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Support NiksProjects !

Hello! Thanks for your continued interest in my blog post! Please bookmark this link and follow me on Youtube at Niksprojects channel.

You can support this website and my Youtube channel via Patreon
Let me know what video tutorials you would like us to create on YouTube and we will try our best.

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How to start your career as a Project Manager with ‘No or Less prior experience’.

Before we do a deep dive in to how to become a Project Manager it is important to first understand some of the key aspects of Project Management.

  1. What is Project Management.
    1. Definition: As per PMI detention, A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
    2. Project Management Methodologies: Primarily we can categorize the project management in to 2, Agile and Waterfall.
  2. Key industries where Project Management is highly valued
    1. Information Technology
      1. Software Development
      2. Infrastructure
      3. Application Support
    2. Construction
      1. Building
      2. Home Renovation.

Now that you have a basic understanding about Project Management, Different industries and different roles and areas within project management you can now look at different education path that will give you a credential to apply for Project management jobs. 

  1. CSM – Certified Scrum Master to manage Agile projects and team.
  2. PMP – Project Management Professional is an internationally recognized professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute. As of March 2018, there are 833,025 active PMP certified individuals and 286 chartered chapters across 210 countries and territories worldwide.
  3. ITIL – ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT service management that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business.

Source for above definition: Wikipedia

Role of a Project Manager

PM referenced as Glorified admins

Sometime you will hear people referring PM’s as glorified administrators, means that PM is there to take meeting notes, schedule meetings etc. This is not true, this is just one part of the job that Project Managers do to keep things organized. Many time we take key decisions and discuss critical points during meetings and capturing those meeting minutes helps the team to refer back to key decisions and discussion topics later. This is just the PM way of organizing meeting, actions, decisions etc and not necessarily the only activity that a PM does.

Project Manager Vs Scrum Master
  1. What are different areas where you can look for Project Management jobs
    1. Project Leader
    2. Jr. Project Manager
    3. Project Manager
    4. Sr. Project Manager
    5. Program Manager
    6. Agile Scrum Master
    7. Agile Coach
    8. Cyber Security PM.

If you have no previous experience, then I would recommend you to start as Project Lead or Jr. Project manager where you have an option to shadow a full time Project Manager. This will give you good exposure and learning to take on as a full time PM in the near future.

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How to set up Microsoft Project – 5 Best Practices

Microsoft Project is a powerful tool if we set up and utilize the tool correctly. Here are the 5 best practices or tips that I follow when creating new project plans.

1. Set up Project start date

Every project has a definite start and end date. So before creating any tasks for the project, go ahead and update the project start date. In MS Project, Project start date can be updated using the Project Information button under the Project Menu.

2. Use Auto Scheduling

By default MS Project is set to use Manual Scheduling. For any project, it is always a best practice not use Hard dates (Manual Dates) as that will not show the impact of any project delays when the dependency tasks are delayed. So it is a best practice to always use Auto Schedule and only use the hard dates for tasks that has to happen on certain dates due to project constraints. To change the scheduling options to use Auto Schedule for all newly created tasks, head over to the File menu and navigate to Options. In the Options window scroll down to Schedule on the left section and go to the “Scheduling Option for this project” section on the right window.  Click on the drop down for ‘New Tasks Created’ and select ‘Auto Schedule’


3. Set up resource sheet

You can get to resource sheet directly by clicking the Gnatt chart on the Project menu and selecting resource sheet from the option. Or you can navigate to the Resource tab and select the Resource sheet. Setting up the resource sheet upfront helps to assign resources faster to the tasks when creating detailed plan. Resource cost and calendar can also be updated while in the resource sheet page. Setting up the resource sheet upfront avoids adding in duplicate resource names.

4. Set up Project calendar

By default MS Project utilizes standard calendar , however it is very easy to create custom calendar by creating a copy of the standard calendar. Project Calendar can be accessed from the Project menu by clicking the ‘Change Working Time’ button on the ribbon. If the project span across multiple geographic locations, then the employees at different locations may be following different holiday calendar and schedules. For ex, if your project resources are at onsite and offshore locations it is a good idea to set up Onsite and Offshore calendars and assign respective calendars to resources. Get vacation and personal time off details from resources and update those exception days in the project resource’s calendar that will help project to calculate accurate estimates.

5. Set up Holidays, Non-Working days and Half Days

Irrespective of the size of the project, it is always one of the best practice to set up the project calendar to update holidays and other working days exceptions. Country specific and Office site specific holidays can be updated upfront at the beginning of the year.

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Microsoft Project Dashboard – Report

Microsoft Project 2016 has many reports that are readily available to use. One of the very useful report according to me is the Late Report which shows all tasks that are running late.

To access the Late Report, select Report tab from the main menu and select more reports. In the Side window for more reports go to ‘In-Progress’ and you should be able to select Late Report as one option available under the ‘In-Progress’ section of the reports. The report shows tasks that are not completed based on the finish date.

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5 Useful Keyboard Shortcut for MS Project 2016

These are 5 very useful Keyboard shortcuts for MS Project that will help you in speed up your workflow.

  1. ALT + SHIFT + ARROW Key (Right Arrow for INDENT and Left Arrow for OUTDENT).
  2. F2 for Editing a task.
  3. CTRL + F2  to link selected tasks and CTRL + SHIFT + F2 to unlink selected tasks.
  4. ALT + SHIFT + Plus Sign (+) to Expand summary tasks and ALT + SHIFT + Minus Sign (-) to Collapse summary tasks.
  5. F5 to jump to a particular task or ID.

Watch this short 2 minute video on using these Keyboard shortcuts.

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MS Project Graphical Indicators – Tutorial

In this tutorial I will explain on how to create the “Graphical Indicators” which can be used to represent status of the project activities visually. Tutorial specificaly details on how to create graphical status indicators in Gantt Chart  Microsoft Project. Graphical indicators are visual representation of the status of the tasks based on the percentage completion. Visual representation gives a quick overview of all tasks status. This is a quick and easy way to read through your project gantt chart to identify or segregate tasks that are completed or running late.

Scenario 01: Assign Green indicator for project activities that are 100% complete.

Scenario 02: Assign Red indicator for project activities which passed the Finish date and are not 100% complete.

Scenario 03: Assign Red Flags for activities that are 0% complete and has passed the planned start date.

Scenario 04: Assign Yellow indicator for activities that are upcoming in 2 weeks. ( you can alter this to 1 week or 2 days etc based on your requirement)

Scenario 05: Assign White indicator for project activities that are yet to start.

Scenario 06: Assign Dark Green indicators for all other project activities which doesn’t fall in to any of the above scenarios.

Now lets see the formula to see how we can achieve the above scenarios using IF expression in MS Project.


IIf([% Complete]=100,4,(IIf([Current Date]>=[Finish],3,(IIf([Current Date]>[Start] And [% Complete]=0,5,(IIf([Current Date]>[Finish]-14 And [% Complete]<80,2,(IIf([Current Date]<[Start],6,1)))))))))

As you know the MS Project can return numerics for the true & false part of the expression. So the numbers used in the above formulas showed be now mapped to respective colors in the graphical indicator button in the formula window.

Checkout my Youtube channel to see the video tutorial. Please like the video and subscribe for more content.

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MS Project Actual vs Planned % Complete

In MS Project there is no default field available to calculate the Planned % complete or the Baseline % completed. In this tutorial I will explain how to create a customized field to capture planned % complete to compare it against the actual % complete.

STEP 01Calculate the duration in days.

MS Project stores the duration in minutes, so in order to use the duration in days in our calculations create a customized number field and name it as “Duration in Days”.

How to do it: In MS Project, right click any column and select insert column. Then select field name as ‘Number 1′ and assign title as “Duration in Days”. Then right click the newly inserted column and select ‘Customize Fields’. On the custom attributes click on the radio button ‘Formula’ and type in the formula as below. In the next section click ‘Use Formula’ and then click OK.

FormulaVal(ProjDurConv(Duration, pjdays)) 

Syntax: ProjDurConv( expression, durationunits )

Formula Explanation: ProjDurConv is an available function in MS Project to convert the duration in to Days(pjdays) or Hours(pjhours) or minutes or in any other available format.

STEP 02Calculate the Elapsed days.

Based on the start date of the project and the  status date, calculate the days elapsed. This is required to calculate the percentage.

How to do it: In MS Project, right click any column and select insert column. Then select field name as ‘Number 2′ and assign title as “Elapsed Days”. Then right click the newly inserted column and select ‘Customize Fields’. On the custom attributes click on the radio button ‘Formula’ and type in the formula as below. In the next section click ‘Use Formula’ and then click OK.

FormulaIIf(ProjDateDiff(Start,[Status Date])/480>=Val(ProjDurConv([Baseline Duration],pjDays)),Val(ProjDurConv([Baseline Duration],pjDays)),IIf(DateDiff(“d”,[Baseline Start],[Status Date])<=0,0,ProjDateDiff(Start,[Status Date])/480))

SyntaxIIf( exprtruepartfalsepart )

Formula Explanation: If the Project date difference between the project start date and status date is >= duration means that duration for the task completion is over and hence return the project duration. If the condition is false, it means that the duration is still not completed and we need to compute the elapsed days. But if the elapsed working days is 0 or negative (which means the planned task is not yet started) we need to set the elapsed days as 0. Hence you see another ‘If’ condition in the false part of the first ‘If’ condition.

Note:  I updated the Formula to replace DateDiff function with ProjDateDiff as I was getting lot of queries from users that the formula considered weekends also in to calculations.  Also on the formula window click the option “Roll up to summary level” to get the correct percentages for the summary tasks as well.

STEP 03Calculate the Planned Percentage complete.

Planned % complete is calculated based on the ‘Elapsed Days’ (Number 2) and ‘Duration in Days’ (Number 1) fields created in above steps.

How to do it: In MS Project, right click any column and select insert column. Then select field name as ‘Number 3′ and assign title as “Planned Percent”. Then right click the newly inserted column and select ‘Customize Fields’. On the custom attributes click on the radio button ‘Formula’ and type in the formula as below. In the next section click ‘Use Formula’ and then click OK.


SyntaxDivision (Math)

Formula Explanation: Dividing the Elapsed days by Duration of the task to get the percentage of completion for the task.

STEP 04Format the Percentage complete column.

To display the percentage complete field as text with a % sign, create a new text field column and in the formula format the Number3 field.

How to do it: In MS Project, right click any column and select insert column. Then select field name as ‘Text 1′ and assign title as “Planned % Complete”. Then right click the newly inserted column and select ‘Customize Fields’. On the custom attributes click on the radio button ‘Formula’ and type in the formula as below. In the next section click ‘Use Formula’ and then click OK.

Formula: Format(Number3, “0%”)

SyntaxFormat( expression[, format[, firstdayofweek[, firstweekofyear]]] ) all in ‘[‘ are optional..

Formula Explanation: Format the Number3 field as text and adds % sign at the end.

Hope this helps and let me know other ways of arriving at the planned % complete.

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