For large projects, assistance of computer software is essential. The software creates a project schedule by superimposing project activities, with their precedence relationships and estimated duration time, on a time line. It provides information on the specific tasks, and milestones to know whether the project is on target, headed in the right direction, and on time. People doing the work will find it much easier to see when they are supposed to start and finish their jobs if you give them a bar chart compared to the arrow diagram. Scheduling software always allows you to print a bar chart, even though a CPM network is used to find the critical path and to calculate floats.
Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003 is a popular software used to plan projects, though many experts are critical of it. The software schedules a task’s Start and Finish. It takes into account many factors, including task dependencies, constraints, and interruptions, such as holidays or vacation days.
How to Use
To start a typical project click on File in the toolbar and then select New.
A dialog box appears on the screen asking you whether to start a blank project or not. Click on OK.
A new dialog box appears asking you to fill in the project information.
Upon clicking the OK button in the Project Information dialog box we have the Gantt chart on the screen.
Enter tasks in the order they will occur.
Then estimate how long it will take to complete each task.
In the Duration field, type the amount of time each task will take in months, weeks, days, hours, or minutes, not counting non-working time. Microsoft Project uses durations to calculate the amount of work to be done on the task. When you start a new project in Microsoft Project, you can enter your project’s start or finish date, but not both.
Double-click on the first row of the field Task Name.
A dialog box appears asking for Task Information. Information about predecessors, resources, etc., has to be keyed in.
You link tasks by defining a dependency between their finish and start dates. For example, the “Pick up Trash” task must finish before the start of the “Mow Front” task in the Garden project. There are four kinds of task dependencies in Microsoft Project:
Finish-to-start (FS) Task (B) cannot start until task (A) finishes.
Start-to-start (SS) Task (B) cannot start until task (A) starts.
Finish-to-finish (FF) Task (B) cannot finish until task (A) finishes.
Start-to-finish (SF) Task (B) cannot finish until task (A) starts.
You can schedule your tasks most effectively by entering task durations, creating dependencies between tasks, and then letting Microsoft Project calculate the start and finish dates for you.
You can also specify lags between activities.
As you keep on filling the information about the tasks, the Gantt chart is automatically created.
You can track actual work using the time-phased fields in Microsoft Project.
To keep your project on schedule, make sure that tasks start and finish on schedule.
The Tracking Gantt view helps find trouble spots, tasks that vary from the baseline plan. You can then adjust task dependencies, reassign resources, or delete some tasks to meet your deadlines.
The Tracking Gantt view pairs the current schedule with the original schedule for each task.
When you’ve saved the project with a baseline, but before you’ve entered actual data on progress, the Tracking Gantt view shows tasks with the baseline bars and the scheduled or actual bars synchronized.
When you update your schedule, you can compare the baseline plan to your actual progress to identify variances.
You can click the Network Diagram button on the left on the main screen and the network diagram will be displayed. We have used MS Project to provide the network diagram for the crashed version of the ‘Garden project.