One common mistake new Project users make is to place semi-flexible or inflexible constraints on too many tasks in their projects. Such constraints severely limit your scheduling flexibility.
Yet if you know that a specific task must be completed by a certain date, why not enter a Must Finish On constraint? Here is why not: let’s say you have a five-day task that you want to see completed by October 14, and today is October 3. If you enter a Must Finish On constraint on the task and set it to October 14, Project will move it out so that it will, indeed, end on October 14.
Now, even if the task could be completed earlier, Project will not reschedule it to start earlier. In fact, by applying that constraint, you have increased the risk for this task. If the task is delayed for even one day for any reason (a required resource is out sick, for example), the task will miss its planned finish date.
A better approach to scheduling this task is to use the default As Soon As Possible (ASAP) constraint and enter a deadline of October 14. A deadline is a date value you enter for a task that indicates the latest date by which you want the task to be completed, but the deadline date itself does not constrain the task.
Now the task has the greatest scheduling flexibility. It might be completed well before its deadline, depending on resource availability, predecessor tasks, and whatever other scheduling issues apply.
Entering a deadline date causes Project to display a deadline indicator on the chart portion of the Gantt Chart view. If the task’s finish date moves past its deadline, Project displays a missed deadline indicator in the Indicator field for that task.
In this exercise, you enter deadline dates for some tasks.
On the Edit menu, click Go To.
In the ID box, type 11 and click OK.
Project displays task 11. This task is a milestone marking the scheduled finish date of the pre-production phase of the project. You want to make sure that the pre-production tasks conclude by May 27, 2005, so you will enter a deadline date for this milestone.
If the Tasks pane is not already displayed, on the Project Guide toolbar, click Tasks.
The Tasks pane appears.
In the Tasks pane, click the Set deadlines and constrain tasks link.
The Deadlines and Constraints pane appears.
In the Date box under Set a deadline, type or select 5/27/05, and then press [Tab].
Project inserts a deadline indicator in the chart portion of the Gantt Chart view. Your screen should look like the following illustration:
Now you can see at a glance how close the pre-production phase is to meeting or missing its deadline. If the scheduled completion of the pre-production phase moves past 5/27/05, Project will display a missed deadline indicator in the Indicators column.
Next you will enter a deadline date for a summary task.
Select the name of task 12, Production.
This task is the Production Summary task. You want to conclude filming by mid-August 2005.
In the Date box under Set a deadline, type or select 8/19/05, and then press [Tab].
Project inserts a deadline date marker for the summary task. If you wish to see it, scroll the chart portion of the Gantt Chart view to the right.
At the bottom of the Deadlines and Constraints pane, click the Done link.
Click the Show/Hide Project Guide button on the Project Guide toolbar.
The Project Guide closes.
You can also enter a deadline date for the selected task on the Advanced tab in the Task Information dialog box. On the Project menu, click Task Information.
Except for one situation, entering a deadline date has no effect on the scheduling of a summary or subtask. However, a deadline date will cause Project to alert you if the scheduled completion of a task exceeds its deadline date.
The one situation in which the deadline date can affect the scheduling of a task involves slack. When a task is given a deadline date, its slack does not extend beyond the deadline date.
To remove a deadline from a task, clear the Date field in the Deadlines and Constraints pane of the Project Guide, or clear the Deadline field on the Advanced tab of the Task Information dialog box (available by clicking Task Information on the Project menu).