We are excited to announce that in partnership with author, Sam Huffman, MPUG is giving away a not-to-miss project management resource to all our current and new members! As we’ve been getting ready to share this free gift with you, we sat down with Sam, author of Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts. Now retired, he’s has been using Microsoft Project in various forms since 1984!
We first asked him how he felt now that his book has been published. Sam’s responses are below:
- The book won some awards—I didn’t expect that!
- I wrote it as an aid to anyone who had the need to use MS Project, but also had to be wary of a steep learning curve.
- It was simple. It has a lot of screenshots and illustrations. It has helpful hints to keep the user out of trouble. Between the book and the workbook, I think I accomplished my overall goal, which was to instruct and assist users of MS Project.
- It’s thin and not too big, which means it can be easily carried in a briefcase, luggage, purse, or backpack (It’s also available in PDF and Kindle). I am happy it can accompany my readers on business trips and the like.
- It does not cover every feature of MS Project but does cover the critical pieces to get started with the MSP tool—along with a smattering of project management methods and why to care about them.
Now that Sam is a retired PMP, he’s had the time to consider his career, MS Project, and the discipline of project management as it’s evolved over time. What Sam came up with is no surprise. “As I’ve sat back and thought about my career and time as a Microsoft MVP, a few things rise to the top of my mind with regard to people using MS Project,” said Sam. He shared his observation that many project managers have lost sight of the technique of summarization. “They have isolated their executive team by not giving them the information needed to make decisions.” Said another way: “Detailed, overly complicated reports are rarely the answer to executive questions!”
Sam explained that Gantt charts are fantastic, but few understand their meaning and importance. That’s why he highlighted the value and simplicity of Kanban methods and reports for us. The Kanban board provides three main datapoints: what’s done, what’s not done, and what’s in progress. It’s so important that it’s included in Project’s online version now. And, Sam has covered the topic on his personal blog here and in the Microsoft Do’s and Don’ts book (pages 137 – 148).
Attention to Deadlines
In addition to Kanban methodology, Sam points out that although the critical path is crucial for PM’s, deadlines are directly linked to expectations. “My advice is to manage the critical path for sure, but meet the deadlines without fail,” he says. Sam shared the link to his blog article on the topic (here), with additional resources provided at the end of this article. Using the ‘Deadline Dashboard,’ as Sam refers to it, allows the PM to evaluate a finish date for every task in a project, and essentially tells you what you need to pay attention to.
Risk is usually very casually dealt with by most PMs, but, as Sam tells us, it should be one of the top elements of a project. As such, it should receive the time, analysis, planning, and funding it deserves. What is the best way to evaluate risk? What about risk reporting? There’s a number of important questions to ask and this is covered by Sam’s own Risk Grid (downloadable below) and addressed in his 4-part blog post series:
- Do Create a Risk Assessment Dashboard (Part One)
- Do Create a Risk Assessment Dashboard (Part Two)
- Do Create a Risk Assessment Dashboard (Part Three)
- Do Create a Risk Assessment Dashboard (Part Four)
Sam invites all users to download the following resources, which are files used in his book, training, presentations, and on his blog: Project Kanban.mpp, Deadline Dashboard.mpp, Risk Analysis.mpp, and the Risk Grid. Note that the files were made on an American system with USA English characters and that your system may call for a change in syntax of commands, formulae, etc. Sam wrote the Project files in Project 2016. The risk file follows the PMI guidelines closely but were simplified for the purpose of file size and illustration. The syntax may have changed in newer versions of Project in this topic, as well as those mentioned above.
Sam hopes everyone will be able to start summarizing their project data in a form that can be used and understood by the right people! And don’t forget, if you are a current or existing member of MPUG, you are eligible for a copy of Sam’s book, Microsoft Project Do’s and Don’ts, in kindle format for FREE by clicking here. (Kindle sale runs TODAY and EVERY TUESDAY in September). Thank you for your support of Sam and his work.