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What is a Project?

“A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.”

– pmi.org

What is MS Project

  1. MS Project is a hierarchal set of organized tasks that need to be done in order to accomplish the goals of a project
  2. MS Project uses 3 types of tasks to represent groupings of tasks, important points in the project schedule, as well as actions

Types of Tasks

  • Summary tasks are used has headers for a logical grouping of tasks and are descriptive of the tasks below them
  • Detailed tasks are actions done to advance the project
  • Milestones are 0 duration tasks that indicate significant points in the project and/or a deliverable. Every summary task should also end with a milestone indicating that summary task is complete

Simple MS Project Training

PLAN THE WORK, THEN WORK THE PLAN!

Using Tasks

Common Rules for Tasks of All Types

  • All tasks – be they summary tasks, detailed tasks, or milestones – must be unique
    • As an example, “Build” is generic and can be applied to many different locations or items
    • “Build Sterling Data Center” is specific
    • This ensures that there is no confusion when looking over a set of tasks or the overall schedule itself

Common Rules for Tasks and Milestones

  • All detail tasks and milestones except the starting milestone must have a predecessor
  • All detail tasks and milestones except the ending milestone must have a successor
  • All Start and Finish dates for all types of tasks must be determined solely by their predecessors and durations (exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis, approved by the Master Scheduler)

Summary Tasks

  • Summary tasks shall follow a logical, hierarchical progression
  • Summary tasks shall never be used as predecessors or successors

Detail Tasks

  • Detail Tasks are the actual actions taken to implement  the final goal of the project
  • MS Project is not a checklist program. For checklists, use Excel or Word. MS Project is a list of actions, a.k.a. detailed tasks
  • As such, all detail tasks must be verb-oriented statements. A detail task must do something.
    • Examples include: build, finalize, transfer, insert
  • Since they are actions, somebody or something needs to do them, thus all detail tasks require at least 1 resource
  • Tasks shall be between ½- and 5- days in duration.

Milestones

  • Milestones, by definition, are of 0 duration and no resources
  • All summary tasks shall end with a milestone
  • Either a milestone representing where one project is dependent upon a series of tasks in another project, or
  • A milestone representing where another project is dependent upon another project
  • External Milestones in the schedule requires communication between project/transition managers

What is a Baseline?

  1. A baseline is a snapshot in time of the dates and durations of a project schedule
  2. The baseline is considered to be the “Golden Master” of the project schedule
  3. Once a baseline is taken (“snapped”), it often requires a change request to alter the dates on the schedule

What is an Actual?

  1. The “Start” and “Finish” dates are determined by predecessors and duration
  2. An “Actual Start” or “Actual Finish” are the date(s) in which the detailed task actually started and/or actually finished
  3. Actual data is only populated once the project begins

SEQUENCING TASKS (Predecessors & Successors)

Definitions: Predecessor/Successor

  • Predecessor: a detail task, detail tasks, or milestone(s) that must occur before the current task can begin
  • Successor: a detail task, detail tasks, and/or milestone(s) that must occur after the current task ends

Definitions: Relationship Types

  • FS: Finish-to-Start. The predecessor must finish before the current task/milestone can begin. This is the default relationship type
  • SS: Start-to-Start. The predecessor and the current task/milestone must start at the same time
  • FF: Finish-to-Finish. The predecessor and the current task/milestone must finish at the same time

Definitions: Lead/Lag

  • Lag: the number of days after a predecessor task/milestone finishes before the current task can begin
  • Lead: the number of days before a predecessor task/milestone finishes before the current task can begin

Assigning Relationship Logic

  1. Determine the relationship between the 2 or more tasks/milestones (FS, SS, FF)
  2. Determine if there is any lead or lag between the 2 or more tasks/milestones
  3. Create the predecessor(s) that applies the decisions in #s 1 & 2

Relationship Examples: FS

  • 495
    • The current task/milestone is dependent upon ID 495, with no lag or lead, with an FS relationship (FS is the default)
  • 495FS+5d
    • The current task/milestone is dependent upon ID 495 with a lag of 5 days with an FS relationship (“+” indicates lag)
  • 495FS-5d
    • The current task/milestone is dependent upon ID 495 with a lead of 5 days with an FS relationship (“-” indicates lead)

Relationship Examples: SS

  • 495SS
    • The current task/milestone must start at the same time as ID 495
  • 495SS+5d
    • The current task/milestone must start 5 days after ID 495 begins
  • 495SS-5d
    • The current task/milestone must start 5 days before ID 495 begins

Relationship Examples: FF

  • 495FF
    • The current task/milestone must finish at the same time as ID 495
  • 495FF+5d
    • The current task/milestone must finish5 days after ID 495 finishes
  • 495FF-5d
    • The current task/milestone must finish 5 days before ID 495 finishes

The Relationship Requirement

  • As stated earlier, all tasks/milestones must have at least one predecessor and at least one successor. To indicate multiple predecessors/successors put a “,” between them
    • For example: 495ss, 593, 607fs+5d
  • This logic defines the flow of detailed tasks and in what sequence tasks are done. Detailed Tasks in a project schedule flow from one to another.
  • No task suddenly appears from thin air (e.g. must have a predecessor), and if a task doesn’t go anywhere, why do it (e.g. must have successor)?
  • If a task truly has no task that comes after it, then the successor is the end of the phase, or sometimes even the end of the project
  • If a task truly has no predecessor, the predecessor is the beginning of the phase, plus an appropriate lag to make it start at the proper time

Adding Durations

Duration

  • All Durations units shall be days
  • All durations shall be between ½- and 5-days
  • The exception to this are milestones which by definition have a 0-day duration
  • Only tasks and milestones have their durations manually entered. ALL summary task durations are determined by the duration of the tasks under them

Adding Durations

  • The default duration is 1 day?
    • The “?” indicates a system-generated estimated duration
    • There should be no durations of this type at the end of the duration-adding process
  • To add a duration, simply type the duration of the task into the “Duration” field
  • Make all milestones of 0 duration

Project Schedule Creation Steps

  1. Define (create) detailed tasks and milestones organized by summary tasks
  2. Sequence tasks (predecessors & successors)
  3. Input durations for tasks
  4. Resource tasks
  5. Determine dependencies on other projects
  6. Create dependencies to/from other projects
  7. Make modifications as necessary

And this will be enough for getting started with your project to plan, execute, monitor and close projects in MS Project. Good luck with the project journey and let me know what your thoughts are of this blog.

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