As we discussed in the previous post, there are many computer based project management tools. From them Microsoft Project is a tool that is widely used today because it has become so easy because now Microsoft Project comes with Office365.
Though the Project software comes as a paid one, for the DreamSpark account holders Microsoft Project is free. So Keep calm & download it through your precious DreamSpark account undergrads! Ok, the others… if you really interested on the software, don’t hesitate. The investment you making worth a lot. If you going to try it for managing the projects in your organization, trust me you’ll see a huge improvement of productivity.
Or you can try Microsoft Project for a trail period & am pretty sure you’ll fall in love with it.
Let’s get started. Here I’m using Microsoft Project 2013 for the demonstrations.
At the first sight you’ll see an interface that is seems very familiar for you. For those who are familiar with Microsoft Office applications such as Word, excel & PowerPoint this wouldn’t be an alien software for them. Most of the controllers and the UI looks same. So it’s easy to cope with even for a newbie.
For the demonstration I’ll go through this scenario.
You are the team leader of a software developing project at the university. Your task is to develop a student registration system within 4 months of time. Your team consist of 5 members including you. Most of the system requirements can be fully extracted in the initial phase. You have to present the progress of your project to your supervisor weekly.
Here we go! For this I selected a blank project. Let’s start from the scratch.
An Excel like screen comes. Don’t worry we’ll run through all the gadgets one by one. Basically MS Project based on the Gantt charts. So the rows are for the tasks. Before going for defining the tasks let’s define the project schedule.
Project Information & Project Calendar-
Go to Project -> Project Information
You’ll get a dialog that can define the start date, end date kind of information about the project. Here you can mention the working time too. Normally the work calendar is set for an 8 hour work shift per a day with weekend holidays. In this standard calendar, week starts on Sunday. Here the project status date means the date that we wish to consider when generating progress reports in the future. You can change it as you want.
If you wish to change the working hours and wish to make your own calendar for the project go to Project – > Change working time and customize your calendar.
When the project is ongoing, you can change the working time. But note that the project schedule will automatically adjust according to the new calendar.
Gantt chart –
Gantt chart plays the main role in each project. You have to select task – > Gantt chart to get the spreadsheet where you can enter the task information. Task name, duration, start date, end date, predecessors and many more information about each activity can be inserted to this spreadsheet.
To list out the tasks, it’s better to get a clear idea on the Work Break down Structure (WBS) of your project. WBS is a hierarchical and incremental decomposition of the project into phases, deliverables and work packages. It’s a tree like structure. It’s better to decompose the complex tasks into sub tasks and put them in separate rows. Here you can see the developing phase has decomposed to four sub tasks.
There are two task modes as Auto scheduled & manually scheduled. You can choose the desired mode according to your requirement. The duration for each task can be given in weeks, months or days etc… Note that when counting days the holidays and the weekends are excluded. Only working days are counted here. The software itself calculates the start date and the end date.
The Predecessors field lists the task ID numbers for the predecessor tasks on which the task depends before it can be started or finished. Each predecessor is linked to the task by a specific type of task dependency and a lead time or lag time. Simply you can say what draw the relationships between tasks by predecessors.
After mapping the relationships between the tasks in the WBS the software draws the Gantt chart for us. Further we can adjust the durations and WBS according to the submission requirements we have. In a case if a university project, you can align the WBS according to the schedule of the progress presentations that you’ve to do.
That’s it! We took the first step. Milestones, Critical path, Network diagrams, etc… let’s discuss about these cool features of Microsoft Project soon.