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When I started out in project management, one of the first things I had to learn was to create a project plan in Microsoft Project.
I decided I wanted to learn the basics of Microsoft Project quickly and pick up just the skills I need to deliver a simple, functional project plan.
So till this day, I can run large projects and create solid project plans knowing only about 40% of the functionality in Microsoft Project.
In this article, I want to show you the minimal steps you need to create a project plan in Microsoft Project.
For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to assume we are developing a simple program that reads new client accounts opened each day from a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. As you can see, there are six stages in the project (with underlying tasks which I've not shown) and each of these need to be keyed into Microsoft Project. Next, enter the high-level project phases which I've listed out above - project preparation, project kick-off, functional specifications and so forth.
Once you have the high-level project phases keyed in, you need to enter the detailed tasks underneath each phase.
In the sample screenshot above, I've included steps under Project Preparation, Functional Specifications, Development, Testing and Deployment.
Tip: If the Duration column cannot be seen, right click on the column headers and choose to include the Duration column. Definition: A task dependency is a connection between one task (Task A) and another task (Task B) such that if Task A's start and end dates change, Task B's start and end dates change as well.
You can extend this idea by keying in "SF + 5d" to mean that the Task 100 starts only after Task 9 completes PLUS 5 working days.
You can also use syntax like "SF + 5m" to mean a task starts only after its predecessor's end date PLUS 5 working MONTHS.
Once you have keyed in task dependencies across your project plan, its time to review your project milestone dates.
For example, one of the most important things you need to check is the overall project start date and the end date. Also, check every single phase in the project to make sure the "mini-milestones" in the project all check out ok.
The final thing I do in a project plan within Microsoft Project is to review the Gantt Chart. If you're on a Windows PC, press and hold "Ctrl" while moving your mouse scroll wheel up and down. What I usually do is to print out the Gantt Chart on a large piece of paper and stick it on my desk. Before I end off, I'd like to share a personal experience with you regarding project plans. One of the C-level guys made a snide remark "Hey, an old man like me can't read the small fonts on your project plan".
In fact, the best thing to do is to draw up a few bars in Powerpoint summarizing the high-level durations and milestones in your plan. Ia€™ve written a practical, easy-to-read guidebook that will help you find your best path to Project Management a€“ one that leverages your unique skills, experiences and career background to your advantage. To plan a project you need to be sure that you have captured all of the deliverables and tasks that make up the finished project in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). When you can see plenty of post-its and people are starting to slow down, Write the end product of the project and place it at the top of the wall or white board. Once you have the key deliverables, ask your team to add their tasks beneath each main deliverable. At some point in this process you are going to wonder or be asked how far you need to breakdown the tasks.

Breaking down the work to the right level will ensure you develop a detailed, high quality project plan.
Distribution channels are important in helping you grow your business and increase your bottom line.
The Channel Marketing Plan Maker Template for Excel is a worksheet specially designed for creating a marketing strategy to maximize business distribution channels.
This Channel Marketing Plan Maker Template is a free Excel template to help you determine the best route to take for your marketing activities.
This spreadsheet is also designed to allow you, or other channel managers, to organize tasks and create detailed sub-tasks so you can easily filter through the information that you need to view or present. Another feature of this template is the built-in Gantt Chart that will allow you to create a visual presentation of your project status as it progresses through time. Unlike most free Office templates that give you a generic marketing plan template and therefore take time to customize, this template has a specific purpose that you can easily fill out with the right information and instantly generate reports and data. In this worksheet, the Planned Dates and Actual Dates for each of the project tasks in the marketing plan will show the costs and durations to allow you to create projections and create an overall reasonable and effective plan. Listed below are some professionally designed Gantt chart templates available in the Creately diagramming community. Notify me of replies to my commentThis blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 9 approved comments.
You'll obviously need Microsoft Project which can be purchased as a Standard or Professional edition.
I feel that things like scenario analysis or automated project timelines and tasks confuse you more than anything else.
Think about how many days that task would take if one person did it (in project management parlance, these are termed "man-days") did it. In the screen below, Task 9 "Conduct Functional Specification Workshop 3" starts on 2 Jul 2012 and ends on 4 Jul 2012.
For example, keying in the task number (say Task 9) into the Predecessors column means the current task (say Task 11) starts right after Task 9 completes.
If Task 9 completes on 4 Jul 2012, then Task 100 starts only on 12 Jul (which is 12 Jul + 5 working days). I hope the above has given you some great insight into creating a simple, functional project plan in Microsoft Project. If you rely too much on advanced functionalities, you're probably overcooking or over analyzing things. A hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. The sum total of the parts of a project is the project scope, the WBS represents the project scope.
Get your team together and ask them to spend 10 – 15 mins listing out all of the project tasks that they can think of. Underneath the final product put up post its representing the key deliverables or workstreams.
The key here is too identify, as far as possible, everything that needs to be done to deliver the project.
Identifying your distribution channels will help you to more effectively market your product or service.
Using this channel marketing plan template will help you create professional and comprehensive plans to secure the most revenue-generating and most efficient channels of distribution. It allows you to quantify information to create thoughtful, sensible and rational decisions for your company.
This is a helpful component in marketing plans as well as in business plans to show exactly how certain objectives will be achieved through action plans and detailed tasks.

This is useful for complex project where many people are involved and there are many dependencies between tasks. As shown below, The marketing plan can be present in a Gantt chart to communicate with marketing team.
And to the ones still deciding on having a Gantt chart to plan the tasks and projects, You can read the use of Gantt charts with pros and cons in this post. He provides customer support at Creately including writing blog posts and handling social media accounts. It's just like Microsoft Word - do you need to know every single function in it to produce a good document?
The Professional edition of Microsoft Project has all the features of the Standard edition and some additional, complex features (e.g. In large projects, you may have teams doing one task, so you may key in something like "Team A" under the Resource column. What this means is that once "Conduct Functional Specification Workshop 3" completes, "Develop functional specifications" will start, i.e. You can build this kind of dependency EVERYWHERE in your project, so that if one start date changes, EVERYTHING in your projects gets updated automatically. DON'T show the lowest level of task details to your audience, especially if they are senior executives.
Stage 2 - Precedence Diagrams, Stage 3 - Estimate Effort and Schedule, Stage 4 - Resource Allocation and Levelling. Organise the products in a hierarchy so that each product is broken down into its component parts. These are just two of the workstreams and you can probably see other deliverables that could be added beneath the lowest level.
These distribution channels may include dealer, retail, sales representatives, direct selling, online, distributor or wholesale, and many more. This will then guide you as you go about fulfilling your more general organizational goals.
The template also helps give you your road map for your marketing deliverables, channel strategy, tasks and accountable personnel, cost, duration, and summaries of every phase of every project. This is great to get yourself familiarized ( and impressed ?? ) with how Creately Gantt charts work. It also highlights our grid view which you can switch on and off to get a better understand of the time spent and the work required. As you can see the below Gantt chart template, adding milestone to each task helps to focus on the project and achieve them effectively. Click on the template image below to start planning the tasks and to complete them without a failure. For example, to book the venue it may need to be viewed, quotes gathered, and paperwork completed. I've had colleagues who could never print out a nice looking project plan because the start date under Project Information was wrong.
To complete software installation permissions may be required for changing firewall settings and a specific resource may need to be booked to make the permission changes. In 1 simple click you can instantly start creating your own timelines using our Gantt chart software.

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