Working with Constraints and Deadlines

A constraint is a restriction on the start or finish date of a task in the project. Setting constraints is useful when external factors affect the start or finish date of a project. For example, vital supplies are not available to begin work on a task until the 10th September.

Every task in a project has a constraint applied to it already – the default As Soon As Possible constraint is applied when scheduling from the project start date, and the As Late As Possible constraint is used when scheduling from the project finish date.

These constraints are often not considered true constraints. They indicate that the task follows the working calendar, duration and task dependencies.

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Outline Tasks in Microsoft Project

Outline tasks in Microsoft Project to organise your list of project tasks and make it more readable. Creating an outline requires indenting tasks. The indented tasks are known as subtasks and the task above them a summary task.

These groups of tasks can then be collapsed and expanded making the list of tasks easier to work with.

There are many approaches to organising the tasks in your project. You may decide to group tasks by the phases of the project, the teams who will be doing the work, or in the case of manufacturing a product the different parts that make up the product.

As well as making the list more readable and easier to use, the summary tasks also provide project data at a glance. Information such as the start and finish date of that project phase, its duration, cost and variance is made easily available. Continue reading

Use a Baseline to Measure Project Progress

Set a baseline for your project so that you can track its progress against the original project plan. A baseline is a reference point for the project schedule. It can be used to measure the project progress in certain categories.

The baseline saves nearly 20 reference points in 5 different categories for all the tasks in your project. These are the Start Dates, Finish Dates, Durations, Work and Cost. For an effective baseline you should ensure that these estimates are accurate in your project before you set the baseline. Continue reading

Add a Deadline Date to a Task

Add a deadline date to a task to keep track of it’s finish date against the deadline. As Microsoft Project updates the schedule a warning will appear if the task is due to miss it’s deadline date.

Using a deadline is considered a better approach than using a constraint. By using a deadline, Project continues to schedule tasks and displays a warning for any potential problems. But a constraint is inflexible and limits the scheduling of the project. Continue reading

Use Filters to Analyse Project Data

Microsoft Project has two ways of filtering its’ tables. There is the AutoFilter, similar to what you would see in Excel, and there is the in-built filters.

Filtering allows you to perform some simple analysis of your project data. It can be used to find which tasks begin this week, which tasks have slipped, or the most expensive tasks. Continue reading