Identifying Tasks and Times

Identifying Tasks and Times

After you identify the project activities and break them down into work packages, it’s time to determine the resources required for each package. This is the breakdown for Activity 7, Pretest Branch Employees:

7.1

Communicate the pretest requirements to employees

7.2

Post the pretest on the intranet

7.2.1

Create welcome page

7.2.2

Create the pretest results database

7.2.3

Post and test web pages

7.3

Follow up with employees

7.3.1

Check to see who has completed the test

7.3.2

E-mail reminders to employees who have not completed the test

7.3.3

E-mail supervisors with completion information

7.4

Evaluate the results

7.5

Communicate the results to XYZ Corporation

Subactivity 7.2 includes three work packages. According to the Train2K webmaster, Work Package 7.2.3 (Post and Test Web Pages) involves four separate tasks. The tasks and the webmaster’s estimates of the hours of work required for each task are shown in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2: Post and Test Web Pages

Task

Estimated Work Required

Apply templates, post, and test static pages

3 hours

Post pretest pages

2 hours

Test links to results database

2 hours

Create hyperlinks from home page

1 hour

Make sure that the estimates such as those shown in Table 2.2 are estimated work hours: the number of hours it will take one person to complete the task, rather than the number of hours it will take a crew of four to complete the task. As you’ll see in Chapters 7 and 8, there are a variety of ways to enter activity, work package, and task information in Project. You can use the Gantt Chart view shown in Figure 2.4, enter information in a task sheet, or use the Task Information dialog box shown in Figure 2.5.

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Figure 2.5: Enter information about a task in the Task Information dialog box.

The exhaustive list of activities, subactivities, work packages, and tasks is the final definition of the project’s scope. After you’re convinced that the list is complete, move on to the remaining aspects of the project—costs, performance, and timeline.

Estimating Project Costs

In Microsoft Project, you assign activity costs indirectly. Costs are assigned to resources. Following are examples of resources:

  • Employees at their hourly rate or prorated salaried rate, optionally including employee benefits

  • Contractors

  • Temporary employees

  • Equipment at a lease rate or calculated periodic cost

  • Facilities

Begin by creating a resource pool that includes the project resources. Resources from the pool are assigned to tasks, and the cost of a task is the cost of the resource multiplied by the amount of the resource used to complete the task.

Tip 

If your colleagues use Project, you can use resources from a pool in another Microsoft Project file. This is more than a convenience—if the projects share staff, using a common resource pool helps ensure that staff members aren’t accidentally overworked.

You’ll learn about defining and using resources in Chapter 9, and more about shared resource pools in Chapter 14. After tasks, resources and costs, and resource assignments are entered, you can quickly and easily create the project budget.

Developing the Project Schedule

A project schedule includes the sequence of activities, the relationships between the activities, and the timing of each activity. There are two major tools used to schedule projects: Gantt Charts and networks, including PERT and CPM. Henry Gantt invented the chart that bears his name to present the sequence and time required for a project’s activities.

What the traditional Gantt Chart can’t show, however, is the relationship between activities. Some activities (called parallel activities) aren’t related at all. The pretest (refer to Figure 2.6) can be developed at the same time that travel arrangements are being made. Other activities can’t begin until another activity is partially or wholly completed. Activities that must occur before the current activity are its predecessors, and an activity and its predecessors are related in series. The relationship between activities directly influences the project timeline. Materials must be published before they can be duplicated, and they must be duplicated before they can be shipped; therefore, publishing and duplicating are predecessors of shipping. If the materials aren’t published at the time specified in the project schedule, duplicating and shipping might be delayed.

Project uses a modified Gantt Chart that includes links to show activity relationships, as shown in Figure 2.6. The link lines clearly indicate series and parallel relationships between the activities.

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Figure 2.6: Project’s modified Gantt Chart shows activities and relationships.

While Project’s linking feature handles the shortcomings of the traditional Gantt Chart, there are two other methods you can use to schedule projects. These methods were developed long before the creation of Microsoft Project, or even microcomputers.

PERT (an acronym for Program Evaluation and Review Technique) and CPM (Critical Path Method ) are network-scheduling methods. PERT was created by the U.S. Navy to manage an ambitious project: building the first nuclear submarine. At nearly the same time, CPM was developed by Remington Rand Corporation’s J.E. Kelly and M.R. Walker of DuPont Corporation to manage maintenance projects in chemical manufacturing facilities. PERT is more mechanistic because it was designed with an emphasis on using mathematics to manage uncertainty. CPM was designed for a very certain environment. Over the past three decades, the two methods have been modified through continued use and are now quite similar.

Both PERT and CPM use network diagrams (also called precedence diagrams) to represent the relationships among activities. On a network diagram, each activity is represented by a separate network node.

One advantage of using Project is evident when you begin to schedule activities: Gantt Charts and network diagrams are easily created by simply switching to a different view. A Project network diagram for the first four tasks in the Gantt Chart (refer to Figure 2.6) is shown in Figure 2.7.

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Figure 2.7: A network diagram is another way to view tasks and relationships.

Simple projects can be easily scheduled and managed with Gantt Charts. In Chapter 8, we’ll show you how to use Gantt Charts to schedule a project. For complex projects or projects with a great number of unknowns, we recommend PERT. PERT is more than a diagram; it’s a method to manage project uncertainty, and is a useful tool whenever you do anything innovative or risky.