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MS Project blues

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Richard Henry, Dec 19, 2007.

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  1. For contractual and corporate reasons, I am obliged to use MS
    Project. I find many of its features irritating. For example, when
    updating a plan with actual progress, the SW changes other values in
    an often-clueless manner. For an 80-hour task that has been
    completed, if I mark it 100% complete and change the planned finish
    date to the actual finish date, the SW will change the number of hours
    assigned to the task.

    Any advice on how to make Poject behave rationally?
  2. mpm

    mpm Guest

    I absolutely love MS Project and consider myself an verifiable
    "Expert" when it comes to using it.
    Maybe I'm just weird....

    You need to ask yourself:
    Are you just using it to track tasks and print some fancy Gantt
    charts, or do you really want Project to keep an eye on critical
    paths, level workloads, track resources and costs, etc...?

    If the former, do not be tempted to use constraints - unless
    absolutely needed.
    But do set the task dependencies.

    If the latter, I would really suggest a Primer or tutorial so that you
    truly understand how MS Project treats effort-driven scheduling.

    To answer your question though, Actual duration is the time the task
    has been in progress.
    Actual work is the amount of work completed and the two are not
    necessarily the same.

    If you assigned resources to the task, adjust actual work completed.
    Do not adjust both duration (end date) and actual work completed
    The software has no choice to but to assign extra hours.

    Maybe it would help to think about this in reverse:
    If you assigned 80 hours to a task and then later told the software
    you were either ahead or, or behind the game, you cannot also tell it
    you spent 80 hours on it as planned and arrived at a different start
    or finish date than it calculated based on your assigned resources!

    Finally, manage the project, not the project software. !!
    If the task is completed, and it did not lie on the critical path, no
    harm done.
    (You are neither ahead-of, nor behind where you would otherwise be.)
    Just ignore it. For that matter, you might be able to delete the task
    if there are no further dependencies....
    Unless of course you're tracking expenses, in which case extra hours
    are wholly unacceptable!

    Usually you can only change 2 of the 3 pieces of info: duration,
    effort, or fixed starting/ending dates. (occasionally cost).
    Some of these are inter-related. For example, if you set a task for
    80 hours, and 500 hours later it is only 5% complete, you cannot then
    say, OK, I'm finished on Friday and I've only spent 100 hours on it.

    If someone said that to you, you would think they were crazy. So
    don't say stuff like that to MS Project.
    Does that make sense?
  3. Robert Baer

    Robert Baer Guest

    Soerry, i think you were a fool to sign a contract requiring M$
    software - or any specific software and/or hardware in general.
    Go by format of results to be presented - not the specific pathways
    to get from A to Z.
    If it is not too late and/or too expensive, buy out of the contract!
  4. Certainly. My problem is that my use for it (tracking what needs to
    be done now or soon), my manager's use for it (tracking real costs),
    and the customer's use for it (monitoring actual progress against the
    plan) require different treatments of the inputs.

    I don't want to have to spend weeks becoming a Project expert, and I
    don't want to spend an hour running in circles until the dates and
    hours expended come out "right".
  5. Bob

    Bob Guest

    I've just joined a company that relies heavily on MS Project - which I
    hate. One thing that has helped me get over my loathing of MSP is a
    plugin called WBS Chart Pro from Critical Software. It costs about
    $150 and is worth its weight in gold IMHO. It lets you organize your
    project graphically as a Work Breakdown Structure and magically
    creates an MS project which is linked to the WBS. Drag and drop
    interface to generate critical path etc.

  6. mpm

    mpm Guest

    It probably won't take anywhere near that long.
    But, if you're tracking expenses and resources, (and especially if
    you're using any of the interactive team update features), you're
    going to have to suck it up and learn Project

    There are actually only a handful of key basics you absolutely have to
    Beyond that, there are a few "tricks" you can use to make life easier
    - for example, setting up a blank project (i.e., no tasks) and using's
    that project's resources (people, machines, etc..) across multiple
    other projects. Especially useful if you have to juggle several
    projects at once with the same workforce!!

    My advice: Go to the YellowPages and find a local company that
    specializes in MS Project education & training and sign-up for 1 or 2
    one-on-one sessions. Learn the basics, and only what you think
    you'll need. Worth it's weight in gold. Send the invoice to your
    employer and chalk it up as continuing education.... Best of luck.
  7. joseph2k

    joseph2k Guest

    Wbs works - sort of, but it is brittle.
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