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Software Secrets – Microsoft Project


Written by Jane Hames

Do you manage projects?

For me, anything that has a start date, an end date, milestones and deliverables can count as a project. For something short and simple it probably “just happens” with a small amount of organisation. For more complex projects, Microsoft Project can be a great help with the scheduling of work, people’s time, equipment, costs, dates, and above all; “how will we achieve this on time, within budget & to a high standard”.

I spend a lot of my working days delivering Microsoft Project training and consulting and working with clients on how to get best use out of it for their specific requirements. It is just software and clearly doesn’t have a brain(!), so it is well worth thinking about how best to set up a project in order to get the most value out of it. After all, there is no point spending all your time in Microsoft Project and leaving little time for getting the real job done. Once the planning side of things is done right, you can then track work, costs and general progress against our original plan.

My top tips for getting great value out of Project for you and your business:

  • Identify what you need to plan before starting to enter information in MS Project – think about dependencies/links.
  • Correctly set up the working time and calendar options for your project to ensure that work for resources and costs are calculated the way you want them to be.
  • Ask yourself, what information you need to be able to extract from your project plan, and with this in mind, what information you need to enter into the plan.
  • Create a Baseline – so valuable for tracking progress and, once the project is over, for performing “lessons learnt” analysis
  • If you need to produce reports, think about what specific information you will be reporting on – if there is not an obvious place to record this information in Project you can produce custom fields.

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