MS Project Scheduling Best Practices!

In my experience over the last 45+ years, I have found that there are some simple tricks and techniques that project managers need to follow in order to have a solid MS Project schedule. I have worked on projects ranging from IT to Construction to Research and I have found these same techniques to be helpful in every industry. Part of my experience has been working full time as a MS Project Scheduler and when you are working on something for as long as I did, you pick up some good tips. I wanted to share those tips with you.

Before you create your schedule plan how you are going to do it. Use the following steps to help you identify the parts of your plan. Ask yourself how I am going to do number 1, number 2, etc. 

Here are ten simple ideas for you to create your own MS Project Schedules. These ten concepts will produce a solid schedule that will be easy to produce and maintain.

1. Identify ALL the activities you are going to need on your project. Make sure each activity can be defined by its self. Each activity’s description must have a verb and a noun to describe the work to be done on the activity. (If you missed some add them as you learn about them.)

2. Estimate how long each activity will take based on the size and experience of the team working on them. Except for a few activities keep all durations less than or equal to one reporting cycle. If you report your progress once a week keep your durations under 5 days.

3. If you assign Cost to the activities set a maximum limit any activity can have. For a software project it may be a maximum of $5,000, for construction $10,000.

4. Assign the resources and the amount of effort that each resource is going to work on each activity. Set a maximum number of hours any activity can have. This will help improve the estimate for each activity.

5. Logically link the activities together. Make sure ALL activities are linked with at least one predecessor and one successor except the first activity (start the project) and the last activity (finish the project)

6. Make sure you have not over allocated the resources. If so correct the over allocation.

7. After completing the plan (schedule) create a baseline schedule to compare how well you are doing vs. your original plan.

8. Identify the reports you are going to use to communicate the project information. (Find out what the team wants to use to execute and control the project. Find out what the management will need to guide the project to completion.) Use the book Project Management Communications Bible to help chose the correct reports to use at the various stages through the project. Make sure the right reports at the right level get to the stakeholders at the right time.

9. Each time progress is reported (enter actual s - actual start and finish or percent complete, hours worked) set a status date. This can be done with Microsoft Project by using the TOOLS > TRACKING > UPDATE PROJECT > Reschedule uncompleted work to start after Status Date. For software project this is usually once a week. For a construction project this is usually once a month.

10. Once you have started reporting progress on your project and you add or remove activities make sure you add or remove the activities in your baseline schedule.

I hope you enjoy these concepts and techniques and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

You can contact me directly at [email protected]
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