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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.
At first the task of moving my blog from Blogger over to a self-hosted WordPress format seemed overwhelming.

This is where project planning can help to bring order from the chaos and leave you feeling more in control. Once you have a list of all the activities and tasks in your Work Breakdown Structure, you can make a Schedule. Your Work Breakdown Structure and your Schedule make a major part of your Project Plan, but there are a few additional things you might want to consider. Hi, I'm Heather and welcome to my travel blog where you'll find my travel tales, videos, podcasts and photos from Europe and around the world. Click the orange RSS logo to subscribe to all my blog posts in your RSS reader or by e-mail. EightShapes, LLC is a user experience design firm specialized in web sites and web applications.
Adobe InDesign is not an ideal tool for creating complex, threaded gantt charts with all sorts of dependencies, relationships, and analytics. Drag a backdrop of vertical lines (corresponding to your choice of 6 weeks, 2 months, 13 weeks, or 26 weeks) and place it onto a unique layer that you can eventually lock behind the remaining plan symbols. Add more and more events to activities, like inputs, deliverables, meetings, and sign offs.
Embellish the visualization with highlights (for Today, especially), vacations, holidays, and groups of activities. 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. Thanks for visiting!Dear readers, you may know me as a travel blogger but I also have one foot in the world of Project Management. A project is a distinct piece of work that will deliver something at the end, in my case a new WordPress blog.
A year’s worth of posts to move, not to mention with all that techie stuff with servers and HTML, and learning a new blogging platform. This is really a list of all the things you can think of that need doing, organised into different areas of work. For example, I can’t link my hosting account to my domain name until I have registered my domain name. Communicating to your Stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who may have an interest in your blog, such as readers, journalists, advertisers.

Just be thankful you didn’t have to sit endless Project Management Qualifications like I did, to learn these easy techniques for your blog. However, as designers, we often find ourselves needing to communicate basic project plans to our stakeholders, and EightShapes Unify includes all the project planning symbols you need to create an effective plan visualization.
Use the Direct Selection tool to grab the top or bottom anchor points to resize the lines vertically to fit the space desired.
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.
This is different from the ongoing work you might do to improve your blog once it is set up, such as building up your readership. You can start with a blank piece of paper, writing down the different areas of activity and then breaking them down further into the smaller tasks.
The most widely used tool for setting up your schedule is called Microsoft Project and most often a Project Manager will use a view which has the Timeline across the top, and project activities and tasks represented by bars across the page. Other tasks can run at the same time, for example I can be choosing my WordPress theme at the same time as setting up my hosting account.
An Issue is something that has affected your project and may be a problem, a Risk is something that might happen. You may find that some of these activity areas are ones you want to subcontract, such as designing or customising your theme or website. You can see a simplified version of my Project Plan below – click to enlarge and see more detail.
I've had colleagues who could never print out a nice looking project plan because the start date under Project Information was wrong. You can take a look at my Work Breakdown Structure below – click to enlarge and view in more detail.
An example of an Issue is that I may not have the time or skills to customise my site, but I can manage this by employing a developer to do it for me. An example of a Risk is that I could lose my readers because they don’t know where to find my new site, but I can manage this by the communictions I do and the way I direct readers from my old site to my new site.

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