Please find a transcription of the audio portion of Raphael Santos’ How to Set up a Project Schedule to Be Used in an Organization without a PPM Solution webinar being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions such as those steps included in product demonstrations. Watch the live recording of the webinar at your convenience.
How to Set Up a Project Schedule to Be Used in an Organization without a PPM Solution
Presenter: Raphael Santos
So our topic today is going to be setting up a project schedule to be used in an organization without a PPM solution and I will be discussing more why this question, why this topic came up and what we are going to get as a take away from this session.
This topic, as you guys know, is going to be about how we should be setting up a project schedule to be used in an organization or a PPM department. If you do not have a PO (Project Online) platform-actually, if we do not have a PPM platform, [?] PO or PS (Project Server). During today’s session, I will be talking about concepts of proactive PM, why it does matter to us as an organization. We will be discussing the standardization of things when it comes to PM process and to use a solution or a tool such as PD (Project Desktop) to standardize these and to support this. And I will be sharing some tips and tricks for what I use or what I do when I work with organizations that need to use only PD, to configure it in a way as I said to standardize the utilization of Project. So we’ll be seeing general options, metadata, communication, reporting, additional elements and everything. One takeaway you guys are going to get of this presentation is a schedule that I will be sharing. I will be showing you the files that I will be sharing, I will be sharing the Project Schedule so I believe it’s going to provide you a starting point to move forward.
Let’s get back to the topic we will be talking about and let’s talk a little bit about the concept of proactive PM and scheduling. There are lots of organizations that have a PMO established. They are getting started using PD for example, to manage their projects. To plan, execute their initiatives. However, for some reason, they do not have PPM platform such as PO or PS. So if you do not have that, it’s a little bit hard for you to centralize things, to standardize things. So then people are on the same page, people are doing the right thing, they’re doing things that we have defined as part of the process. One of the reasons we have a PPM platform, such as PO or PS, is that you do have the ability to standardize your custom fields, your views, your reports and everything so anyone in the organization using the tool will be able to use just what has been created by, for example, the demo team that has defined the standards that people should be using. But what if we don’t have a PPM platform? What if we are a very small group of PMs, we do manage our project but we need to be standardized even though we are using PD. That’s the concept of proactive PM and scheduling because it’s the philosophy in the set of best practices as the text here says, to have PMs in their organization be successful using MS PD to plan, execute, monitor and control their initiatives. And Sensei defines this very well in our proactive PPM with MP book which is, we do an analogy, right? Sometimes or in the past I would say, we used to have printed maps. So if we wanted to go somewhere, say, you know to somewhere else, we used to print our maps, but this is a very hard way or non-dynamic way to see things and to use a tool to get to the place you wanted to be because it’s static, it’s out of sync. If you take a wrong turn or you have a detour and you don’t have any updates in terms of traffic and the time, you will get there. So it’s just the printed directions, you have an estimate on how you’re going to get there and the time it’s going to take but if something goes wrong, there’s an accident or something like that, you don’t have this information available so it can take a lot of time for you to get there. However, if you are now using a GPS system that is connected to a satellite or to the internet, it tracks your actual progress, it’s going to be re-routing you on detours and also it will be providing more accurate forecasts regarding the arrival time. So that’s basically the way we see this for proactive project management and scheduling because what happens at the end of the day is, we have a project schedule and we are using this to track our projects to plan, monitor, control our projects. It needs to be in sync with what your organization defines as best practices. So when we look at the data, we can trust that the data and that the data is basically the same or the way we treat the data is the same independently of who is managing the project. So as I said, if we are small group of PMs and we are using PD to manage our projects, we might for example have to tell, when I have to say, how my project is performing in terms of a schedule, for example. Or in terms of cost or in terms of work. The metrics I use, the rules I use or the criteria that’s in place should be the same as the ones used by my colleagues. So that’s the entire concept behind this, we should put in place a schedule template configured with what our organization uses so then we can move forward. Everyone can use the same project template and then we can data in which we can trust. So that is the outcome of standardizing things.
And the main objective of standardization we’re talking about here is to guarantee everyone is on the same page. So for example, how much time do we lose or how much time is required for each of our PMs to create a report that is going to be sharing the status of his or her project. So if I am a PM, how much time do I spend every week creating reports? And the point is, if I create a report and I share my report with my executive for example, my colleague can be creating a completely different report both in terms of format or layout and in terms of information, sharing that with my executive as well. Then when the executive receives the reports, they are completely different. They don’t look the same. They’re different in terms of what information is provided and that’s a bad thing for the organization because everyone does what they believe is right. Spending some time, grabbing some data from project and bringing this information to a PPT presentation or things like that. And it’s just a waste of time, right? Because in the next week, that information will be out of date, we will be running this processes again. So, as I said, the standardization that we’re talking about in this webinar is basically to guarantee everyone is on the same page. So what we can do in terms of standardizing things is, we can define what the general configurations and options are for scheduling in our project. Also, defining what the KPIs are across the organization. As I said, so we can have a single rule to be used by everyone. We have the communication elements that we have within our project in a clear way so then everyone is basically talking the same language and information is always the same. Same thing happens for reporting. So we have a single set of reports that will be globally used. And we can also use a formal schedule template within our organization. We can also convert our WBS or the main WBS, the default WBS we will be using into a schedule. It can then be used by everyone in our organization. And also, there are a few additional elements that can be configured individually and I will be talking more about them as we go.
So, moving forward, the first step will be to define what the general options are within MP that we can set. So I’d like very much to have the ability to set some things within my schedules so then they’re always the same kind of information, we know exactly what’s happening because the settings have been defined. So when you go and open up your PD and then you click “file options”, there will be lots of options in there that you can configure for yourself and we do have—they are organized, I would say, in sections. So we have the general options, the display options, schedule options, proofing, save and advanced. But what I care about the most when I’m configuring my golden standard template to be used, is the schedule options or the schedule option section. In there, we can define the working time for projects. We can define the scheduling mode for tasks. There are the auto scheduled tasks and also the manually scheduled tasks. And I do believe using the auto schedule for the entire organization should be a best practice so then our schedule is always calculating using MP’s internal mechanism so that’s always a good practice to use. And also define the default task type used in our organization. What we do recommend at Sensei working with our customers is to use the fixed work default task type because that way we can define what’s the amount of hours, [?] a task is going to be consuming and we can input into the system what’s the level of assignment or which are the assignments that a person will be able to dedicate to complete the task. Then the duration is going to be provided automatically by MP. You don’t have to estimate any duration, just define what’s the amount of work, what’s the availability that person has to work on that task and then the duration is calculated automatically. And also, we can configure some additional scheduling options. As I said, the first thing we need to do in configuring our golden standard template is to define the general options for the project and that can get started here in the options panel and I do care the most, as I said, about the scheduling options.
So let me do something here. As we move forward here, I will be pausing sometimes and switching back and forth between the presentation and my schedule template, the one that I will be sharing with you guys. Let me do this right now, I’ll pause here, I’ll go to our project schedule, my project schedule and we will see the options that I set for this one. So let me change gears…we are going to go to PP (Project Professional). Just so you know, this is not like an official schedule template, it’s just a bunch of tasks that I basically put together with a bunch of resources. The way I will be sharing this file with you is this so you’re going to get all of those tasks here but you really don’t need to care about the tasks themselves. You can just rid of the tasks that gridlock the resources but what’s helpful is the way it has been set up and the information that’s available within this file.
So, as I said, first thing I do when I’m creating a new project schedule template to be used in my organization is I go to file and then I click options. Then from here I can define the general configurations. So I can define the date format I wanted to use or if I just wanted to use this default here, I can but if I wanted to use something shorter, I can also use. Or I wanted to use something more detailed, including the day, the month, year and also the hour, I can do this as well. So I do this kind of configuration for how I would like things displayed. Then I go to display, view the option for the kind of currency you’re using and also decimal digits to be displayed. You can also define if the entry bar is going to be available and things like that. But the most important item here in my opinion is “schedule section”. Because in the schedule section, we can fine the working time for your project or for your upcoming projects that will be based on this template. So you can define the default start and end time, the default numbers for hours per day, per month. You can define how new tasks are created and this is very important so I always create my tasks using the auto schedule mode. I do recommend you doing this as well. You can define how duration is entered, you can define how work is entered. You can define also the default task type to be used in the organization. For example, for my example I said that I really like using the fixed work method and this is something that I would be able to go ahead and change here instead of using fixed units…I can change my projects to always fixed work. You can also define the calculation of the project and things like that. Also when you go to proofing, save options, language, advanced, you can define all of the configurations that your project must have, that you know how to get started with. Then every single new project that you create when you based this new project on this template will then get all of those configurations. That’s very important.
Okay, moving forward. Let me go back to the presentation here and as I said, we’re just going to move forward. So the next big thing for you to configure in your project is the Project Metadata. So what’s the Project Metadata? What does that mean? Project Metadata are calendars and customs fields or formulas that you will be using in your organization so that’s it aligned with your processes. For example, many organizations want to track what the health of the schedule or what’s the health for cost or what’s the health for work…so I see people creating lots of different formulas within project but the thing is, if we have PD and people are only managing the projects through PD, what happens at the end of the day is that people will be creating different formulas. So then the criteria for, let’s say schedule variance that I use in my projects, is completely or can be completely different than the criteria being used by a different person, by somebody else on my team and that does not provide us with good results because I can basically say that, you know, my schedule variance is going to be red, my schedule variance is greater than 10% for example…and my colleague is saying his schedule variance, his schedule health is going to be red if there is a greater variance than 2%. So we should have this standardized in this organization and this is why the Project Metadata is so important, right?
So let me go back to my schedule and I will show you what I have configured here. I can navigate to the project area and then there is my change working time option. So if I click on the change working time, I can see all of the calendars, not calendars, holidays have been configured so then I have Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas day, everything configured for my organization. This is going to basically reflect how often non-working our organization is going to experience and this is just a single configuration that should be used by our PMs in all of their projects. This is one of the metadata that we have to configure, right? Calendar.
Then, the second one is going to be the custom fields. So here I’m showing you two examples. I can click on my custom fields. There will be, in the task level, three custom fields associated with the text, type and there will be schedule health, cost health and work health. So if I click on my schedule health custom field, I can click in the formula and I can see the formula that has been created. So this is going to be my criteria or the rules that should be applied in our organization. And then, I have the graphical indicators here that will basically be displaying for me the results based on the calculations that are made. If there is a critical variance in my schedule, if it’s not critical but still has the variance, it should be yellow and so on and so forth. So the same thing is going to be happening for my cost health as well as for my work health. More than that, I also created another custom field which is three numbered custom fields which are: percentage of schedule variance, percentage of cost variance and percentage of work variance. That way, I can basically calculate what the size of a variance is in a schedule. So is this 10%, is this 20%, is this 30%. So, I created those six fields but in your organization, you could think of a lot of different fields that you use as attributes for your projects. But if you always use them, if the attributes are always used within your organization then we should consider bringing them to this golden standard template so they are used across the organization.
Let me move forward then. The third topic that I wanted to discuss is Project Communication. What is Project Communication. It’s basically the way we’ll be organizing things in our schedule in a way that we can share them with our audience. So for example, if I’m a PM, how do I put together all of the information regarding the health of my project? So as we saw previously, we created six different custom fields for schedule cost, work health as well as schedule cost and percentage of work variance. Since we do have all of these available, how do we communicate this? How is this going to be displayed to users? How are the users going to get the advantage of those fields to be able to identify how their project is performing and what they can do if they need to bring the project back on track? So those topics are all related to Project communication and we can configure our PD to have custom tables, custom filters, groups, highlights and custom views. That will allow us to see the big picture to understand how our project is performing and what we need to do in order to basically go ahead and understand the overall performance of our project.
So let me show you how I have configured my schedule in here so then you can have a view and understand what we could be doing. And usually, what I see happening more often is—for example, we have our gantt chart so as you can see, I’m not placed in my gantt chart. And then in gantt chart is a view I say we should be using to get started with our project. I see people doing things like that so I want to understand what the cost for this project is for example. So this is a very basic information. I wanted to understand what the cost for the project is…so what I see people doing is, they just go into the gantt chart and add cost information. So let’s say they wanted to see what the work is for the cost, what’s the expected work for the project, not the cost but for the project. So they go ahead and add a new column. They say okay, let me go ahead and see the work or they may say something like, let me check what the status is for this particular task, for the tasks that we have. So I go ahead here and add the status column. So what’s going to be happening here is, we will be adding new elements or new columns to the gantt chart view which are not default columns. And as a result, we are going to be polluting our gantt view just because there is information in there that does not really need to be there or is not a best practice to have them in there because they are not in sync with what are using the gantt chart for. So cost is information that belongs to a different categorization. [?] status is not something that’s directly related with costs, directly related with work. My point really is we should never add columns to a view if the columns are not part of the subject of the view. So if we are talking about the gantt chart, the gantt chart should only be used for entering project data, for project information. So I should be creating my schedule based on my WBS. Cost information does not belong to this. Work information does not belong to this and status does not belong to this as well. So what I’m always doing and recommend you always do when creating your golden standard template is to navigate to the views section in the ribbon and create your custom tables. So if we click view and then more tables, I have all of the tables here. I would be able to create a new table if I wanted to do so but what I have done is, I’ve created five tables. Six tables, sorry. Table 1, what’s called WBS. Table 2, Project Planning. Table 3, Project Health. Table 4, Schedule Details. Table 5, Work Details and table 6, Cost Details. So what’s going to be happening is, if I click in this WBS table and click edit, we’ll be seeing all of the fields that I have configured for that particular table. Same thing will happen if I click “Project Planning”. I can click edit and then we’ll be seeing all of the information I have configured. So what i’m doing here is, I’m trying to create an organization for my tables in a way that they’re presenting me with information that I need and this information is organized into subjects or into topics so I do not mix things such as work and cost or work and schedule.
So after I created my tables, the next step is going to be creating my views. What I can do is, if I click here in the gantt chart, I can click more views and I can create my new views but you can see, I’ve created them already. They’re basically following the same structure as the tables. So let’s take a look at the views and see how they could be very useful for our PMs and our organization. Say that I am a PM, I’m getting started with my schedule but I’ve already built my WBS so what I can do is, I can use a view here that’s called “01. WBS”. And my WBS is just going to be presenting two things: I have my task name and my durations. That’s all I need for this view. I don’t need predecessors, I don’t need resources, I don’t need cost. I just wanted a very simple way to see my WBS. And if you use this in conjunction with the outline option in the ribbon, you can say, alright, let me put my focus on level 1. So I will be seeing only summary tasks, level 1 tasks and I will understand what my project is, what we’re going to be delivering here.
Then, moving forward, if I have my WBS already created, what I can do is go ahead and create, navigate to another view which is called project planning. So project planning is going to be providing me more information because here, I need to define the predecessors, I need to define the work that’s going to be done in the projects, I need to define what each of the resources are that will be working on the tasks so it’s a view that’s more related to, you know, getting things together. Bringing things together. Connecting the dots. So I have my WBS created so now I need to synchronize tasks in terms of defining their links and predecessors. I need to get started in defining what’s the amount of work for the tasks. I need to get started assigning resources. Then, when I get into execution, what I can do is, I can move on to a view called project health. So if I click project health, I can basically understand how my project is going to be performing here in terms of schedule, in terms of work, in terms of cost. I have all of the KPIs that I created and they are available here so this is more—you know, when you are executing your project. But if I wanted to focus on a particular, a very particular topic, such as, I wanted to see the schedule health of my project. So here I have the KPI but if I navigate to a different view, which is the schedule detail, I will be able to see everything that’s happening in terms of the schedule. So I can see the status of the task, I can see the schedule health, I can see if the task is critical or not. I can see the baseline start and finish date. I can see if there are [?] variances and also what the variance percentage is. So that’s pretty cool because now, I’m navigating through the things as they make sense or navigating through what’s important to me, relevant to me. Same thing happens if I go to work details. Now I can see baseline work, actual work, work variance and things like that. I can also navigate to cost details. Of course all the views that I’m presenting to you here just suggestions. Recommendations. You can get started creating your own views. Creating the views and tables that will make sense to your organization or how your organization manages projects. So that’s the topic related to communication.
Now we need to talk about reporting. So same thing we usually do for views and tables when we’re communicating our projects, it’s going to be the same for reporting. As I said at the very beginning of this presentation, a lot of time is spent or wasted with PMs creating reports that will be presented with information about their schedules. So usually people grab this information in PD, then they move this information to an Excel spreadsheet and then at the end of the day, they share that information in a PPD (Powerpoint Deck) so they can share this with the entire organization. This is a lot of time. Can you imagine if I’m a PM, if I’m managing five projects and at the same time, I have to pause my work, pause my PM work to do all of those reports. Imagine if I have ten PMs in my organization. So it’s a lot of time being wasted. And the worst part is, if you’re spending all of this time creating those reports, the reports might not be the same. I might be creating a report that has nothing to do with a report that somebody else is creating. That’s the reason, as a subset of project communication, when configuring our golden standard, we can also create our reports. I wanted to show you some reports that I created here. In order to show you the reports, let me just do something here. I will just set a baseline because for the reports to work well, I have to have some data. I’ll set a baseline then I’ll be saying those tasks are complete. I’ll also change the status date, define the status as off for Saturday of this week. And then there are some tasks in which I’ll say, alright, people need more time to do the task so instead of spending four hours, it’s going to be twelve hours for the task to be complete. Then my project is going to be showing some indicators here, we’ll being seeing some things not going well. Let’s focus on the reports or the things I wanted to show.
If we go over here to report, I’ve created a couple of custom reports. They’re using the numbers so we know they’re custom. I can go to the project summary for example and boom, all of the information is there. So I don’t need to do anything, the information is just consuming data from our project schedule. So I have the project name, the percentage complete, duration start and finish dates. I have the percent of completion for the summary tasks. I have work, I have cost, I have duration so I have everything that you need and I don’t need to do anything in terms of changing the report, updating the report. Nothing. I just need to manage the project and as soon as the information goes, it’s going to be reflected here. If I want to see something different, so for example, instead of seeing the project summary, I wanted to see the schedule summary. Okay, nice, it’s all there. I have my baseline start, baseline finish. I have the start and finish which are the current dates, what we see right now. If I do have variances, you can see the actual and remaining duration for the phases in my project, for each summary task in my project. Alright, so are you interested in milestones? No problem, we can move on to milestones. Here’s the list of all of them for our project. Very cool but I wanted to see something cost summary or work summary. Not a problem. We can go to work summary, here it is. You can see everything that’s happening. We have the work [?] report with the baseline work, actual work, remaining work, work variance and everything. Do we want to take a look at the resources? They’re there, there’s a resource summary report. I can see the work that’s being performed by each individual in the organization. I can see the variances, I can see the amount of work each one is dedicating.
Can you imagine if you have this configured, set up for all the PMs? How much time would we save if we had it out of the box? So that’s the reason the standardization of things is very important for organizations. So they can get started using things that are just there and follow the processes, follow the best practices available in the organization. So, going back here, we talked about project reporting.
So there are additional elements that can be configured. So each PM can configure their ribbon so instead of having an out of the box ribbon, they can have a ribbon or a section in the ribbon that’s presenting them with the most used in their day to day. This can also be configured globally. They can also customize their quick access toolbar. So, save, open, things like that and they can all be associated, added to the quick access toolbar so it’s easy for them to get started doing things. And as I said, this is a fake schedule for you to see things, to have a view of how things would be organized and configured. You can definitely put together a WBS, a schedule with tasks that should be used in your organization every time a new project is created, every time one is getting started.
Then I have a call for action for you. The next steps. Look at the general configurations your organization must have. For example, default task type, scheduling mode, etc. You can determine the custom fields and formulas that are going to be used in your organization. You can configure the calendar. You can create your custom tables and views. You can create your custom reports. You can build your schedule template. As long as this is reviewed and approved, you can save and share the file with other people in your organization. It should be a central place so every single project, creating a new project, in the organization should always use the same file to get started with. So it can be a Sharepoint site, if you’re using Sharepoint or it can be a common drive in your network. Then all PMs know that every time a new project is getting started, they should be using that particular file. Then, if you also want to have and use all of these configurations in your project and not only in the template so that all of your existing projects will have all of those items in terms of custom fields, views, tables and reports, things like that, you can also import all of your customizations to your Global MPT.
Here I’m leaving two links, the first one is the Microsoft Schedule template that I was just showing you.
This is going to have all of the tasks, all of the views, custom fields, reports, tables and everything. You can get started using this right away in your organization if you wanted to or you can use this as a reference, an example and you can apply your own needs to it. Customizations that make sense to you. You can adjust the file to be used in your organization. But at least you have something to get started with, some examples that you can use moving forward. And as I said, when it’s all done, when it’s all approved, I do recommend you importing that to your Global MPT so then all of your settings are stored in your PD, in your machine.
So if you are managing projects and have old projects that you’d like to have all of those new things and cool stuff, you can just go ahead and import the configuration to the Global MPT and they will basically assume and use all of those elements and items.
Thank you everyone that dedicated some time to join us. I hope this session was useful.