When using a software program such as Microsoft Project as a resource it is important to note that you must have a good understanding of the Project Management discipline in order to use the tool effectively. If you don’t know basic Project Management terms and skills, the tool will not be much more than a pretty Gantt chart, which only scratches the surface of what Microsoft Project has to offer. By understanding Project Management principles as well some basic guidelines and best practices for using the software, you will come to find that Microsoft Project is much more than a Gantt chart.

Here are some Microsoft Project 2010 Best Practices to follow:

  1. Always place the Project Summary task at line 0 of your Gantt Chart Entry Table, instead of placing it on line 1. You will need to enable the display of the Project Summary Task via a checkbox on the Format Tab, Show/Hide Group.
  2. Link Tasks at the detail Task level rather than the Summary Task level.
  3. Use Manual Task scheduling early in the project, when specific estimates are not known, but switch to Automating Task Scheduling whenever possible to take full advantage of Project’s scheduling engine.
  4. Don’t enter Start Dates or Finish Dates directly into the Entry Gantt Chart, let Project’s scheduling engine calculate them for you based on duration, linking, and resource availability.
  5. Enter resource names in through the Resource Sheet initially, so that you can pick them from a menu on the Entry Gantt Chart, rather than entering them manually into the Entry Gantt Chart risking duplicate or misspelled resource names.
  6. Edit the Project Calendar to include all of the company’s working days (such as Monday through Friday) and non-working days (such as weekends and company holidays), and edit individual resource calendars for vacation time specific to a particular resource.
  7. On the Resource Sheet, use the Group column to enter in which department the resource belongs to to assist with filtering and reporting.
  8. Baseline your project to track Planned vs. Actual values, and use interim baselines to track multiple baselines.
  9. Create custom filters, tables, views to use to export and report data to stakeholders in a custom format that fits the needs of a particular stakeholder.
  10. Use the Organizer tool to copy custom filters, tables, views, and reports between projects.
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