A Checklist for Using Microsoft Project

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Microsoft Project is so rich with options that you can easily lose sight of the forest as you explore all the interesting new trees. The following sections give you an overview of planning a project with Microsoft Project.


Before you start entering tasks in Project, it's a good idea to define some basic parameters that govern how Microsoft Project treats your data. (These topics are covered in detail in Chapter 3, "Setting Up a Project Document.") To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Customize Microsoft Project's calendar of working time to define when Project can schedule work on the project. This includes defining your organization's working days, nonworking days, and regular working hours. While you're at it, be sure that you use the terms day and week to mean the same number of hours that Microsoft Project does.


    When you enter a task that you estimate will take a day or a week, Project translates those terms into hours (actually minutes, but hours will do for this explanation). Project's default "day" is 8 hours, and its "week" is 40 hours. If your day and week differ from Project's, you must define those terms for Project, or it will interpret your estimate incorrectly.

  2. Enter some basic descriptions for the project: a project title, the name of the organization, the project manager, and the expected start or finish date. These descriptions will appear on reports .

  3. Prepare a list of the resources you will use in the project. This includes defining resource costs and recognizing working days and hours when a resource is not available. You can add names to the list later, but most users like to have the list ready when they start entering the tasks in the planning phase.


Planning is the phase in which you outline the project plan, refine it, and distribute it to all who are involved in the project. (These topics are explored in detail in Chapters 5 through 13.) To plan the schedule, you need to follow these steps:

  1. List the major phases of the project in outline form and then fill in the detailed tasks and milestones in the project. Estimate how long each task will take or how much work is involved. This is the topic of Chapter 5, "Creating a Task List."

  2. If the start or finish date of a task is constrained to a fixed date, enter the date at this point. Also define the required sequencing of tasksthat is, specify where tasks must be scheduled in a certain order. These topics are covered in Chapter 6, "Entering Scheduling Requirements." You can view the schedule in several different ways. See Chapter 7, "Viewing Your Schedule," for a quick overview of the different views and how to use them.

  3. Define the resources that you will use. Defining resources is covered in Chapter 8, "Defining Resources and Costs," Chapter 9, "Understanding Resource Scheduling," and Chapter 10, "Assigning Resources and Costs to Tasks."

  4. Review the schedule that Microsoft Project has calculated so far, and correct all problems by taking the actions discussed in the following list:

    • Identify and resolve scheduling problems where deadlines can't be met or where resources are assigned to do more work than they have the time to do. These problems are discussed in Chapter 11, "Resolving Resource Assignment Problems."

    • Identify costs that are over budget and find ways to lower the costs, as described in Chapter 12, "Reviewing the Project Plan."

    • If the time constraint for the overall project is not met by the schedule, you must find ways to revise the schedule to meet the requirements of the project goal. Auditing and refining the schedule are covered in Chapter 12.

  5. Distribute the project schedule for review by the managers who must approve the plan and by project supervisors and workers who must agree to do the work. Printing the project schedule and assignments is covered in Chapter 13, "Printing Views and Reports."

    If you install Microsoft Project 2003 Server along with Microsoft Project Standard or Professional, the project stakeholders can view the project details by logging on to Project Server with an Internet browser. See Chapter 24, "Introduction to Project Server," for details about using Project Server for collaboration.

    If you want to publish the schedule on an Internet or intranet Web site, see the chapter "Publishing Projects on the Web" that is available on the CD accompanying this book.

  6. Revise the plan, if necessary, to accommodate suggestions or changes that are submitted in the review (see Chapter 12).

  7. Publish the final schedule for final approval by all parties, and secure from each party a firm commitment to the plan.

Managing the Project

In the management phase, you monitor progress on the project, record actual work done on the project, and calculate a new schedule when actual dates fail to match the planned dates. These topics are covered in Chapter 14, "Tracking Work on a Project," and Chapter 15, "Analyzing Progress and Revising the Schedule." In this phase you do the following:

  1. Make a baseline (original) copy of the final schedule plan to use later for comparing actual start and finish dates with the planned dates.

  2. Track actual start dates, finish dates, percentage of work completed, and costs incurred, and enter these details into Project. Project incorporates these changes in the schedule and calculates a revised schedule with revised cost figures.

  3. Review the recalculated schedule for problems and, if possible, take corrective measures. Notify all participants about changes in the schedule that concern them.

  4. After the project is completed, prepare final reports as documentation to show the actual work and costs and to compare those with the baseline copy of the plan you saved earlier.


Tracking progress moves the project manager into the Controlling phase of the iterative process model of project management, whose components are Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing. It ensures that the project objectives are being met, via monitoring and measuring progress by comparing actual progress against the baseline and taking corrective action, if necessary.

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Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Project 2003
Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Project 2003
ISBN: 0789730723
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 283
Authors: Tim Pyron

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