The Art of Scheduling with Microsoft Project

Project scheduling with Microsoft Project is partially a science, and partially an art:

  • Science: Understanding and utilizing the various technical behaviors of the project scheduling engine, as well as the “mouse-click” features in Microsoft Project to build and track project deliverables and activities, timelines, work effort, resource utilization, and costs.
  • Art: Understanding the most effective way to plan, forecast, track, display, and share project information with Microsoft Project… while avoiding as many pitfalls as possible.

Any determined and resourceful person can find a plethora of reading material, recorded videos, and training courses that describe the technical “mouse-click” science of scheduling with Microsoft Project. However, the art of effective project scheduling includes a wide array of techniques that are learned over time… sometimes from other experienced Microsoft Project users, and sometimes from (sometimes painful) trial and error. These project scheduling techniques can be broadly grouped into several categories which include, but are not limited to…

  • Project Initiation
  • Task and Milestone Identification, Addition, and Removal
  • Task and Milestone Organization
  • Task and Milestone Sequencing
  • Task Duration, Work, and Cost Estimating
  • Task and Milestone Constraining
  • Task and Milestone Embellishing with Notes and Formatting
  • Resource Identification, Addition, Removal, and Release
  • Resource Assignment
  • Project Schedule Issue Identification and Resolution
  • Project Baselining and Baseline Control
  • Project Progress Tracking
  • Project Budgeting and Cost Tracking
  • Task and Milestone Rescheduling
  • Project Performance Measurement, Reporting, and Communication
  • Project Change Control
  • Project Closure

These topics are not specific to Microsoft Project; effective Project Managers should be familiar with these leading practices regardless of the scheduling tools that they use. Fortunately, Microsoft Project has built-in features that accommodate leading practices in all of these areas. Unfortunately, many Microsoft Project reading material, recorded videos, and training courses do not adequately address these topics and teach us the leading practices in each area. Instead, they only teach the generic mouse clicks and keystrokes. Additionally, Microsoft Project sometimes offers multiple ways of accomplishing something within a project schedule (such as assigning a resource to a task), but sometimes one technique yields better results than others. What are some effective techniques that YOU have used in these areas? Please share via LinkedIn, Twitter (@tonyzink), or our EPMA Facebook page. We at EPMA like to share as well, so expect more posts from us in these areas in the future.  

Good luck!