Thursday, December 16, 2010

Free Webinar January 27, 2011: 7 Project Estimating Guidelines

Have you ever given a project estimate and later regretted giving it? Would you like to learn the factors affecting estimate accuracy? Would you like to better your chances at giving accurate estimates?

If you answered “Yes!” to any of these questions, please join the Versatile Company’s Eric Verzuh on January 27th to get real world answers to real world questions in project management. But be quick! Seats go fast. Click HERE to register or find more information.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where’s My Tracking Toolbar?

In a recent webinar I was asked this question. Jon Wagner from the Versatile Company recommended that I answer it in this blog. So please read on and learn a cool technique allowing you to customize Project 2010.

Project 2010 does not have a tracking toolbar, but the tracking tools are available and are in plain sight. In the Task tab and in the Schedule group, you’ll find some of the buttons from the old tracking toolbar waiting for your use. Have a look at the figure below and you’ll see the quick status and update buttons.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Tracking Toolbar not needed in Project 2010

But what if you would prefer to have your own dedicated tracking group or tab? In the figure below I created a Tracking tab and Tracking group with task and project tracking commands. It only takes a few moments to create this tab and group, and in the process you’ll learn how to make even more tabs and tools.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Custom Tracking Toolbar and Group

In Project 2010 start by selecting the File tab and then choose Options. Once Options is shown choose Customize Ribbon. This will offer you the dialog below.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Customize Ribbon to Create Tracking Tab and Group

Commands are on the left. The structure of the Ribbon is on the right. Controls between them allow you to move commands in and out of the Ribbon . Buttons under the Ribbon structure allow you to create, delete and rename tabs and groups.

Create a new Tab ( I renamed mine to “Tracking”) and a new Group (also renamed “Tracking”) and then found and added the commands I wanted into the Tracking group in the Tracking Tab. You can move your added commands to a different position in the list with the up and down control buttons on the far right of the list.

When you have the buttons that you want, just OK the Customize Ribbon dialog and your newly designed Tab and Group await your command.

The Ribbon is very customizable. Now that you know how to do it, experiment!

If you find this a useful blog entry, please tell me. I love to hear from my readers!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 11th Custom Fields and Graphical Indicators Revealed

A HUGE thank you to all who attended my presentation of Versatile’s “Microsoft project Tips and Tricks #1” webinar on November 11th. There were many great questions and requests, one of which I am fulfilling here - creating a custom field with a graphical indicator.

In this post we will create the baseline checker that was demonstrated in the webinar. The field we’ll customize is “Text1”, and we will assign graphical indicators to show the results of the check for each task. (Click on any image in this posting to examine the detail being shown.)

1 custom_fields

Step 1: Insert the field to be customized. In the Gantt Chart view click on the column heading where you wish to insert the new field, then press the Insert (Ins) key on your keyboard. The “Column Definition” dialog box will appear. In this dialog box find the “Text1” field in the “Field Name:” drop down list and select it. Click on the “OK” button. Your “Text1” field should now be visible.

A field name should reflect its purpose. In this example, the field name “Text1” becomes “Baseline?” indicating whether each task is baselined or not.

Step 2: Rename the field and create the formula. Click on the “Tools” menu and choose “Customize”, then “Fields…”

The “Custom Fields” dialog box will be offered.

2 Custom_field_and_formula

Ensure that the “Text1” field is selected and then click on the “Rename…” button and rename the field to “Baselined?”. Click on the “OK” button.  Next click on the “Formula…” button and enter the formula exactly as seen in the image above. This is the formula that returns the state of each task’s baseline. Each non-summary task should now have either “Baseline!” or “No Baseline!” in the new “Baselined?” field, depending on its state..

Step 3: Create graphical indicators.

Click on the “Graphical Indicators…” button to match indicators to the results of the formula. Enter the data needed exactly as seen in the image below.

3 Indicators

Click on the “OK” button. Do the same for the “Custom Fields” dialog box. You’re done! Now the baseline state is visible and easy to evaluate.

Once you get the hang of custom fields and graphical indicators, you can dramatically reduce the time needed in your projects for analysis.

As always, let me know how you did and if you have any suggestions for future topics – like “Microsoft project Tips and Tricks #2” coming up December 2nd. In fact, you had better register NOW as the webinar is filling quickly. Register HERE.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Get To Your Control Documents Easily!

Have you ever had a problem finding a project control document on your computer,network or intranet? Did you know that you can open a control document such as a Statement of Work from within MS Project? You can do this easily and quickly - avoiding wasted time searching. Interested? Here’s how to do it:

1. Open the project and navigate to the Hyperlinks table. In Project 2010 you get there by selecting the View tab, then select Tables from the Data group.

2. When the table is shown, make sure you turn the Project Summary Task on so you can type the file location and file name into Hyperlink and/or Address fields as shown in the figure below. Turn on the Project Summary Task by selecting the Format tab, and then check the Project Summary Task box in the Show/Hide group.

(Click on the image to expand it.)

Hyperlink Table

 

3. Test the link out by right clicking on the Project Summary Task name in the Hyperlink Table and then choose Open Hyperlink from the Hyperlink dropdown. See the figure below for details.

Open Hyperlink from Project

When the document opens, you’ve successfully linked to your control document! If the document doesn’t open make sure the address and hyperlink correctly identify the document location, name and extension, like the .docx in the figures above.

Here’s an example: my Statement of Work referenced in the Hyperlink Table above:

SOW Opened

Don’t forget to check out Help in Project. The Hyperlink and Address fields are explained nicely in the Fields reference. Give this simple technique a try and save yourself some time for other things – like managing your project!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A New Way of “What If” Scenario Planning

How many times have you heard your manager ask this question: “What happens to the schedule, resource needs and costs if we don’t do a specific task?”.

In previous versions of Project you could delete the task and try to compare the schedule and costs before and after, but you’d have to re-enter all of the task and resource data again. In Project 2010 Professional, all you have to do is Inactivate the task. The purpose of this feature is to help answer the “What If” question with the least pain possible.

The “Inactivate” button is found in the Schedule group on the Task tab. When a task is inactivated, it is excluded from the schedule and its resource assignments are excluded as well. You can still see the inactive task so that it can be reactivated later if you change your mind.

In the figures below I have a model for a remote training project that includes a little sightseeing. Since the work schedule after the trip dictates whether the sightseeing can occur, the task “Sightseeing Activities” is expendable. It isn’t a requirement for the training. The top figure illustrates that the trip will take 8 days if sightseeing is included.  In the bottom figure, sightseeing has been Inactivated which shortens the trip to 4 days. The cost is also cut, so you can see the effect of inactivation on both schedule and cost!

ACTIVATE TASK

Active Task 

INACTIVATED TASK

Inactive Task

In this example, I have used Auto Scheduled activities, modified the Project Calendar, and used sequencing techniques to illustrate the concept. I’ve not answered other questions you may have on this subject like “What happens to the project schedule if the tasks are Manually Scheduled?”. Or “Do Projects’ Options come into play here?

Well, those are deeper and more complex questions – more suitable for a Webinar. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Second Success Factor

On September 16th Eric Verzuh presented a webinar on “The Five Project Success factors”. If you attended, you heard sage advice and goals to shoot for on your projects. You can get a copy of his “Project Success Factors Checklist” for a limited time by clicking here.  (Or go to: http://www.versatilecompany.com/Events+and+Articles/default.aspx)  Eric Verzuh is Versatile’s president and the bestselling author of The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management.

This blog entry deals with the second success factor – “A plan that shows the overall path and clear responsibilities and that can be used to measure progress during the project.”

MS Project is just the tool to enable that success factor. In the figure below I took about a minute (really!) to format a Project 2010 Gantt chart so that each element of this success factor is visible: the sequence or path is represented by the arrows between task bars. The Baseline schedule is in grey, the current schedule is in blue, and task responsibility is shown by the resource names to the right of each bar.

The Baseline is the best estimate of a schedule that we want to measure progress against. Notice task ID 2 is slipping. You know that because the Schedule bar starts later than the Baseline bar. The difference between the Baseline start and the Actual start is called Start Variance. Now you can deduce what Finish Variance means. Task ID 7 has a lot of Finish Variance. It will finish later than planned if course correction isn’t initiated.

(Click on this figure to enlarge)

Success Factor 2

See? Identifying planning and schedule issues is a lot easier when using MS Project. As you can see in this example, MS Project’s visual and dynamic charts give fast clues to the state of the project. So you have the opportunity to make schedule decisions faster. Give yourself the chance for success!

(And don’t forget to get the checklist.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Project Success Factors

Question: Have you ever been on a project that has failed? Do you want to increase the success of your projects by knowing what the critical success factors are?

In his webinar on September 16th, Eric Verzuh is going to offer “The Five Project Success factors” from 11 AM – 12 PM PDT. It’s free, and if you are still thinking about the question I asked at the top of this blog, you should register right now >> here<<

One of the success factors he’s going to show us can be applied to MS Project usage and strategy. It’s so powerful I’m going to write a blog article on it after his webinar!

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Schedule Tasks Your Way

In all previous versions of MS Project, from 1.0 through 2007, the question most asked of me is “How do I get MS Project to leave my schedule alone?” This question is convenience and usability based, not competency based. My answer has always been, “let’s talk about the goal and how the software can help achieve it.” Naturally, discussion followed on how Project schedules and coaching or training solved the problem. Microsoft has addressed this common question brilliantly in Project 2010 with a new feature - Manual Scheduling.

Manual Scheduling allows the user to create and schedule tasks and resources without the interference of MS Project's scheduling engine. This means that Project won't be second guessing the starting and ending dates when you enter a task or move a task to a different date. This is now the default scheduling setting in Project 2010.

There are several MPUG articles on the Manually Scheduled Tasks feature and its use in planning. There is also a very nice explanation of Manual Scheduling in MS Project 2010’s Help. Reading these is definitely worth the time.

Now my most frequent question is “How can I have Auto Schedule (2007’s default) as my default, but not lose the Manually Schedule feature when I need it?”

The answer is in Project’s Options. Go to File, then Options. In the Schedule topic and Schedule section are the two settings that need to be set to meet your needs. If you want Automatic Scheduling as your default, just match the noted settings in the figure below and OK the dialog.

Setting the Default Task Mode

New projects will now be Auto Scheduled. If you want to Manually Schedule a task, you’ll need to select the task and choose Manually Schedule from the Ribbon. See the figure below for its location in the Ribbon.

Stting the Task Mode on an individual task

Regardless of your choice for Task Mode, Project will give you what you want. Now you can schedule your way!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Free Webinar August 5: What’s New in Project 2010

Back by popular demand! Join me in Versatile's free "What's New in Project 2010 " webinar on August 5th. In this webinar I will be showing off MS Project 2010's newest (and coolest) new capabilities. Trust me, the new Project is a game changer.
Join this webinar to learn:
  • Why Excel users will finally switch to Project!
  • How the Timeline View improves communication with executives and customers!
  • An intuitive new view for assigning tasks to people (instead of assigning people to tasks)!
  • Why turning the scheduling engine to OFF can make sense on your projects!
  • Why SharePoint integration makes your life easier and Project more powerful!

Be quick! These fill very quickly. Register HERE!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

MPUG Certificate Program: Microsoft Project 2010 Features Expert

On July 7th I will present a webinar entitled "Creating and managing views, tables, sorting, and grouping" for the Microsoft Project User's Group. It should be a lot of fun and you will learn how to create your own analytical Views using Project 2010. These fill up very quickly, so don't debate - go for it!

Register here.

Creating a Phased Baseline in MS Project 2007

The Problem: Project work often starts before all of the tasks are known. If a project baseline is not set before incurring the actual work on tasks, then the baselines value is reduced as there will never be variance in start dates for those tasks.

The Solution: Baseline the project tasks in phases. First, highlight the tasks to be baselined, then from the Tools menu choose Tracking, Set Baseline…

Ensure that the selections are to “Set baseline”, For “Selected tasks” and finally ensure that all options under “Roll up baselines:” are checked. These last settings enable Project to capture the phased baseline. Finally, click on “OK” to set the phased baseline. (Click on the figure below to enlarge and examine details.)

Phased Baseline Settings

When the tasks and schedule for the next phase is known, then the tasks in that phase are added to the existing baseline using the method just described.

The figure below depicts a project with a phased baseline and variance. The Star Variance and Finish Variance fields were inserted to illustrate the capture of variance data in phases. (Click on the figure below to enlarge and examine details.)

Phased Baseline

Thanks to all who asked for this information after my June webinar! Please check back for more answers to questions posed during and after Versatile’s “Essentials of Project”.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Don’t Forget Task Types!

Since presenting Versatile’s “Essentials of Microsoft Project 2007” webinar series in May and June, I have received many emails on Task Types and how to get to the Task Type table found in Project’s Help engine. I received so many that I though it would be worth this short blog revisiting the table. Regardless of the version of MS Project used, the software will react to data entry on each task based on the rules shown in this table. Please enjoy this screenshot direct taken from MS Project! (Click on it to enlarge.)

Task Types

I will be answering the most frequent questions received in the “Essentials” Webinars over the next few weeks, so stay tuned and come back

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Promise Made…

A HUGE thank you to all who attended my presentation of the Versatile Company’s “Essentials” webinars on May 20th. There were many great questions and requests, one of which I am fulfilling here - creating a custom field with a graphical indicator.

In this post we will create the baseline checker that was demonstrated in the webinar. The field we’ll customize is “Text1”, and we will assign graphical indicators to show the results of the check for each task. (Click on any image in this posting to examine the detail being shown.)

1 custom_fields

Step 1: Insert the field to be customized. In the Gantt Chart view click on the column heading where you wish to insert the new field, then press the Insert (Ins) key on your keyboard. The “Column Definition” dialog box will appear. In this dialog box find the “Text1” field in the “Field Name:” drop down list and select it. Click on the “OK” button. Your “Text1” field should now be visible.

A field name should reflect its purpose. In this example, the field name “Text1” becomes “Baseline?” indicating whether each task is baselined or not.

Step 2: Rename the field and create the formula. Click on the “Tools” menu and choose “Customize”, then “Fields…”

The “Custom Fields” dialog box will be offered.

2 Custom_field_and_formula

Ensure that the “Text1” field is selected and then click on the “Rename…” button and rename the field to “Baselined?”. Click on the “OK” button.  Next click on the “Formula…” button and enter the formula exactly as seen in the image above. This is the formula that returns the state of each task’s baseline. Each non-summary task should now have either “Baseline!” or “No Baseline!” in the new “Baselined?” field, depending on its state..

Step 3: Create graphical indicators.

Click on the “Graphical Indicators…” button to match indicators to the results of the formula. Enter the data needed exactly as seen in the image below.

3 Indicators

Click on the “OK” button. Do the same for the “Custom Fields” dialog box. You’re done! Now the baseline state is visible and easy to evaluate.

Once you get the hang of custom fields and graphical indicators, you can dramatically reduce the time needed in your projects for analysis.

As always, let me know how you did and if you have any suggestions for future topics!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

QUICK TIP: LINE UP GANTT BARS WITH THEIR TASK NAMES

Here’s an old tip that might just save you time and confusion, and it’s incredibly easy too!

The problem: the Task Name is on one side of the screen and the Gantt bar is on the other. In order to match the bar with the name, you wind up scrolling the Gantt, sometimes overshooting the bar or even losing the Gantt entirely to the timeline. See below and click on the image to enlarge it.


The answer: Format the Gantt with lines that keep the names in alignment with the bars. From the menu in Project 2007 choose Format then choose Gridlines. The “Gantt Rows” are what need to be formatted, so click on that item, the line is solid and unbroken and the color is Silver. See below and click on the image to enlarge it.


When you click on OK, the Gantt will have lines keeping the text aligned with the bar.


Try this solution and see if it doesn’t make it just a little easier to work in Microsoft Project. Then tell me what you think about it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Team Planner - A Cool New Tool for Assigning Work

One of the most frequent questions I am asked about MS Project 2010 is "Are there any cool features you can tell me about?". The answer, of course is "YES!". There are so many cool new features that in the next few months there will be hundreds of articles, books and training manuals created that will show every feature. The question that I hope to answer is "What are the cool new USEFUL features?".

Now that 2010 has been released to manufacturing and production, I will give you my opinions on new features and how you might use them. There are two that leap out at me that are game changers: Manual Scheduling and the Team Planner.

Manual Scheduling allows you to create and schedule tasks and resources without the interference of MS Project's scheduling engine. This means that Project won't be second guessing the starting and ending dates when you enter a task.

The Team Planner works with Manual Scheduling to allow you to assign tasks to a resource in a timeline. The Team Planner also shows work assigned to other resources. Work is assigned and moved by clicking and dragging it to the time period you want.

The Team Planner is the resource driven tool for scheduling work. (click on image to enlarge)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Gantt Chart is the task driven tool for scheduling work. (click on image to enlarge)

 
 
 
 
 

Now you can schedule work YOUR way!