Everybody does projects. Building a tree house is a project; so is putting

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1 The Nature of Projects Everybody does projects. Buildig a tree house is a project; so is puttig a ma o the moo. From the simplest home improvemet to the most complex busiess or scietific veture, projects are a part of most of our lives. But exactly what is a project, ad what ca you do to maage all its facets? Some projects are defied by their radomess. Missed deadlies, upleasat surprises, ad uexpected problems seem to be as uavoidable as the weekly staff meetig. Other projects have few problems. Nevertheless, the project that goes smoothly from begiig to ed is rare. Good plaig ad commuicatio ca go a log way toward avoidig disaster. Ad although o amout of plaig ca prevet all possible problems, good project maagemet eables you to deal with those ievitable twists ad turs i the most efficiet maer possible. I this chapter, you begi explorig tools ad acquirig skills that ca help you become a more efficiet ad productive project maager. The goal of this chapter is to provide a survey of what a project is, what project maagemet is, ad how Microsoft Project 2007 fits ito the picture. Uderstadig Projects COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Whe you look up the word project i the dictioary, you see defiitios such as pla ad cocerted effort. A project i the truest sese is t a simple oe-perso edeavor to perform a task. By this defiitio, gettig yourself dressed difficult though that task may seem o a Moday morig is t a project. IN THIS CHAPTER Uderstadig projects The life cycle of a project 3

2 Part I Project Maagemet Basics A project is a series of steps that are typically performed by more tha oe perso. I additio, a project has the followig characteristics: A project has a specific ad measurable goal. You kow you have fiished the project whe you have successfully met your project goal. Projects have a specific time frame. The success of a project is ofte measured by how successfully the project has bee completed withi the amout of time allotted to it. Projects use resources. Resources are t just people; resources ca iclude moey, machiery, materials, ad more. How well these resources are allocated ad orchestrated is aother key measure of a project s success or failure. All projects cosist of iterdepedet, yet idividual, steps called tasks. No piece of a project exists i a vacuum. If oe task rus late or over budget, it typically affects other tasks, the overall schedule, ad the total cost of the project. Projects ca last for moths or eve years. By their ature, projects are dyamic; they ted to grow, chage, ad behave i ways that you ca t always predict. Cosequetly, you, as a project maager, have to remai alert to the progress ad vagaries of your projects or you will ever reach your goals. Documetatio ad commuicatio are your two key tools for stayig o top of a project throughout its life. Explorig project maagemet Project maagemet is a disciplie that examies the ature of projects ad offers ways to cotrol their progress. Project maagemet attempts to orgaize ad systematize the tasks i a project to miimize the umber of surprises that you may ecouter. Project maagemet ad project maagers cocer themselves with the followig key areas: Schedulig Budgetig Maagig resources Trackig ad reportig progress To maage these aspects of projects, certai tools have evolved over the years. Some of these are coceptual, such as the critical path; others ivolve specific formats for chartig progress, such as a Gatt Chart. The followig sectios itroduce some key project maagemet cocepts ad tools. Critical path ad slack The critical path marks the series of tasks i a project that must be completed o time for the overall project to stay o schedule. For example, suppose that you are plaig a goig-away party at your office. You have three days to pla the party. The followig table lists some of the tasks that are ivolved ad idicates their time frames. 4

3 The Nature of Projects 1 Task Sigig the good-bye card Orderig food Reservig a room Buyig a good-bye gift Duratio Three days Oe day Oe hour Oe day The shortest task, reservig a room, takes oly oe hour. Assumig that plety of rooms are available for holdig the party, you ca delay reservig the room util the last hour of the third day. Delayig this task does t cause ay delay i holdig the party as log as you accomplish this task by the ed of the logest task, which is gettig everyoe to sig the good-bye card. Therefore, the task of reservig a room is t o the critical path. However, you ca t delay the task of sigig the good-bye card, which is projected to take three days to accomplish, without delayig the party. Therefore, the card-sigig task is o the critical path. (Of course, this example is very simple; typically, a whole series of tasks that ca t afford delay form a etire critical path.) The followig poits further defie ad clarify these cocepts: The critical path chages as the project progresses. Remember that a critical path is a meas of idetifyig tasks that have o leeway i their timig to esure that they do t ru late ad affect your overall schedule. Kowig where your critical path tasks are at ay poit durig the project is crucial to stayig o track. Figures 1.1 ad 1.2 show the same schedule first with all tasks displayed ad the filtered to show oly the tasks that are o the critical path. See Chapter 7 to fid out how to filter for oly critical tasks ad to see more iformatio about chagig the view of your project. Slack, also called float, is the amout of time that you ca delay a task before that task moves oto the critical path. I the precedig example, the oe-hour-log task reservig a room has slack. This task ca slip a few hours, eve a couple of days, ad the party will still happe o time. However, if you wait util the last half-hour of the third day to reserve a room, that task will have used up its slack ad it the moves oto the critical path. 5

4 Part I Project Maagemet Basics FIGURE 1.1 Tasks with slack displayed alogside those o the critical path. 6

5 The Nature of Projects 1 FIGURE 1.2 Whe you apply the appropriate filter, oly the tasks that ca t afford delay appear i your schedule. Duratios ad milestoes Most tasks i a project take a specific amout of time to accomplish. Tasks ca take aywhere from five miutes to five moths. The legth of time eeded to complete a task is called the task s duratio. You should always try to break the log tasks i a project ito smaller tasks of shorter duratio so that you ca track their progress more accurately. For example, break a five-moth-log task ito five oe-moth tasks. Checkig off the completio of the smaller tasks each moth reduces the odds of a serious surprise five moths dow the road ad makes you feel as though you re gettig somethig doe. 7

6 Part I Project Maagemet Basics Some tasks, called milestoes, have o (0) duratio. Milestoes are merely poits i time that mark the start or completio of some phase of a project. For example, if your project ivolves desigig a ew brochure, the approval of the iitial desig may be cosidered a milestoe. You ca assig a duratio to the process of routig the desig to various people for review, but assigig a legth of time to the momet whe you have everyoe s fial approval is probably impossible. Therefore, this task has a duratio of 0 that is, approval of the desig is a milestoe that simply marks a key momet i the project. Resource-drive schedules ad fixed-duratio tasks Some tasks take the same amout of time o matter how may people or other resources you devote to them. Flyig from Sa Fracisco to New York is likely to take about five hours, regardless of how may pilots or flight attedats you add. You ca t speed up a test o a mixture of two solvets that must sit for six hours to react by addig more solvet or by hirig more scietists to work i the laboratory. These tasks have a fixed duratio, meaig that their timig is set by the ature of the task. O the other had, the umber of available resources ca affect the duratio of some tasks. For example, if oe perso eeds two hours to dig a ditch, addig a secod perso will likely cut the time i half. The project still requires two hours of effort, but two resources ca perform the task simultaeously. Tasks whose duratios are affected by the additio or subtractio of resources are called resource-drive tasks. I real-world projects, this calculatio is seldom so exact. Because people have differet skill levels ad perform work at differet speeds, two people do t always cut the time of a task exactly i half. I additio, the more people you add to a task, the more commuicatio, cooperatio, ad traiig may be ivolved. Microsoft Project hadles additioal assigmets of resources strictly as a mathematical calculatio, but you ca still use your judgmet of the resources that are ivolved to modify this calculatio (see Chapter 10). NOTE Diagrams that aid project maagemet Gatt Charts, etwork diagrams, ad work breakdow structures (WBSs) are tools of project maagemet that have evolved over may years. These tools are simply charts that you ca use to track differet aspects of your project. Figure 1.3 shows a Microsoft Project Gatt Chart, ad Figure 1.4 shows a Microsoft Project etwork diagram. Figure 1.5 shows a typical WBS, although Microsoft Project does ot iclude a WBS chart as oe of its stadard views. 8

7 The Nature of Projects 1 FIGURE 1.3 The Gatt Chart bars represet timig of the tasks i a project. You ca purchase a add-o product (WBS Chart Pro) to create a WBS chart from a Microsoft Project file. The CD-ROM that is icluded with this book features a sample of the program. ON the CD-ROM Before people used computers to maage their projects, maagers drew these charts by had. Ay self-respectig project war room had a 10-foot etwork diagram, WBS, or Gatt Chart tacked to the wall. By the ed of the project, this chart was as marked up ad out of date as last year s appoitmet caledar. Thakfully, project maagemet software makes these charts easier to geerate, update, ad customize. A Gatt Chart represets the tasks i a project with bars that reflect the duratio of idividual tasks. Milestoes are show as diamod-shaped objects. 9

8 Part I Project Maagemet Basics FIGURE 1.4 The etwork diagram resembles a flow chart for work i a project. FIGURE 1.5 The work breakdow structure chart remids you of a typical compay s orgaizatio chart. Project Summary Desig Phase Programmig Phase Testig Phase Program Task 1 Test Task 1 First Desig Phase Secod Desig Phase Program Task 2 Ed Program Milestoe Test Task 2 Test Task 3 Start Milestoe Desig Task 2 Ed Milestoe Desig Task 1 Desig Task 3 Desig Task 4 Ed Desig Milestoe 10

9 The Nature of Projects 1 You ca fid out more about the various elemets of the Gatt Chart i Chapter 2. For this chapter s purposes, you simply eed to kow that a Gatt Chart eables you to visualize ad track the timig of a project. Network diagrams, o the other had, do t accurately detail the timig of a project. Istead, a etwork diagram shows the flow of tasks i a project ad the relatioships of tasks to each other. Each task is cotaied i a box called a ode, ad lies that flow amog the odes idicate the flow of tasks. I Project 98 ad prior versios of Project, etwork diagrams were called PERT charts. PERT stads for Program Evaluatio ad Review Techique. The Special Projects Office of the U.S. Navy devised this method for trackig the flow of tasks i a project whe it was desigig the Polaris submarie i the late 1950s. NOTE The U.S. defese establishmet uses the WBS as its primary tool for maagig projects ad describes the WBS i Military Stadard (MIL-STD) 881B (25 Mar 93) as follows: A work breakdow structure is a product-orieted family tree composed of hardware, software, services, data ad facilities... [It] displays ad defies the product(s) to be developed ad/or produced ad relates the elemets of work to be accomplished to each other ad to the ed product(s). MIL-STD 881B was superseded by MIL-HDBK 881A, 30 July The foreword of the ewer documets states that there were o substative chages i work breakdow structure defiitio. The full text is available o may DOD sites (for example, NOTE Project does t cotai a PERT chart view. However, o the eclosed CD-ROM, you ca fid a sample versio of PERT Chart EXPERT, a program that coverts the iformatio i ay Project file to a PERT view. ON the CD-ROM Depedecies The fial project maagemet cocept that you should uderstad is depedecies. The overall timig of a project is t simply the sum of the duratios of all tasks, because all tasks i a project do t usually happe simultaeously. For example, i a costructio project, you must pour the foudatio of a buildig before you ca build the structure. You also have to eclose the buildig with walls ad widows before you lay carpetig. I other words, project maagers aticipate ad establish relatioships amog the tasks i a project. These relatioships are called depedecies. Oly after you have created tasks, assiged duratios to them, ad established depedecies ca you see the overall timig of your project. Chapter 4 covers several kids of depedecies. Maagig projects with project maagemet software May people maage projects with stacks of outdated to-do lists ad colorful had-draw wall charts. They scribble otes o caledars i pecil, kowig more ofte tha ot that dates 11

10 Part I Project Maagemet Basics ad tasks will chage over time. They hold umerous meetigs to keep everyoe i the project iformed. People have developed these simple orgaizatioal tools because projects typically have so may bits ad pieces that o oe ca possibly remember them all. To maage a project, you eed a set of procedures. Project maagemet software automates may of these procedures. With project maagemet software, you ca do the followig: Pla upfrot: By preplaig the various elemets of your project, you ca more accurately estimate the time ad resources that are required to complete the project. View your progress: By examiig your progress o a ogoig basis from various perspectives, you ca see whether you are likely to meet your goal. Recogize coflicts: By idetifyig time ad resource coflicts early, you ca try out various what-if scearios to resolve them before the project gets out of had. Make adjustmets: You ca make adjustmets to task timig ad costs, ad automatically update all other tasks i the project to reflect the impact of your chages. Geerate professioal-lookig reports: You ca create reports o the status of your project to help team members prioritize ad to help maagemet make iformed decisios. To effectively maage projects with may participats, ofte based i may locatios, cosider usig Project 2007 i cojuctio with its compaio server product, Project Server. Usig Project Server ad Project 2007, you ca maage projects i a Web-based eviromet, simplifyig collaboratio. For more details, see Chapters 16 through 21. What s required of you May people cotemplate usig project maagemet software with about as much relish as they cotemplate havig surgery. They aticipate hours of data-etry time before they ca get aythig out of the software. To some extet, that visio is true. You have to provide a certai amout of iformatio about your project for ay software to estimate schedules ad geerate reports, just as you have to eter umbers for a spreadsheet to calculate a budget or a loa payback schedule. O the other had, after you eter your basic project iformatio ito Microsoft Project, the ogoig maiteace of that data is far easier tha geeratig hadwritte to-do lists that become obsolete almost immediately. I additio, the accuracy ad professioalism of reports that you geerate with Project ca make the differece betwee a poorly maaged project ad a successful oe. As with a quarterly budget that you create with spreadsheet software, after you eter the data, Project performs its calculatios automatically. Ad, usig Project makes it easy for you to quickly spot potetial problems ad to test alterative solutios. So, exactly what do you have to do to maage your project with Microsoft Project? To create a schedule i Microsoft Project, you must eter the followig iformatio about your tasks: Idividual task ames Task duratios Task depedecies 12

11 The Nature of Projects 1 To track the costs of these tasks, you add certai iformatio about resources, icludig the followig: The list of huma ad material resources ad their costs for both stadard ad overtime hours The assigmet of resources to specific tasks To track a project over its lifetime, you eed to eter the followig iformatio: Progress o tasks Chages i task timig or depedecies Chages i resources that is, resources that are added to or removed from the project Chages i resource time commitmets ad costs What Microsoft Project ca do to help Eve though you still must eter a great deal of iformatio ito your project schedule, Microsoft Project has ways to make the job easier: Project templates: If you ofte do similar types of projects, you ca create project templates with typical project tasks already i place; you ca the modify the templates for idividual projects. Project comes with templates to help you get started. You ca take advatage of sample project templates, which ca be foud o this book s compaio CD-ROM. These templates represet a cross sectio of typical idustries ad project types. ON the CD-ROM Automate repeated tasks: If you have tasks that repeat throughout the life of a project, such as weekly meetigs or regular reviews, you ca create a sigle repeatig task, ad Project duplicates it for you. Import existig task lists: You ca create projects from tasks that you ve set up i Outlook, or you ca use Excel to start your project ad the easily import the spreadsheet ito Project. Exchage task iformatio with Outlook: You ca dowload project tasks ito Outlook from Project Web Access, work o them, record the work i Outlook, ad the upload the updated iformatio to Project Web Access. See Chapter 25 for more iformatio about startig projects i Outlook ad Excel ad the movig them ito Project Advaced reportig ad aalytical capabilities: I additio to the reports Project provides, you ca easily use Project data to prepare reports i Visio ad Excel, providig you with additioal aalytical capabilities. Cosolidate projects: You ca break projects ito smaller pieces that team members ca use to eter ad track progress. By trackig with this method, o idividual perso has 13

12 Part I Project Maagemet Basics to eter a overwhelmig amout of data. Also, team members feel more accoutable ad ivolved i the project. See Part V of this book, Workig i Groups, for detailed iformatio about workig i groups i Project 2007 aloe or i cojuctio with Project Server. Macros: You ca take advatage of Microsoft Visual Basic to build macros that automate repetitive tasks, such as geeratig weekly reports. See Chapter 23 for more iformatio about usig macros to speed your work. The Life Cycle of a Project Projects typically cosist of several phases. Uderstadig the ature of each phase ca help you relate the features of Microsoft Project to your ow projects. Idetifyig your goal ad the project s scope Before you ca begi to pla a project, you have to idetify the goal, which is t always as obvious as it souds. Various participats may defie a project s goal differetly. I fact, may projects fail because the team members are uwittigly workig toward differet goals. For example, is the team s goal to perform a productivity study or to actually improve productivity? Is the outcome for your project to agree o the fial buildig desig, or is it to complete the actual costructio of the buildig? As you aalyze your goal ad factor i the perspectives of other team members, make sure that your project is t just oe step i a series of projects to reach a larger, loger-term goal. To idetify your goal, you ca commuicate i various ways, such as meetigs, , ad coferece calls. Most importat, you should coduct a dialogue at various levels (from maagemet through frot-lie persoel) that gets ideas o the table ad aswers questios. Take the time to write a goal statemet ad circulate it amog the team members to make sure that everyoe uderstads the commo focus of the project. Be careful ot to set a log-rage goal that is likely to chage before the project eds. Smaller projects or projects that have bee broke ito various phases are more maageable ad more flexible. NOTE See Chapter 16 for tips o avoidig pitfalls durig project plaig. After you uderstad your goal, you should also gather the iformatio that you eed to defie the project s scope. This edeavor may take some research o your part. The scope of a project is a statemet of more specific parameters or costraits for its completio. The costraits of a project usually fall withi the areas of time, quality, ad cost, ad they ofte relate directly to project deliverables. 14

13 The Nature of Projects 1 The followig are some sample goal ad scope statemets: Project A: Project B: Goal: To locate a facility for our warehouse. Scope: By October 15, to fid a moder warehouse facility of approximately 5,200 square feet, with a lease cost of o more tha $3,000 per moth, i a locatio that is coveiet to our mai office. Goal: To lauch a ew cleaig product. Scope: Icludes test-marketig the product, desigig packagig, ad creatig ad lauchig a advertisig campaig. The lauch must be completed before the ed of the third quarter of 2007 ad ca cost o more tha $750,000. Notice that the secod scope statemet desigates major phases of the project (coductig test marketig, desigig packagig, ad creatig a ad campaig). This statemet provides a startig poit for plaig the tasks i the project. I fact, you may evetually decide to break this project ito smaller projects of coductig test marketig, desigig packagig, ad lauchig a advertisig campaig. Writig the scope of the project may ecourage you to redefie both the goal ad the scope to make the project more maageable. TIP Keep your goal ad scope statemets brief. If you ca t explai your goal or scope i a setece or two, your project may be overly ambitious ad complex. Cosider breakig the project ito smaller projects. Writig a simple goal ad scope statemet esures that you ve gathered key data such as deliverables, timig, ad budget ad that you ad your team agree o the focus of everyoe s efforts. These activities are likely to occur before you ever ope a Microsoft Project file. Plaig Whe you uderstad the goal ad scope of a project, you ca begi to work backward to determie the steps that you eed to take to reach the goal. Look for major phases first, ad the break each phase ito a logical sequece of steps. Plaig for resources is oe aspect of plaig the etire project. Resources ca iclude equipmet of limited availability, materials, idividual workers, ad groups of workers. Do t forget to take ito accout various schedules issues, such as overtime, vacatios, ad resources that are shared amog projects. Time, moey, ad resources are closely related: You may be able to save time with more resources, but resources typically cost moey. You eed to uderstad the order of priority amog time, quality, ad moey. 15

14 Part I Project Maagemet Basics There s truth to the old joke: Time, budget, or quality pick two. Devotig resources (which usually become costs) to a project schedule ca decrease the time but ca also cause loss of quality cotrol. Extedig the time ca improve quality but usually causes resource coflicts ad added costs. Microsoft Project helps you see the trade-offs amog these three importat criteria throughout the life of your project. NOTE Plaig is the poit at which you begi to eter data i Microsoft Project ad see your project take shape. Figure 1.6 shows a iitial Microsoft Project schedule. Revisig Most of the time, you sed a iitial project schedule to various maagers or coworkers for approval or iput so that you ca refie the schedule based o differet factors. You ca use the reportig features of Microsoft Project to geerate several drafts of your pla. Chapter 13 explais more about the reports that are available i Project. FIGURE 1.6 The outlie format of a Project schedule clearly shows the various phases of your project. Depedecies amog tasks have ot yet bee established; every task starts at the same time, which is t always possible. 16

15 The Nature of Projects 1 Be prepared to revise your pla after everyoe has a chace to review it. You may wat to create ad save multiple Project files to geerate what-if scearios based o the iput that you receive. Seeig your plas from various perspectives is a great way to take advatage of Project s power. Fid out more about what-if aalysis i Chapter 6. Fidig resolutios to coflicts i timig ad resource allocatio is aother aspect of plaig ad revisig. Project helps you pipoit these coflicts, which may iclude the followig: A team member or resource that is booked o several projects at oe time A task that begis before aother task that must precede it A uusually high use of expesive equipmet i oe phase that is upsettig your budget This book cotais may tips ad techiques for resolvig coflicts. I particular, Chapters 9 ad 10 focus o usig Microsoft Project features to resolve schedulig ad resource problems. Whe your project pla seems solid, you ca take a picture of it, called a baselie, agaist which you ca track actual progress. Chapter 11 explais how to set (ad, if ecessary, clear) baselies. Trackig You should try to solidify your trackig methods before your project begis. Ask yourself the followig questios: Do you wat to track your progress oce a week or oce a moth? Do project participats track their ow work or merely report their progress to you? Do you wat to roll those smaller reports ito a sigle, less-detailed report for maagemet? TIP The aswers to these questios ca also help you determie whether you eed to use Project Stadard, Project Professioal, or Project Server. See Chapter 2 for more iformatio o choosig the Project product that best suits your eeds. Kowig how you are goig to track your project s progress, ad who eeds to kow what ad whe, helps your team establish efficiet trackig mechaisms from the outset; this reduces frustratio. The Microsoft Project schedule show i Figure 1.7 uses the Trackig Gatt view to show the origial baselie (the bottom bar of each task) tracked agaist actual progress (the top bar of each task). 17

16 Part I Project Maagemet Basics FIGURE 1.7 The darker portio of each upper taskbar ad the percetage figure to the right of each upper taskbar idicate the percetage of each task that is complete. TIP You ca save iterim baselies of a schedule at various poits durig your project. This approach helps you see where major shifts occurred ad shows how you accommodated those shifts. See Chapter 11 for more iformatio o baselies. Learig from your mistakes Learig project maagemet software is t like learig to use a word processor because project maagemet as a disciplie etails coceptual layers that trasced the tools ad features of the software. Havig the experiece ad wisdom to use these features effectively comes from repeated use. You probably wo t be a proficiet Microsoft Project user right away. You have to work through oe or more projects before you really kow the most effective way to eter iformatio about your project. You ca expect to develop efficiet trackig methods over time. Do t worry it took you time to lear all you kow about maagig projects. If you pay attetio to what goes o durig your projects whe you first implemet Microsoft Project schedules, you ca lear from your mistakes. 18

17 The Nature of Projects 1 Microsoft Project eables you to review your projects ad to clearly see where you estimated icorrectly, made adjustmets too slowly, or did t break phases ito maageable chuks. Project keeps your origial schedule s baselie i a sigle file, alog with iterim baselies ad your fial tracked schedule. Whe plaig future projects, you ca use these older baselies to help gauge the duratio of tasks ad the cost of certai items ad to kow how may resources are eough resources. I the ed, you ll be a more successful ad efficiet project maager. You ca easily show your boss the specific actios that you ve take to avoid problems ad provide solutios. I additio, you ll have the tools that you eed to help you ad your maager uderstad the issues that you face ad to get the support that you eed. Summary This chapter preseted a survey of the disciplie kow as project maagemet ad explaied the role that project maagemet software ca play to help you maage projects. The followig topics were covered: Projects ivolve a stated goal, a specific time frame, ad multiple resources (which ca iclude people, equipmet, ad materials). Project maagemet seeks to cotrol issues of time, quality, ad moey. Critical path, slack, task duratios, milestoes, fixed tasks, resource-drive tasks, ad depedecies are project maagemet elemets that help you build ad moitor a project. Project maagemet software ca assist you i plaig, trackig, ad commuicatig with team members ad i reportig o projects with tools such as Gatt Charts ad etwork diagrams. Although usig Project takes some effort o your part, this effort pays off i icreased productivity ad efficiecy. Projects typically have five activities: Settig the goal ad defiig the scope, plaig, revisig, trackig, ad reviewig to lear from your mistakes. Chapter 2 takes a closer look at the Project eviromet ad provides iformatio about some of the tools that you ca use to maage a project. 19

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