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Create your first plan with Microsoft Project

Learning Microsoft Project presents a major challenge. The first time is always the toughest. You cannot sit down in front of your workstation and just learn it. Microsoft Project more complex (and much more powerful) than a product like Excel. It so easy to make simple mistakes which are difficult to undo.  Many first time users become frustrated and want to give up. They want Microsoft Project to work their way. Often they don't understand project management so their learning curve doubles. Learn how Microsoft Project works. Learn which views to use for which function. Remember how difficult to learn to ride your first bike? And after you succeeded it was so easy. 

Below are the steps to create your first plan from scratch. Learn the best views to enter your tasks and assign resources.

Create first plan with Microsoft Project.



Microsoft Project Views and Menus
1. Start new project in Microsoft Project Open project file.
Define working days and shifts.
Enter project details
File -> new
Tools -> change working time
Project -> project information
File -> properties
2. Create critical path schedule Define tasks and dependencies with network diagram. View -> Network diagram
View - > Detailed Gantt
3. Define resources Link to shared resource pool.
Identify resources.
Create resource calendars.
View -> Resource sheet.

View resource information dialog box.
4. Assign resources to tasks Identify generic resources to complete tasks.
Replace generic resources with specific resources.
View - > Task Usage
Window -> Split

5. Analyze resource workload   View -> Resource usage in upper pane
View -> more views -> task form in lower pane.
Select Timescale.
6. Track project progress Save project baseline
Report progress against plan.
Enter actual hours into project.
Compare progress against baseline.
Tools -> tracking -> save baseline.
View -> Tracking Gantt 
View -> tracking table
7. Capture actual work. Enter actual work for each resource for current time period from timesheets. View - > Resource usage.
Detail format = Actual work

Tips to reduce the learning curve  with Microsoft Project

The following tips may help you learn Microsoft Project.

Create first plan with Microsoft Project

Here are the steps to build a plan from scratch using Microsoft Project.

1. Start new project with Microsoft Project.

Projects stored in project files or databases. The project calendar defines when Microsoft Project can schedule tasks and work with in your project. Create a calendar for your project using tools -> Change working time. Assign the calendar to you project with Project -> Project information. Also choose a starting date for your project. Define the project title, the authors name and the project manager's name. These can be printed on project headers and footers.

2. Create Critical Path Schedule

Projects contain tasks. Schedule tasks within the project defining dependencies between these tasks. A successor task will be scheduled when all of its predecessor tasks are finished. Tasks without any predecessors are scheduled at the project start date. Then their successors are scheduled. Define dependencies between tasks by dragging arrows from the predecessor tasks to the successor tasks. Microsoft Project calculates the task finish dates by counting off the task duration on the calendar.

3. Define resources

Resources are used to complete tasks. Resources may be people, organizations, equipment or materials. Each resource has their own calendar based on a base calendar. Define the resources on your project using the Resource sheet view.

4. Assign Resources to tasks

Assign resources to tasks using the task form in the bottom pane with any resource detailed view showing the resource name, units and work. Once the assignment is complete, you can print a to do list for each resource.

5. Analyze Workload

The resource usage view shows you work for each resource by time period. Overloaded resources show in red. Collapse the assignment details to see as summary of resource workloads by day, week, month, quarter or year.

6. Track project progress

A baseline allows you to compare your current project with the original plan. Saving the baseline takes a snapshot of the project at the current point in time. Usually you do this when you get project approval. Then as your project progresses the plan begins to change as you enter the actual results of project progress.

7. Capture actual work

Capture actual work effort spent by each resource using the resource usage view.

Copyright March 12, 2007 Brian Mullen, I.S.P. information systems planning corp. Last updated: March 12, 2007

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