Sunday, December 13, 2009

Project Management Tool – MS Project

To be successful in any kind of management, it is absolutely required to use right kind of tools. Right tools add to your productivity, efficiency, and convenience.

MS Project is one such tool which has been designed and developed for managing the projects from planning, scheduling, tracking and replanning perspective. I will be covering some of the aspects of this tool in coming days, however, today’s article only serves as an overview of MS Project.

Any project scheduling/tracking tool operates on three basic parameters – work, duration and resources. This is like a tripod on which entire planning and scheduling is structured. If you change any one of them, it is sure that you’ll need to change at least one other to keep this tripod balanced. E.g. If you change the duration of the task, then either you need to increase the number of resources to meet the new timeline, or you need to ask your resources to work or additional hours everyday to meet the new timelines. If you reduce the work, then either you can reduce the number of resources (or percentage thereof) or you can reduce the duration itself, so that some other task can be accommodated. MS Project also works on these principles.

MS Project allows you to create a blueprint of your project and save it as a “baseline” for all future references. This helps immensely for tracking the project. One can easily see how the project is progressing through the life of that project.

As everyone knows, when working on a project, we divide the project into numerous sub-tasks and many of these are interdependent, either due to the inherent nature of the task or due to requirement of resource with specific skills or simply because there are not sufficient resources to start that task in parallel. In all such cases, you can add the dependencies of various types between the tasks and arrive at a project end date.

Various reports provided by MS Project also come very handy, specifically “WhoDoesWhat”. This particular report tells the reader exactly what is happening on a given date.

Few other things that I would mention is various views which make the job of data entry or data mining pretty easy. Default view is Gantt View. For tracking against baseline, one can use Tracking Gantt, for resources view, there is Resource Sheet and Resource view. For entering actual data day-by-day, one can use Resource Usage view or Task Usage view. In fact, one can create his/her own view to suit the requirements.

I will be covering this tool in-depth as I have used to a large extent (although not extensively) and definitely have some tips and tricks to make your job with MS Project easy. Watch out this space for more.

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