Introduction to task planning using MS project
Microsoft Project Planning application is a flexible project planning application designed to provide seamless project planning and management support tools. The broader context of Microsoft Project as a flexible software application connotes the use of this application as the best application for scheduling tasks, graphics, project requirement estimation, task dependency analysis, and most importantly project progress analysis and follow-up. Through a set of commands, the application provides a scheduled graphical presentation of a project, wherein, in principle, the user enters tasks and schedules them. However, the application fails to have the impetus/capacity to manage projects of complex nature based on their size, schedule, and risks. However, this is only part of the minor inadequacy of the application for it serves a greater function.
This paper comprehensively provides the basic and professional approaches to MS project management tools. The paper outlines the core processes of scheduling a project and the easy steps to follow when using MS Project in projecting planning. Throughout the paper, we examine the more comprehensive use of the Microsoft Project by expounding on its resource management aspects/features that assist project planners and managers to evaluate and understand the relevancy of their plans. In continuum, the paper explains per-se, how a project manager or planner can benefit further in a project environment, to manage staff, resources and tackle schedules of difficult nature and eventually, achieve a great level of success in project management.
Task Planning Using MS Project (A MARKETING SERVICES FIRM)
Task planning is the greater role of putting schedules and periods in line with the needs of an organization, especially during strategy execution. The ultimate purpose of task planning is to model a chronology of activities that allows the prediction of tasks and resources that are critical to the completion of a project promptly (Harris, 1-2). Using a strategy is the best approach to ensure that project tasks are implemented and resources are properly executed and flaws are routed. This ensures that the project is properly managed. Also, such efforts ensure project completion within the stipulated timelines. Besides, the project completion comes along with a stringent sticking with both the time and resources budget.
To plan tasks using MS Project requires creating the project first and then defining tasks using the MS Project application to allow the project to meet the objectives ascribed for it (Jessop). While planning tasks using the MS Project is easy to those fully conversant with it, planning from the top down is advised. It is the easiest way to plan and manage a project. Using the MS Project application, the planner benchmarks based on overall project deliverables. He then successively breaks down these deliverables into segments of the project.
Un-predictable missed targets, objectionable surprises, and unforeseen problems, characterize poorly planned projects. Proper scheduling and communication can aid in evading disaster. Although it is not possible to eliminate all problems by planning, a good project organization enables a higher degree of efficiency. Setting up a marketing firm is a chain of steps typically performed by an implementation team. A project is defined by the following terms: having a definite and quantifiable target, a precise period requires resources, and consists of mutually dependent, however individual tasks. No part of a project is independent. Tasks, schedules, and costs are intertwined and each result has a sort of domino effect on the entire project.
Projects are dynamic. Project management offers means to direct their progress, attempts to categorize and standardize tasks in a project to minimize the number of risks that may be encountered. Project planning is concerned with scheduling making budgets, resource management, budgeting, tracking, and progress reports.
Basic Procedure for MS Project
Microsoft Project (MSP) is a software developed as part of the Microsoft office brand to create ease in project management and planning. This software is designed to assist project administrators in their multifaceted process of developing the project plan, assignment of all the required and available resources to the various tasks and subtasks involved, tracking of projects, management of the existing budget, and analysis of the general and more specified workload.
The software is used to develop schedules on the critical path and chain of events that are the most optimal for the project. Critical path planning minimizes the required resources while maximizing the general output and number of tasks completed concurrently. Critical path planning ensures that the planned tasks are done in the shortest possible time, eliminating redundancy. Resources are deployed using this application as efficiently and effectively. The application facilitates for visualization of the progress of the project making it easy to track the time baselines, tasks completed or delayed, resources used, and those that are leftover.
The main visual instrument is a highly detailed Gantt chart. Microsoft Project grants different levels of access to the project plan to different classes of users. This means it creates provision for ease of communication and referencing at all levels of the project implementation team. Microsoft Project is used to calculate task levels for each task by combining the rates of resources required with the amount of time needed to carry out the task completion. This is applied when using the application to work out budgets for the project taking time and other resources into consideration. Resources in context mean the money used to run a project, the apparatus used to run the project, and the equipment. In a project, it is possible to have a collective resource pool that is distributed to the various phases of the project. A calendar defining the days and shifts a resource is available can be created to monitor the resource.
Plan from the top down
According to Jessop, the easiest way to plan and manage a project is to conceptualize the entire plan then break it down to its constituents. Stipulate these within the ‘Project Information’ dialog box. You can create templates of key project deliverables, alternatively using the Gantt chart in the order of the project deliverables. To understand the deliverables consult the project documentation for a guideline on them. Project charter, terms of reference, or project initiation document serve as key resources for increasing your knowledge of your deliverables.
Add tasks and milestones on MS Project
Add your detailed tasks to describe the project scope accurately by taking each top-level entry in turn and breaking it down into sub-deliverables (Jessop). Ensure each of the sub-deliverable is measurable. Ensure it can also be allocable to your project team/teams to carry out. Avoid creating mini-tasks. Check the time scale for detail. Use the rolling wave principle to make a success out of your project. This shows how using the MS Project facilitates smooth project planning and management. The project scheduling is simple and benchmarking made it very possible. Timelines are achievable and all flaws are checked very comprehensively. The project manager/planner has no problem throughout the project phases for he can identify each phase and benchmark very well. All deliverables are outlined and managed using the application.
Enter project durations against project tasks
List your project tasks and milestones on the MS Project. Enter best-guess duration value. Enter this value against your project’s tasks. Have in mind that the resource tasks you add can turn around timelines. While you can drag task bars direct to the Gantt chart, be careful to use the cursor that has a single arrowhead. If using the ‘rolling wave’ use larger values for tasks that will be finished late or after a long duration.
Put related project tasks together
Jessop advises that the project tasks be arranged in a logical order. This means you link them together. This approach ensures you have created a well-structured project plan. This project structure comprehensively addresses the tasks, subtasks, and project milestones (Jessop). The prescribed task duration values and linking tasks help you to easily manage the project and allow the completion of the project promptly.
Benefits associated with using Microsoft project in planning
Saves time and effort: The application saves time and effort. Data types are readily identified to facilitate quick and effective organization and analysis of details. Quick sharing of schedule details through superior copy-and-paste. Flexibility and power: The user controls the scheduling putting the scheduler in control. The right level of detail for the project is also user regulated. Working with summary data when required is also easily possible.
The addition of data and schedule information is also easily inputted. Control and delivery with the application are used to bring efficiency. This efficiency is gained when the application quickly compares the budget against actual project budget predicted values. This is done to measure a task’s progress to be within the flexible project period. The project manager can do prognostic analysis. He/she can achieve incorporated performance management using MS Project. Built-in earned-value metrics are available on the application support both processes collectively.
Evaluation of possibility: the project planner can effortlessly experiment with the MS project to ascertain himself on core processes. A toggle plays a key role in making this easy. The project planner can insert or remove one or more tasks on the MS Project application. During this process, MS Project shows the effect of such processes and tasks on the project schedule. This allows for a simplified comparison of different scenarios. Collaboration with others: The application can be used to synchronize and share project task status updates, correspond on plans and collaborate on project progress.
Establishment of a marketing firm is the scope of this project everything is worked out backward from this perspective. The major phases are first up for consideration then each phase is broken down into a logical sequence of steps. Resource planning is carried out in terms of money, quality, and time. Microsoft Project facilitates the spotting of the trade-offs amongst these three criteria all through the project. Planning is the initial stage when data is entered in the Microsoft Project creating the project outline. Revising comes next. The reporting features of the application are used to generate several drafts of the project plan facilitating consultation within the planning team. Tracking of the project’s process depends on how often progress is checked, how many reports are expected after a specified amount of time, and the detail required in the reporting.
List of Tasks
Before building a project schedule there is a need to delineate the key steps of the project: Gathering information, opening a project file, looking at project calendars, entering the main tasks, adding the minor tasks, saving project documentation, working with a project outline. Determining feature tasks: The major tasks are then divided into manageable sub-tasks. For the marketing firm, the subtasks will include first a brainstorming and consultative session to decide the niche market the firm will aim at. The sub-tasks in this are mainly planning meetings by the select committee to decide the main target consumer of the firm.
What follows is the planning and carrying out of the market survey: identification of areas for a survey, recruitment of necessary staff, obtaining survey materials, creating a survey schedule, budgeting for the resources, and carrying out the actual survey. Next is the registration of the business, a process fully dependent on the result of the prior steps. The main tasks here are to ensure that the firm is registered to meet all the legal stipulations.
Clarification of ownership and entitlements is also carried out. After the company is formally registered, it is time to recruit several staff to kick off operations. The main target at this particular point is to make the target consumers aware of the marketing services. The tasks include the formation of teams, the appointment of team leaders, a delegation of duties, and the organization of communication and advertising channels. This is carried out concurrently with the setting up of an office, accounting and management systems, websites, and other modes of communication systems.
It is critical to have quantifiable markers for each task. These act as critical control points for the process of task execution. For each task, it is important to establish time restrictions. A basic time framework is used. It is possible to change the schedule as the project is carried on. Lining up appropriate resources for each task must be done at the onset of the project. Where the exact cost is unknown, it is important to use estimates to ensure that funds do not run out as the setting up of the firm proceeds. Determination of interdependencies and relationships between tasks is the key to creating a critical path for the project. Tasks that can be carried out concurrently are grouped to maximize the time resource.
Risks and Risk Planning
Risks are unexpected forces, including natural forces like weather, government action, the political instability that can lead to dramatic changes in business patterns. When the clients of a marketing firm are undergoing constraints, they tend to cut on expenditure. This negatively affects the prospects of the marketing firm. Certain risks are calculable. These follow the fundamentals of macro and microeconomics. It is, therefore, best to minimize controllable risks by the use of economic forecasting tools.
Analysis of risks
Understanding the character of risk is a prerequisite for one to make a superior response. Therefore, time should be taken to go through every risk. It is productive to consider the effects that will result and its causes. Another perspective at risks is to center on the events that herald the occurrence of a risk (Crouhy et al, 112-114). Identify and document all causes and circumstances that decrease or increase risks such as fires, and other problems that can be injurious. Investigation of the entire project taking into account all the risks that are likely to occur is another strategy for risk analysis (Crouhy et al, 112-114).
Planning and Implementing Risk Responses
The process of risk planning also requires that proper planning and implementation response be put in place. There are some basic options for avoiding risks. Scholars in risk management argue that the cost of avoiding the risk is much smaller than allowing the risk to take place. When impacts take place and finance is required to curb these impacts, the cost implication is very high. for example, it’s said that risks such as fire and accidents can be avoided by having the necessary instruments in place and by following the rules to the latter but avoidance of the may cost the company or an individual his whole fortune. Another basic option is risk minimization.
Risk minimization connotes how companies should incorporate in their risk management strategy simple steps on how to minimize risks to the lowest percentage possible. For example, a company’s risk management strategy’ should have simple rules on how to handle electric apparatus in the company to minimize cases of fire, and in case of fire, it should also have the fundamental ways to handle it to minimize its impacts. Lastly, the scholars argue that in case a risk has occurred individuals and companies should be in a position to accept the risk and look for a way to compensate for its impacts and then rework the strategy so that the same risk is curbed in case of any future occurrences.
Register Project Risks
Bookkeeping: bookkeeping refers to taking into the record any risk and all the progress that is made in the effort to curb any future occurrences of the risk. It also refers to taking into record the progress made after the risk so that it can be compared and contrasted in the event of similar risk in the future. Risk analysts have argued that investigation on the cause of any risk is simplified by the presence of records on the same risk and thus it is worth keeping the records.
MS Project is a seamless application that serves as a unique and effective platform. The application is very suitable for project planning, scheduling, and management. Ideally, it serves those who are constantly planning and managing projects well. With this application, project management is easy and achievable. By following the simple steps outlined earlier in the paper, scheduling tasks, managing project resources, staffing, and tasking is made feasible and more of an achievable objective than the often-difficult process or daunting task.
Crouhy, Michel,et al. “Risk management”. 1.1. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001. 112-114. Print.
Harris, Paul E. “Prince 2TM Planning and Control Using Microsoft Project.” Eastwood Harris Pty Ltd 1.1 (2007): 1-13. Web.
Jessop, Andy. “Task Planning: best-practice tips for Microsoft Project users.” Microsoft Corporation United Kingdom. Microsoft Corporation, 2006. Web.