represented here on the Gantt chart. Also there is new icon on the summary task to the Indicator column. It is dual semi-circular arrow icon - which indicates recurring. And if you hover upon it with your mouse - you get a handy bit of info on your task.
In this case we see 6 meetings have been scheduled automatically.
So, in this lesson we have seen how to conveniently create recurring tasks. We saw that the interface is flexible enough to set a great variety of frequency options for you.
In this lesson we discuss some tips and tricks that will prove handy to you when you are scheduling with recurring tasks.
Firstly use recurring tasks with care and as sparingly as possible. The reason for this is that recurring tasks can complicate your plan - when you start assigning resources to all tasks and levelling work loads for your resources.
So, if you find that you need to setup a daily recurring task, see if that can be made as a part of some other task and the work balanced accordingly - instead of using a recurring task on your project schedule.
Secondly, if you just need a recurring REMINDER instead of a recurring task - this is also easy to do so. All you have to do is keep the duration for the task as ZERO. I will quickly show how this can be done.
Here I create a new weekly task with Zero duration and when I click OK you can see how this appears on the plan. In this case, since duration is zero, resource work levelling issues do not occur.
Recurring tasks are given higher priority by Project, as compared to normal tasks, when Project makes different types of calculations. Such as work resource levelling. So sometimes, you may find your schedule showing over allocation to your team members and one of the first places to debug this situation would be recurring tasks.
When you start adding more and more tasks to the project schedule that you are building, you will need some way to organize your tasks.
The feature Project provides to do that is Summary tasks.
Here on this view, this entry called "Onsite Requirements Gathering" is actually a Summary Task. It is a way in which we can visually and logically club the next few tasks together.
On the Gantt chart to the right, you can see that the Summary Task is represented by a black bracket. The tasks which come under this summary task are called "sub-tasks".
In this context, we have brought the tasks of a particular phase of the project together under one Summary task called as the "Onsite Requirements Gathering". You might use Summary tasks similarly for any other logical grouping - for example for all tasks done during night shift - or all tasks done by a particular team.
There are many ways in which we can start using Summary Tasks. Let us first see a case with existing tasks.
I have these two tasks here that I will bring under a Summary task. First I select the tasks - and then on the Task tab on the ribbon - I just click on the Summary button.
Now, you can see a few things added - a black bracket that groups these two tasks on the Gantt chart. And a <New Summary Task> on the table here. We will give this a new name.
I will call this Summary task as "Test case Design".
There is one more way in which to create Summary tasks. And that is by using the indent/outdent feature. But that works more on an intuitive method - for example, when I outdent a task, it might become a summary task provided it has tasks immediately following it. You can use the indent/outdent for organizing your tasks visually - but be aware that you might create summary tasks inadvertently.
A great feature of Summary tasks is that you can capture some additional project information inside them. For example, for this Summary task "Test case design", suppose te customer has allowed us 2 weeks to get right. And my internal team has estimated 7 days as shown here - then I can capture this information like this - by directly modifying the Summary Task as 10 days.
What happens in that case is the Gantt chart now shows a new icon. A new teal coloured bar has been added. You can see the black bracket has expanded to show 10 days and the teal colour task bar is 7 days long. And there is a gap between the two - that shows a buffer period between the two.
This can also work the other way around. Suppose the QA team now re-estimates their task to 15 days. As soon as I enter this, I see the conflict highlighted on the Gantt Chart.
This is now a great way in which you as a Project Manager can quickly identify scheduling problems on the project - and work towards resolving them.
Summary tasks are an important tool in design. They allow a top-down planning approach on your building a project plan - where you start with the high level tasks and keep on breaking them into smaller and smaller tasks - until you achieve the required amount of detail.
Now we will look at some best practices.
Subtasks and summary tasks only create structure, but they don't create task dependencies. You can see this immediately in these two subtasks. You can see even though they are under the same summary task - they are not linked together. You will still have to link tasks explicitly.
When you move or delete a summary task, Project moves or deletes all of its subtasks. Before you delete a summary task, outdent the subtasks you want to keep.
Avoid assigning resources to summary tasks. Assign them to the subtasks instead, or you might not be able to resolve overallocations. We will look at this more when we come to resource allocation lessons - but this need to be kept in mind.
So, in this lesson we have see how to use summary tasks - how they can be used to organize tasks visually, hold additional scheduling information - and finally we saw some best practices for using Summary tasks.
Summary tasks are the best way to organize a task list.
When organizing the tasks for a project, you can group the tasks that share characteristics or that will be completed in the same time frame under a summary task.
You can use the summary tasks to show the major phases and subphases in the project. Summary tasks summarize the data of their subtasks, which are the tasks that are grouped beneath them. You can indent the tasks as many levels as you need to reflect the organization of your project.
There are two methods for organizing your task list:
With the top-down method, you identify the major phases first and then break the phases down into individual tasks. The top-down method gives you a version of the plan as soon as you decide on the major phases.
After you decide on a method for organizing your tasks, you can begin outlining them into summary tasks and subtasks in Project 2013.
Summary tasks can be identified on the table by a small triangle next to their task name. It is very easy to expand or collapse the summary task. Just click on the triangle to do so.
Currently you are seeing the high level top-down view of the project as all the subtasks have been collapsed and you can only view the summary tasks.
There is an easy way to view the complete set of subtasks and we shall do that now. First go to the View tab - and click on the Outline button.
In the dropdown, select All Subtasks option - and the complete set of subtasks open up.
In some situations you might want to view or print only a certain level of depth of the project. For example when reporting to senior management on the progress of the project - you might want to present only the top 2 levels of the project.
That can be done very easily by clicking on Outline and selecting what level of details to be shown.
There are another couple of ways that you can view the task list. For example, suppose you want to remove all the summary task from the view and only see the actual work tasks - you can go to the Format tab and in the Show/Hide section here, click the checkbox for Summary Tasks.
That will hide all the rows that contain Summary tasks - and only show the work tasks. Also notice that all the tasks are now at the same indentation.
Getting the summary tasks back again will be to turn the check box on again.
There is a root level summary task that denotes the entire project - and it can be turned on by clicking the Project Summary task. Like this.
So, in this lesson, we have seen how Summary tasks help us make a complicated task list easier to understand, to present to various stakeholders and generally more manageable.
One final point to understand is that Summary task values don't always add up. Some summary task values (cost and work) are the total of the subtask values, others (duration and baseline) need not always add up - because of the way the project might be scheduled.
In the previous section, we have seen how to create tasks in Project. We have seen different types of tasks, task modes, different ways of creating tasks and different ways of organizing them.
In most cases, the tasks in a project are related to each other, and the relationships between them drive the schedule for the project. You will find very few tasks in isolation, if any at all.
The relationships between the tasks are called "task dependencies" or "task links".
Project offers four kinds of task dependencies: finish-to-start (FS), start-to-start (SS), finish-to-finish (FF), and start-to-finish (SF).
The next step in building a project schedule is to create dependencies that reflect your actual project scenarios.
Let us first see the simplest way in which to create a dependency. First select the tasks to be linked - here on this screen I have some tasks that we can see being linked in various ways.
The first 2 tasks "Get Budget Approval" and "Initiate Project" - are syntactically to be linked. I will select them both and on the Task tab, in the Schedule section, click this icon called Link.
The icon looks like a chain link - and does precisely that. It creates a dependency between the two tasks. You can see that in the Gantt Chart, an arrow mark has appeared from the end of the first task to the start of the second task.
When you click on the link button - it creates a finish to start (FS) link by default. This is the most common type of dependency and is the default type of dependency that Project uses. In a finish-to-start dependency, the second task in the relationship can't begin until the first task finishes.
So, in this case, the project initiation (i.e. task two) can start when the budget approval is completed (i.e. task one).
Let us now look at the other types of dependencies.
There is another view that Project provides us for conveniently setting a Task's details. Select task ID 4 and click on the View tab. Now, you can see a checkbox called Details in the Split View section.
When you turn this checkbox on - the Task Form split window opens up. This window can be toggeled OFF or ON at any time by going to the details button as shown just now.
If you get "Resources and Successor" here, just right click and select "Predecessor and Successor".
Now, first confirm in the Name box that you are working on the correct task. Then in the Successor Name column, click to open a drop down box, with all the task names. Select the ID 5 task "IT Infra Plan for Approval".
Once that is done, we can click on the "Type" column to select the type of dependency link. I will select the Start-to-Start (SS) dependency. This is because, these two tasks which require getting approvals from 2 different departments - to start together.
Just to clarify, Start-to-start (SS) dependencies are used when the second task in the relationship can't begin until after the first task in the relationship begins. Start-to-start dependencies don't require that both tasks start at the same time. They simply require that the first task has begun, in order for the second task to begin.
Now, let us the next type of dependency. We will link the next 2 tasks to demonstrate a finish-to-finish dependency. If one of your tasks can't finish until another one finishes, you can use a finish-to-finish (FF) dependency between them. Finish-to-finish dependencies don't require that both tasks be completed simultaneously. They simply require that the first task be finished, in order for the second task to finish.
The second task can finish any time after the first task finishes.
Now, we have linked these two tasks.
The last type of link is the Start-to-Finish (SF) dependency.
When you use this type of dependency, you are saying that the second task in the relationship can't finish until the first task starts. However, the second task can finish any time after the first task starts. This reverses the time order of the two tasks. You should not be using this dependency very often and should carefully validate this type of link if you are required to use this.
I will link the last two tasks with an SF dependency and you can see how this looks. Let us take a moment to see all the links on the Gantt chart. The FS link - SS, FF and finally SF links.
We have seen how to create task dependencies and create four different kind of dependencies. These four types are shown in this project on the screen, Finish to start, Start-to-start, Finish-to-finish and Start-to-Finish.
When you set up task dependencies, there may be some successor tasks that cannot be started until after a delay that follows the conclusion of their predecessor tasks. These types of delays are more common in Finish to start and Finish to finish tasks.
Such a delay is called as a "Lag time". This is a delay between two tasks that are linked by a dependency.
For example, in the first case let us assume that there will be a 5 day delay between the first task to get a budget approval - and the second task i.e. initiating the project. Let us see how to reflect that lag time.
We will first select the task on the table - and then go over to View tab. Then click on the Details checkbox to open up the Task Form. Here I can see a column called Lag.
I will enter 5d there to mean the 5 day delay and click OK.
Now you can see in the Gantt Chart, that the Lag time has been neatly replicated by the arrow and the second task has been pushed accordingly to a new date.
There is one more situation that we need to consider and that is Lead time. This is an overlap between two tasks that are linked by a dependency.
For example let us look at one more case here of which are linked by a Finish-to-start dependency. Let us say, in this case that I can actually start the second task i.e. Database design after a part of the first task i.e. Interface Design has started.
What that means is that I don't have to wait for the first task to completely finish before I start the second task. In this case, what I will do is I will again open the task Form like this - and in the Lag column, enter a negative lag. A negative lag is nothing but a lead time.
I will enter 2 days here.
And when I click OK, we can see that an overlap has been created between the two tasks on the Gantt chart. And this shows the usage of Lead time.
There are another few points to note.
Instead of setting lag and lead times in days or hours - you can do so by percentage. For example to say 1 day out of 4 - you can instead write 25%. And in this case Project will calculate accurately and reflect it in the schedule.
Secondly, leads and lag times can only be set between 2 tasks. You can not do this with more than 2 tasks at a time.
Finally, there is a an easy shortcut to set lag times. Just double-click on the link arrow in the Gantt Chart - and you can directly set a lag time.
So this is how lag and lead times can be used to fine tune our schedule in Project 2013.
When you start building a project schedule - it can quickly get difficult to analyse. This is often because of the links between tasks and also because of the number of tasks on your list.
There are some nifty ways in which Project allows you to simplify the views. This makes it easy for you to share project information to various stakeholders - such as your team members and to the higher management or your customers.
Let us first start with a great feature called as the Timeline.
To turn this feature on, we first click on the View Tab. And here in the split view section, there is a checkbox for Timeline. When you check this ON - a new window appears where the schedule is represented chronologically.
This is a great view to show different phases of a project - and captures a lot of high level information in a quick pictorial representation. There is a lot more that you can do with Timelines - like adding callouts to interesting dates or tasks - and you can do that by going to the Format tab.
Now, I will switch the Timeline OFF, while we look at more features.
In the View tab, this Data tab, allows you to sort and filter tasks in a great variety of ways. You can chop and dice the schedule information with a lot of flexibility.
For the Gantt Chart itself, the taskbars will always horizontally coincide with the table tasks. However, for schedules that extend over a lengthy period of time, you will end up scrolling left and right often.
For example, if I scroll down here, you can see that the Gantt chart taskbars goes out of view. There is a great small handy utility to use for this.
Select the task first, then click on the Task tab, on the right side of the ribbon, you will find this button called "Scroll to Task". When you click this - it will get your taskbar into view.
One more thing that comes in handy while reviewing the Gantt Chart is to use the Timescale drop down in the View Tab. This allows you to see just as much of detail as you choose at one view. For example, you can drill down into tasks right from Years at a time - to quarters, months all the way to hours.
A quicker way to do this is to use the familiar zoom control bar at the bottom right hand corner of the chart.
So, in summary, Project not allows you to build-in a great amount of detail into your project - but also allows you to sort and organize the way it is presented visually in a great amount of ways.
Microsoft Project's power lies in its ability to create and maintain automated schedules. This allows you to manage all aspects of a task list with dependencies and resource allocations.
However, some times, you will want to control the start or end dates of a project explicitly yourself. Manual tasks are one way of doing this - and you can use them for some situations and set particular dates yourself.
There is one more method to do this control - and that is through Date Constraints.
On the screen, I have two simple tasks which are linked to each other and let us see a simple example of how date constraints can be created and used.
This can be best understood by opening a view called the 'Task Details Form'. To open that view, first I click on the View tab, then click on the Split View's Details checkbox here - then, from the drop down box, select more views - and choose 'task Details Form'.
This view 'Task Details Form' shows constraints very clearly.
No for a quick moment, let us click on the Constraint dropdown and look at the options for a bit. You can see that project allows for 8 different types of date constraints - and they are structured like these in the box.
Constraints are of 3 types - flexible, semi-flexible and inflexible constraints. We will look in more detail in a while.
Let us select the first task on the work list - and we can see that when it is selected the constraint associated is "AS soon as Possible". This is the most flexible of constraints and is the setting done by Project by default for all tasks.
OK, now, let us look at the second task - 'Onsite travel'. Currently it is automatically scheduled by Project to start as soon as possible, that is when task one ends - on 6th of March.
Now if the resource assigned to this task can only travel after the 11th of March. I will change this start date for the task.
As soon as I change the date - 3 things happen.
First, the constraint has changed to 'Start No Earlier than'. Second, on the Gantt Chart the link arrow has moved accordingly.
Third, if you look at the task on the table, a new calendar icon has appeared on the Indicator column. This icon denotes a constraint - and if I hover the mouse over it, it shows the constraint description.
When it comes to scheduling, the more flexibility you have in your project's dates, the better. Given that, it is often best to leave the constraints set to As Soon As Possible, if you are scheduling from the project start date, or As Late As Possible, if you are scheduling from the project finish date.
A note of caution: It is very easy to introduce constraints on the schedule - without your intention. For example, let us say I dragged this taskbar on the Gantt Chart - Project immediately introduces a constraint.
I will remove the details split window now.
So, you should keep an eye out for constraints in your schedule. If you find something introduced unintentionally, I will show a quick way for you to remove it
Just double-click on the task - and the Task Information dialog box opens up. In the Advanced Tab, click on the constraint type and change it to 'As soon as possible'.
When you make this change - it effectively asks Project to resort to it's automatic scheduling and removes the date constraint.
So, in this lesson we have seen how we can take control over Project's auto scheduling - and introduce date constraints to better reflect our actual project.
Resources are the people, facilities, materials, and equipment that are assigned to work on a task of a project.
Although it is possible to create a schedule in Microsoft Project without assigning resources to the tasks, doing so will mean that we can tap into a lot more of Project's capabilities.
Project provides a special view to manage the resources planned and allocated on a project. To see this, we first click on View Tab and
There are three fundamental types of resource classifications that are provided by Project.
The first type - and most common, is the Work resource. Work resources are resources that are not consumed at the completion of their assigned task and are available to be assigned to future tasks. Also, work resources are assigned to tasks by units of time - such as days or hours on the task. The ultimate example of a work resource is people. Machinery and computer workstations are also examples of work resources.
The next type of resources are Material resources. These on the other hand, are consumed or used up as a task progresses. Work assignments happen by units of quantity. printing ink, software annual subscriptions, concrete and camera film are examples of material resources.
The last is Cost Resource. Cost resources represent additional costs incurred on a task. For example consider a task called "Onsite Client Meetings", - which will incur a flight, hotel stay and per diem expenses as per the company policy. Now Project allows us to tabulate these costs also.
One thing to notice is that we need not set up a monetary amount for the Cost resource in this sheet. This is because by their very nature, cost resources can fluctuate - for example the hotel stay cost can not be determined upfront and will be known only after actual reservation happens. So it is perfectly OK for the cost resources to not have monetary values here.
A last point to note about this view is that the resources defined within the Resource Sheet view detail what resources are available to the specific project you are working on. This view does not specifically define which resources are assigned to tasks, but rather which ones are available to be assigned.
Work resources are the most common type of resource types to be used on projects - and when you add a new resource, Project assumes them to be work resources by default.
Work resources are those resources that are allocated based on time - as against quantity. The most common type of work resources are people.
You can see on this table, that we have a column called as Resource Names - and correspondingly on the Gantt Chart you can see taskbars have names next to them. This is how a schedule will look AFTER resource allocations are made.
But how do we go about creating new resources and managing resources for our schedule?
Project provides a convenient view for that. Click on View tab and then the Resource Sheet.
This sheet now shows all the resources that have been created on our project - and will also allow you to create new ones conveniently.
Let's look at the columns quickly - there is a Resource Name - which is the name given to the resource. More on this in a little while.
The next column is 'Type' - which is actually resource type - and can be of one of three types - work resource or material resource or cost resource.
The Initials column is a nice convenience. You can choose to show these short initials in other views. For example on the Gantt chart, choosing to show the initials instead of the full name can make the view less cluttered.
There is also a group column - which is useful to classify resources by their skillset or specific teams or any other fitting grouping. For example, if you have outside vendors or contractors, you can show that here.
There are a couple of advantages to use groups - you will see that you can filter and sort work accomplished by these groups. Another thing is that when costs have been assigned you can analyse costs by groups. So this is great when you will want to analyse the project in different ways.
There are 3 columns that we can use to set costs and are pretty much straightforward here - you can set resource costs as standard, overtime - and cost/use which is more useful with material resources.
Now let us see an example of creating a Work resource. In the Resource Name column, I will type in the name 'UI Designer'. And when I press enter, I see Project has filled in default values for most of the columns.
You can see Project defaults to "Work" resource and in this case that is what we wanted. So we will leave it as it is.
Couple of other points to note: Here we see all names in this sheet are currently generic names. That is we have Management, Developer, Tester - which are generic and not the names of specific people. This is great when you are starting a project schedule - and you want to identify the work related requirements.
At a later stage, when your schedule has acquired more stability - you can actually look at the staffing. That is, instead of generic skill set names, you can change that to real people names. This is just a best practice. You can however start with real names if you want right from the beginning.
The second point is that Project puts in the first letter of the name into the Initials column. This is not really great because you will very quickly have duplicates and it will mess up your Gantt chart views if you use initials. So, you will want to give some unique initials here.
There is one another important feature in this sheet. Based on the values you configure for your resources here, Project automatically calculates how much working time is available for each resource on this project.
How does Project do this?
The column 'Max' here actually stands for 'max. units' - and what it means is how much of the resources time is available to work on the project.
For example, if this is 100% it means that the resource will work for all their available time on this project.
And if this is set at 50% it means the resource will only work half their time on the project. For example, for a normal work week of 40 hours, if the 'Max' is set to 50% it means the resource only has 20 hours to work on the project.
Project uses this 'Max' column in conjunction with the 'Base' column to calculate the available work hours. The 'Base' here means the base calendar that is applicable to the resource. We have seen that we might have multiple calendars configured on the project - and we can also have resource specific calendars.
For example, Project makes available 3 different calendars Standard, 24 hours and Night shift.
So, the total work hours availability for a resource would be an automatic calculation based on the max availability and the specific calendar assigned.
There is another way that complete details of a resource can be recorded and made availability for scheduling.
First select the complete resource row by clicking like this. Then, double click anywhere on the row to open the Resource Information dialog box.
Here you will see 4 tabs that capture mostly everything you will want to customize for the resource. You can actually map the resource to your organizations outlook address book if you want to do so.
You can also see a small checkbox here - which you can check ON - to denote if this resource is generic or not.
There is also a tab for costs where you can setup one or multiple cost rates based on different modes of work or skillsets or time periods. I will close this box for now.
Let us go back to the Gantt chart view now - to see one more feature when working with resources.
I will scroll down to this task. Now in the Resource Names column, I can actually just type a new name - and Project will accept it. Project actually creates a new work resource for you.
Many a time, this is not what you will want. Because if the name has a typo for an existing resource - you end up with a new resource without any warning - when all you wanted to do is assign the task to an existing resource.
So, there is a way to get around this situation.
Let us open the Project Options dialog box by clicking on File tab, and then on Options.
Here in this dialog box, go to Advanced and General Options. Here we can see the control for 'Automatically add new resources'. Here it is checked ON by default - and if we toggle that checkbox, we get the behaviour we want.
That is if you add a name that was not actually already in the resource sheet for us - Project will prompt us if we want to add a new resource. And we can decide accordingly.
So, in this lesson, we have seen the resource sheet in detail. We have also created a new work resource and seen how to configure the resource. We also saw how a little of how resources can be assigned to tasks easily and how the assigned resources look on the Gantt chart.
Material resource is a type of resource that is consumed by an assignment in the project. That is after that project is completed - the same material resource will not be available again for another project.
For example, if we are printing technical manuals as a part of the project - then printing ink cartridges are a material resource on the project. And after the assignment has been completed, the print cartridges have all been used up.
We can easily create any number of material resource on our project. To see this in action, let us first go to the resource sheet.
Here I will select a new row at the bottom and type in the name 'Printer Ink Cartridges'.
When I press enter, Project makes an assumption and fills the type as 'Work' by default.
But this is not what we want - so I will change it Material. When I do this, a few column entries vanish again. You can see the calendar entry 'Base' has become empty and so is the overtime cost - as they don't make any relevance to a material resource.
I want to fill the standard rate at $500 for a carton of printer cartridges. One more thing I can do is - in this column named "Material" - I can add a small note to myself. This column actually stands for Material Label - which means it is a small label - and Project will pretty much ignore it.
So, that's how easy it is to create a material resource on our project. We can assign a material resource to a task in the schedule. But material resources never affect the schedule like work resources do. However, material resources make an impact on the costing of the project.
In this lesson, we will look at cost resources and how to use them in our project to make accurate plans for costs predicted and incurred on our project.
Cost resources are different from both both Work and material resources in a couple of different ways. First, cost values need not be determined until the actual assignment occurs.
Second, cost resources can have different values for different assignments.
This will make perfect sense when we look at some examples.
Now, let us see this project schedule on the screen. Here we have two summary tasks - the first one for an onsite visit to the customers location and the second for another trip to the organization's Head Office in another city.
Now, since visits are involved - we will want to plan, record and track the costs incurred.
The cost resource is perfect for this situation and let us see how to do this. First we head over to the Resource Sheet.
Here I already have one work resource for the Project Manager - I will change the default Initials to PM - and the standard cost to $50/hr.
Now let us add the cost resources.
First I add "Airfare" - you can see Project defaults this to "Work" resource type - and we have to manually change this to type "Cost". When we do this - there are only two fields to manipulate here - the initials and the accrued value. I will just change the initials to "airfare".
Second, I will add another cost resource in the same fashion for "Lodging".
Now, lets look at this column called "Accrue at": prorated means the cost value accrues over the length of the project. For airfare and lodging both I want the amount accrued at the beginning of the task - so I will change them to "Start".
The second thing to notice is that Project does not expect you to enter a cost value here. We can do it at the time of resource assignment. So will leave everything as it is for now.
Now, lets head over again to the Gantt view.
First I select the task "Client visit" and turn on the details split window. <View tab - Details checkbox>.
I will add the first cost resource by selecting from the drop down box here. Once I have entered the resource, I have to explicitly click on OK button before I am able to enter the cost. Now my airfare from India would be about a $1000 dollars so I will enter that.
Similarly, I will enter the lodging cost. And click OK.
If you see over at the Gantt chart, the cost numbers are starting to appear on the chart.
Now I will proceed for the task "Headoffice visit" - and in the same way add airfare and lodging. But because this is a different location, my airfare and lodging charges are totally different - at 200 dollars each.
I will close the details window now.
So, we have seen how cost resources can have different values at the time of assignment.
Now, Project provides one more great view for you to look at cost assignments. If you head over to the Resource Usage View on the View tab, you can see how the cost resources are lined up.
So, cost resources are the correct and easy way to track your expenses on a project - and the cost incurred need only be recorded when the resource assignment needs to be done to the task.
Microsoft Project is at heart a scheduling engine. A scheduling engine is a tool that helps you “model” the actions you need to perform to achieve a goal. This “model” enables you to plan actions prior to making them.
This lesson helps you gain an understanding of the background behind resource scheduling and the calculations that Project makes when you assign one or more resources to a task.
In previous sections, we have seen lessons first on creating tasks, then we saw how tasks can be linked and model their dependencies.
Subsequently we have learnt how to create different types of project resources. Now, we will see how to put them all together. Your project schedule will start to take life when tasks are assigned to resources.
In this lesson, we will see 3 different ways to assign resources to tasks. They will all accomplish the same thing - that is assign a resource to a task.
We will see the first method now.
On the screen, this is the Gantt chart View with the Entry table. I have a created tasks and linked them also - based on their dependencies. Now, I need to assign them to resources.
I have also created some resources - let us have a quick look. I will open the Resource Sheet from the view tab to see the resources.
You can see I have some work resources for people - and I have a couple of Material resources also.
Now going back to the Gantt view - on the right, there is a column on the table called Resource Names and I can I can directly assign resources to tasks here.
If I click on this cell, a drop down list appears with resource names and check boxes. I can assign one or more directly here. I will select Project Manager and press enter.
As soon as I do that, you can see the Gantt chart will also reflect the assignment. One nice thing about this is - I can just drag the assignment like this - and make multiple task assignments very easily.
Let us look at one more method to make resource assignments.
To do that, we will go to the Resource tab and click on the "Assign Resources" button.
The "Assign Resources" dialog box opens up.
Let us observe this dialog for a bit. You can see the selected task name appears at the top. In this case I have selected "Documentary summary" task. I can also click back on the table to select a different task like this and the name will change.
There are a couple of options hidden here - you can open it to see. You can click on the the "Available to work" checkbox to see specifically those resources who have the hours of work availability. This option is particularly useful when you are approaching the later stages of your scheduling work and you want to find resources who have free time to work on the task.
For now, we will select the Business Analyst for this task. And when it is assigned, you can see the Units and cost also populated automatically.
The nice thing about this is - I can change the units here if I want conveniently. But just to note - changing units will impact the duration of the project.
So, if I close this box now, we see that the assignment has been done correctly on the Gantt Chart.
Now, we can see the third method of resource assignment. To do this, I will open up the Task Form. This is available from the details checkbox on the View tab.
We have opened the task form now. In the left hand column, I can click in the first row and again, a resource list drop down is presented to us to make a choice.
I will select the resource. In this view, if you remember from previous lessons, we have to explicitly click OK for every resource.
Let us see one more point of interest. I will select a material resource - in this case I will select the Print material and set the quantity.
Now, when I close the split window by turning off the checkbox, on the Gantt Chart we see the resource allocation has been done correctly.
SO, in this lesson we have seen three ways of doing the same job - that is assigning resources to tasks. The second method of using the "Assign Resource" dialog has the most controls.
For the fastest way, you can use the first method of directly assigning in the entry table.
Team planner is a special tool that is provided specifically in Project Professional . It is not available in Project Standard.
Team planner helps you as a project manager to see clearly and quickly what your team is doing at any given point in the project schedule.
To go to the Team Planner view, click on the View tab - and in the Resource Views you will see this button Team Planner - so click it.
On the top left side, we see that all 7 work resources available on this project are listed.
And on the top right side, we see that each resource has a corresponding swim lane that is marked by a time line. This is where the tasks assigned to a resource will show up.
For example, for the PM, we see 1..2..3..4 tasks have been assigned.
Similarly we see Business Analyst has 1 and Sales Officer has 3 tasks assigned.
Now, looking at the PM's tasks closely, we see there are multiple colours here. This is basically to indicate completion. The first task is 100% complete and the second task is 50% complete.
Another thing to notice is that the Sales officer has two task boxes lying on top of each other. What this means is that he has 2 tasks of the same duration to be done on the same day.
This is an example of over-allocation. And this overallocation is what you as a good project manager are here to identify and avoid.
No Project makes us aware of this problem in several ways, by marking the resource's name in red - then outlining the task also in red. A quick view on the Gantt Chart View also shows that these tasks have a "red man" indicator for these tasks.
Now we can solve this problem by setting a new start time for one of these tasks.
There is one another way to prevent this problem. Click on the Format tab and you will see a button called "Prevent Overallocations".
Watch closely what happens when I click on this button.
The second task that was causing the overallocation has been moved down the timeline and adjacent to the previous task for Sales Officer - and so the over allocation has been resolved.
Also, the red warning indicators have been removed.
While this looks great, I would not recommend using this tool for 2 reasons. The first reason is that for projects even slightly more complex than this one - it becomes difficult to analyze all the changes done by automatic re-allocation.
The second reason is - suppose you make some 20 changes in the Gantt Chart view - with this feature ON, and when you come in to the Team Planner, automatically the schedule will be re-aligned if over allocations are present - and you will not know how the changes are made.
So team planner is fantastic for visual analysis - however I would not use the auto scheduling features in this view.
One of the key challenges while creating schedules with resource allocations is preventing, identifying and resolving work over-allocations.
What is an over-allocation? This is a situation when a resource is assigned more work than what is available in a work day or a work week.
Over-allocations are a much too common problem in project management. And they lead to several problems - the first one is that your schedule will be unrealistic. Secondly, over-allocations might lead to burn out situations of resources.
Project does a great job in identifying over allocations and provides you with several views in which you can analyse which resources are over allocated, what tasks are causing the over allocations and what are the dates when over-allocation is occurring.
Armed with this type of information, you can resolve the over-allocations. You can either assign the work to someone else, or you can re-schedule the work to a later date - or some other solution as suitable to the particular situation.
On the screen, we have a project schedule Gantt chart view with the entry table open.
Here the first observation is that in the Indicator column - we see a "red man indicator" for a few assignments. This is the first indicator that over-allocations are present in the schedule - and we must take action.
We must first identify which tasks, who is assigned to it and when the over-allocations are occurring. There is a great view for that - and it is the Resource Usage View.
First, click on the View tab and then on the Resource Usage button. The initial tasks shown are yet unassigned and we will scroll down until we get to the Resources listing.
Now, let us understand this a bit. The PM resource is not over-allocated because there is no red indication. Neither is the Marketing manager.
But the Business Analyst and Chief Sales Officer are in red because over-allocation has occurred.
How do we analyse this?
If you see in the Gantt Chart - the granularity on the time scale is day level. If you look at the values for 9th of March - we see 16 hours of work allocated for that particular day. This is what is causing the over-allocation.
Once this day and task is identified, now you will have to move the task to a different date OR perhaps hand the task over to a different resource.
This process is to be repeated for all the resources and for all the tasks that have been over-allocated.
When the project has many resources and it gets complicated who has over-allocations - there is a way to simplify this view.
What we need to do is filter in only the resources that are over-allocated and leave the others out of the view.
We can do that by using the filter on the ribbon. Here we can click on the small arrow for a drop-down and select "Over-allocated resources". This will only show the required rows. We can see the tasks by double-clicking on the names - and then take suitable action.
Identifying and resolving over-allocations is one of the important things that need to be done on a schedule. And Project provides multiple views and tools to identify where allocation issues are occurring and empowers you to build a realistic project schedule.
During Project scheduling, we often come across tasks that can be assigned to multiple resources.
There are typically 2 reasons for this - firstly to distribute the work load between the assigned resources such that the time taken to accomplish the task gets shortened proportionately.
The second reason might be that the resources skillsets and inputs are required only but not to make the task any shorter. The most common example of this is for meetings - where the meeting is of a fixed length and doesnt get reduced because of the number of attendees.
Microsoft Project conveniently allows you to specify which tasks are effort driven or not.
Before we look at a couple of example, let us take a quick moment to remember the basic Project work formula which is Duration = Work / Units.
OK, looking at this schedule that I have on the screen, I have some tasks which have been assigned.
Let us look at Task ID 7 - "Create Requirements Document" - which is assigned to the PM. Let me turn the Task Form on to understand this better. I switched it on from the Details checkbox on the View tab.
Now, this task is of Duration 4 days and assigned to PM only. The PM's units are 100% which means he will be working full time on this task. Also notice that this task is effort driven because this checkbox is turned ON.
Let me say, I am going to assign the Marketing Manager also to this task. When I click OK, I see a few things impacted.
Firstly, the duration reduces to 2 days from 4 days. Secondly, these changes are reflected on the Gantt chart, we see 2 resources and a shortened task bar.
You will get an extra prompt from Project - to confirm if this is what you wanted.
Let us see one more example. I will select task Id 3 - "Project definition Workshop" - this is really a meeting - and we will need to invite several people to attend. But, the length of the workshop will not reduce when a new resource is assigned to it.
In the Task Form, the first thing I will do is to turn off the effort-driven checkbox.
Next I will add the Marketing Manager and click OK. The duration remains the same. It did not become half-day just because now 2 resources are assigned to it.
I will add one more resource the Software Architect also - and click OK. Now 3 resources are assigned to the meeting - but as correctly expected the duration of the task is unaffected.
Now, by default, for most projects, what you want for majority of your tasks is Effort driven scheduling - this is a closer reflection of real-life scheduling. And, non-effort driven are generally exceptions - such as meetings and workshops.
There is a convenient setting in Project Options where you can set the default. I go to file tab and Options to open the dialog box.
Here in the Schedule tab, there is a checkbox for "New tasks are effort driven" - and you will want to keep it turned ON. As a best practice, you should also inspect this setting when you inherit a project file from another source and are required to maintain it.
At various times in a project, you will need to focus on different aspects of your tasks.
When you are starting a new schedule and want to start from a to-do list to create your tasks - you will use the Gantt Chart View. When you are creating resources on your project, you will want to use the Resource Sheet. If you are analysing task assignments, you will use a combination of the Gantt and the Resource Usage views.
If you're having a problem with costs, take a look at Resource Usage view and insert various columns of cost information, such as resource rates and total actual costs.
What you see now on the screen is the most used view on Project and is called the Gantt Chart View. You can see two split windows with a table on the left and a chart on the right - but this is a single view and the data on the left will be reflected on the right side chart.
Let us learn how to access views in different ways in Project.
The first thing to observe that most tabs on the ribbon, have a view access button on the left hand side. This is kind-of consistent with 3 tabs - the Task tab, the Resource tab and the View tab.
So, let us begin with the Task Tab. You can see that the views button here is actually called the Gantt Chart by default itself. That is because this view is so important and central to the way Project functions.
But there is also a bottom half to the button and if you click on it, you will see a list of other popular views that you can access. Mostly, you will want to work with one of these. However, if you still can't find the view you want - there is the 'more views' link - and if you select that - a small dialog box opens up .
I will select the Network Diagram - a network diagram explains the sequencing needed for project activities and explains the planning process. You can see we can access a lot of views from the click of a button.
Let us look at the next tab on the ribbon - the Resource tab. Again, it has View section and a view button - that has the Team Planner configured by default here. The team planner view is available on Project Professional only so we get it here.
I will go to the Team Planner view - this has been explained in a previous lesson and you might like to see it if you want to refresh. This view focusses on the team members and has swim lanes for each resource where their assigned tasks get lined up on a time-line.
This view is great to see resourcing issues and free working times.
Similar to the Task tab view button - here also, resource view button has the familiar bottom half where you can additional popular resource views - and then more yet views - with a dialog pop-up.
The View tab - is where all views get centralized. You can see we actually have two sections here dedicated to views - and these are actually the same you can access from the task and Resource tabs respectively.
But where this view tab excels is that it gives you a lot of options on how to perfectly fine-tune your view on the screen.
For example, let us look at the sections - you can chop and dice the data from the Data section - for example you can apply various filters. You can also play with the granularity of views - with the Zoom section.
Many views come with multiple split windows and you can turn details on and off - and you can have an additional timeline pane on most views - with these two popular options here.
We are not done yet - there are also more ways to access views that you want. We will look at 2 shortcut methods to access views.
The first is from the right side end of the Status bar, next to the zoom control. Here you have permanent buttons for single button access to 5 of the most popular views - the Gantt chart, task Usage, team planner, resource sheet and the reports you have built.
The other shortcut method is from the Quick Access Toolbar from the top of the screen - here if I click on the arrow for a drop down and turn ON the view link - we get an additional button option - where once again we can access the most popular view.
So, we can see Project makes it super easy for you to look at a schedule from many different perspectives as required from each different stage of your project.
The Gantt Chart view is the default and is the single most used view. And this is the view into which project opens up by default.
However, you have the flexibility to change that also. Let us go to the project options dialog - by clicking File and then Options.
Here in the General tab - you can set the default view that Project will open into - and you can customize this to whatever you want - and Project will open it the next time you launch.
Most of the views in Project are made of a table and a chart.
Tables within Microsoft Project are made up of sets of columns containing fields of information describing the tasks or resources within each row of the table.
Tables can be applied to Sheets or Views.
There are separate tables for tasks and for resources (for example, there is an Entry table for tasks and an Entry table for resources). A table within MS Project would be similar to a sheet within MS Excel that has defined columns.
Tables are great for you to create, read, update and delete project related data and values.
On the screen now, we have the Gantt Chart View - and the table associated with it is the Entry table.
At the top you can see column headers - indicator column, Task Name, Duration, Start, Finish, Predecessor, Resource Names - and the last column is called "Add New Column" - where you can actually choose a new column. And when you do that a new column will appear with the same heading again.
These column headers are actually are actually "Project fields" - and there are literally hundreds that you can choose from - when I click on this small arrow drop down, you can see.
The table and the chart are bound together - i.e. the chart will always display the corresponding value in the table. For example, if the duration in the table cell is 4 days, the chart value will be the same and it is true vice versa too.
You will often find the need to scroll horizontally and vertically when the size of your schedule grows.
Let us see how I can change the table on the same view.
I will go to the View tab on the ribbon - there is button here for Tables. This pulls down a drop down list - and I can see the most popular tables associated with the Gantt Chart.
Let me choose the Summary Table here.
This table Provides me a quick summary of all the key points on my schedule including - aggregated summaries for percentages completed, cost and work. Again, I can add any other project field I want also - in a new column.
Let me change to one more table - and this time I will take the cost - and here I again see the costing information for the project that has been aggregated over summary headers. I have columns for total cost, baselined cost, variances, actual and remaining costs.
In the same Tables button in the ribbon, we have the more tables link - and this will lead to the more tables dialog box. And here we will find a lot more tables to pull out - and they are neatly classified whether for Task related or Resource related.
There is a nifty shortcut to chage tables. And that is by clicking on the 'select all cell'.
The cell (0,0) is called the select all cell - if you are familiar with Microsoft Excel - and if you click on it - it selects all the cell in one go.
However if you right click on it - it allows you to quickly swap tables for your view.
So, in this lesson, we have seen how a lot of tables are available to you - and all of them have columns that are pre-designed with a lot of thought. You can also add any other project field column from a long list of options.
We have seen in an earlier lesson that Project comes built-in a few dozens of pre-designed Tables.
However, for your particular project schedule, you might want to something extra - you might want to add a column or perhaps remove a column - or even re-order the sequence in which the columns appear.
Well actually, it is easy to all of these - and we will learn them in this lesson.
Lets start with a few examples.
In this table, let us say I want to insert a new column - which has the critical path information. That is whether the task is on the critical path or not.
And let us say that I want the column right next to the task name - where the duration currently is. So, I will just right click on the column header like this and select insert column.
Now, you can see this long list of Project fields that are available to you - well into the hundreds. I will need to choose the field called Critical. I can actually just start typing in the name also if I know it.
There, when I select the column field - I have the column inserted for me.
Another way in which to do the same is to scroll to the right end of the table. There is a column called "Insert a new column" and it does exactly that. Now, for this column, let us say I want to put in the "Actual Cost" column - this field shows the cost incurred at this point in time for the project - and is great information to have in hand for a project manager.
So, I will add that.
Now, let us say that I want this actual cost column to be present right next to projected cost column. TO do that I will have to move the new column.
Easy to do that - I will just select it by clicking on the header. Then, you will see the mouse pointer has become a 4-pointer arrow. This means it is good to drag the column to where we want. I will do that and when my mouse moves to the left, I see a thick grey line indicating where the column will be dropped if I let go of the mouse now.
So I drop it in the location that I want.
One more thing we will need to see is how to remove a column. For that let me first insert a new one - that we will hide immediately - to see how it works.
Now, again going to the right end - you can see Project has automatically kept a new column there for your convenience - I will select a field - any field will do for the demonstration.
Now that I have this column - let me show how to remove it from the view. Right click on the header and select "Hide Column" - and thats it. The column is removed.
SO far in this lesson we have seen how to insert columns in 2 ways, hide column and re-order as we choose. So using these methods, we can finetune a table exactly how we want.
Now, if you leave things as it is - Project will remember the configuaration exactly - and next time you open this table you will get the exact columns.
But if you want to keep the builtin tables as-is and save your customization in a new name - you can do exactly.
I will again click on the Tables button drop-down and there is an option called "Save fields into new table" - when I choose that I will be prompted to choose a new table name - I choose "Progress Table".
Now, the great thing is that if I click on the Tables button again - Project has infact created a new menu item for my table automatically! So, it is super easy to access it - and I have not changed Project's built-in tables.
So, in this lesson you have learnt how to manipulate the tables exactly how your project will demand it. You can use this to create great tables that convey a lot of information for yourself and for all stakeholders.
You can fine tune the appearance of the table values and header in a variety of ways - to make it look exactly how you wish.
First, we right click on the header and select "Field Settings" option.
A dialog box opens up.
In this, the first drop down is where we can change this column to an altogether different project field. That is, I can click on this small arrow - and get the familiar list of all project fields. And if I choose another item - the column will change to show values for that field.
We will not change the field name for now and keep it as is.
Next, let us see how to change the header. You see a blank field here because - by default the Title is the same as project field name. This is not true for all default columns though.
For example, let me show another. I will close this for a bit and open the options for the Task Name column. Here you can see that the Title has been given a custom value "Task Name" where the field name is just "Name".
OK, so going back to the resource names column, I bring back the dialog box.
Let us give this a new title - I will say "Person". Of course resources need not only be people - but let us just go with it for this example.
And when I click OK, you can see the change is reflected.
There are a couple of other things that you can do with the columns themselves - you can change the alignment of both the header and the values that appear in them.
For example, with values of smaller width, you might wish to see them center aligned. Let us make both title and data as center aligned and see how it looks.
You can use these settings to change the look of your table.
But that is not all, you can also change the fonts, font styles of one or all your columns. To do that, again select your column and right click - like so.
Now, if you select Font - the font dialog box opens up and you can change the font itself, styles, size and colours.
Another powerful way to change the look of the table is to change the text styles. I will open this dialog box.
Here I can select a particular item to change - for example, I can select the summary task or milestones or critical tasks and format them in a special way. That way these items will catch the eye more effectively when viewing a table.
Very often you will want to work with more than one view in Project. This can happen, for instance, when you want to compare differnt parts of a big schedule.
Or when you want to compare two different projects together. It can also happen when you want to see the high level phases and the low level tasks of the same project.
Whatever the requirement, there are easy ways to do this in Project.
Let us say, that I want to see the Gantt Chart view and the Resource Usage view together at the same time.
For that, I will first go to the View Tab. Here, we have 4 buttons in the 'Window' section. Let us first create a new window.
When I click on the button, a dialog box opens up - which first allows me to choose the project open. What this means is that if I open up a different project file, I can pick a view from that file to be shown to me.
For now, I will choose from this current project. In the bottom, you can see a drop down to select the view that you want to open. Here I will select the Resource Usage view.
When I say OK, this new view opens up. But my purpose is not solved yet. I want to see both views at the same time. To do that, I have a special button called "Arrange all" - and what this does is to stack all open windows on your desktop so you can see all of them at the same time.
WOrking like this with multiple windows needs a little getting used to. You will need to always select the window that you want to work with first before doing anything. You can do that by clicking on the window's title bar - like this.
You might also notice that the window names on the title bar are a little different from normal because they are from the same project file, and so they have been given a number to identify them uniquely.
When you are done with the extra windows, you can just close them.
There is another way to get split windows.
We are back to the familiar Gantt Chart view. Now, view tab has 2 buttons that will pull up split windows for you.
The first one is the Timeline - I can turn it ON and it gives me a great view - where i can see the different summary tasks arranged chronologically.
Alternately, I can click on the other checkbox - named "Details" and we get Task form by default. This task form view is very useful because it is dynamic.
That is - if I select a different task on the entry table at the top, the details window will update itself to show the new values.
So, in this lesson, we have seen some methods in which to view larger amounts of project information on our limited desktop space - with split windows and multiple windows.
The timeline is a fantastic view in Project.
It enables you to create a single-line, summarized view of your project - that can then be exported in a variety of ways.
This view is especially great to convey high level information about your project - the way it starts and ends, how the activities that constitute the project will shape up - and you can also convey key milestones in a visually meaningful way.
Select the View tab and check the box next to Timeline to show the timeline.
Now, let us understand what this timeline means.
You can see that the project start date will be to the left end of the screen - and similarly the project end date will be to the right side end of the screen.
Key summary tasks have been highlighted in the timeline as contiguous boxes on the timeline.
Let us see a few things that you can do with the timeline.
While, initially only the summary tasks are shown, if I want a specific task to be highlighted on the timeline - what I have to do is:
first select the task on the table - in this case I will select "Secuew project sponsorship" then right click on the task and select "Add to timeline".
This will insert the task into the timeline as a taskbar.
Now though the task is there on the timeline - say I want to draw attention to it - I can do that by making it a callout. I will right click on the task in the timeline - and select "Display as callout".
This adds a nice flag to the task and marks out the start and end dates.
Let us see one more example. In this case I will add a milestone to the timeline.
I will scroll down on the entry table - until I come to this milestone "Development complete". Now this is an important milestone and I want to display this on my timeline. In the same way - I right click and add to the timeline.
Now, on the timeline you see this diamond shaped milestone has been added - again creating a nice visual effect on the timeline.
This is not all that we can do with timelines. We can add tasks and milestones directly into the timeline. The two examples we saw just now used existing tasks.
But now, let us create a milestone directly into the timeline.
First of all, make sure the timeline view is selected by clicking anywhere on the window. In the format tab, we have a section called as Insert.
And here we have a button to insert a new milestone. When I click on it the familiar Task Information dialog box opens up. This is because milestones are nothing but tasks with duration as Zero.
I will first give the new milestone a name. I am calling it "Deployment begins". The duration is pre-fixed conveniently at Zero days.
Then I will set the date as July 1st - notice that I don't have to check this box that asks for display on timeline - because I called this box from the timeline itself.
When I say OK - the new milestone has appeared.
While adding tasks and milestones from the timeline is convenient - I will not recommend it - mainly because task dependencies don't show up on this view. But this is a convenient feature to have.
This timeline can be exported out to be shared with the team or management or customers conveniently.
Click on the 'Copy Timeline' button - and you can send it directly to the email client like Outlook that is configured on your computer. Or else if you click "for presentation" - Project will copy an image of the timeline into your clipboard - and that is ready for your to paste as an image into any application of your choice - like PowerPoint for example.
So, in this lesson we have seen timeline is a powerdul and intuitive view. It is especially convenient to convey high level project information to your stakeholders. Before this feature was present we would have to work for hours to create this kind of a view in other applications like Visio.
When you are reviewing the project schedule for reducing time or looking at resource sheets to reduce costs - you will want to look at sorted data to see tasks, assignments or resources that can be optimized.
Project provides multiple ways in which to sort the information in different views and tables.
The easiest way to sort data in a table is to use the sorting options built directly into the column headers.
Before we do any sorting, it is better to turn off the summary tasks - so we can go to Format tab and turn off the "Project Summary task" and the "Summary Tasks".
Now, let us look at the sorting options in column headers. We can see that the options will change depending on the project field in the column. So, for the Task Name column we have alphabetic sorting available, for duration which is a quantity - we have sorting from largest to smallest and reverse of that.
This is great if you want to find the tasks with the longest durations so that you can optimize it in some way. Start and Finish are both date fields - so the sort options on these columns are Sort Earliest to Latest and reverse.
Now, let us say we want to sort tasks from based on the duration they take. I can go to the duration column, click on the small arrow for the drop down and select "Largest to smallest". Now, you can see the the largest tasks - so we can work on them specifically.
Just to observe here, the task ID's 52/59 are 3 weeks - that is the same as 15 days - considering 5 days in a week for 3 weeks is 15 days. So, amongst the rows with same duration, the implied secondary sorting is Task ID.
Now, suppose I want to see the original listing with no sorting - how do we go back?
We can do that by sorting the entire list on the task ID.
The View tab ribbon has a section called "Data" - and there is a button for sorting available. When I click that, I see some more options available - the one that we want in this case is "Sort by ID". And when I click on this the table returns to its default sorting.
You can use the Sort buttons sort options in any view.
You can also apply multiple sort options at the same time - to a maximum of 3. The "Sort by" option on the Sort button allows just that.
Here in this dialog box, I can choose sorting options one by one and they will be applied in that order. Now suppose I want to find the longest tasks that finish the last. Let us say these tasks are great to break up into more manageable chunks to reduce risk at the end of a project.
I can do that by first choosing first the "duration" and then by "finish". Duration will be descending as I want the largest tasks first and finish also will be descending as I want those that finish last.
When I am done, I have to click on Sort.
Before I do that, there is one more interesting option here - "permanently renumber tasks". what this does is it will change the Task IDs also if you select that check box. This option will be useful in some cases - for example in the Resource sheet if I want resources permanently sorted on alphabetic order.
You should use that option with a bit of caution.
OK, now we are ready to sort the table - and I will click on the sort button. Now we see the sorting is done on first with duration and then with tasks that end the last.
The Gantt chart however makes no sense right now - but that is not what we are interested while sorting. Again, to return to our original sorting, I have to go back to the sort by Task Id.
So, in this lesson, we have seen how easy it is to sort our data in two ways, right from the column headers of the table - and then from the view tab's data section.
You can use Project 2010 groups to categorize and report project information in a variety of ways.
Grouping also allows you to view rolled-up summary information of tasks, resources, or assignments in sheet views.
Project comes with about two dozen pre-defined built-in groups - that are great for you to use.
In the View tab, we see the Data tab has a "Group by" drop down - and it has [No Group] selected by default.
When I open the list, I see the built-in groups provided by Project. These are the most used groups - and Project has built it into the project for us.
Let us see how they work - I will select the Duration Group option.
Now, when this applied, we see the tasks have been categorized and there is a new summary header at the top - and it defines what the categorization is made up of. You can either collapse or expand the group as you wish.
Now actually, tasks can be of any duration literally - and this grouping might potentially result in a very large number of groups. However you can customize the group to show intervals instead of creating a new group for every individual value.
You can remove any applied grouping by selecting the [No Group] option - and the table returns to its original state.
Let us see one more example - I will select the Critical grouping - to see tasks on the critical path for the schedule. This is helpful to pay special attention to critical tasks - and perhaps devise ways to identify risks and mitigate them.
So, when this grouping is applied - we see the two categories - critical:no and critical:yes.
The Groups drop-down lets you access more pre-defined groups than the ones listed here - by clicking the "more groups" option. And you can see they are categorized by Tasks or Resources.
Let's remove the grouping and return back.
For the third example - let us build a custom group.
In this example what I want to do is identify critical tasks grouped by resources.
That is, first group tasks by whether critical or not - and then group the critical tasks by individual resources. This is helpful for example, if you want every team member to know their own particular critical tasks.
To do this, we first open the drop-down then go to more groups, select Critical and then 'make a copy'.
The Group definition dialog box opens up. Here, we will first give our custom group a new name - I will call it "Critical then Resources".
Group by Critical is already selected - in the next row, I will select "Resource Names".
The order by for both groups can remain 'Ascending' - I can always change that if needed. Now, when I save, you can see the custom group has been added into the original list. And when I apply it - we can see there is 2 levels of grouping applied.
The critical group is sub-categorized by resource names and that is just what we wanted.
We are not restricted to 2 levels of grouping - Project allows upto 10 levels of grouping - applied in the same fashion that we just now saw - and that should be sufficient for the most microscopic categorization.
So, in this lesson, we have seen how groups can be used to organize our data and Project provides a lot of flexibility for us while using groups.
Filters allow you to focus on specific data that you can then analyse to take special action upon. Some examples of when you might do this is - when you want to identify late tasks, schedule quality issues or track progress of some specific team member.
Filtering data to meet our criteria is real easy to do on Project 2013 - as all columns on the table comes with built-in filters right on the column headers.
For example, in the view on the screen, let us see the filters that are available on each of the columns.
This small arrow mark opens a drop-down which has the filters - amongst other things. The filter on each column depends on what project field it holds. For example, the task mode filters auto-scheduled vs. manual scheduled. We can't see any in this case as there are no manual tasks in this schedule.
The task name has a different set of filters - and you can use them in this case to see tasks of a particular phase - and filter out the rest. And similarly for the date fields yo can choose tasks in a particular month.
Let us see an example of using the filters on the column names. We want to only see tasks for the Project Manager - and filter out all other resource's tasks.
To do that, I open the menu on the Resource Names column header - and I will select only the Project Manager.
A few things to notice now: firstly the tasks have been correctly filtered - I can only see the tasks belonging to the Project Manager and other resource's tasks have been filtered out.
There are a couple of indicators to show you that the data being shown now is a filtered view - it says so in the status bar - "Autofilter Applied" and also in the column header, you can see this small funnel icon.
To remove the filter I go back to the same place - and there is now an option for "Clear filter".
This is not all - there are Project's built-in predefined filters that you can access. And project provides a lot of useful ones.
The view tab's Data section has the Filter drop-down. And here we can access the built-in filters.
All the filters here are pre-defined and typically, there are very frequently used - that Microsoft has built it in the application for us. For example - while tracking and managing a project schedule the Incomplete Tasks, Late tasks, Critical tasks are all very helpful for a one click access.
And these are not all - clicking the more filters will give you access to another 60+ pre-built filters.
And if none of these are what you are looking for exactly - you can also build and save your own custom filter.
Let us see an example of building a new filter. Let us say I want to identify those tasks on the critical path which are more than 5 days in duration. One reason to do this will be to breakdown the longer tasks thereby being able to track critical progress better and reducing risk of slippage.
To do this, we first ensure [No filter] is selected, then click on the more filters. I will select the critical filter and click on copy - this is because my tasks should be in critical path first. Then let us give this a new name - I will call this "Long Critical tasks".
In the next row, I select Duration, set the Test criteria as "is greater than or equal to" and for Value I type in 5d. This criteria checks that the task duration is long enough.
Now all I have to do is save and apply. And in the table, we see critical tasks that are of duration greater than or equal to 5 days.
There is one more feature that we must see. Now, standard behaviour of applying a filter is to hide the tasks from the table that don't pass the set criteria. You may instead want to retain those tasks in view - but only highlight the tasks we are interested in.
This is easy to do. Select "more filters" again and we go back to the newly created filter - and instead of Apply button, we click on the Highlight button.
And when we do this, we see all tasks are present in the table - but only the tasks passing the set criteria are now highlighted.
So, in this lesson, we have seen 2 ways to apply filters - from the column headers and then from the ribbon. We have seen Project provides lots of pre-defined filters. And we have also seen how to create new custom filters.
The taskbar in the Gantt chart can be formatted to visually draw attention to a group of tasks or individual taskbars.
The most common usage for this is to highlight the critical path tasks in a schedule.
The tools to format the taskbar are in the Format tab. In the Bar styles section, we have a checkbox called "Critical Tasks" and when I turn it ON, we can see in the Gantt chart that all the critical path tasks now have a pink colour. And it is now very easy to see the path they take.
This pink colour and taskbar bar shape is the default that is configured for us by Project.
If you want to customize the critical taskbars, let us see an example.
First, we click on the Format button, and there are 2 options on the dropdown list here - Bar and Bar styles.
We choose Bar Styles - and the bar styles dialog box opens up. We can scroll down to the name "Critical" and select it.
A quick point to note, this "Critical" option will not be available to you in this list unless the "Critical Tasks" checkbox is turned On like we did just now.
Now, once we have selected the taskbar name, we can format it.
To understand how this works, we need to understand that the taskbar is divided into 3 components - the start portion, the middle portion and the end portion - and it is possible to customize all three.
And all the 3 parts can have a custom shape and colour. Currently the start has no associated shape - so I will add one - lets keep it in black. For the middle portion I will change the colour to a red and finally for the end, I will select the same shape as the start portion.
The nice thing is that as we are making these changes, we can see a live preview up in the listing. OK - this looks like how I want it.
Now, when I click on OK button, the Gantt chart will reflect these changes that we have made.
You can also see that the other taskbars that are not in the critical path have been left unmodified - just as we intended.
Let us see another example now - where we want to customize an individual taskbar and not a whole group.
I might want to do this for several reasons - for instance when certain tasks trigger customer signoff, or payments to be received - or suchlike.
I will select a task with ID 52 for this example - say I want to customize the appearance of this taskbar. The easiest way to do this is to select the taskbar on the Gantt Chart and right click it.
Now if I only want to change the colour, I can click on the Paint bucket icon and choose a colour. Let us do that - I will select a purple - which is close to the original blue and change it.
Now, you can see this task stands out from the rest.
Another way to do the same is to right click and select "Format Bar" - here again, I get a dialog bar that enables me to configure the start, middle and end portions of the bar.
So, let us choose a new start and end shape for this.
One other thing that we can do is to configure the text that accompanies the taskbar. Click on the "Bar Text" tab on the top and select what information we want to present alongside the taskbar.
Currently the Resource Names are shown on the right side of the task bar.
Let us change that to Resource Initials shown on the top. Initials are always preferable to make the taskbar less cluttered - so I will make this change. You can see a live preview being shown - so you can finetune if need be.
Finally, when I click OK, we can see the changes reflected on the Gantt chart and this task is nicely highlighted.
A couple of words of caution - keeping it simple with visual effects is the best policy and you will not want to use more than 2 or 3 colours. This is because when you start tracking progress, new colours and markings get added - and your Gantt might soon become unreadable if too many colours become distractful.
Second, the changes that you make are applicable only for the view that you customize - and these don't reflect on other views. So, if you highly customize one view - don't be surprised if they don't show when you change the view.
In this lesson, we have seen various ways in which to customize the taskbars to draw attention to a group of tasks or individual tasks.
When you are building a project schedule, the Gantt Chart can become slowly start getting complicated - and a bit overwhelming - especially when the task link lines have been created.
Project allows you to customize the layout so that it becomes more readable.
What you see on the screen is the default setting but you can change several aspects of the way the chart is visually represented.
Let us see how this can be done. We first head over to the Format tab - and we have a Layout button that we will want to click.
This opens the Layout dialog box and let us see the options available to us.
The first setting is for the link lines. There are 3 options available - and the default is the 3rd one - which looks like an inverted L.
Sometimes, you might not want the default option because for short tasks, the preceding and successor tasks appear to overlap.
In such cases, you might prefer to use the 2nd option that looks like a reverse S. The nice thing about this option is that the start and end relationship looks more visually evident.
So, for our example, I will select that.
The next option is the date format - and the default option is a real short date format - just the date/month. Now, you can change this to your preference. I will choose the "Wed Jan 28" format. Because this lets me see the day also.
But, just note that the shorter version always keeps the Gantt less cluttered.
You can also change the bar height - the default is 12 - you might like to increase this a little bit more - say 14.
The option to "always roll up Gantt bars" - keeps the default view to summary task level and you will have to explicitly expand it. We will leave it as it is - unchecked.
The option to "round bars to whole days" is useful specifically for small duration tasks - say a task of 4 hours is going to appear very small on the Gantt - especially when it has link lines showing the dependencies.
And this option will pad it on the chart - so that it appears with 1 day width. This only affects the visual aspect and doesn't actually change the task duration in the table.
"Show bar splits" - when a task is split there is an ellipsis representation on the Gantt.
Once we have made all the changes we want - we can select OK - and then see the changes reflected in the Gantt chart.
Let us see one more example - where we can insert a split in a task. I first select task id 8, then in the Task tab, look for the Split task button.
Select this and click on the task that we want to split - and this inserts a break in the task - and this break is represented by an ellipsis.
So, in this lesson, we have seen how to format the tasks layout - to make the chart more readable. This will come in handy when there are a lot of todo tasks, and the link lines start cluttering up the schedule.
It is possible to customize literally all the text data that is in all the views and tables in Project.
Often you will find that you need to emphasis certain groups of tasks or individual tasks with a customized text colour, or font or background colour.
Let us consider a couple of examples and see how this can be done.
In the first example - let us increase the size of all the text everywhere to make it more readable. You may want to do this if you have a high resolution screen or multiple screens - or if your projecting the project schedule over a projector.
To do this, we go to the Format tab and in the left most corner there is the Text Styles button. When we click this a dialog box opens up.
While most of the controls are very familiar to a fonts dialog box, the one important control is the "Item to change" drop down list.
This is a master control to pick the specific item to change - by default this is set to "All" - and that means all text styles will be changed. We will keep that as it is for now - and just change the Font size to 12.
When we click OK - we see that all the text has become bigger - including all in the table and in the gantt chart also.
Now that we have seen this - I will press undo - Ctrl+Z to revert back to the original size.
Now let us look at one more example where we will change a category of tasks.
For this example - we will change the text style of Milestones.
Return back to the text styles dialog box. Now choose Milestone Tasks from the drop down. We will change the Font Style to "bold italic", select the font colour to a light green - and then the Background colour to a dark green.
While we are making these changes, you can see a live preview in the sample box.
Now, when we click OK and return to the view, we can see that the milestones are all custom formatted - as designed.
In the next example, let us see how to format an individual task. This is real easy, I will select the task I want to change text style - then right click and in the pop-up menu, we can see the options to change the font, font size, colour and background.
I will apply a few changes. You might want to draw attention to special tasks in this way - for example if a task is linked to payments, or if it is special importance to the Quality assurance team or some similar reason.
So, in this lesson we have seen multiple ways to format the text styles of both groups of tasks and individual tasks also.
Understanding the critical path on your project is an important concept as the critical path drives your project's end date.
The critical path is the longest sequence of tasks from start to end in a project schedule. This path or sequence of links is important because if there is a delay in any of the tasks on the project schedule, it will delay the project end date.
The other tasks are not like that - in the sense that delays on those tasks may or may not cause a delay in the final end date.
How do we identify which tasks make up a critical path? This is real easy to do in Project. In the format tab, there is a check box for Critical path - and when this is turned on, we can see the tasks on the critical path change to a pink colour.
The critical path is important to safeguard against delays. Also, this is where we have to look to see if we have to shorten the length of the entire project.
By definition, the critical path tasks have no slack. Let us now see how to identify tasks that do have slack.
To do that, we have turn on the slack checkbox. When this is turned ON, we see some tasks get a black line extending from the end of the taskbar. This black line indicates the slack - and it's length indicates the duration of the slack.
We can see the slack duration easily by adding a special column into the table.
I will insert a new column here - and select the project field "Total Slack". This column shows the slack period of the task. You can observe that the critical path columns have no slack - wheras some other tasks have a slack duration indicated.
Let us look at a couple of examples to understand how the critical path works.
In the first example, let us see how delays to the critical path will impact the project end date.
Task 0 is the summary task for the entire project. You can validate that by collapsing the task - and you see all the tasks have been effectively rolled up. Let us also note that the project currently has an end date projected to 21st of July - as shown in the end date.
OK, now for task ID 3 "Secure Project sponsorship" which is originally scheduled for 1 day - let us say, that this duration has been revised. The sponsorship now will take 4 days.
I will make this change - and when this new duration is entered - we see many cells have changed colour to a light bluw - this is how project indicates there has been a change in the cell's value.
We see that the project end date has been changed - and it now shows 24th of July. So, this is how changes to the Critical path immediately affects the project completion.
Let us now look at another example.
I will select task id 9 - and in this case, the task duration required has been reduced by 1 day - and will now only take 4 days instead of the original 5 days. When we reduce the date - we see again the project end date is impacted. But in this case, the end date has also reduced by one day - and is now the 20th of July.
Now, let us look at tasks not on the critical path - and having a slack. We have such a task here - on task ID 6 - which has a slack of 28 days.
I will extend duration of this task by 10 days - and we can see that the project end date is not changed. What this means is even if this task extends within the slack period or reduces, the project end date is not impacted.
So, we have seen in this lesson how to identify the critical path, how to see slack tasks - and we have seen examples of how these types of tasks impact the project completion timelines.
After you have created your project schedule - you may sometimes find that there are scheduling problems with your project.
These are more often related to manual tasks. Now, you might have created manual tasks, to start with, for very valid reasons such as when you do not have enough information about the tasks at the initial phases of the project.
But, the problem with manual tasks is that Project will not manage the dates for them. And so, over time, unless you have gone back and fixed it - you will find issues with your project schedule.
How to identify where the issues are? Project makes it very easy by underlining the tasks with a problem - with red zig-zagged lines.
In this schedule that you see on the screen, we have two tasks that are underlined and both are manual in this case.
Just do note that even automatic tasks can have issues, if you accidentally change the constraints on them.
However, Project provides some easy ways to fix them.
If you right click on the first task with a problem - you can see some options at the top - and these are Project's suggestions to you on how to fix the problem.
The most straightforward is - you can just choose to ignore the problem for whatever reason. And project will do just that. It will remove the red line indicator and keep everything else as it is.
That may be useful in some cases - but we won't do it in this example.
The second option is to "Respect Links". In this case we see that the task has actually been given both a predecessor and a successor. And a resource assignment also has been made. The problem in this case is that because it is a manual task, the automatic scheduling has not taken place. You can also observe the "red man" indicator is present - which indicates this task is causing an resource overload issue to boot.
So, if we choose "Respect Links" - we can solve this particular issue. And when we right click and choose this option - the schedule falls in place, the resource overload indicator goes away.
Also, the start and end dates have been automatically changed by Project - and the red line indicator also has gone away.
There is one more way to solve difficult scheduling issues. We have one more task here that is showing the red line indicator.
In this case, when we right click we see the same 3 options. Here we will choose the "Fix in Task Inspector" option.
And when we do that - a pane opens up on the left hand side. This tool firstly makes an analysis of the problem at hand - and provides multiple options for fixing the problem.
In this case, we have the "Respect Links" and the "Auto Schedule" options provided. In this particular case - what we will choose is the auto-schedule option - this is because let us say we now have sufficient information about the project because the duration is known and it's predecessor task is known.
As soon, as we do this, again, we see the task has been moved to a new date corresponding to the duration assigned to it and the preceding tasks finish date.
These are some great tools for you to resolve scheduling issues in project. And most of the issues can be resolved this way.
But not all the problems and not all the times. Some times you will have to dig deeper to understand the scheduling problems and you will also have to keep a close eye on resource overloading issues.
In this lesson, we have seen how project will highlight potential issues on your project schedule. We have also seen multiple ways in which project makes it easy for you to resolve the issues - specially with the Task Inspector tool.
Sometimes during a project, a resource might be required to interrupt their current task - then jump on to another task - complete it and return back to the original task.
This happens in situations where the resource might have special knowledge of the 2nd task, or if the 2nd task is of high priority and needs to be handled immediately or if the 2nd task has a hard time constraint.
In all these situations, the resource will be required to interrupt their current task and take on the 2nd task.
This situation can be represented on the Project schedule fairly accurately.
To do this, we will have to split the first task and accommodate the second task.
In the schedule on the screen - let us look at Task IDs 8 and 9. Here there is an overlap and task 9 "Mobile app review" is a manually assigned time constrained task that needs to happen on the 12th of Jan.
Both the tasks are assigned to the Analyst - and so, we see the indicator column is issuing a warning of resource overallocation also.
Now, this is situation where we can successfully apply a task split. What we want the Analyst to do is, interrupt their work on task 8 - jump over to task 9 - which is for 1 day duration and when this is completed, resume back their original task.
To do this we will use the "split task" button on the Task tab. You can see it on the ribbon here.
To work with this accurately, we will need the tasks to appear a little bigger on the Gantt chart. We can do that by first going over to the view tab, and in the timescale dropdown, choose "Quarter days" - instead of the current "Days" granularity.
Now, we see the tasks appear quite longer on the Gantt.
Then we click the split task button. As soon as this is done, the mouse pointer changes to a new icon - it has an arrow to show that we can split the task.
We will click on the first task that needs to be split at the location where the overlap begins and drag until the location where the overlap ends.
Now as soon as the mouse button is released, we see the previous overlap is now replaced by a dotted line - and the great thing is the resource overallocation has vanished.
So, we have successfully split a task on the Gantt - such that the Analyst can jump to the second task then return when it is completed.
Splitting tasks is a nice feature where we can show work interruptions conveniently.
One of the ways to solve overallocation problems is by adding a delay to tasks.
Sometimes a resource gets scheduled to work on more than one task at the same time - and this will of course lead to overallocation issues. So a simple solution to this situation will be to find a task that can be delayed with zero or minimum impact - so that the resource can work on the tasks one after the other.
In this lesson, we will look at 2 different tools to solve these kind of overallocation problems - where delaying a task can be done.
Let us observe the schedule we have on the screen. For tasks with IDs 8 and 9, there is an overallocation warning sign indicated. We see that they are adjacent to each other and assigned to the same resource.
Let us see the critical path to decide if moving tasks will result in delays for the entire project or not.
To see the critical path - I will go to the format tab and turn on the "critical tasks" checkbox.
The tasks on the critical path have turned pink - and we can see the task ID 9 is not on the critical path.
Let us also see if there is any available slack for this task. To see this - I will turn ON the "Slack" checkbox. Again, we can see that this task has ample slack available.
Now, let us see the first tool to move the task. In the Task Tab, in the 'tasks' section, there is a button called "Move".
When we click on this button, a drop down list pops up. Now, there are 3 basic ways to move a task - I can either move tasks forward or backward - and either by a pre-defined number of days - or in the 3rd way - let Project calculate what is earliest possible day when the concerned resource becomes available.
In this case, we will choose - "When resources are available" - and project will compute this automatically.
Now, we can see that this task has been moved by 2 days - and this has not affected the critical path. AS a result, we can also see the project end date has not changed - there is no blue box change indicator.
There is another convenient tool to move tasks easily. And for this we will change the view to "Levelling Gantt" view.
If it is not available in the drop down, it can be found in the "more views" option.
This is a special view because it also shows the "Levelling Delay" column. This is the same column that Project also uses for it's resource levelling algorithms.
Just note that the "Levelling Delay" time units are elapsed time - and this is not the same as the duration time. Elapsed time includes the weekends and holidays and any other off days also.
OK, for this example, let us look at the Task IDs 34 and 35. Here also there is an overlap of tasks and we do not want to make the tasks logically linked to each other.
So, what we can do is to meaningfully move the task ID 35 to a later date. And to do that, I can add 4 days to the elapsed time.
As soon as we do this, the overallocation indicator vanishes - and our purpose is solved.
There are many ways to solve overallocation issues on the schedule - one of the ways is to move tasks. And project provides useful tools for moving tasks - we have seen two methods in this lesson.
By default, Project assumes that when a resource is assigned to a task, the resource will work with the same work load through the duration of the task.
But, in reality the situation can be different - a common working pattern is for a slow start, peaking in the middle and then tapering off for the end of a task.
This can also vary from resource to resource - from organization to organization - and perhaps from project to project.
Project provides a method for you to model this behaviour into the schedule. The reason for doing so, will be to add more real-life reflection into the project schedule. Another benefit is that often, resource work overallocation issues can be resolved using this technique.
Let us see an example where we can apply work contours.
On the schedule that we have on the screen - if we look at Task IDs 58 and 62 - we can see that there is overallocation being signalled in the indicator column.
Work contours have to be applied on resource work assignment - and the view best suited for this is the Task Usage view.
Now, that we have changed the view to Task Usage, you can see the corresponding Task IDs 58 and 62 here.
Let us first apply work contours to Task ID 58 and see. This task is originally of 1 day duration. We have to right click on the assignment - and not on the task - and in the menu that pops-up we see the option for "Information".
Clicking on this brings up the "Assignment Information" dialog box. Here we see the drop down for work contours. By default, every assignment is designated as "flat" by Project.
When we open this list - we see Project provides 8 different models for work contours. The names are intuitive enough for us to get an idea how the model will be for most of them. The one we will choose in this case is the Bell curve model - and I click OK.
Now on the view we can see that the task has spread over 2 days. Also notice that the indicator column has a bell icon shown.
Let us continue on to the second task that is causing the overallocation - and that is task ID 62. This task is of 2 days duration.
Here again - we will apply the bell curve model.
And when we return to view - we see that the duration has increased to 4 days.
But the over-allocations have still not been resolved.
However, we are allowed to edit the table directly - and I will make a couple of small changes - making sure the load on each day does not exceed 8 hours.
And voila! the overallocation indicators have gone away - as the problem has been resolved - and we have maintained the bell structure.
There are a few points to note in this example - and typically when using work contours.
First point is that the overall task durations got extended. Second point, we have been able to show some additional real-life reflection in the schedule.
Third point is that if you observe the work loads - you can see the beginning and end of the curve have some slack in them - and this is particularly useful when resources move from one task to another - there might be a bit of overlapping work and this can be utilized also.
So, in this lesson we have been introduced to work contours, we have seen it being applied to a couple of assignments - and we have also seen an example of resolving overallocation using work contours.
Srikanth's recent leadership role as Senior Software Delivery Manager for one of the World's Largest Learning Management System implementation for online structured higher education - with more than 400,000 students pursuing online Masters/Bachelors and Certificate for one of India's largest and most diversified Education Providers with a global footprint in countries including the US, Singapore, UAE-Dubai, Malaysia etc.
Srikanth has directly managed clients including Telegraph Media Group UK, Microsoft, Yahoo, Marriott, Expedia, British Airways, Precise Media Group UK, Sequoia Media Group US, Tesco, and Hooper Holmes Inc. Managed teams sized in excess of 50, cross functional and projects/products in excess of 15 million USD.
Srikanth has over 18 years of experience in Software Delivery Management, Project Management, design and architecture, development of software solutions, spanning high-transaction enterprise level applications to standalone product development. He has extensive exposure to successful Program/Project management techniques such as PMP and Prince2; Experience in various software development methodologies like ISV Product Lifecycle, traditional Waterfall, Agile (Scrum and DSDM).Extensive experience in Proposal Engineering – effort, schedule and pricing estimations using WBS, COCOMO, pre-sales and customer relations – specially in Off shoring model. Specialties: Proposal Engineering, Product Development, Client relationships, high complexity and visibility software delivery management, architecture and design.