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01.09.2013
In this Microsoft Project 2007 tutorial, Andy Makar shares some ways to manage a schedule using deadlines with milestones and the project baseline.
My previous Microsoft Project 2007 tutorial showed how to add deadlines to your project schedule to validate that a desired end date was realistic. Teams may manage the project to their baseline project data but communicate around a set of deadline dates for their sponsors.
Figure A depicts a sample project schedule with a few deadlines assigned to the critical path. By filtering on all the deadline dates, the project manager can identify all the specific deadlines across the project. During project initiation and the initial project planning weeks, it is common to develop an initial project schedule that leads into the formal project schedule. In these situations, I use deadlines to reinforce internal team commitments and specific dates to complete important tasks. Remember that project deadlines are not always stakeholder dictated, and the project team can establish their own internal commitments. Deadline indicators provide an alert system when the team needs to react and replan in case of slippage. Depending on how you set up your project schedule, it may be acceptable to miss a baseline end date for a specific task as long as the major deadlines are not missed.
Deadlines can be assigned to project milestones, and usually key project milestones are found on the critical path. Identify the critical path for your project: For refreshers about critical path, read my TechRepublic articles "Why Critical Path Is Critical to Project Management" and "View the Critical Path in Microsoft Project" (or watch the video version of this article).


I've worked on several programs where our baseline dates were considered internal team data, and deadlines were used to communicate with the executive sponsors; it helped us to manage the project execution and the corporate politics and perceptions from external viewers.
The Gantt chart will still shift past the deadline indicators and further indicate where progress is impacted. On one project, the team was working with multiple vendors that required many documents and presentations to be prepared before the vendors could be engaged. A task's project baseline finish date may occur before the task deadline, as teams may use these days to provide additional "float" when a completed milestone is planned to be communicated and not just completed. Graphical indicators are useful tools in schedule management, and deadlines are a good way to use prebuilt indicators in Microsoft Project. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. Once management buys in to the established timeline, the deadline field can still alert you to late tasks and missed deadlines. In a project, there may be other tasks that are not aligned to a company's standard set of milestones but still need to be tracked using a deadline. Remember that a one-day delay to any tasks on the critical path will extend your project end date by one day. As a recommended practice, you can assign the deadline column the same date as the baseline finish date for specific tasks.
With deadlines assigned along the critical path, the project can continue to execute, and the project manager can record progress against the project schedule. During this time period, scope definition can change and, although baselines can be established on a rolling basis, the planned set of tasks can change quickly.


The project team had high-level milestones identified but wanted to set up a series of internal commitments to track the progress of developing the key documents.
In this tutorial, I will share some ways to manage a schedule using deadlines with milestones and the project baseline. By reviewing the tasks along the critical path, you can identify the key tasks that require deadlines. As the project executes, any tasks that will finish past the baseline finish date will trigger an alert for the task deadline. As the project is updated, the Start and Finish dates will adjust based on the project performance. By using deadlines, the team was able to record the target promise dates and use the graphical indicator feature to identify delays. Based on the project environment, you may have additional days of float available that are not reflected in the project schedule.
The project manager can monitor the project baseline and monitor the Indicator column for any late deadlines. Deadlines allow you to recognize a commitment without necessarily enforcing the same baseline finish date.



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