Far too many project managers use only half of the power of Microsoft Project. They use Microsoft Project to plan the schedule, estimate the budget, and generate reports that will help the project sponsor make a decision about whether to go ahead with the project. After the final plan is approved and instructions are given to the project team, these project managers put the Project file away and begin managing the project without taking advantage of Microsoft Project's powerful support for the execution phase of the project.
Microsoft Project offers many features that help manage a project after the initial planning is finished. The following are some of these features:
Microsoft Project can save a "snapshot" copy of the final plan for future reference. This copy is called the baseline , and it can be useful if you have to revise the plan during the execution phase because it lets you compare the original plan with the revised plan. The baseline is especially important if you are going to use Microsoft Project to keep track of what actually happens during the execution phase. As you will learn in this chapter, when you track performance, you actually revise the plan, replacing the estimated dates, work, and cost with actual dates, work, and cost. If you have a baseline, you can compare the actual performance with the original plan.
Microsoft Project provides a number of tools that help you record what actually happens during the execution phase of a project. This is called tracking , and it provides a valuable record of actual performance.
When Microsoft Project incorporates actual performance into a schedule, replacing planned dates and cost with actual dates and cost, it automatically recalculates the schedule for the remaining tasks. If actual finish dates are earlier or later than originally planned, Microsoft Project reschedules the remaining successor tasks accordingly . This might require some adjustments to ensure that key resources are available, and it might even lead to changes in the scope of the project.
Microsoft Project provides powerful analysis tools that help you predict the impact that actual performance will have on the project's overall budget and completion date, at any point in the project.
When the project is complete, Microsoft Project helps you prepare reports to document what actually happened and to compare performance with the original plan. These reports not only justify your claims to success (or failure) in managing the project, but they also provide useful information for future project plans.
This chapter describes how to save and use baselines and how to record actual performance by using Microsoft Project. Chapter 15, "Analyzing Progress and Revising the Schedule," shows you how to assess actual performance and adapt a plan in response to changes in the schedule.