Biggy Zahn

Biggy Zahn

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How to see if leveling resources has impacted your schedule?

Do you ask yourself how you can see if leveling resource has impacted your schedule? You can be certain that it will have consequences for your schedule, for instance your plan date(s) could now be scheduled later.

What to do before leveling resources?

  • We advise to set a baseline before you start leveling resources (use ‘Baseline 10’ for instance) to learn the impact to your schedule and how to optimize it further.
  • When you set the baseline, you now can add the column Finish Variance to your view, like in the image below:

How to see if leveling resources has impacted your schedule?1

In the Gantt chart of this view you see the Finish Variance displayed next to each task. This represents the delay caused by factoring in the influence of your resources availability.

To learn more about resource overallocation, make sure you also read this blog post!

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How to automate your schedule and save time?

What is better to automate your schedule and save time? We will help you how to do that!
Eric Uyttewaal, one of the most renowned authors in the field, named his books ‘Forecast Scheduling’. For deeper insights on virtually every concept in this course, we strongly recommend you to buy and read this book.

He defines the schedule as a model of the project to forecast it. This is the purpose we will cover in our e-course Critical Path Management, to automate your schedule in such a way that it is:

  • Valid: It must produce accurate forecasts
  • Dynamic: It must update itself as much as possible. He estimates that for a 100 task / 3 month schedule about 50 hours of schedule maintenance is saved when you have a dynamic schedule. Only one change should be enough to calculate the rest of the model (just like you expect from Excel)
  • Robust: It must be able to deal with multiple scenario’s, like scheduling forwards and scheduling backwards
  • Model: It must be a simplification of reality with only capturing those things that are important in this project – it should not resort into a checklist for all small activities
  • Forecast: Checklists, task manuals, meeting schedules, database of historical estimates are reasons to have schedules, but the primary reason should be to forecast your major milestones.How to automate your schedule and save time?1

Since this is our goal for the course Critical Path Management, we will focus on the following

4 principles

  1. having a complete and correct network logic,
  2. minimize the use of date constraints,
  3. keep all completed work in the past and
  4. all work that still needs to be done in the future.

Four simple principles, that if maintained, will make you very happy with MS Project. But if not maintained, will guarantee a misbalance between the effort you put in your scheduling work and the benefits you reap from it.

1 hour or 8 hours a week?

How much time do you spend on a weekly basis maintaining your schedule in MS Project?

Share it in the comments below.

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How to use lag and lead time in MS Project?

Lag and lead time in MS Project is a topic that is confusing to many Microsoft Project users.

An easy example

In some cases the next task cannot start directly after the previous task has finished, for instance when you have completed a task like ‘painting’ which requires drying time. When you want to create a delay (lag) or a lead-time (negative lag) you double-click the black arrow in the Gantt chart between the respective tasks and enter the number of days of lag you want to have for this relationship.

You could also have a negative ‘lag’, which is called ‘lead'(time). An example of lead-time is to start to review a document when the document has been written for 20%. To enter lead-time, you will add a negative number of days in the link window as just described.

What about you?

What are your biggest struggles with lag and lead time?

Leave it in the comments below.

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How does MS Project leveling decide which task to put first?

Which task to put first?

When solving overallocation, MS Project chooses which task to put first and uses a certain logic (algorithm) to achieve this. For each task in the schedule, a score value is calculated based on all factors that have an impact on the leveling process:

  • Tasks are scheduled in the order of the calculated value. Tasks with a lower score are pushed out further in time
  • Resource leveling only splits and delays (!) tasks
  • Tasks will never be scheduled to start earlier than initially planned, even if possible. It is even so, that leveling twice without clearing leveling will result in introducing more delay.

The leveling ‘score’ for each task is calculated based on:

  • Task ID: this is the order in the schedule from top to bottom. Tasks with a lower ID get a better score (very little impact on the score though).
  • Duration: tasks with a longer duration get a higher score.
  • Constraints and Dependencies: they have a negative impact on the score, as MS Project will honour constraints and dependencies (if set in options > schedule > task will always honor their constraint dates).
  • Priorities: have a big impact on the score. A higher priority has a higher score. (Priorities are only a ‘hint’ for MS Project, and are NOT always honoured). Priorities can be set in Task information > General > Priority. Of course, this field can also be added as a column to the task views.

Note that you do not need to set priorities for every individual task; the network logic will set the correct order as well.

How does MS Project leveling decide which task to put first?1

How confident are you?

How confident are you in using the resource leveling functionality in MS Project?
Share it in the comments below.

 

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About linking tasks in MS Project

There is a lot to learn about linking tasks in MS Project. One of the most important principles is to create dependencies between the tasks in your schedule, for the same reason as you create formulas in Excel, to automate the calculations.

Different terms about linking tasks

Perhaps you will hear other terms at your company, like links or task relationships, but they all mean the same, which are the black arrows between tasks in the Gantt chart.

About linking tasks in MS Project1

Why linking tasks in MS Project?

Linking tasks is automating your schedule. You want MS Project do the calculations for you. Compare a task relationship with a formula in Excel. You use a formula in Excel when you don’t want to use a Casio calculator next to your Excel file to do the calculations.

It is very important that you consult with all possible stakeholders. Planning an entire day for 35 people might be a very good investment if you consider that one forgotten dependency can easily push your project back for months. Think of having some software installed as a precondition for other software, or on boarding or training requirements before a resource can start on your project, or business processes that need to be followed but you did not know yet.

Functional dependencies

The tasks you link should be functional dependencies. This means that in reality a task cannot start before another one finishes, as this would totally not make sense.

  • For example, placing the roof on a building when the supporting walls have not yet been finished is physically not possible. Reviewing a document before it is written is also not the correct order.

About linking tasks in MS Project2

Resource dependencies

Resource dependencies are to indicate that a task can only start when this resource finished the previous one.

  • For example, because multi-tasking only works to a certain level and you can only start painting room 2 once you have finished room 1, or vice versa.

About linking tasks in MS Project3

Using links for resource dependencies introduces unwanted inflexibility to your plan. Suppose that someone else just become available to paint room 2, you do not want to have a task dependency anymore, as this would keep the tasks in sequence, although the tasks could be done in parallel now. This issue is solved when we explain how to level workloads in our e-course Maturity Level 4 Resource Management. For now, it is fine to use links for resource dependencies, but we do recommend to place a note before each task where you did this (double-click on the task > tab notes). This note (like: “I used a link for a resource dependency here”) will remind you to delete this link once you have found a new resource for the task.

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How to link tasks in MS Project?

In MS Project there are several ways how to link tasks in MS Project. Actually, there are eight different ways, but we will show you only the three ways we prefer.

3 methods for linking tasks

These methods are also shown in the video below:

  1. Selecting the tasks you want to link and use the Link button.
  2. Enter the number of the Predecessor in the Predecessor column.
  3. Select the bar in the Gantt Chart and drag the link to its successor.

 

Which of the three methods is your favourite when it comes to linking tasks?
Share it in the comments below:

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How MS Project uses cost management terms?

In MS Project are several cost management terms used:

  • Forecast: The projected cost for all past, current and future tasks. In other words: the predicted cost for the project.
  • Actual: The costs that have already been made, or for which the obligation to pay is already made
  • Remaining: All costs that are still to be incurred, as these are related to tasks that still need to be done
  • Budgeted costs: The amount of money you are allowed to spend due to agreements made with your client, boss or stakeholders. There could be an agreed tolerance level for deviating 10% from this budget. This tolerance should then be well-documented of course.
  • Baseline costs: At the point of accepting the project a baseline is set, which is a copy of the schedule that adheres to the time, budget and scope constraints for the project. Baseline costs therefore reflect the ‘forecasted’ costs at that time.

This also means that the actual and forecasted costs can be compared to the budget as well as to the baseline costs. In our e-course Cost Management we will discuss both comparisons.


Which terms about cost management did you miss in this list?

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How to set up a project budget in MS Project in 3 steps?

Follow these 3 steps to set up a project budget in MS Project:

  1. First, you create the Budget Resources in your file
  2. Second, you assign these budget resource to your project
  3. Third, you enter the amount of your budget per budget type

It is not a difficult process, but the need for doing things in the right order and using different views for these steps, can make it a bit confusing though.

1) Create budget resource

Budget Resource is one of the four resource types and as such can be created in the 5. Budget view, (this view is part of our e-course Resource Management) which is a slightly customized version of the Resource Sheet. Make sure you do this in the right order, as otherwise it will not work:

  • Type the new Resource in the Sheet and mark these as resource type Cost. We recommend to use the naming convention ‘Budget <budget category>’, e.g. ‘Budget Internal Hours’, ‘Budget Hardware’ or ‘Budget Travel’. Also, use the Budget Category field to indicate the budget category, as this view will group on this field so you see a nice summary of your costs against the budget, per budget type.
  • Double-click this resource and in the Resource Information window, check the box before Budget.

2) Assign budget resource

To assign any of these budgets to your project, you have to assign them in the Gantt Chart to the Project Summary Task, just like you assign any other resource to any regular task. If you do not see the Project Summary Task, you should go the Layout tab and then check the box before Project Summary Task on the right.

3) Enter the amount of your budget

To enter the amounts for the different budget types, you go to the Resource Usage view, add the column Budgeted Cost, and type the amount on the line that has your Project’s name. You will see that the budget is being spread equally in time-phased increments over the length of your project. You could deviate from this equal spread, for instance by applying the Months timescale and adjusting the monthly amounts as you wish. Obviously, make sure that the total is still correct.

Your project budget is entered

At this point the budget has been correctly entered!

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