The Project Manager’s Simplified Guide to Microsoft Project

Posted by Dan Armstrong on Nov 8, 2016 4:27:17 PM

As a Microsoft consulting partner, it’s no surprise we run our core business using Microsoft products. All project work completed by Timlin is delivered using the Project suite of products including task management, time tracking, resource management, and status reporting.   These tools allow us to effectively manage our business without the obstacles that often are present when managing multiple projects using disparate systems and tools.  

As a project manager, I need an easy-to-use solution and something I can quickly pull up to assess the health of multiple projects running concurrently.

The Phases of Project Management

 Before we begin any project, we must understand the phases of the Project Lifecycle before determining the appropriate tools to solve our challenges.  

  1. Identification – First we need to know why we’re undertaking the project. This stage in the lifecycle is often one of the more “subjective” phases since it’s frequently directed from the top down and/or primarily based on financial estimate; though there are many other secondary influencers.
  1. Prioritization – Organizational leadership frequently directs this stage and it requires ranking individual projects against an overall backlog or roadmap. Prioritization factors may include value, level of commitment, corporate strategy, expected outcomes, effort/work required, and interdepartmental agreement.
  1. Planning – Once the priorities are set, then we must determine the scope of work and available resources, assign those resources, and set the expectations for project milestones, deliverables and completion.
  1. Coordination – Next, we set up the logistics behind coordinating and managing the project workload such as task assignments, delegation, time allocation, and sequence of work.
  1. Execution – Once everything is in place, we need to manage the execution of the actual work on the project, including what we need to do, how to do it, and the collaborative effort required.
  1. Delivery – Finally we deliver on the project expectations and outcomes and present all deliverables to the client.
  1. Measure – We’re not finished yet; we then monitor, measure and report on the project results, outcomes, impacts, efficiency, timing, budget and other metrics.

From the perspective of a Project Manager, the Identification and Prioritization project stages are often less important to daily project planning and execution, however they are still areas we can and will impact. Ensuring the most cost effective and impactful projects are underway is often the biggest organizational hurdle during these phases.

In a perfect world, Planning and Coordination is done with a detailed eye towards scheduling and bandwidth, as these are the two of the most important aspects of a project. Proper planning and coordination is often the difference between success and failure after initial execution. Unfortunately, this often occurs outside the scope of many within the organization who can, and should have a say. 

Execution and Delivery are the most visible of the stages and generally what leadership pays attention to. I have often heard the sentiment, “I don’t care how it gets done, I just want it completed on time and on budget.” Without proper visibility into project portfolios and resource time demands/constraints, these are the areas that suffer the most.

Measurement is the last and often most hurried step, but it’s one of the most important. Without effective measurement, we’re limited when it comes to determining future project outcomes. It’s easy to forget that data is king when discussing lessons learned, metrics and impact. We can more effectively report true project measurement, impact, health and slipping tasks when we deliberately manage the lifecycle in a repeatable fashion.

 

The Solution
Many organizations use piecemeal solutions that consist of disparate software packages, home grown solutions, and even MS Excel. There is a better way.   As a project manager I want to have a solution that is easy to use personally and something that I can quickly pull up to assess the health of multiple projects running concurrently.  Its also important to have an easy way to show my boss and our company leadership how each project is progressing, or simply have a well-informed answer to the status of things. Microsoft project/PWA, project server, and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions solve these issues.  

Like many Project Managers, I’ve been exposed to Project Professional throughout my career in one company or another, but I’ve now come to realize I had wasted far too much time piecing together updates, reporting, resource planning, etc. After using Microsoft Project Suite, I can attest to the fact that it makes a project manager’s life easier, allows more interaction with teams, and more time to diligently follow up and manage deliverables and timelines.  

Initial planning can mean the difference between a successful or failed project.  Utilizing the time sheeting and available Project Online tools, we can view the current time constraints of various resources needed for a project and when deployed, be alerted to overworked resources—imperative when running multiple projects simultaneously within an organization. 

Using this whole suite of products, I am able to easily assess the bandwidth of a resource and make decisions about timelines during setup rather than when a deliverable/milestone is missed.  Project allows you to create very detailed documents to plan and track your projects against other tasks.   Using project online with integrated timesheets, reporting, and resource tracking and availability truly ties together the controllable sections of project lifecycle management.  

There are plenty of solutions for portfolio management but so many organizations find them difficult to adhere to. If you want to make a big impact in your organization, use Project and Project Online, a specialty of ours here at Timlin.

Contact us today, we’ll help you tie everything together.

Topics: Planning, Project Management