Author: Sam Huffman

Sam Huffman first gained insight into Microsoft Project while working as a member of the MS Project development and support team. He has maintained his depth of knowledge of MS Project with each release and is a leading authority in the use and features of MS Project, Project Server and Project Online. Since the early 1990's Sam has honed his instruction skills by delivering training programs to thousands every year. Sam is a frequent content contributor to the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG) and speaks to groups often about MS Project, Enterprise Project Management and the discipline of Project Management. He was awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional from 2010-2017. Check out his blog on MS Project. The softcover version of my newest book Microsoft® Project Do’s and Don’ts is now available for purchase! It is portable, brief and to the point so you can find help when you need it. Through tips, best practices and examples it will help you jumpstart your project!

Microsoft Project Do’s, Don’ts and Cool Customizations

  Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs): This Webinar is eligible for 1.25 PMI® PDUs in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle.   Related links: MS Project Do’s and Don’ts book MS Project Do’s and Don’ts Boot Camp Check out Sam’s blog Sam Huffman’s Microsoft Project Do’s and Dont’s Bootcamp is the ultimate guide to creating, planning and reporting in Microsoft Project. Whether you’re a long-time project manager or somebody new to the job of project management, you’ll learn how to avoid the common mistakes and prepare your projects right without wasting time or effort. Our latest edition includes Agile on Microsoft Project. Event Description: This session will walk the attendee through 11 practices that are sure to be problematic. Topics will include but are not limited to: 1. Including summary tasks in project sequencing; 2. Assigning resources to summary tasks; 3. Constraining activities rather than sequencing dynamically; 4. Scheduling project tasks as late as possible; 5. Leveling resources without analysis; 6. Inadequate baselining techniques; 7. Using elapsed durations for team schedules; 8. Incorrect calendar association resulting in incorrect schedules; 9. Organizing project tasks incorrectly forcing incorrect reports. 10. Dismissing Agile Tools 11. Not using customization for specific needs   Objectives: After attending this session, the attendee should be able to: 1. Identify inappropriate practices in their MS Project schedules. 2. Resolve issues created by these practices. 3. Leverage their learning in future project plans by avoiding the recurrence of inappropriate practices.   Presenter Info: Sam Huffman first gained insight into Microsoft Project while working as a member of the MS Project development and support team. He has maintained his depth of knowledge of MS Project with each release and is a leading authority in the use and features of MS Project, Project Server and Project Online. Since the early 1990’s Sam has honed his instruction skills by delivering training programs to thousands every year. Sam is a frequent content contributor to the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG) and speaks to groups often about MS Project, Enterprise Project Management and the discipline of Project Management. He was awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional from 2010-2017. Check out his blog on MS Project. The softcover version of my newest book Microsoft® Project Do’s and Don’ts is now available for purchase! It is portable, brief and to the point so you can find help when you need it. Through tips, best practices and examples it will help you jumpstart your project!   Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]  

Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts: Identifying Early and Future Task Tracking

As project managers, I suspect we’ve all considered starting or completing work in the future. When you think about it, although jumping ahead to tracking future work could seem handy, this ability has the potential to cause some problems, too. Would your cost and work reports be skewed? Would resource availability be a problem? Are task dependencies still valid? Is the original schedule still viable? The list of issues goes on and on. Given the potential problems, what would be a good reason to track progress now for work that is to be started or completed in the future? I can think of two reasons immediately, but there are probably more: “What If” Analysis: imposing progress on future work gives you a “free” look at expected work and cost expenditures at specific date and data points. You could then evaluate if the schedule is realistic or if re-planning is required. You probably don’t want to set a baseline until you are more comfortable with the schedule. In a scenario where progress was entered by mistake: many users look at status by using the %Complete buttons. Often these very alluring buttons are used without considering planned start and finish dates. Even if a task started early, the actual start date would be different than the planned start date. In the absence of other tracking data, setting a %Complete on a future task forces Project to set the Actual Start date as the original Start date. Then, the selected or entered %Complete is applied to the task. Project does this without alarms or messages. All of this happens easily and is surprisingly hard to detect. If this sounds familiar to you, I have a troubleshooting tip to share! It’s a new column containing a formula and graphic indicator that looks at the current date for every task. If a task has an Actual Start Date in the future, a graphical indicator will catch your eye and get your attention. There are many aids to help with tracking in Microsoft Project. Some are built-in and some are add-ins, but all are pretty useful and should be considered depending on your needs. (Please check out MPUG’s list of vendors to see if any might work for you.) What follows is a custom solution that I use in instruction to emphasize data entry errors that may then create scheduling and tracking errors. This can be a problem in both Agile or original waterfall designs. Both have dates associated with tasks, and are at risk to entry errors. If you are part of a larger organization or are using Enterprise tools, check with your administrator to make sure they are not proprietary before trying out the techniques discussed in this document. The simplified example project is shown below in the Tracking Gantt view and Tracking Table. It is Automatically scheduled in order to see entry results quickly. No resources are utilized as this example will focus on schedule only. Notice there are three tasks, and they have a finish to start dependency. A baseline has been set, but no progress entered because the current date is before the project is planned to start. The planned and baselined start date of Task 1 is May 4, 2020. So far there are no issues with the model. Figure A- Example Project Tracking Gantt View Note that I set the current date to May 5, 2020 and entered status on Task 1 and 2. Task 2 is a future task. If the task started early this is not the best technique to enter the early progress. This will be discussed later in this article. Figure B- Example Project Tracking Gantt View after status. Note the absence of visual clues, warnings or error messages. Only the current date gridline gives a hint of the issue. Imagine how difficult identifying this would be if there were hundreds of tasks with only a few tasks being tracked in the future! You need an indicator to help you do any troubleshooting on this error. The final result should look something like is shown in Figure C. Figure C- Example Project Tracking Gantt View with indicators noting tracking state. Creating this very visible indicator requires only a formula in a text field, a graphical indicator representing the formula results, and a little testing. For the purpose of this example, I chose the Text 1 field and did not rename it, so you can identify that it is indeed a text field. Then, I entered a formula that looks at the current date and evaluates whether the task is being tracked in the future or not. It serves no other function (no looking for incomplete or late tasks and no cost or schedule comparisons to baseline). Its only purpose is to give you a starting point in customizing a specific tool for analysis and trouble shooting. Figure D- Formula used for analyzing if a task is tracked in the future. Your formula may need to be modified for your version of Project. Figure E- Assignment of graphical indicators to formula results. Note that summary tasks are not included. The Value(s) column explains the tracking state and the image associated with the result. Figure F- The Problem with the future tracking is visible as indicated by the new custom field and indicators. So, what if the task did start early and just needs to be edited? In Figure G, I changed the actual start of Task 2 to May 7, 2020. Project redrew the Gantt bar to illustrate that change. Note that the new finish date has modified the successor’s start date to a date earlier than the baseline start. The result is a small amount of schedule savings. Figure G- The correction of actual start has an effect on schedule! Obviously, this is a simple example. Real tasks involve resources, work, cost, and other complications that you will have to keep in mind, but now that you have a tool to help you troubleshoot both early and future task tracking. Once the column, formula, and indicators are in place, you can rename the field and develop a group for it. In the next two screen shots, I renamed the field to “Task Tracking State” and created a group with the same name. Figure H- Text 1 field renamed “Task Tracking State” Figure I- Group “Task Tracking State” created and applied. Would you like to see this concept in action? Or want more details on custom fields and groups? Watch my on-demand webinar entitled “Microsoft Project Do’s, Don’ts, and Cool Customizations.” It should be very fun and educational. Until then…let me know what you think in the comments below!  

Back to Basics: What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project is a software application sold by Microsoft that provides project management tools to manage projects. The program, which has many different versions, allows users to: Understand and control project schedules and finances. Communicate and present project information. Organize, estimate, and schedule work, resources, and costs to ensure projects are completed according to plan. Track and report project progress against original work, cost, and schedule assumptions. Overview of Microsoft Project Microsoft Project allows the project manager to enter and organize the tasks of a project (also known as the “work breakdown structure” or WBS) and assign workers (known as “resources“) to those tasks, as well as track cost information. It provides alternate methods of organization to accommodate other methods of managing projects (i.e. Agile methodology). Microsoft Project also provides functionality that allows the user to create reports which communicate the status and progress of a project in a format useful to stakeholders, yet flexible enough to change quickly from one format to another, depending on the needs of the stakeholder. Versions of Microsoft Project Microsoft Project has several different editions or versions, based on the needs of the users and organization. Below is a brief overview of the latest versions. Microsoft Project 2019 Project Standard 2019: Helps the single user stay organized and enables quick planning, tracking, and reporting. Designed to integrate with Microsoft Office 2019 and its advanced charting and graphing. Project Professional 2019: Includes all of the features of Project Standard 2019 plus collaboration tools, timesheet submission, and task synchronization to SharePoint and Enterprise connectivity. Project Plan 1: Designed for the “occasional” project manager that needs to create a light weight schedule and share that with the team. All based on a easy to follow web interface. Project Plan 1 gives the user access to Project Home and Project for the Web. Project Online Essentials: Designed for Project Online team members, Essentials allows for task updates, issue and risk updates, timesheet submission, and online collaboration with Microsoft Teams. This license does not provide you with access to Project for the Web. Project Plan 3: Designed for the project manager and is subscription based. Project Online Professional provides remote, web, and local connectivity to Microsoft’s enterprise project management solutions. Project Plan 5: Designed for resource managers and portfolio managers, Premium provides enterprise level project, program, and portfolio functionality. Resource demands across all projects and portfolio reporting are key components of grasping all of the projects in the enterprise. Project Server : Project Server is Project Online with fewer features. It is not streamed from the Cloud. As in Project Server 2016, the 2019 version is a SharePoint feature and service. Microsoft Project 2016 Project Standard 2016: Allows a single-user to easily create modern reports to measure progress and communicate project details effectively with your team and stakeholders. Project Professional 2016: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2016 as well as collaboration capabilities to quickly start and deliver projects while leveraging the power of Office 365 or SharePoint to work from virtually anywhere. This version integrates Skype for Business to call or instant message team members from Project Professional. Project Online Professional: Delivers the latest version of Project Professional as a subscription through Office 365. The software is automatically kept up to date (with options for customizable policies). Users on the go can work from the computer of their choice by streaming the complete desktop client with Project on Demand. Project Online Essentials: For use with projects that are managed with Project Online or Project Server. Allows team members to access timesheets, manage tasks, add issues and risks, and collaborate from anywhere. Project Online Premium: Provides a flexible online solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables organizations to get started, prioritize project portfolio investments, and deliver the intended business value—from virtually anywhere on nearly any device. Project Server 2016: A flexible, on-premises solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Team members, project participants, and business decision makers can get started, prioritize project portfolio investments and deliver the intended business value from virtually anywhere. This version requires SharePoint 2016, which is licensed separately. Microsoft Project 2013 Project Standard 2013: Allows a single-user to easily create modern reports to measure progress and communicate project details effectively with your team and stakeholders. Project Professional 2013: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2013 as well as collaboration capabilities to quickly start and deliver projects while leveraging the power of working from virtually anywhere with Office 365 or SharePoint. This version integrates Lync 2013 to call or instant message team members from Project Professional. Project Pro for Office 365: Delivers the latest version of Project Professional as a subscription through Office 365. The software is automatically kept up to date (with options for customizable policies), and users on the go can work from the computer of their choice by streaming the complete desktop client with Project on Demand. Project Online: Provides a flexible online solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables organizations to get started, prioritize project portfolio investments, and deliver the intended business value—from virtually anywhere on nearly any device. Project Server 2013: A flexible, on-premises solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Team members, project participants, and business decision makers can get started, prioritize project portfolio investments, and deliver the intended business value from anywhere. This version requires SharePoint 2013, which is sold separately. Microsoft Project 2010 Microsoft Project Standard 2010: A single-user edition of the software. This version is targeted toward the desktop user. Microsoft Project Professional 2010: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2010 as well as collaborative features that allow users to work together when the organization is also using Microsoft Project Server 2010. Microsoft Project Server 2010: Maintains project plan information and data on a server. Project Server allows multiple users to access that data through their client applications, Microsoft Project Professional and Microsoft Project Web Access. Microsoft Project 2007 Microsoft Project 2003 Microsoft Project Features Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2019 and Project for the Web Drop-down menu for task linking: selecting this menu will show the task hierarchy allowing predecessor or successor selection at the click of the mouse. Task Summary Name Field: This new feature is a read only field that identifies each tasks Summary (or Parent) task in the project’s task hierarchy. It’s useful when sorting and filtering clouds the default project structure. Timeline bar labels and progress: The Timeline view has long aided the “project at a glance” capabilities of Microsoft Project, but now also provides the ability to organize the bars into separate segments and provide visual clues as to the progress made. Improved Accessibility: Improvements to contrast and keyboard support, Narrator, and customization capabilities has ensured Project and its management features are available to everyone. Read more Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2016 Multiple Timeline View: See more than one visually enhanced timeline view to help visualize different phases of your project plan. You can set both start and end dates for each timeline from this view. Resource Engagements: Request a resource in project and your resource manager can accept or deny your request. If accepted, your resource will lock to ensure availability. Resource Views: A designated space for resource managers to look at and accept or deny all resource requests. Resource Capacity Heat Maps: New reporting feature that allows you to quickly see how your resources are being used. Tell Me: Instead of searching in Project or in the online help resources, Tell Me will look for whatever solution you need. Add-in’s: Microsoft Project Add-in’s are now easier than ever to integrate with your Project. Microsoft partner applications can be downloaded in the same efficient manner as templates from the Office store. New Themes: Change your project theme to whichever you prefer: colorful, dark gray, or white. In-App Feedback: You can now give your comments, opinions, and suggestions directly to Microsoft from the File tab by clicking on the Feedback section. Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2013 Improved Reporting Customizable Reports: Users can create professional reports without having to export the data to another program. This includes adding pictures, charts, animation, links, and more. Pre-Installed Reports: Takes full advantage of the new graphics and formatting capabilities. Add or remove elements from these pre-created reports, including changing the colors. Burndown Reports: Shows planned work, completed work, and remaining work as lines on a graph. These give an at-a-glance status, letting you know if your project is behind or ahead of schedule. Lync Integration: Start an IM session, a video chat, an email, or a phone call with team members by hovering over a name. Trace Task Paths: Helps sort out a complex Gantt Chart by allowing users to highlight the link chain — or task path — for any task. When you click a task, all of its predecessor tasks show up in one color and all of its successor tasks show up in another color. Increased Date Range: Set project dates up to 12/31/2149. This is a century longer than Project 2010’s limits. Share Meetings: Allows users to share exported Project reports, timelines, or data in the form of PowerPoint slides, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and OneNote notes during online meetings from any supported device, even if Office isn’t installed. Cloud Storage: Allows users to access and share Project schedules, Excel spreadsheets, and other Office files. Online Access: With Project Online, users can access a full version of Project from almost anywhere, even on PCs that don’t have Project 2013 installed. Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2010 SharePoint synchronization: This feature let users publish a project’s schedule as a SharePoint 2010 task list and receive tasks updates from team members. It also allows for keeping the two matching even as one or the other changes. Manual scheduling: Called “user-controlled scheduling” by Microsoft, this feature lets users set task durations and start and finish dates by simply a point and click method. Placeholder text: Users can create a project plan even without all the details. Project 2010 lets you enter text notes in the Date or Duration fields and update them later when you have more information. Active and inactive tasks: Allows users to perform “what-if” analysis by making tasks active or inactive and viewing the impact to the schedule, resources, and budget. Timeline view: This view shows the whole schedule in a model that’s easy for non-project managers to understand and follow. Team Planner: This feature allows users to drag and drop resources (people and materials) and try out various project scenarios. Task Inspector: If a task has a scheduling conflict or a resource is over-allocated, this feature lets you fix the problem. Regardless of the version, Microsoft Project provides the user with the tools needed to design, collaborate, and report on projects from small and simple to large and complex. It is its integration with Microsoft Office that has made it an industry standard.

Back to Basics: What is Project Management?

Traditional Project Management is the science (and art) of organizing and managing the components of a project. The project can be the development of a new product, the launch of a new service, a marketing campaign, or a wedding. A project isn’t something that’s part of normal business operations. In some organizations, a project is a unique endeavor. In others, it may be repeated. It’s temporary, and it’s specific. As one expert notes, “It has a beginning and an end.” A project consumes resources (people, cash, materials, and/or time), and has its funding limits. Project Management Basics No matter what the type of project, project management typically follows the same pattern: Definition Planning Execution Control Closure Defining the Project In this stage the project manager defines what the project is and what the users hope to achieve by undertaking the project. This phase also includes a list of project deliverables, the outcome of a specific set of activities. The project manager works with the business sponsor who wants to have the project implemented, as well as with other stakeholders or those who have a vested interest in the outcome of the project. Project completion criteria may be identified in this phase or in the planning phase. Defining a project may be iterative in nature, requiring communication, refinement, and acceptance of the evolving requirements. Planning the Project It’s important to identify, organize, and prioritize the tasks required to achieve the required deliverables. In this stage, the project manager lists all activities or tasks, organizes them, identifies how the tasks are related, estimates how long each task will take, and looks at how each of the tasks is tied to a specific deadline or milestone New deliverables may be identified during the planning phase. The added deliverables may modify project completion criteria due to additional work and time required to complete the work. The PM may then have to refresh the project’s definition to increases in the scope. In this sense, Definition and Planning may be iterative in nature. In the planning phase, the project manager estimates how many people (often referred to as “resources”) and how much expense (“cost”) is involved to complete the project, as well as any other requirements that are necessary. The project manager will also need to manage assumptions and risks related to the project. The project manager will want to identify project constraints. Constraints typically relate to schedule, resources, budget, and scope. A change in one constraint will typically affect other constraints. For example, a budget constraint may affect the number of people who can work on the project, thereby imposing a resource constraint. Likewise, if additional features are added as part of project scope, scheduling, resources, and budget are impacted. Executing the Project This phase is that of building the project team. The project manager should determine how many resources and how much budget he or she has to work with for the duration of the project. The project manager then assigns those resources and allocates budget to various tasks in the project. In many organizations, resource managers may assist in team assignments and scheduling. This is when the work of the project begins. Controlling the Project The project manager is in charge of updating the project plans to reflect actual time elapsed and actual amount of work required for each task. By keeping up with the details of the project’s progress, the project manager is able to understand how well the project is progressing overall and convey the progress as a report to management and other stakeholders. A product such as Microsoft Project facilitates the administrative aspects of project management. Closure of the Project In this stage, the project manager and business owner pull together the project team and those who have an interest in the outcome of the project (stakeholders) to analyze the final outcome of the project. Errors are identified and corrective action estimated, scheduled, and completed. After the project has been signed off on by the business owner or their delegate, the project is officially complete. The project manager consolidates all project documentation for use if and when another similar project is implemented in the future. Time, Money, and Scope Frequently, people refer to project management as having three components: time, money, and scope. Reducing or increasing any one of the three impacts the other two aspects. If a company reduces the amount of time it can spend on a project, that will affect the scope (what can be included in the project), as well as the cost (additional people or resources may be required to meet the abbreviated schedule). Project Portfolio Management Recent trends in project management include project portfolio management (PPM). PPM is essentially a move by organizations to get control over numerous projects by evaluating how well each project aligns with strategic goals and quantifying its value. An organization will typically be working on multiple projects, each resulting in potentially differing amounts of return or value. The company or agency may decide to eliminate those projects with a lower return in order to dedicate greater resources to the remaining projects or in order to preserve the projects with the highest return or value. Microsoft Project Online and Project Server are two enterprise PPM tools used to identify, prioritize, and select projects to be included in a portfolio.

Do’s and Don’ts: Use a Kanban Board! (Part 2)

From the author of Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts. Check out the NEW Do’s and Don’ts Bootcamp, which delivers Microsoft Project Management proficiency (and credibility) in just three hours of training! In Part 1 of this article, we saw that the “Kanban Board” clearly shows what is completed, what is in progress, and what is not started. We also discussed that if your organization uses Agile techniques in managing projects, you will recognize the “Kanban Board” as a tool to help you and your management team manage workflow in projects. Here are the steps to create a “Kanban Board:” Select the “Project” tab and then click on “Custom Fields.” Select an open text field, then click on the “Rename…” button to give the text field a unique name. I chose “Kanban Board” for consistency. Click on the “Formula…” button to enter the formula that will control the Kanban Board. Enter the formula as shown in the figure below. You may have to adjust the formula for your specific system. For example, some systems require a single quote rather than the double quote. Once the formula is entered, select “OK.” You now have the custom field needed for the “Kanban Board.” Insert your new “Kanban Board” field into the table of your choice. Once inserted, the formula should populate the field indicating their completion state. 6. Prepare a Group to organize the project by completion state. Select the “View” tab then from the “Group by:” dropdown list choose “New Group By…” and enter the information below into the Group Definition dialog. 7. Click on the “Save” button to save your new custom group. 8. Create a new View to use the new field and group. Select the “View” tab and from the list of “Task Views” click on “More Views…” 9. Enter the information below into the new View Definition dialog. 10. Finally, test your new view by selecting the “Task” tab, then selecting your “Kanban Board” from the list of custom task views. It should look similar to the figure below. If you wish to create a report based on the view, simply create a new table report using the “New Report” wizard in the “Report” tab and apply the “Kanban Board” group in the report’s Field List. Show all tasks in the outline level and you have the complete tool in Project. Congratulations! In ten steps you have created a custom field containing a formula, a custom Group and a custom View to show off your new “Kanban Board.” This article was originally published at https://winprojblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/dos-and-donts-use-kanban-board.html. Used with permission. Get the full Do’s and Don’ts Bootcamp now!

Do’s and Don’ts: Use a Kanban Board! (Part 1)

From the author of Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts. Check out the NEW Do’s and Don’ts Bootcamp, which delivers Microsoft Project Management proficiency (and credibility) in just three hours of training! Sometimes managers and executives want to know only the basic status of a task or project. Questions like “Has it started?” or “Is it done?” are not calling for a detailed analysis of whether performance is going as planned. They are quick questions demanding a quick answer. I am going to show you how to create a “Kanban Board” that gives at-a-glance answers to those basic questions. It looks like this in Project: The “Kanban Board” clearly shows what is completed, what is in progress, and what is not started. If your organization uses Agile techniques in managing projects, you will recognize the “Kanban Board” as a tool to help you and your management team manage workflow in projects. The “Kanban” technique was originally imagined by Toyota to capture workflow. It can have more than the three states used in this example depending on need and preference. Conduct a web search on “Kanban” to get more details on this excellent technique. In its simplest form, a “Kanban Board” look like this: Note that the “Simple Kanban Board” and the “Kanban Board” shown in Project contain similar information. The difference between the two is that one is a formula-driven table in Microsoft Project while the other is yellow sticky notes. Both work, but by incorporating the Project table a complete schedule can be managed at any level during the project’s life cycle. The “Kanban Board” avoids graphic details such as those found in the “Tracking Gantt”: Note that the project file used for this blog entry is actually a small portfolio of projects organized by departments. For the sake of clarity dedicated resources from each department are assigned to their department’s projects. The Tracking Gantt gives detailed information regarding slipping tasks, performance to plan, variance and even illustrates the critical path. These are obviously important details, but are not the focus of the “Kanban Board.” In order to create a “Kanban Board” in Microsoft Project a small amount of customization has to be done. A custom field, a custom view and a custom group all interrelate and give you this simple and effective tool. The custom field should be an unused text field. This is critical! You will overwrite existing data if you choose a text field already in use. In part 2 of this article, I show you how. Check out the full Do’s and Don’ts Boot Camp!

The Right Dose of Expert Advice Makes Managing with Microsoft Project Easy

An Interview with Sam Huffman, author of Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Amazon   What’s the biggest benefit a Microsoft Project user gets from using the Do’s and Don’ts guide? Do’s and Don’ts walks the user through the phases of a project sequentially. It identifies what should be focused on, why, how, and when. This approach empowers readers, rather than overwhelming or confusing them.   What levels of Microsoft Project expertise would benefit from having the Do’s and Don’ts reference on their desk? Seasoned, skilled users of Project have memorized how to use the software in their work environment. New users have not. That fact meant that I could not write for only one skill level. When I wrote Do’s and Don’ts, I wrote for all levels of proficiency. Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts captures the features that are needed and common regardless of user proficiency. New users will find features, techniques, and practices that will serve them well as their skill increases. Seasoned users will find reminders that help them maintain their skills.   How did you decide what to “not to” include in this book? If a feature was attractive to a sub-set of the Project user community, I excluded it. For example, earned value techniques and master projects were left out because they are common topics only to more experienced users. There was a size consideration. One of the design requirements was high portability. Over time, I think that some of the excluded topics will make it into the book. Agile, Scrum, and Kanban are examples of topics that are growing rapidly in practice and need consideration when the guide is updated.   Can a project manager leverage this very concise book and still create professional looking reports? Yes, project managers should be able to follow the topics sequentially, and as a result, create a well-formed project schedule. They should be able to resource load, track progress, and report on progress according to schedule, work, and cost.   If you had to only pick one thing, what specifically about Do’s and Don’ts makes it work? It’s the fundamentals and the step by step approach. The order of information gives the reader a road map to create a well-formed project schedule.   What can a user learn in Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts about setting up an Agile project in Microsoft Project or Microsoft 365? Project was created long before Agile techniques. Project users have some Agile tools available depending on the version used. Project Pro for Office 365 Premium users, Project Online Users, and Project Web Access users have Scrum templates, Kanban boards, and other Agile tools that not available in Project as a desktop tool. There are workarounds for Project that help the Agile practitioner. I have included these in the updated, second version of Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts. Yes, the book now has a new chapter on Agile, and in this chapter, I introduce and illustrate Agile tools available to all users (not just those using Enterprise).   What does the workbook and online training provide beyond what’s in the book?  Great question! I’ll be specific here. The workbook consists of exercises that reinforce what is learned in each chapter. I do this by using projects that the reader creates step by step. Each exercise uses a project file from the previous one. I have also included each exercise’s answer files for users who wish to go through the material non-sequentially. To make it even easier to follow, I have also created a short video for each chapter illustrating the skill or feature being discussed.   After working at Microsoft for many years and then becoming a valued partner, is there any inside “secrets” you can share? No, I don’t really have any inside secrets—just common sense, but here are few recommendations I have to make Project work for you: Keep it simple. Use Do’s and Don’ts as a reference to build your skills. Place your attentions where it’s needed. If your organization does not allow or require cost, focus on what is required. Build a body of knowledge in the organization and tap into it. Support yourself! MPUG has a vast number of resources available to its membership.   Can this book help users to become better project managers or just better with Microsoft Project? That is another great question! I have heard this assumption made for decades. A statement made such as, “Pat is very skilled at using MS Project. Pat must be a great project manager!” The truth is one fact does not equal the other. Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts includes project management techniques and the best practices that can support them. The focus of the book is how to use Project within the project management discipline.   What is the biggest pet peeve you have about using Microsoft Project? I have three, all of equal importance. I would like to see many more baselines and the ability to label each. The Change Working Time dialog could use a modern makeover. More Agile tools and templates would be very helpful.   Any tricks you can share as a professional project manager? My favorite trick is to use groups to provide an alternate way of organizing and reporting information. I have several examples in MPUG articles, my blog, and in the updated Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts.   Why did you want to write this book? I wrote the book to fill a niche. I wanted it to be affordable, concise, and transportable. MS Project is a wonderful tool, but it’s depth can lead to the assumption that reference books have to be huge and cover every facet of Project to be useful. Do’s and Don’ts is different.   Do you think Santa might use Microsoft Project? I think he does. When you think about it, Santa has most of the elements required for managing a large project: strong leadership, high performance teams, clear final goal, clear schedule, parts and supply management in place, and clear understanding of expectations. I’m sure that risk management is also a factor due to all of the international boundaries he crosses. And due to the speed of project delivery, I’m pretty sure he uses a Kanban Board to manage workflow and get a grip on performance. My next meeting with Santa will be in December to discuss items I intentionally left out of the first edition of Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts. I have heard he wants to share his appreciation with me for publishing an excellent Christmas gift that is compact, transportable, and can be easily distributed to all good project professionals around the world. After the first of the year, I may move on to the Easter Bunny and many other international holiday icons to aid them in their projects.  

Do’s and Don’ts: Use a Combination View to Ease Problem Solving

You have probably noticed that some of the most powerful views in Project have an upper part and a lower part. These two part views are called Combination Views. The upper part is called the Primary. It is for identifying a single component such as a resource or a task. The bottom part is called the Details. It is to provide more information about what is selected in the Primary. A great example in every version of Project is the “Task Entry” View shown below. (Click on Figure to expand) The “Task Entry” View is comprised of a “Gantt Chart” in the Primary and a “Task Form” in the Details. Select a task in the “Gantt Chart” and the “Task Form” tells you literally everything you need to know about the task including resources assigned and the work assigned to them, task predecessors, task type and whether the task is effort driven or not. If you right click on the “Task Form”, Project will offer you a list of other Details available such as “Work”, “Cost” and “Schedule”. Another great View to aid in resource leveling is the “Resource Allocation” View. “Resource Usage” View is the Primary and “Leveling Gantt” View is the Detail. (Click on Figure to expand) This Combination View is designed to highlight resource overallocations in the Primary and show any concurrent or overlapping task assignments in the Details. It’s a great start to understanding the impact of the schedule to your resource assignments. When you have solved unacceptable overallocations by using leveling techniques, the “Leveling Gantt” will illustrate the pre leveled and post leveled schedule for your analysis. You aren’t limited to the “canned” Combination Views. You can create your own!  Some great combinations are the “Resource Graph” over the “Gantt Chart”, “Gantt Chart” over the “Relationship Diagram” and “Resource Sheet” over the “Resource Graph”. If you’ve never created a Combination View, Project 2013 and 2016 Help has a great tutorial under “Split a view”. Other versions use similar language. Give Combination Views a try. You’ll save a little time analyzing and problem solving! Check out the NEW Do’s and Don’ts Bootcamp, which delivers Microsoft Project Management proficiency (and credibility) in just three hours of training! This article was originally published at https://winprojblog.blogspot.com/2017/03/dos-and-donts-use-combination-view-to.html. Used with permission.

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