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Does Microsoft Project overwhelm you? In 7 short lessons and less than a day, you will confidently start using it to your advantage

One of the most critical aspects of successfully executing a project is planning it, and planning must involve both tasks and resources. In addition, it is not enough to simply create a plan and start executing tasks without properly tracking the progress. Proper project reporting to all stakeholders involved is an equally important part of project delivery. Read more

Lesson 1 - Setup Calendar(s)

The first step is to setup the calendars as all calculations regarding effort, duration, etc. are based on this. If you follow the standard 8-5, 40 hours a week routine, you can probably skip this, but if your work times are different, you must set the calendars up before you do anything else.

Otherwise, all calculations get messed up and it is nearly impossible to fix it later.

The only option then is to undo all the planning done and start again from this step. Read more

Lesson 2 - Plan Tasks

Plan the tasks in as great a detail as possible and also organize them (e.g., by task category (UI Design, Programming, etc.), by phase, etc.). Planning the smallest details and organizing them in a structure that mimics the process flow helps track the project and identify risks early on. Read more

Lesson 3 - Allocate Resources and Set Timelines

Once the tasks have been thoroughly planned, the next step is to assign resources to each task. Do keep in mind that the client is also a resource and tasks that need the client’s involvement must also be listed in the plan and assigned to her.

Once the resources are allocated, durations and timelines have to be set for each task. Read more

Lesson 4 - Level Resources

After assigning resources to tasks and setting timelines, you must verify if one or more resources have been over-allocated in one or more tasks. In spite of your best planning efforts, this is quite likely to happen.

MS Project has an option to automatically level resources under the “Tools” menu. However, in order to be effective, this requires a lot more information to be input. Within the scope of this tutorial, we will only cover leveling resources manually. Read more

Lesson 5 - Assign Milestones and Finalize Plan

It is important to mark certain tasks as milestones to be able to track progress with regards to the deliverables of the project and/or important stages completed.

Technically, a milestone is a separate task with a duration of 0 days. This is a good way of doing it as the Gantt chart shows the milestone as a single spot, and having a task or a phase covering many days as milestone would get displayed by a spot instead of a bar covering those days. But this is a technicality. Read more

Lesson 6 - Track Project Progress

A detailed, nicely crafted project plan is worth nothing if it is not tracked and updated regularly. On the other hand, if tracked religiously, it throws up risks with respect to schedule, costs, etc. well in time to be able to take corrective measures. At the completion of a project, when you look back to see the lessons learned, a properly tracked plan will help gain a lot of insight based on the differences between the plan and the actual time and cost spent. Read more

Lesson 7 - Report Project Progress

You have planned the project meticulously. You also have been tracking it religiously and updating it regularly. But the other stakeholders also need to know it. Project reports are not simply some data put in some document and sent across to the various stakeholders. You must understand the needs and expectations of each stakeholder and create reports that they can easily and quickly understand, and get a feel for the project’s progress and health. Read more

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