Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MS Project - Creating & updating your project plan

Project teams are so intrenched in running their projects that updating the schedule is often forgotten especially if the project manager or administrator has limited knowledge of MS Project or the scheduling tool.

The debate is always around how many tasks and what level of detail should we include in our project plans, therefore setting up a plan that is mangable and applying some human processes around updating and tracking our plan is the key. The aim is not to spend too much time on administration of our project plans yet be able to see the impacts at a high level if we make changes to tasks and dates as the project progresses.

Some points that can help you to set up and get going.
  1. Ensure that you create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in your planning workshop to scope your project.
  2. Apply durations to those tasks and keep the relationships as a Finsih to Start to provide you with an effective critcial path.
  3. Depending on the project and your management style think about how detailed your tasks need to be. Try breaking the tasks up into a minimum of 5 days in durations, if you have several 1 day tasks wrap them up under one.
  4. When you reach a critical phase of the project then you can break your tasks down into more detail for that period of time.
  5. Create the dependencies in your network diagram to ensure an accurate critical path is established, don't forget this process highlights the float of tasks and creates a the time line for your project enabling you to focus on what needs to be completed to meet your deadlines.
  6. Take the output and dump into MS Project or your scheduling tool
  7. Add those resources and durations
  8. Baseline the project plan
  9. Gather progress on a regular basis and ensure you update the plan.
  10. Enter actuals into the plan and change dates if applicable.
  11. Reschedule any tasks that have not started or are in progress at the status date to give you an up to date schedule.
  12. Don't get yourself bogged down in administration so you can get on with managing the project.
There are many tips and tricks for using MS Project and setting up, updating, tracking and changing data within your plan. The initial set up is important and the rest will be learnt as you start to use the tool.

Remember as a project manager you are responsible for delivery of the project to time, cost, scope and benefits to name a few. Managing the plan will assist you with updating stakeholders to meet their expectations and scheduling of resources you will need. Therefore ensure you are comfortable with the scheduling tool you are using, and as project land constantly changes understand the impacts of these changes in the project plans.

What methods do you find are effective for you?

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