Microsoft Office / Software Applications

Microsoft Project 2007

Completing Your Project Plan

A project plan is a simple way of displaying a very complex thing: managing a project. After you’ve created a new project plan, created tasks, assigned and managed resources, it’s time to complete your project plan. In this section, we’re going to complete a few items to finish the project plan. A completed project plan isn’t really finished – it’s an organic thing which is used throughout the project. In this section, we’re going to learn how to:

  • Display the critical path
  • Shorten the project duration
  • Set a project baseline
  • Create and view project reports

Display the Critical Path

The critical path is a term to dictate the series of tasks (or sometimes a single task) that will finish your project the most efficiently. By knowing the critical path, you will know the best, fastest, and cheapest way to finish a project on time (and perhaps even ahead of time). However, keep in mind the critical path is not set in stone; depending on which critical tasks (i.e. every task on the critical path is labeled as “critical”) are finished in what order can change the critical path. Therefore, it is important to know what the critical path of your project is every time a new step begins.

How to Display the Critical Path in Project

To display the critical path in Microsoft Project 2007, the best way is to view the critical path in the context of all tasks in your project. To do so, select “View” and click “More Views.”

Select “Detail Gantt” and select “Apply.” You will notice here that the critical path of my project is displayed.

Shorten the Project Duration

To shorten the project duration, you will want to “fast-track.” Simply put, “fast-tracking” is the act of scheduling tasks that were originally scheduled to run one after another instead of at the same time. You probably know fast tracking by another term; “multi-tasking.” In the same way, some individuals text on their cell phone while listening to their Mp3 player and crossing the street all at the same time. The same principles is behind fast tracking, and if you think crossing the street while multitasking is risky, know that fast-tracking can be risky as well.

The problem with fast tracking is certain tasks are being rushed all at once. While your project will be finished faster, the quality of the final project may have noticeably suffered. Therefore, it is imperative that you fast track only when you know you are not giving up quality to shave off some time.

It may be in your best interest to fast track near the end of your project, especially if the remaining tasks are easy and somewhat short. This will decrease the risk of having a weak final product while saving some time (and money) at the same time. In short, fast tracking is a good idea but usually never at the cost of quality.

To choose which tasks you wish to fast track, click “Project” at the top of the program and select “Filtered for:” and select “Critical.”

You will now want to hide the summary tasks.

To do so, select “Tools” and “Options.” Select the “View” tab and deselect the “Show Summary Tasks” checkbox. Once clicked” select “OK.”

Next, you will need to sort the critical path tasks by duration.

Select “Project” and select “Sort.” Select “Sort by” and select “Duration” in the “Sort by” list. Next to the “Sort by” list, select “Descending” and click “Sort.”

You will now see the length of each task. From this information, you will have the chance to create a fast track if a proper one is possible.

Set a Baseline

Creating a baseline is crucial to having a successful project. This includes planning your budget, creating an efficient schedule, applying resources, knowing the beginning and ends of dates, and so on. Simply put, a baseline keeps your project in check. Before beginning to develop your baseline, you should have developed your WBS as discussed much earlier in the tutorial.

To create a baseline, select “Tools,” and select “Tracking: Set Baseline.”

Choose your baseline (1 – 11) and click OK.

Microsoft Project 2007 Tutorial

Thanks for completing the Microsoft Project 2007 tutorial. This tutorial provides a foundation for how to use Microsoft Project to create project plans. In later tutorials, we will explore more advanced project management techniques and how you can best take advantage of Microsoft Project to manage your projects.