How to set up time-boxed look-ahead views in MS-Project ® using compound task filters

Part of a series on customising Microsoft® Project® to make working with project schedules more useful.

How to set up time-boxed look-ahead views in MS-Project using compound task filters

This post describes how to set up time-boxed “look-ahead” views in Microsoft® Project® (schedule extracts showing upcoming tasks), by customising filters to use an OR operator between criteria.

Continue reading “How to set up time-boxed look-ahead views in MS-Project ® using compound task filters”

How to set up custom Gantt chart views in MS-Project ®

Part of a series on customising Microsoft® Project® to make working with project schedules more useful.

This post describes how to set up custom Gantt chart views to present schedule extracts based on the Live project schedule data, filtered and formatted to suit particular stakeholder audiences.

So why would you want to use this approach, how do you do it, and what’s in it for you as a result? Continue reading “How to set up custom Gantt chart views in MS-Project ®”

How to create PDF Gantt chart extracts with dynamic labels in MS-Project ®

Part of a series on customising Microsoft® Project® to make working with project schedules more useful.

This post describes how to generate universally-readable “soft” PDF Gantt charts to circulate to stakeholders, with dynamically generated labels that provide them with useful information about the view, and provide you with useful information about how you might re-create the view.

How to create PDF Gantt chart extracts with dynamic labels in MS-Project®

So why would you want to use this approach, how do you do it, and what’s in it for you as a result? Continue reading “How to create PDF Gantt chart extracts with dynamic labels in MS-Project ®”

How to diagnose schedule management problems in MS-Project ®

Part of a series on customising Microsoft® Project® to make working with project schedules more useful.
So you’ve created a useful programme schedule, and you are now working on keeping it on the right track. You’ve set up fields to calculate RAG status, but what if you want diagnose schedule management problems without having to study the baseline vs. forecast dates and % complete, working it out in your head line by line?

This post describes how to customise a Text field to display a very compact schedule management commentary to diagnose schedule management problems by explaining why a project schedule item should be Red or Amber.

So why would you want to use this approach, how do you do it, and what’s in it for you as a result? Continue reading “How to diagnose schedule management problems in MS-Project ®”

How to calculate RAG status in MS-Project ®

Part of a series on customising Microsoft® Project® to make working with project schedules more useful.
So you’ve created a useful programme schedule, and you are now working on keeping it on the right track, reviewing the plan regularly with the Programme Manager and Project Managers. You will probably review the programme schedule regularly – focussing on on items with Red or Amber RAG status –  but how do you use MS-Project® to ensure that you don’t skip items that probably should have been marked amber or red?

How to customise MS-Project® text fields to calculate RAG Status

This post describes how to calculate RAG status in MS-Project ® by customising a text field to performing some simple tests and calculations with dates.

So why would you want to use this approach, how do you do it, and what’s in it for you as a result? Continue reading “How to calculate RAG status in MS-Project ®”

How to diagnose schedule setup problems in MS-Project ®

Part of a series on customising Microsoft® Project® to make working with project schedules more useful.
So, you’ve inherited a set of project schedules that you need to combine into a useful programme schedule. How do you set up a framework to enable you to quickly find and diagnose schedule setup problems, without having to deduce and apply complex combinations of filters?

How to customise MS-Project to diagnose schedule setup problems

Here is an approach I have used successfully on several programmes. Continue reading “How to diagnose schedule setup problems in MS-Project ®”

Buses, trains and schedule optimisation

High risk rapid delivery or lower risk slower delivery – which would you go for?

Buses Trains and Schedule Optmisation

Until recently, my morning commute into work comprised a bus journey to the station, a train into London, and another bus to the office. One morning a few weeks ago I was ready about ten minutes earlier than usual so instead of waiting about 15 minutes to catch my usual bus, I took the earlier bus from near my house. I had already bought my train ticket so I didn’t have to queue at the station, instead waiting just a few minutes to get on a train about 25 minutes earlier than my usual one. Once in London I went to the bus stop, and joy of joys, the bus arrived straight away.

All in all, by leaving my house about 25 minutes earlier than usual, I managed to arrive at my desk at least 45 minutes earlier. I had made a significant time “profit”!

There were some unexpected but very welcome fringe benefits too – the earlier trains and buses are less crowded and so I have more chance of getting a seat (making the journey more pleasant) and often enough elbow room to do some work on the way (making the journey also more productive).

It occurred to me that what had happened here was akin to what I do at work with schedule tuning – I had experienced a journey with less slack time (waiting) between the fixed duration events (journey stages) to enable an earlier final delivery (my arrival at my desk).

I now regularly use this approach to get to my desk earlier. Having less slack in the plan introduces risk of course; if any of my journey stages runs even a few minutes late then it all falls apart and the rest of the journey reverts to the (considerably slower) Plan B. But it works enough of the time to make it worth persisting.

Are you able to use schedule optimisation like this to cut the overall duration of your projects? Are you more concerned with earlier delivery, regardless of overall project duration? Or do you go for a less risky plan with more slack?

© Copyright Pragmatic PMO Ltd, first published in 2012

Project Planning Pointers

Like a piece of machinery, plans need a good design, room to breathe, and good maintenance…

Project Planning Pointers

A while back I attended an APM presentation on the role of the dedicated Project Planner, part of a series given by Andrew Jones, at the time of Athena Project Services.

His presentation contained several key points that resonated with me so I thought were worth restating in the light of my own experience. Continue reading “Project Planning Pointers”

Scheduling, Monitoring & Control (Book Review)

Overview

  • This book is a good reference guide to Planning, Scheduling, Monitoring and Control, with most of the topics covered at introductory to intermediate level in relatively informal jargon-free language with plenty of helpful diagrams.
  • The guide is aimed at students and practitioners, so I’m a bit puzzled why it begins with a chunky explanation of how projects are defined and the documents used. At 20 pages this section is too hefty for the completely uninitiated, but has nowhere near enough detail to be useful an already-practicing project manager (who would be better off referring to one of the BoKs or methodologies). I guess however that novice Project Planners may find it useful for context and orientation, and it signposts topics for further reading.

Continue reading “Scheduling, Monitoring & Control (Book Review)”

How to keep your programme schedule on the right track

How to keep your programme schedule on the right track

Having created a useful project or programme schedule, how do you use it as a delivery tool? Here’s the approach I have used successfully on several recent programmes.

Continue reading “How to keep your programme schedule on the right track”