Thursday, December 29, 2011

Group Resources for Effective Reports!

Here is a hot tip that I find useful on every project that utilizes resources.

The Entry table in the Resource Sheet View contains a field that can give a new perspective on resources when used along with grouping. It’s the Resource Sheet’s Group field.

In just four steps, the Resource Sheet view becomes a powerhouse report showing resource costs by a category defined in the Group field. Here’s how:

1. Enter data into the Group field for each resource. In the figure below, the data represents the resource function in the project. (Click on the figures to enlarge.)

Resource Sheet Grouping 1

2. In the Data sub group of the View tab, choose Group by: and choose Resource Group from the drop down list. See the figure below.

Resource Sheet Grouping 2

3. The grouping is presented. Note in the figure below that the text entered for each resource is now used to organize the resource Sheet.

Resource Sheet Grouping 3

4. Apply the table of choice. In the figure below, the Cost table is applied. Note that the grouping now totals the cost for each resource, then rolls the data up to the grouping label. The Resource Sheet is now a report helping compare and analyze the cost of project resources as organized in the group. Other tables can be applied for different information such as resource work.

Resource Sheet Grouping 4

Give this technique a try.  If you like the result or if you find another grouping you like better, send me an email!

Check out the online Versatile Project 2010 Boot Camps. These are designed for beginner and intermediate users of Microsoft Project that need to master this application and pass the 70-178 exam. Start your journey by clicking  HERE.

For more information on class schedules, costs and other Versatile offerings call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2295.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tips for Certification in Microsoft Project 2010 (Exam 70-178)

This blog entry is a repeat and a  salute to those of you considering certification in Project 2010. There is no faster or better way to validate your product knowledge. Before you rush out to take the exam, I have a few tips and resources to help you pass it.
I have taken and passed the exam, so I am prohibited from giving out answers, but I can give you the topics that are covered in in the exam. Microsoft calls the exam topics the Objective Domain (O.D.). The O.D. serves as a study guide and helps you identify any weak product knowledge areas. The Microsoft Project User’s Group has the O.D. online here. Get it!
Here are a few tips to give you direction in your studies:
1. Understand Task Types. I don’t mean just identify them. Understand how they relate to each other and the impacts to a task’s work, duration, or resource assignments when one of these three variables changes. Do you know how the changes affect the project?
2. Understand the Fluid User Interface. You and I call it the Ribbon. Not all of Project’s commands are in the Ribbon. Do you know what they are, where they are, and how to get missing commands into the Ribbon?
3. Understand Scheduling Modes. Know the advantages and disadvantages of manual and automatic scheduling. Their settings in Project will affect how the modes work and are utilized by Project’s scheduling engine. Schedule Modes are a huge departure from the previous versions of Project. Can you describe scheduling scenarios affected by them?
4. Really understand how to baseline the project. Can you baseline a single task? Can you create a “phased” baseline? Do you know how to use Project’s baselining capabilities to conduct “what if” planning? If not, better study up on the subject!
Here is the best resource I can offer you: Take Versatile’s Microsoft Project training! You can sign up for it here. The “Mastering Microsoft Project 2010” course addresses every topic in the Objective Domain and has been validated and endorsed by Microsoft. Check it out! Click on the image below and look for it’s description.
70-178_ms_projects_highres clean
If you’d like more information on this, please call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2295.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Realistic Project Modeling: the Mid-Point Schedule Technique

The subject of mid-point scheduling has risen continually over my career. I created an article to explain the technique several years ago and popular demand has convinced me its time to examine it again…

Not every project schedule has a clear beginning with an obvious first task or milestone start date. The following training event project model is driven by a task within its project task list. What precedes the training event may be logistical tasks that have a date related dependency with the start of the event, such as material shipping, travel arrangements and travel. What follows the training event will certainly have a date related dependency with the finish of the event, such as travel home and invoicing. The start and finish dates of the project and all tasks are therefore determined by the training event’s start date and duration. Adjustments to the training event start date will change the dates of every other task in the project, but keep the project task sequence and any imposed lead times intact in the schedule. Thus the project as a unit can be moved in the timeline.

There are seven tasks in the model. Along with the sequencing and lead times, the start date and duration of task number 5, “Train Participants”, drives all task dates. It is the mid-point driver and is the key to understanding the model. It is also the only task constrained to a specific date.

The start date of task 5 determines the finish date of task 4. The relationship between the two tasks is start-to-finish.

The finish date for task 3 depends on the start date of task 5 and needs 7 days of time for the material to actually be shipped and received. This relationship is also start-to-finish.

In this model tasks 2 and 3 may occur concurrently and so a start-to-start relationship is utilized.

The start of task 2 drives the completion date of task 1 due to the time required to communicate/negotiate the logistical needs of the training event.

Tasks 6 and 7 are the follow-up events from the training and are sequenced with the default finish-to-start dependency type.

Here’s how to create the model if you want to try it out:

Step 1: Create the Task List


Step 2: Sequence the tasks in the Task List


Step 3: Constrain the mid-point-driver


Step 4: Analyze the Gantt Chart for Accuracy


Here is how to adjust it to your dates:

If the start date for the event needs to be modified, it should be re-constrained to the new date as described above. The Gantt Chart below shows the new date for the training event as January 10.


The remaining tasks in the project are then driven to new dates by the same sequences and lead times resulting in the project moving as a unit to the new location in the timeline.

An error message may warn you that a task in the sequence is occurring before the project start date. This message is driven by the start date found in Project Information. Adjust the date manually to embrace the new project start date and the message will no longer appear.


Give it a try! Mid-Point Scheduling has served me well for many years in consulting, in training and for life in general.

If you really liked this information on Microsoft Project’s scheduling features, join me on October 13, 2011 in a free webinar entitled Tips and Tricks. This is the first of a two part presentation that I know you’ll love. Like my Project Server webinars, my Microsoft Project webinars fill very quickly. Why not sign up now?

Sign up for one or both HERE.

If you’d like more information on these webinars or our training, please call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2295.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reporting Tip: Visualize Resource Cost!

MS Project and Project Server offer many ways to view resource costs, some of which are not obvious. This is a problem when trying to analyze critical variables such as the cost of a specific resource, department or role. Read on for tips on to display this information.

Microsoft Project’s “Resource Sheet” has tables associated with it. The default table is “Entry” and it serves the user well for the initial definition of resources. One of the fields in the “Entry” table is “Standard Rate”. When a resource is assigned a task, this rate multiplied by the hours of work planned for the resource results in the cost of the resource assigned the task. Another field is the “Group” field. This field is often used to identify roles, departments, or functional area. (Click on the figure below to view a “Resource Sheet” showing the “Entry” table. Note the fields discussed above. The resource “Group” field in the example represents resource roles.)

Res Sheet Plain

Unfortunately, this table doesn’t provide the total cost of the resource in the project. In order to get this information the “Cost” table must be applied. (Click on the figure below to view a “Resource Sheet” showing the “Cost” table.)

Res Sheet Cost Table

Now that individual resource cost is visible, the “Group by:” feature can be applied. In the figure below, the “Resource Sheet” view  has been grouped by “Resource Group” to summarize the cost of each role and each resource assigned to the project in that role.

Res Sheet Cost Table Plus Res Group

It took a small amount of organizing and formatting to turn a default view into a detailed cost report!

Microsoft Project Server’s “Resource Center” also contains “Views” and “Group by:” features. The difference is one of scale. Resource cost, work, availability and assignments are all summarized for all projects from the Resource Center. Notice in the figure below that Project Server is showing the resources belonging to “PMO”. From here Project Server can show the summarized information required for reporting and  good decision making. .

PS2010 Resource Center

If you want to learn more about topics related to Project Server, please join me in my free webinar: Bigger, Better Project Server 2010! on September 23, 2011 | 12pm EDT/9am PDT.

Register Here. (Do it soon because seats are limited and they fill very quickly.)

If you really liked the information on Microsoft Project’s cost features, join me on October 13, 2011 in a free webinar entitled Tips and Tricks. This is the first of a two part presentation that I know you’ll love. Like the Project Server webinars, my Microsoft Project webinars fill very quickly. Why not sign up now?

Sign up for one or both HERE.

If you’d like more information on these webinars or our training, please call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2295.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Resource Pools: Project Server Light

Resource availability often restricts how much work is conducted in a project. When multiple projects are competing for the same resources, the problem is magnified. Microsoft Project 2010 addresses the problem by using resource pools and master projects, sometimes referred to as “Project Server Light”.

These features are powerful, but not difficult to use. There are only a few steps required to create the model:

  • Create the resource pool and save it as a file.
  • Create the projects and tasks that will share the pool’s resources.
  • Connect the projects to the resource pool and assign pool resources to their tasks.

Once the files are saved you have the choice of leaving them as separate files or to consolidate them into one master file. Opening the resource pool file will offer you the choices. See the figure below.

Pool OptionsChoosing the third option will consolidate the pool and all of the sharing projects into a single master project file. In the figure below note that the inserted field “Project” clearly identifies the project containing each task. Also note that there is a dependency between tasks in different projects. (Click on the figure to enlarge.)

Master Showing All SubTasks

In a resource pool assignments across projects can be looked at in terms of capacity and availability.  The figure below shows an over allocated resource in a resource pool and assignment details that have created a problem. Now that the problem is highlighted, a solution can be found.Resource Graph Over Gantt

Give the resource pool a try. It’s a great tool for managing multiple projects without the benefit of multiple project teams.

Need training? For Versatile’s course offerings call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2290. You can see our offerings for yourself by clicking HERE.

If you want to learn more about topics related to managing multiple projects, please join me in my free webinar: Bigger, Better Project Server 2010! on August 24, 2011 | 2pm EDT/11am PDT.

Register Here. (Do it soon because seats are limited and they fill very quickly.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Managing Multiple Projects: You Can’t Manage What You Can’t See!

If you have a limited number of resources working on concurrent tasks in concurrent projects, the chances are you aren’t seeing the whole picture. In fact you may be missing critical conflicts thus reducing the chance for project success. I recommend using Microsoft Project Server 2010 to help you manage all of the projects in your portfolio.

Project Server 2010 is more than a repository for saved projects. It assists you in analyzing projects by comparing the fiscal health, resource forecasts, business alignment and schedule goals of all your projects. Dashboards can “light up” using indicators to get your attention.  Great reporting rounds out the power in Microsoft’s premier enterprise project management platform.

The block diagram below is a simplified view of the components in Project Server 2010. SQL Server provides the raw power needed for number crunching. Excel Services graphically communicates the state of the projects and portfolio. SharePoint Server provides the platform to tie it all together.

PS2010 Block

The next two figures illustrate the value of Project Server.

In the first figure you see a listing of projects in a Gantt chart. Note that you can see the schedule concurrencies because you can see and compare all of the projects at once. (Click on the figures to expand them.)


The second figure illustrates how organizing the projects by their type and using a dashboard indicator can help compare and evaluate the projects in the portfolio. The “Project Health” indicator represents the budget and schedule state of the individual projects. Green is good while red is not. For more details you can drill into the project in question.


Project Server 2010 helps you manage what you can’t see.

If you want to learn more about topics related to Microsoft Project Server 2010 please join me in my free webinar: Bigger, Better Project Server 2010! on August 24, 2011 | 2pm EDT/11am PDT.

Register Here. (Do it soon because seats are limited and they fill very quickly.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hot Tip: Earned Value Analysis Requires Preparation!

In the Versatile Company’s most recent newsletter Eric Verzuh offers a free earned value analysis white paper for download. I strongly recommend you get it and read it along with this blog entry. Together they help you create more accurate status reports by utilizing earned value concepts in Microsoft Project.

  • Get Eric Verzuh’s white paper “Leveraging Earned Value Management” HERE.
  • Sign up for Versatile’s newsletter HERE.

In the white paper, you’ll find that there are three steps to earned value analysis. These should be your guiding light in taking status.  If you are going to use Project 2010 please also take note that in Project 2010 earned value analysis features require input from the user prior to taking status. Here are the program’s needs:

1. Ensure that project resources have a cost rate assigned and that they are assigned to tasks in the schedule. In Project earned value calculations are primarily based on the cost of work conducted by resources over time. Their work schedule should therefore be realistic. If realistic scheduling is of interest to you, check back often as this is a topic I’ll discuss in a future blog.

2. Set the project baseline. Sounds easy and it is! Consider the project schedule and data fields used in the white paper: (Click on figure to enlarge)

EVMS Report Blog 1

The baseline is a snapshot of cost, work and schedule for comparison with “actual” cost, work and schedule. Without a baseline, you have nothing to report against or to determine “how are we doing?”.

Set the baseline by selecting the “Project” tab, then the “Set Baseline” button, finally “Set Baseline…” command to bring up the “Set Baseline” dialog. Be sure to “Set baseline” for the “Entire project” before you press on the “OK” button. See the figure below for reference points in the dialog.

Set Baseline 2

3. Set the status date. Project needs to know when status is being taken. If no status date is set, it will use the current date. Set the status date by selecting the “Project” tab, then “Project Information”. Set the dates according to your need. The diagram below shows where to adjust the dates in the dialog.

Set Status date 3

Once the cost of work, the status date and the baseline data are set, you are ready to take project status! You can then run earned value reports from “Reports” and “Visual Reports” to analyze the schedule and cost state of the project from performance data and not just a hunch.

Need training? For Versatile’s course offerings call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2290. You can see our offerings for yourself by clicking HERE.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sync to SharePoint with MS Project 2010

Here’s a familiar complaint: “I’ve got a project in progress but my project team is spread all over the country. I need a tool that will help me manage project work, help my team report their progress, and above all else – it needs to be web based and simple!” There is a solution – and it is designed with Project and SharePoint in mind. It’s called “Sync to SharePoint Tasks List”.

I’m going demonstrate this in my next webinar on June 23rd:  “What's HOT About Microsoft Project 2010!” If you’re interested, register HERE. Seats are going fast, so register now. It’s FREE!

Here are some of the things I’m going to illustrate:

  • What a SharePoint Tasks List is and why you should care about it. Click on the figure below to see one. Look for buttons integrating Outlook, Excel, Access and other applications right into the Tasks List!


  • Where the Sync to SharePoint settings are in Project.
  • What options and limitations you have. The next figure shows the Sync to SharePoint interface in MS Project Professional.


  • How the tasks look and what data they contain after being brought into Project. The last figure shows the SharePoint Tasks List in MS Project after the Sync.


June 23rd is just around the corner. If you want to know more about this great toolset, register for the free webinar! Click HERE.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Project Selection and Modeling in MS Project Professional

Thanks for returning to my blog! As the title indicates, this blog entry deals with project selection and modeling in Project Professional, an area of portfolio management usually reserved for Project Server.

It doesn’t matter if the version is 2007 or 2010. What does matter is that the projects in consideration have enough factual information known about them to align them to the to the business of the enterprise. These are the business drivers. They make it easier to prioritize and select projects for execution.

In the figure below, four projects are to be evaluated, one  project entered per line. In this example the business drivers are represented in columns 5 – 7 by custom fields and lookup tables.  The data in each lookup table identifies four levels of alignment for each business driver from “None” to “High”. The stronger the number, the better the alignment. The “Strategic Strength” column is a custom field that sums columns 5 – 7 for each project. The “Strategic Priority” column is a custom field and formula that assesses the “Strategic Strength” of each project and assigns each project a  calculated priority and an indicator. Think of all of these fields as a tool to quantify the value of each project to the organization.


Once the priorities are identified for every project they can be grouped in preparation for scheduling and resource forecasting. An example grouping is seen in the figure below.


In subsequent postings, I’ll  continue this discussion to include resource forecasting, scheduling and how rules bind these topics.

Got questions? Send me an email!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lead With Project: Use Deadlines and Milestones to Communicate Urgency and Schedule Goals!

“Project Manager” is more than a title. By definition project managers are in a leadership role in their organization. Communicating is such a large part of this role that I thought it would be interesting to blog about how MS Project aids the project manager in conveying urgency from project data.  This helps focus the team on schedule goals.

In the figure below I have shown how formatting Deadlines and Milestones can convey that urgency and make the schedule goals visible. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Visible Deadlines

Here are the techniques I used in the example:

  • I created Custom Fields and Indicators to calculate the proximity of deadlines on summary tasks. (see my Nov 13, 2010 post)
  • I used cell highlighting to catch the readers eye.
  • I formatted one milestone to be a different color (red) for emphasis and placed it’s task name under it.
  • I rolled up the red milestone to show on it’s summary task.
  • I made sure that ALL milestones were set to show in the new Timeline view.
  • Finally, I printed everything out in color!

Lead the way. Help the team see the schedule goals so they can figure out how to meet those goals!

Topics like this are addressed in Versatile’s MS Project courses. Our popular “Mastering Microsoft Project 2010” and “Managing Projects with Microsoft Project 2010” can accelerate your PM practices. To discuss these and our other course offerings call Jon Wagner at (206) 417-2290. You can see our offerings for yourself by clicking HERE.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Custom Reporting: Schedule Status

Project 2007 and 2010 have a large number of reports available for you. They are found under Reports and Visual Reports and fit most needs 80% or more of the time. For the other 20% you’ll need to develop a custom report.

A custom report is really any project View, Table or Report that is created or modified to communicate specific but non-standard information. In this blog entry I will show how one custom field can remove schedule confusion by interpreting the true state of the schedule for you.

Here’s the scenario: you have done your best to create a well formed, well estimated and baselined project schedule. After baselining you added new tasks and changed start dates in other tasks. Now you need to analyze the impacts of all the changes. The figure below illustrates the new schedule. Can you quickly determine the current state of the schedule? Which tasks are early? Which are late?


You have a baseline – use it to your advantage! Once the baseline is set the “Start Variance” field can be used to help you build your custom report. Use a text field with a formula to do the analysis work for you. In this example I am using the “Text1” field, renamed to “SV Indicator”, with the following formula: (Click on the graphics to enlarge)


The formula checks for a baseline and if there isn’t one the field displays “No Baseline”.  If the “Start Variance” is negative it displays “Early” and if more than zero it displays “Late”.  Zero “Start Variance” means “On Track”. When the formula is entered correctly the new field will describe the state of the tasks scheduled as seen in the graphic below.


If you want to convert the text data to a dashboard, create graphic indicators that test the text. See the settings below and you’ll get the gist of it:


Depending on the indicators you choose, your final custom report will look something like this:


Wow. What a difference a little customization makes! Compare the graphic above to the third figure and you will see that they test and illustrate schedule status, making it much easier to evaluate.

That’s only one field. You can evaluate date ranges, percentages of completion, and so many other fields that it becomes obvious we are limited only by our imagination.

Want more examples? That is a topic for another blog entry! Stay tuned, and please let me know how and what you come up with for your custom reports. Future blogs will detail other custom reporting such as cost, earned value, and work.

This topic and many more are covered in my Microsoft Project training. For more details contact Jon Wagner at:

(206) 417-2290 / (206) 417-2295.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My new webinar is coming up soon: “Project Selection and Portfolio Management Using Microsoft Project Server 2010”


On February 24th, I will give a webinar looking into portfolio management and project selection using Microsoft Project Server 2010. Register HERE.

One of the first problems I’ll look at is the issue of project selection. Stated differently, which projects are the right projects for the organization to invest in? How do the projects rank against each other? Are there projects which clearly should not be selected? These questions and more can be addressed using Microsoft Project Server 2010.

Seats fill fast,  so register HERE now!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Create a Change Highlighting Toggle

Immediately after I published my December 2010 blog entitled “Where’s My Tracking Toolbar?” I started receiving emails about finding lost buttons, lost functions and other lost Project 2007 features and getting them into the Ribbon. The lost feature requested the most often was the ability to turn on and off Change Highlighting. This is found easily in 2007, but is not going to be found in Project 2010’s Ribbon unless you add it yourself.

So let’s add it! Refresh your memory by reading December 2010’s blog entry, then create your own Tab and Group as I have in the figure below. (Click on it to enlarge.)

Get Your Change Highlighting

Once the Tab and Group are created, make sure “All Commands” is selected from the “Choose commands from:” list. Next, scroll down the list of commands until you find “Change Highlighting”, click on it, and then click on the “Add>>” button to put it in your new Group and Tab. Make sure that the Tab checkbox is checked, then click the “OK” button at the bottom of the dialog.

You might want to put a few other commands in your new Group. I have created one for Tracking and another to have my favorite features accessible. You see them in the figure: Gantt Chart Wizard, Organizer, Statistics and Change Highlighting have found their way back into my toolbox.

Try it out, experiment, and let me hear about your cool toolbox!