Creating a Project Plan
The first thing you will do in Microsoft Project is create a new project plan. By default, when you open Microsoft Project, it creates a new blank project plan. If you are working on a current project, you can also create a brand new project plan. In this section of the free Microsoft Project tutorial, we’re going to review how to create a new project plan, how to create tasks, and how to organize your project. Specifically, we’re going to learn how to:
- Create a new project plan in Microsoft Project
- Add a new task to a project plan
- Set task durations
- Change task durations
- Create a new project milestone
- Add resources to a project plan
- Show the different views available in Microsoft Project
Create a New Project Plan
Creating a new project plan in Microsoft Project 2007 is the first (and obvious) step in creating your project. However, there are a few things you must keep in mind before you begin creating the project itself. Primarily, you must build your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This is a hierarchical list of your project’s phases, tasks, and milestones. Simply put, this is the heart of your project schedule.
The simplest way to create a Work Breakdown Structure is to start by listing your major tasks for the project. For example, if you were building a house, your WBS might start like this:
Each of those tasks are large tasks with many subtasks to be accomplished below each task. Next, we’ll create some subtasks:
- Click on the row below where you’d like to insert the subtask.
- Click on the Insert menu and select New Task.
- A new row is insert. Enter in the task name into the new field and press Enter.
- Click on the task and then click on the green right-arrow toolbar button to indent the task. Once the task is indented, the first task Prepare the Lot becomes the outline task.
You can repeat this process or just create a number of tasks, select them all (click on the first one, hold down the Shift key and click the last one) and use the outline green button to make them a subtask. You can also go multiple levels deep to have outline tasks beneath outline tasks – this is very useful for complex project plans.
You must now identify how long each task must take by entering the appropriate length into the “Duration” field. Keep in mind that work and duration are measured in working days. By default, 1 day will equal 8 hours, 5 days will equal 1 week, and 20 days will equal 1 month. The outline task is not assigned a duration, instead, it inherits all of the durations of the subtasks beneath it to show how long the outline task will take.
You will also need to create dependencies amongst different tasks. Going back to the example of building automobiles: the engine is dependent on the frame. Likewise, the frame is dependent on the machinery that places it on the assembly line. Therefore, a complete automobile cannot be completed (or completed efficiently) if each task does not come into fruition.
To begin creating dependencies, double-click on the task that is dependent.
Enter the ID of the task (this can be anything) and type in the name of the task the original task is dependent to. Once entered, click “OK.”
Finally, you will want to assign resources to a certain task. Once again, double-click on the task name that must use a certain resource.
Choose the resource that will be used for the task. For this one, “Driver 3” will be doing the task at 50% capacity. Obviously, you would want another driver to perform the task at 50% capacity, but you get the idea.
You have now created a project plan that you can efficiently use.
How to Create a New Project Plan
If you decide the project plan you created was not ideal, creating a new project plan is actually very simple. Click “File” on the top of the program and select “New.”
Click “Blank Project” in the “New Project” side panel.
Click on the “Project” menu and click “Project Information.”
Once clicked, select “Start date.” Select which date you want to begin the project. Once you have selected the “Start date,” click “OK.”
Type the name of the tasks in the order they will occur. For mine, tasks A-E will occur in the order of the alphabet. In addition, change the amount of time it will take to complete a task by changing the duration. Once complete, you will have created a new project plan.
Creating Tasks in a Project Plan
Creating a task in your project plan is crucial to your plan in general. Because new tasks will more than likely arise in your project plan, you will as a result need to add this task to your plan.
How to Add a Task to a Project Plan
Adding a task to a project plan is in fact very simple to do. What you must first do is figure out where the task fits into your order of tasks.
For mine, I will be placing a new task between “C” and “D.” At the top of the program, click “Insert” and select “New Task.”
As you can see, a new task has been created.
Type the name of the task (mine is C-1) and enter the appropriate amount of time the task will take to complete in the “Duration” field (my task will take 2 days to complete).
Task durations are the amount of working time it will take to complete a certain task. Usually, this is calculated by figuring out the amount of time from beginning to end. For example, if a task will take 8 hours to complete from start to finish, the duration for the task is 1 working day. Ideally, the less time it takes to complete task duration the better. As a result, you will want to make a task as short as possible, (although this is not a perfect world and that will rarely ever happen).
To properly estimate task duration, start with some research. Estimate how long certain tasks will take before you make up your mind on the duration. For example, you may want to consult your team members who may have some idea as to how long it takes to complete a certain task. In addition, your own experience may be just what you need to properly figure out the proper duration of a task. If previous projects featured the same kind of tasks, consult those and see on average how long the tasks in question took. Once you have come to a resolution as to how long tasks will more than likely take, write them down on a piece of paper.
How to Set or Change Task Durations
Entering duration is relatively easy (entering information seems to be easier than researching about information).
To change the duration of a task, click the duration field. Click the “Up” or “Down” arrows to change the duration length.
Notice how I changed the duration for task “C-1” from “1 day” to “3 days” by clicking the “Up” arrow twice. Change every duration as you see fit by following the same procedure.
How to Create a Milestone in Microsoft Project
Creating a milestone (also referred to as a “checkpoint”) is essential when you want to define different areas of your project. These milestones can act as several things, such as the end of a series of tasks or the completion of an objective. Whatever your reason for creating a milestone know, they are fairly easy to create.
To create a milestone from any existing task, double-click on the task that will contain a milestone.
Click the “Advanced” tab. Notice the “Mark task as milestone” option with a checkbox next to it. You will want to check this box to mark this task as a milestone. Now, whenever this task (Task E) is completed, it will be signified as a milestone. Naturally, the completion of task “E” in this project has no meaning and certainly does not deserve a milestone. Nevertheless, if you have a task that deserves a milestone (e.g. the task that is completed in the middle of your timeline of tasks) then you should definitely create a milestone.
Adding Resources to a Project Plan
Adding resources to your project plan is crucial to your entire project. Without resources, your tasks cannot be completed. Therefore, they literally “power” your project. There are certain tasks that will require more resources (i.e. the tasks that will take more time to complete) than others. When you created your project plan, you should have figured out how much “power” each resource would have. For example, if 2 resources are twice as powerful as normal resources (which will result in these resources operating twice as fast) then you may want to put these resources on your longest task (this is especially true if other tasks rely on this long task).
How to Add a Resource to a Project Plan
To add a resource to a project plan, double-click on the task that will be using the resource you are creating.
Click on the first cell and enter the “Resource Name.”
For this resource, I named it “David.” As you can see in the task information window, the resource “David” belongs to task “E.” If David happened to be working at 50% capacity, he may need another resource also operating at 50% capacity. Once you are finished creating your resource, click “OK.”