Posted on

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.

Advertisements
Posted on

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.

FormulaNumber2/Number1

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.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required