After defining the project activities and determining their relationships, you will want to schedule their start and finish dates and identify any other scheduling constraints individual activities may have. A distinguishing feature of some better programs is that you can assign specific start to finish dates to individual activities.
Another important feature is that some programs require that you first specify a project start date before the program will schedule the project. But, of course, you may have a project for which all you know is the deadline, the required finish date. Fortunately, some programs let you schedule the project by entering the finish date first. The program will then calculate backwards from the finish date to obtain the appropriate calendar dates for each project activity.
Schedule display — How the schedule is displayed can also be important. For example, can the schedule be presented in various units, such as months, days and hours? And if you have a very long project, can the schedule be summarized so the entire project can be graphically represented on a single page?
Showing the scheduled progress of a project is what separates many low-end programs from their more powerful competitors. Many low-end programs require you to change the planned schedule in order to show actual progress. This leaves no baseline plan against which you can compare actual progress.
Far better are those programs that display, usually on a Gantt chart, actual and planned progress. You enter the actual progress or percentage of completion for each activity. And the result, a graphic comparison between actual and planned progress, can be a valuable tool for managing the project.
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