Subject: MS Project: Appropriate for Non-project Work (Business Process or Operations Management)?
I work in a Federal Government project management office where from time to time I’m called upon to provide guidance, advice and support to project management practitioners.
On occasion, business process or service operations managers express interest in using MS Project (e.g. scheduling, assigning resources, updating, reporting, etc.) for non-project organizational functions—-performing the ongoing execution of activities that produce the same product or provide a repetitive service.
Because these are definitely not projects, I have strong reservations/doubts that MS Project is the right software application (tool) for business process or operations management. I view MS Project as a tool designed specifically for project management. Also, I suspect that an easy-to-use MS Excel template, or another user-friendly application, probably exists that will meet and/or exceed our users requirements.
I’ve scoured information sources associated with The Association for Operations Management (APICS) and Project Management Institute (PMI) and haven’t quite been able to find definitive answers to:
>> Is MS Project the appropriate tool for non-project applications (business process management or operations management? )?, and “If yes—why?”.
>> If not, which other desktop software applications would be?—and why?.
Would someone please help me answer these questions?
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.
Projects require project management while operations require business process management or operations management.
Operations are an organizational function performing the ongoing execution of activities that produce the same product or provide a repetitive service.
Operations are permanent endeavors that produce repetitive outputs, with resources assigned to do basically the same set of tasks according to the standards institutionalized in a product life cycle. Unlike the ongoing nature of operations, projects are temporary endeavors.
—Excerpts from PMI’s PMBOK 4e
Project 2007 has features that allow you to post time against administrative non project tasks. You could also create a standard project schedule with a list of operational tasks and name the schedule as Operational non-project schedule. Technically, it should allow you to manage and control those operational tasks just the same way you would with project tasks.
Regardless of project or operations management definitions, If you need integrated PERT/CPM planning, MSProject os similar are the appropriate tool.
If U need PERT/CPM PLANNING, MSPROJECT OR SIMILAR ARE THE RIGHT TOOLS REGARDLESS OF DEFINITIONS
Repetitive tasks (like monday morning meetings) do not need to be a part of the schedule. People allowable time can consider what is left available ie the difference between total working hours less meetings MH´s for the participants.
Resource management involves both managing demand and tracking actual work. I worked in an environment that required both and we managed to establish that environment within MS Project using the following concepts.
Operational work, day to day repetitive functions are not projects, as noted in an earlier post. However we used MS Project to forecast operational demand, project availability, and project demand along with actual work applied to both project and operational work. To do this, we;
Established operational work project schedules by group/department, etc. These schedules;
* Identified operational tasks that each groups management wanted to track. Meaning tasks based on the functions of their operational group. For example, Dept A which was App Support might want internal/external customer support hours tracked separately while Dept B which is internal PC Desktop support might want hours tracked by each internal Department.
* Established year long demand for each resource’s expected operational support hours. Ex: Bob was expected to spend 75% of his time on operational work and be available 25% for project work. In the operational schedule in which Bob was assigned, he would be allocated to a task that would forecast and show he was scheduled for 30hrs per week (75%). If Joe in the same group was not available for project work, Joe would be allocated 100% future demand on just operational tasks.
* Resources in each Department were then assigned to the appropriate tasks for weekly time entry
* When time was entered, Bob selected the task to assign actual hours (from those tasks identified by his management)
We also established individual project schedules for each approved/unique project.
* Project resources were assigned to project tasks not to exceed a percentage value provided by their resource manager. For example, Bob would be assigned to tasks no more than 25%
From a resource demand/forecasting/allocation perspective, this Operational/Project structure allowed Bob for example to be seen with future allocation already set to 75% and 25% availability to projects.
From a resource utilization perspective, actual hours entered in both operational and project plans could be used to determine where operational hours were going, the reality of operational hours vs. project hours and so on.
Its not an easy effort to establish this type of an environment, but it can be done. And it will take identified resources with MS Project skills and access to maintain (specifically the operational side).
And, as with anything in MS Project, the resulting data is only as good as the level of accuracy applied by the actual resources entering time sheets.
So this was not a detailed how to, but just a high level concept of how it can be done and how my prior organization accomplished it.
Hope that helps.