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Getting Started Using Microsoft Project

Learn how to get started using Microsoft Project for your project planning. Watch Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne explain more.
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So what we’re going to do now is we’re going to try and create a MS Project, a Microsoft Project file, project plan, for our example startup project. We’re going to enter the tasks. We’re going to enter their durations and the precedence relationships that we’ve identified among them. And, hopefully, out of that we will get a Gantt chart and we will be able to identify our critical path. And we will also have a chance to look at the network diagram, all within the tool, all within MS Project. So the way to start is to go to File, and open a new file as you would most Microsoft products.
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The first screen that you will see is the data entry table and our Gantt chart on the right. This is the preferred screen to work in, in my mind. And the way to start next is to start listing your tasks. Add the names of your tasks as you identify them from the work breakdown structure. In our case, we have eight tasks. We start with the Creative, [SOUND] Strategy, IT, [SOUND] Fundraising, [SOUND] Marketing, Sales, [SOUND] Finance, and finally, HR. Now, by default, we have a question mark duration, because we haven’t identified the duration, so let’s add the durations of these specific tasks based on our exploration of the data that we’ve collected. So the creative, we thought, would take 5 weeks.
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Strategy, 2, IT and fundraising, 4 weeks each. Marketing, 2 weeks. Sales, 5. Finance, 2. And finally, HR, 1 week.
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As you see, as I type in the durations, my Gantt chart gets automatically updated to reflect the new information that I entered. We can also see that the start date was set to January 19, and we have yet to determine a finish date because we haven’t entered our precedents relationships. So in this column titled Predecessors, we start entering the relationships. For instance, we know that fundraising depends on the creative task being completed, so we enter task number 1. Marketing we know depends on both the creative and strategy being completed, and sales, similarly. The finance task depends on both the marketing and the sales and HR depends on fundraising being done and the sales being completed.
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We see our Gantt chart again getting updated in real time to add the precedent’s relationships and to start the tasks at the earliest possible date that they can start, assuming that their predecessors have been completed. We can also add an end milestone to our project which has a duration of 0. Milestones are denoted by a duration of 0, which means that it will change, and on the Gantt chart it will appear as a diamond. We also know that this will occur when both the Finance task and the HR, the two last tasks in our project, are done.
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So we can add that information as predecessors, and there we have the end of our project scheduled currently for the 10th of April. Let’s add a little bit more information to our Gantt chart. Well, first maybe we want to be looking at our critical path. So, we can stand in our Gantt, right-click under the header, Show or Hide Bar Styles, we select Critical Tasks. And our critical activities are then highlighted in red to denote that those are the critical tasks, those tasks create the longest path in our project and determine the completion date.
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A few other things that are recommended, one is to add a high level summary task, a roll up task that will tell me overall, when do I start, when do I finish and my overall duration. I would like some indication here of how long this project will take, not just in terms of the date, but also in terms of the total duration. To do that, I’m going to right-click on top, and I’m going to insert a task. I’m going to call this task, Startup Project. [SOUND] And I am going to highlight all the other tasks underneath it, and I’m going to indent them. This has automatically created a summary task that basically summarizes the entire project.
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Our entire project is going to take 12 weeks. It will start on January 19th and it will complete on Friday, April 10th. We can also add a start milestone, if we would like to represent a point in time in which we all, all of our projects or all of our tasks are going to start. And so we, this is also a milestone, we can give it a duration of 0. And we can make our first three tasks, meaning the Creative, the Strategy and the IT, dependent on that start milestone. Perhaps if we’re depending on a specific approval or a specific license in order to start, to get things started. Here we have it.
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We have our, our complete Gantt chart with our starting date, our completion date, and our critical tasks highlighted. Another important view that we get from MS Project, or most project management tools out there, is the network diagram. By choosing the network diagram, let me collapse the boxes, so you can see a better view of this. We get an entire overview, an entire view of the network and the flow of the project from left to right as we looked at before manually to make sure that we are comfortable that our project is complete. There is a, a link between all of our tasks. There are clear dependencies.
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We have one start and one finish, and we can now be confident that our plan makes sense and that we’re not missing any fundamental relationships.

As Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne mentioned in the previous video, there are plenty of tools out there to identify the critical path and proper duration for tasks. As you watch this video, think about whether or not you would use Microsoft Project (MS Project) for your next project? How might it be helpful? What might be some challenges associated with using MS Project?

This may be a good time to explore some of the other tools that are out there as well. Which ones might you be interested in trying out? Or, if you’ve used some of the tools, which ones did you find most useful?

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Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management

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