Webinar Recap: Ten Best Microsoft Project Tips for Beginners

Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Praveen Malik’s session, Ten Best Project Tips for Beginners, 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. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.

Kyle: Hello everyone and welcome to today’s MPUG webinar. Ten best Microsoft project tips for beginners. My name is Kyle and I’ll be the moderator today. Today’s one-hour session is eligible for one PMI PDU in the technical category and the code to claim that with PMI is on the screen now.

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If you have any questions during today’s session, please send those over at any time using the chat question box on the GoToWebinar control panel. We do plan to answer those for you at the end of the session today. All right and we’ll go ahead and get started with today’s session. We’re very happy to welcome Praveen Malik today. Praveen has over two decades of experience as a Project Manager, instructor and consultant. He regularly conducts project management workshops in India and abroad and shares his project management thinking in his blog PM by PM. He’s also a PMI PNP. So, welcome Praveen. At this time, I’ll hand it over to you to introduce yourself a bit more and get us started with today’s presentation.

And it appears that Praveen may have been logged off here, so I’ll just give it one second. Sorry folks. Hopefully, he can sign back in and kick things off for us.

Okay, it does look like he’s signing in now. Praveen, are you there?

Hello, Praveen, are you there?

Praveen, can you hear me? Are you able to speak? I do not hear anything coming from your side.

Sorry folks. We’ll attempt to connect Praveen’s audio and kick things off in just a second here.

Praveen Malik: Kyle. Kyle, can you hear me now?

Kyle: Praveen, yes, I hear you now.

Praveen Malik: Okay. Thank you. I’m not sure. My computer kicked me off at the last moment.

Kyle: No problem. Sorry folks. Thank you for hanging in there. We’ll go ahead and get things started now. Hopefully, we’ll be good to go. Praveen, I just made you the presenter, so you should be able to share your screen at this time.

Praveen Malik: Thank you.

Greetings everybody. This is Praveen Malik. I’m sorry for few seconds of delay. I don’t know what happened. At the last minute, this computer kick me off and technology is good as long as it supports you. And when it troubles you, then you are at your own. Anyway, so let’s get started without any delay, without any further ado.

So we are going to talk about tips about Microsoft Project, the top tips about Microsoft Project and these are essentially not only the tips but steps to create a Microsoft Project file, Microsoft Project schedule if I can say so.

So just to give you a little background, it was about 20-22 years ago, 1998 in fact, 22 years ago, and I was very fresh in the project management world. One fine day, my manager said, “Why don’t you install Microsoft Project and prepare a project schedule for me?” I said, “Okay. I don’t have any idea about Microsoft Project or anything remotely related with a schedule.” So I said why not give it a try and so I installed. Install was a breeze. It took maybe a few minutes to install the software and I started using it. Again, it was very easy to use, initially.

But when I actually started to use it, when I started to create a project schedule, it just started doing amazing things, some unexpected things and I just couldn’t figure out what was happening and that’s what happens with most beginners. It’s very intuitive tool. You can just start using within a matter of few minutes. But when you start doing serious stuff, it gives you some unexpected results. And if I may say so, sometimes it kicks you in your rear and you are just left surprised what has happened and what has not happened. So, we are going to figure out some of the tips which can avoid unhappy things and unexpected things.

So as I said, these are not only tips but these are steps to create a good project schedule. So let’s get started and what I’ll do is I will switch between my presentation which is on your screen right now, which you can see is on your screen right now and Microsoft Project. So I’ll come back to this Microsoft Project presentation to tell you about something and go to the Microsoft Project, the actual software, to demo whatever I am saying. Towards the end, we will take some questions, so feel free to put your questions on the chatbox. And after this webinar, for about 10 to 15 minutes, we will take your questions. So, let’s get started.

So, here, I have written down 10 steps or 10 tips, if you may say so and we’ll go through these 10 tips one by one. The very first thing is define project start date. Let’s understand what does it mean. I’m going to Microsoft Project. I have already opened it up on my system. If you open it, it looks something like this. I’m not going into the details of what Microsoft Project and how it does whatever it does. We’ll just stick to the 10 tips that I have written.

The first tip is define the project start date. Some of you might have already used this feature of Microsoft Project, but here, I’m going to talk about importance. Why is it required to do essentially in the beginning of creating a schedule? To do this, you go to the top menu and the top menu, you have a project menu. In the project menu, on the left side, there is something called project information. So you click on it and you get this dialogue box. It’s a very small dialogue box. Again, not going into details of everything, but it has two things. One is start date and second is finish date. So, let’s talk about the start date.

In the start date, you can choose any date of your liking. Today is September 20, but if you want to say that I want to start this on Monday, so I’ll say October 5th and I’ll say okay. Similarly, you can schedule your project from the finish date also. So again, I’m going back to the project information dialogue box. Instead of start date, I can say schedule from the finish date. Instead of start date, now I have the finish date here, so the Microsoft Project will schedule it from the finish date. So what’s the difference and why is it that these things are important? Let’s understand it.

Currently, let me switch back to start from the start date. Okay, so here, if you see, if I enter a task … Let’s just call it alpha. Automatically, nothing happens. Microsoft Project doesn’t put in a duration or a start date or a finish date, nothing and there’s a reason behind it. There’s something called task mode. Right on the left side of this table, you will see something called task mode. You can change the task mode. Toggle between manually schedule and auto-schedule. By default, everything is manually scheduled. It means that you have to manually enter the start date and finish date and duration and everything else. But if you make it auto-schedule, the Microsoft Project automatically calculates the … So by default, Microsoft Project assumes …

Let’s just enter another task here.

Kyle: Praveen, your audio keeps cutting out again. I’m not sure if there’s anything you can change, but we’re losing you.

Praveen Malik: Nothing has changed. Let me speak a little bit louder.

Kyle: It’s definitely cutting out for long periods of time.

Praveen Malik: I’m not sure. I’ll put my mouth in front of the microphone. Is it better?

Kyle: Yeah, it sounds good now. I’ll let you know if it happens again.

Praveen Malik: Okay, thanks.

Kyle: Thank you.

Praveen Malik: Sorry folks. So let’s enter another task. Let’s call it bravo. And again, you will see that this task is manually scheduled, so let’s make it auto-scheduled. Automatically, what happens is this again is going to start from 5th of October and finishing on 5th of October. Now, before we talk about the second part, which is scheduled from the finish date, let me jump back to the ppt and talk about one of those small things and then we’ll come back to this point.

So our thing was define the project start date. In this case, we have defined the project start date as October 5th. Second point is change the default task setting to auto-scheduled. So going back, right now, you would have noticed every time we entered a task, we have to change it to auto-schedule. Let’s enter a third task. Let’s call it Charlie. Again, you will notice that this is a manually scheduled task. So again, I have to go and make it auto-schedule, so this is quite cumbersome and repetitive.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to make all the tasks as auto-scheduled and this is the second point here. At the bottom of your screen, you will see that there’s something called new tasks where new tasks are manually scheduled. If you click on it, again, you will see these two options, auto-schedule and manually schedule, so let’s make it auto-schedule and let’s now enter another task. Let’s call it delta and voila. Now, you will see automatically this auto-scheduled task and automatically a start date and a finish date has been entered.

Now, bear this in mind. When your task is auto-scheduled, Microsoft Project will automatically calculate few things for you. So, it gives you an ease. It saves your time. But at the same time, you have to be careful about this fact because sometimes Microsoft Project does few things which are not expected by you and we’ll touch upon risks in a minute. Let’s go back to ppt and look at the third point.

The third point is define your project calendar. And again, this is very important at the beginning. So before actually I talk about and show you how to create a new calendar, let me just tell you what a calendar is. In Microsoft Project, Saturdays and Sundays are, by default, treated as holidays. Standard working time is treated as 8 pm to 5 pm with one-hour break. And if you want, you can change this. Let’s say you want the standard working time to be from 9 pm to 6 pm. You can change this. If you want Saturdays to be working, you can change this.

Specifically, let us say there are some holidays in between. Let’s say there’s a task in between some other holidays out there and you want to put in those holidays in your calendar, so you can do that. And if you do that, remember we have these task mode which is auto-scheduled, automatically, the task is falling on that day. Microsoft Project automatically calculates that this is a holiday so the task should not fall on that day. Let’s do some practical. Let me show you how this is done.

You again go to the project menu on the top. There’s something called change working time. Let’s click on it and you will see this kind of interface. I’m not going into the detail of each and everything here for the brevity of time. I’m just talk about the holidays. But if you want, you can change the working time. Here it is, 8 am to 12 pm and then there’s a lunch of one hour, break of one hour, and then 1 pm to 5 pm as I told you before. But right now, I’m just talking about the holidays.

So let’s say, for some reason, let us October 9th is a holiday. So I’ll just say 9th and I’ll say holiday. And I’ll say 9th, finishing on 9th. For some reason, it’s a holiday and I say okay. By default, now Microsoft Project knows that 9th is a holiday. Similarly, you can also define holidays for your resources. But for some reason, let us say a person is on a vacation for one week, but rest of the team is working. So generally for the team, it will not be a holiday, but that specific person, for the whole week will be treated as a holiday. You can do all those things. I’m not going into the details about those things, but you can make notes and try at your end.

So coming back, now we have defined the calendar. Let’s try to pull in everything. Before we do that, let’s go back and look at fourth point which says create a complete list of tasks, which we have already done. I’ll talk more about it, but let’s say that these are the four tasks. Now, let’s just collect all these four points together and let’s see how and why these are important right in the beginning. Let’s now start entering some duration for these tasks.

For the simple reason, I’ll just say alpha is one day, bravo is two days, charlie is three days and delta is four days. So now, you will notice when I enter these days, automatically the finish dates are calculated. So for alpha, since it was only one day, the finish date was 10/5. But for bravo, it was two days, so 10/5 to 10/6. For charlie, it was three days, so 10/5 to 10/7 including 5th and 7th of October. Delta, it is 5th to 8th, including the 5th and 8th. Now, let us put another task here. Let’s call it echo and let’s make it five days.

Now, in normal circumstances, Monday through Friday is regular working time and Friday being the working day. So the task should end on 9th of October. But since 9th is another holiday, Microsoft Project will automatically calculate and say, “Okay, 9th is a holiday. After that, 10th is Saturday. 11th is Sunday, so the task will be finished on 12th.” So the five days means five working days. So, this is the power of Microsoft Project. It automatically calculates the things for you. You don’t have to worry about it.

Now, suppose you have not entered the holidays and you are creating the schedule and later, you decided to add the holidays. You can do so and Microsoft Project will appropriately calculate the date for you. But in the beginning, if you define it, you know where you’re going. Somewhere in the middle, if you should define it, the whole project schedule might be changed because Microsoft Project will calculate everything for you and then you will be left wondering what happened. So, it’s best to define all the dates right in the beginning. This is what we have.

Just to recap. We came here and said we scheduled it from the start date, but I didn’t talk about the finish date. Now, we have five tasks in our Microsoft Project schedule. We can look at finish date also. Okay, so let’s say that schedule from project finish date and finish date being, let us say, 10/12, which is 12th of October and I say okay. And now, you will see nothing much has happened here. Everything is same. But let me add another task.

Let us say it is just F. I’m not writing the whole thing. And you will notice that now the start is 10/12, not 10/5 as earlier it was. Let us say now this task is two days. And you will notice it will calculate backwards. 10/12 being Monday, then Sunday, then Saturday, which are, of course, non-working. And Friday, which is also not working for us. So the start date becomes Thursday, 10/8. Again, what I’m trying to say is if you had defined the schedule from the finish date earlier, then Microsoft Project would have calculated everything from 10/12. But since the first five tasks, we defined it from start date, now Microsoft Project is now able to figure out what to do, so it’s very important that you define these things in a step-by-step manner and do right in the beginning.

Okay, so for easy understanding, I’m just making it project start date again and start date being 5th of October, so it’s easy to understand if you’re calculating forwards. Otherwise, it becomes slightly difficult to calculating backwards by understanding a new concept. This is what we have now. Alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, foxtrot and these are the six tasks. Coming back to the four steps, let’s go to the ppt. We defined the project start date, we can schedule it from the start or schedule it from the finish and whatever we do, the Microsoft Project will start calculating the things from where you have started. We change the four tasks to auto-schedule. We defined the project calendar, we create a complete list of tasks and you will notice that I didn’t enter any specific date. I just entered the duration of the task. This is very important. You just enter the duration of the tasks. We will see, in a minute, how Microsoft Project will calculate the appropriates for you.

And this is the fifth point. Do not assign task dates or duration at first. Tasks dates are very important but do not define them. Just assign duration, but only after you have completed the list. The point six be create a WBS using indent and outdent, so what does it mean? Now, let us to go our Microsoft schedule.

These were example tasks alpha, bravo, charlie and these were not really making any sense for a regular kind of project. Let’s look at a practical kind of project. I have created another Microsoft Project file. Yeah, here. I created a very high-level construction project if I may say so. It doesn’t depict an actual construction project. An actual construction project will have hundreds of tasks. It’s a very high level [inaudible] way of how would you do construction? Now, you will notice that the task one, right now, is all manual schedule, so let’s go and make it auto-schedule for everything. Here, I will explain what is WBS and what is outdent and indent.

Okay, so here you will notice WBS stands for work breakdown structure. So, what is work breakdown structure? Divide the whole word into smaller pieces, smaller terms, which are easier to estimate and easier to execute. So first of all, I said, “Okay, I will have three large groups.” First one is define and design. Second one is construct and third one is inspection. The first one being if I have to construct a building, I’ll first look at the specifications and the architectural design and deep things like that.

Then after the architectural design is complete, I’ll start constructing the building. And finally, I’ll do the inspection. It’s a very high-level schedule here, but it will help you to understand how the project should be done. So when you are doing a project, try to first create a WBS. If you want to do it on paper, do it on paper first. If you want to do it on Whiteboard, it is sometimes very useful to put on Whiteboard and then put everything into Microsoft Project and then you further decompose it. Divide the tasks into subtasks.

So like define and design, I have decomposed into architectural design, technical specifications and approval, that is approval of the architectural design, drawing, et cetera. Again, this is a hypothetical construction project. Many things may not be right here. But just for an example, say it will help you understand. Then, we’ll go to construct. So we’ll lay the foundation, we’ll pave the work building structure then we’ll put on the outer walls, inner walls, floorings, electrical fittings. It will be something the things also like plumbing tasks, some other things could be there, but for the sake of understanding and just looking at this. And finally, some inspection tasks with it.

Now, automatically, Microsoft Project has done one day, one day, one day and it has started from the current date, which is today, September 30th. If I go now and I change this date … Let us say I change this date from 5th of October, so automatically, it will start all the tasks from 5th of October. Now, all the tasks will not be started on 5th of October. In a real-life scenario, I will be doing architectural design first, then I’ll go to technical specifications maybe, then I’ll seek the approval, then I’ll start the construction.

Let’s just hypothetically say that architectural design will take 10 days, technical specification will again take 10 days and approval will take, let us say, 5 days, but these will be done sequentially. It’s not like everything will be done together. So there’s a column called predcecessor column. What you are going to do is you’re going to enter the row number. So what I want to do is I want to start taking the specifications only after architectural design is complete. What I’ll do is I’ll note down the row number of architectural design. This is number two. I’ll go here, in the predcecessor column, I’ll enter two. Automatically, what Microsoft Project does is architectural design is finishing on 10/16, Friday. So the next task should start on 10/19, Monday because the predecessor is two. And now, it is 10 days, so it will run for two working weeks, there is five days and again five days. It will start on 10/19, Monday, and finish on the subsequent Friday, which is 10/30.

Now, approval will come only after task number three is finished. So in the predcecessor column, I’ll enter three here. And again, you will see the Microsoft Project automatically calculates the start date and finish date based on its predcecessor. So that’s what I was saying. Do not enter the duration and the dates right at the beginning. First, you create the WBS, you create a list of tasks, define the predecessors and then automatically the dates will be calculated. Duration, you can enter maybe before entering the predcecessor or after entering the predcecessor. It doesn’t really matter.

Okay, so let us go back to our presentation. What we have done until now, and notice everything is falling in pieces now. So you define the project start date and based on this, everything else will be calculated. And if you have a holiday in between, you put it in your calendar. Again, that will be taken care of while Microsoft Project is calculating the dates for you. So, again, do not … Again, I am repeating it. Do not assign task dates. Manually, never assign task dates unless it is very essential to do so. Always look at the predcecessor of a task and go from there. If you enter your task date yourself, Microsoft Project will think that you have entered the task date and it is not allowed to change. So even if something changes, the task date will remain as it is. Even if you enter the predcecessor, the task date will remain as it is. And then you will be at a loss, “Where am I going wrong,” so do not enter task dates yourself. Let Microsoft Project calculate it for you using your predecessors.

Sorry, one more thing. I missed out telling you about indent and outdent. Okay, so this one is obvious, so define and design more of the major tasks. Architectural design was a subtask. So just for example’s sake, let us say … I’m writing another major task here. Major task. Okay, then I’m saying Subtask 1 and Subtask 2. Now, this doesn’t look like ST1 and ST2 are part of major tasks. So what I have to do is I have to indent them. How do you indent?

From the top, you go to the task menu and there is a left arrow and a right arrow. The green arrows are there. Left arrow is for outdent and green arrow is for the indent. So you say indent for both ST1 and ST2. So now, you will notice that ST1 and ST2 are off major tasks.

Now, let us say I wanted to add another major task. Another major. So now, automatically, this another major is part of this major, which you will want to do. What you will do is you go this left arrow, which is outdent, and bring it back to the major task level. So going back to the presentation, we have not created WBS, we have used indent and outdent and now our Microsoft Project schedule is almost ready. So we have already talked about task relationships. Task relationships is hindering the predecessors. So what I am trying to say is this task number three is related to task number two. Task number two is a predcecessor and task number three is the successor.

Going back. About date constraints. So let’s understand this. This is what I was telling you about a while ago that do not enter any date yourself. For example, you thought this ST1 should be started on, let us say, 4th of October. So Microsoft Project will allow you to enter 4th of October and it’s quite easy to do so. But we will see a small symbol, a small warning sort of symbol here. And if you click on it, you will see some options here. And it says, let me read it, “Entering a start date is not the best way to schedule this task. Do you want to …” and there are some options.

Basically, what Microsoft Project is trying to say is you should not enter a task date yourself. If you enter a task date yourself, it will read it as a constraint. So Microsoft Project is saying I am constrained by you. In future something happens, something changes, this will remain as 11/4. I will not be able to change it. So, you should use predcecessor. And when you have a constraint on the task, on the left side, on the first column, this is called the information column, you will see a calendar type of item telling you that there’s a constraint here.

So now, let us say for some reason, I did a constraint and I wanted to remove this constraint. So what I’m going to do is, I’ll click on it and I’ll say undo the constraint. Now, it is good to go. So the basic thing is as long as you are in control of your tasks, the subtasks, WBS, et cetera, you are in control of your relationship and it’s predecessors. Let Microsoft Project control your calculations. A computer is the best thing that has happened for calculation purposes. Of course, you can also do it, the human mind is very strong. It’s just that computers do the calculations much faster, much quicker and without any error. So let the calculation be done by Microsoft Project and let the actual project schedule, which is the mind, your mind, what tasks should be done by the project manager. That is you.

Coming back to the presentation, there are two more points. The ninth point is avoid putting predecessors in the summary tasks. So, let’s understand this. It’s a very small point. What a summary does, these major tasks that you see … define and design, construct, these are all called summary tasks. Why are they called summary tasks? Because these dates are automatically calculated. So let’s talk about the first section here.

Define and design has three subtasks. Architectural design, technical specification and approval. And total, it is taking 10 days plus 10 days plus 5 days, which is 25 days. The first task is staring on 10/5 an the last task is on 10/6. So in the summary tasks, it will say 25 days. It will start from the start date of the first task and finish on the finish date of the last task. Microsoft Project calculated the start and finish for you and the duration also for you.

Now if I have to assign a predecessor, I will not assign a predecessor to construct. I will assign a predecessor to foundation and that’s what this point is talking about. Coming back, so avoid putting predecessors in summary tasks. I will not put a predcecessor here. So let’s say I will not put one here or maybe four here because summary tasks should be automatically calculated. The subtasks should have a predcecessor. Summary tasks is not something that a human being is doing. Human bring is doing actual foundation and summary task is just coalition of all these tasks.

So let’s say I say foundation. We start only after the approval. So approval, the number is number four, so I’ll put number four here and you will see that foundation, it is thinking as it’s only one week. It will automatically start from 11/9, Monday and finish on 11/9 again on Monday. That is morning to evening. Now if I wanted it to be three days, let’s assume that the foundation can be done in three days … It can be. I know, but let’s assume. So it will calculate from Monday through [inaudible] automatically. What I’m trying to say is that do not put the predcecessor in the summary tasks. Put the predcecessor in the actual tasks, which you are going to perform.

Let’s come to the last point, which is save your baseline. So before I talk about saving the baseline, let me tell you the concept of baseline. Whenever you’re doing something, you have to have a benchmark, Even like you’re doing regular day-to-day tasks. Let’s say you are going from home to office and you say it takes me 30 minutes to go to office. Nowadays, nobody is going to office. Very few people are because of the unfortunate circumstances. But one day, everything will be fine and we will start going back to our offices.

So let’s say normally it takes you 30 minutes, so your baseline becomes 30 minutes and you try to achieve your commute time within 30 minutes. On some days, it may take you 35 minutes, 40 minutes, or even more. Some days, you will take less also, which is 25 minutes, but your base time is 30 minutes. Now similarly, when we are doing project and we have listed down our tasks, let’s say there are hundreds of tasks in a project, and you are putting the duration, 5 days, 10 days, 3 days, whatever and dates are automatically calculated, you want to ensure that you follow this schedule. A plan is a good plan only if it can be followed if it can be executed. A plan just on piece of paper or on Microsoft Project doesn’t have any meaning unless you follow it.

Just like in commute, you can go more than 30 minutes or less than 30 minutes. These tasks also, you can go above or below your regular schedule, your estimated schedule. A task which has been defined for five days may take six days or four days. A task which was supposed to start on Monday may actually start on Tuesday for some reason. So you have to have a baseline and Microsoft Project gives you a facility to save your benchmark. This is your benchmark. Assume that this schedule is completely defined and all the duration, all the tasks are entered, the duration is entered, all the dates are calculated, everything is ready.

What I want to do now is I want to save these dates and how do you do it? You go to again project menu. And in the project menu, somewhere in the middle, you will see there’s something called set baseline. And if you click on it, you will be able to save the baseline. Before we do that, let me just enter a new column here. Our new column is, let us say, baseline duration. So right now, you will see baseline duration is all zero days, but in our planned duration, we have 10 days, 5 days, 3 days, whatever. Similarly, you have other columns like … I’ll just show it to you.

Let me just go to another column. It’s not allowing me to change, so there are many other baseline columns. So you have baseline duration, which you saw. We have baseline finish. We have baseline start and there are some other columns. I’m not going into details of each and every one of them, but Microsoft Project is quite comprehensive, quite powerful and whatever you can think of, it has something extra. When I save the baseline, it will save everything for me. Start date, finish date and everything else that you saw in the baseline columns. Right now, it is also in zero days, zero days, zero days.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to project menu, set baseline, clicking on set baseline and there is very small dialogue box which says set baseline. I just say entire project. I can do it for selected tasks also. [inaudible] entire project and I say okay. So what I have planned is copied to my baseline. Now, how this is going to be useful?

Whenever you execute, you will start entering your actual dates. So let’s say architectural design actually started on 10/6. The baseline will tell you, okay, you were to start on 10/5, but you actually started on 10/6, so there is already a delay of one day. So when you are doing your project, have a benchmark. In our case, the benchmark is baseline. So before you are start executing the project, save your baseline. And as you go on executing the project, start entering actual dates and keep on comparing the actual with the baseline. I’m not going into detail how going to the actual dates, et cetera, and how to compare those kind of things because there won’t be enough time.

But the basic thing is that these are the ten points or ten steps that you should consider while creating your project schedule. This will make life much easier and Microsoft Project will not do many unexpected things that sometimes you seem to notice. Now you will know that this is what you have done and this is what is expected out of Microsoft Project. And Microsoft Project will behave like your buddy and not like a alien. So these are the ten steps or ten tips I wanted to talk about.

So we are coming to the end of this webinar. There’s about seven or eight minutes are left and I think we can take up the questions. This is all I wanted to say. Over to you, Kyle.

Kyle: Thanks, Praveen. Just a reminder, anyone who has any questions, we do have a few minutes left if you’d like to chat those over and we’ll answer those for you now.

The first question here came in from BJ. He was curious how frequently you manage or start with the backward scheduling.

Praveen Malik: And that’s a good question. Backward scheduling is not usually done, but sometimes there are hard imposed dates by the client. The client says, “Okay, by November 30th, you give me everything.” Now, when there’s a hard imposed date, then it’s better to schedule it from the finish date and let Microsoft Project calculate everything backwards for you. Typically these scenarios happen when you are actually scheduling a project for some events. I’m talking about a very big event. Let’s say between [inaudible] and this year’s Olympics. So Olympics, if it had happened, it’d have to start on the day. It’s not that it could have happened a day later or a day earlier or whatever.

So when you have a hard constraints, specifically in the evenings, then you typically use a schedule from the finish date. Hope that answers your question.

Kyle: Yeah, thank you very much. Let’s see if anything else comes in here.

Someone was asking for the step 10, saving the baseline. Can you clarify the importance of having that column, they refer to it as. I’m not sure if you would understand what they are asking for.

Praveen Malik: I’m not sure what question is, but let me just try to say what I want to say and maybe that will answer the question.

Kyle: Okay.

Praveen Malik: Let me try to rephrase the question and what I understand from the question is that why have the baseline when you already have a start date and a finish date. Now, this is kind of tricky, so let me just put in more columns here.

Kyle: They just clarified it’s the baseline duration column.

Praveen Malik: Sorry, I don’t understand.

Kyle: They clarified their question. They were curious of the importance of having the baseline duration column.

Praveen Malik: Okay, baseline duration column. Now, let us talk about the first task, which is architectural design which is 10 days. Now, it may so happen that I actually finish it in eight days or maybe 12 days. But I will know if I have a baseline duration of 10 days, did I take more than 10 days or less than 10 days, so I can compare and that’s why the baseline duration is there if that was the question.

Kyle: Yeah. Thanks, Praveen. That takes us pretty close to the end of the session here. Anything else from you before we close out? Would you be able to share your contact info if anyone is interested in reaching out?

Praveen Malik: Yes, I can do that. So I’ll give you 30 seconds to quickly look at these 10 steps or 10 tips and then I’ll share my contact details. Then, you can reach out to me. I’ll share my email ID. You can reach out to me and I’ll answer your questions. If you have any difficulties about Microsoft Project, you can, without any hesitation, reach out to me.

Kyle: Great and just a reminder. There’s a screenshot button at the top of the viewer window. So if you’d like to take a screenshot of this or Praveen’s contact info, you can click that button and it will save it to your computer.

Praveen Malik: Okay. So this is my contact info/email ID. I’m based in India. For many of you who might be in the USA, it’s morning time, but it’s late evening here. Having said that, if you send me a mail within a day or two, I’ll respond. This is my contact info and if you want to take a screenshot of those 10 points, I’ll go back and maybe 10 seconds.

Kyle: Yep. That would be great.

All right. Perfect. Thanks, Praveen.

Praveen Malik: Thank you, everybody. I hope it was useful. Have a great day ahead.

Kyle: Thank you for the great session, Praveen and for answering the questions that were submitted. We really appreciate that. For those of you claiming a PDU credit for today’s session, I’ll get info back on the screen for you now and today’s session is eligible for one technical PMIPDU.

If you missed any of today’s session, would like to go back and review anything that Praveen shared, the recording will be posted to MPUG.com a bit later today and you’ll receive an email with a link to access that.

We do have some great sessions on the calendar as well and I chatted over a link just now to get to those sessions and register. So next week, Satya Dash will return for a session covering how to be a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner, the ACP from PMI. So we had some interest around that and wanted to give you a session to cover those details.

The following week, Tim Runcie will join us again for a session on leveraging the latest office 365 project tools and those tool capabilities, so both those sessions are open for registration along with many others so we hope to see you there and that does it for today. So thanks again, Praveen, and thank you to everyone that joined us live or is watching on-demand. We hope you have a great rest of your day. We’ll see you back next week for our next live session. Thanks.


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Written by Praveen Malik

Praveen Malik, PMP, has two-plus decades of experience as a project management instructor and consultant. He regularly conducts project management workshops in India and abroad and shares his project management thinking in his blog, PM by PM.

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