3 Tips to Tame Microsoft Project!

Make Project easy to learn and easy to use!

Putting the classic project management techniques to work is near impossible without a scheduling application. We all value ease of use with our tools, yet too often that comes at the price of functionality. At Versatile, we are happy to support Microsoft Project because of its powerful feature set. The good news is that most users can tame Project with a few simple tips.

“We Only Manage a Schedule – Not Costs!”

The majority of Project users want to build a schedule, not manage costs or resource level their team. These users should set their Default task type to Fixed Duration. That means they estimate duration for a task and can add as many resources as they want without changing the duration. This is a powerful way to simplify your use of Project. To set the Default Task Type, under the File tab, choose Options. The Options dialog box below shows where the Default task type is set. 

Link Your Schedule to a Project Start Date

Leverage Project’s scheduling engine by “linking” tasks, that is, creating finish-to-start relationships between tasks. Avoid entering Start Date or Finish Date for any task. Instead, use the Predecessor column to show which tasks must be done before others. This is actually pretty intuitive, and many users quickly figure this out. But when does the first task start? The one(s) without a predecessor? Set the Project Start date, and Project will schedule forward from there. On the Project tab, select Project Information. In the dialog, choose the Start date.

Measure Schedule Performance Against a Baseline

Build your schedule. Get your team, sponsor, and key stakeholders to agree. Then save the Baseline. Project tab, Set Baseline.

Switch your View from Gantt to Tracking Gantt.

Every day or week, as tasks are started and finished, enter the date in the Actual Start and Actual Finish columns for each task. The Tracking Gantt will generate a clear picture of the planned and actual schedule.

Nobody will say that Microsoft Project is the easiest tool to use, but it remains the most popular project scheduling application because it is powerful.

Use these simple tips to Tame Microsoft Project. Learn more about Microsoft Project at one of our classes. Bring them onsite and have your team learn together! Questions? Contact: Projects@VersatileCompany.com.