Approaching the Planning Process

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After securing approval for a concise but comprehensive goal statement that defines the scope of a project, your next major planning function is to draw up a list of activities, or tasks , that must be completed to achieve the project goal.


Microsoft Office Project is a scheduling tool, which addresses only one aspect of the project planning. That planning phase is typically preceded by a project initiation where the scope of the project and its product is defined and refined. Some early stages of the planning process also come before the scheduling itself, such as establishing a project charter, which empowers the project manager to spend some time and budget on achieving the defined scope. As a project manager, you should make sure to have the proper information before creating your schedule, or even your work breakdown structure (WBS).

There are two basic approaches to creating a task list : the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach. In the top-down approach, you start by listing the major phases of the project. Then you indent under each major phase the detail tasks that make it possible to complete the phase. The phase then becomes what is called a summary task, and the indented detail tasks are called subtasks . This method is probably the most common approach to project planning, and it provides an outlined organizational structure that helps people comprehend the scope of the project.

In the bottom-up approach, you begin by listing all the task details. Although it is not required, many people prefer to have the list in a somewhat chronological order. If your project is not too complex, the list might be adequate for understanding the scope of the project. However, for more complex projects, you might need to organize the task list into an outline, so that the end result is similar to the result produced by the top-down approach.

Outlining produces an organizational form that is functionally identical to the organizational chart format that is traditionally used by project managers and that is called the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). As shown in Figure 5.1, the WBS identifies major components of a project and shows multiple levels of detail under each major component. WBS codes are traditionally used to number each task in such a way that the code identifies where the task fits into the project's hierarchical structure. In Microsoft Project these codes are by default identical to the outline numbers that are automatically provided for each task. The outline numbers (the default WBS codes) are shown before each task name in Figure 5.2.

Figure 5.1. WBS diagrams organize project tasks into phases or functional groups that help visualize the scope of the project.


Figure 5.2. Project's outline numbers can be used as WBS codes; you can also edit the WBS codes to customize them.



The WBS can appear in several formats, the most common of which are the chart format and the outline format. It doesn't matter which format is used; it is simply important to capture the entire scope of work for the project within the WBS. The chart format tends to be favored over the outline format simply because it is easy to add to the list under each element. However, Project doesn't support this type of charting function. Instead, you must do it manually or with some other software package. Using the more prevalent outline format requires pushing tasks down in order to insert additional tasks, regardless of whether the top-down or bottom-up approach is used.

An outline is not necessary for a complete project plan. However, outlining has many advantages and can significantly enhance a plan's flexibility and usefulness as a planning and reporting tool:

  • Outlining encourages an orderly planning process, with less likelihood of leaving out crucial steps.

  • You can display outlined projects with different levels of detail, both on the screen and in printed reports . You can collapse the outline to major phases only or to any level of detail, depending on the intended audience.

  • Summary tasks in outlined projects automatically provide summary calculations for the subtasks under them. The duration, cost, and work for all the tasks indented beneath them are summed (that is, rolled up ) into the summary task.

A task list contains three main types of tasks:

  • Normal tasks ” These are tasks that represent the activities that produce the actual work on the project.

  • Milestones ” These are tasks that represent a point in time in the project where a major goal is achieved, a deliverable is completed, or a significant decision point is reached.

  • Summary tasks ” These tasks group together and summarize other tasks that are related in some way. The tasks indented under a summary task are called subtasks .

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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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