Determining Appropriate Schedule Formats

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Dinally, you determine, based upon the input you' ve received relative to scheduling and time data, the best way of reflecting a team member' s schedule.

The test objective implies that you' d determine the best schedule format for each individual working on the team. However, this may represent too much work for the project manager, and you may decide to represent everyone s schedule in one single format. That' s your call as the PM. Let' s examine some of the options mentioned in the objective.

Gantt chart This is the default view in Microsoft Project. A Gantt view is pretty cool because you ' re given a series of bars that show the project tasks rendered over time. The graph gives you a good visual of how long each task lasts, notes predecessors and successors, and is able to instantly give you a grasp of the length of the project (and even a little about the depth of each task). See Figure 7.1 as an example.

Figure 7.1: A sample Gantt chart rendered in Microsoft Project

PERT chart A Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) chart puts together tasks in a logical, effective order. PERT charts, such as the one in Figure 7.2, can be likened to software development flow charts. They graphically illustrate the flow of completion that the tasks will follow, predecessor/successor relationships, and durations. This all sounds like a Gantt chart, but a PERT chart can carry a great deal more detail. Some tasks' outcomes have such a large influence on the outcome of a host of other tasks that it's critical to be able to monitor these tasks and their flows. You'll use PERT for large projects with many tasks and activities, especially when some key tasks are of extreme importance to the rest of the tasks in the project, when tasks have multiple dependencies, or when some task dependencies only show up far down the road in the project's development stages.

Figure 7.1: A sample Gantt chart rendered in Microsoft Project

PERT chart A Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) chart puts together tasks in a logical, effective order. PERT charts, such as the one in Figure 7.2, can be likened to software development flow charts. They graphically illustrate the flow of completion that the tasks will follow, predecessor/successor relationships, and durations. This all sounds like a Gantt chart, but a PERT chart can carry a great deal more detail. Some tasks' outcomes have such a large influence on the outcome of a host of other tasks that it's critical to be able to monitor these tasks and their flows. You'll use PERT for large projects with many tasks and activities, especially when some key tasks are of extreme importance to the rest of the tasks in the project, when tasks have multiple dependencies, or when some task dependencies only show up far down the road in the project's development stages.

Figure 7.2: A sample PERT chart rendered in MinuteMan Project Management Software

Project Management Software

Project Management Software

Dedicated project management software, such as Microsoft Project, provides specialized functions for project planning and tracking. Most notably, such programs automate the calculation and updating of things like project costs and time. Dor example, if you change the duration of a single task that has predecessors and successors, the other, related tasks ' start and end dates are automatically updated, as well as the project completion date. Also, commercially available project management software allows you to easily toggle from one view to another, so you can gain the advantages of every type of chart.

The PERT chart in Figure 7.2 was generated by a shareware project management software program from MinuteMan Systems (www

.minuteman-systems.com). It shows that you don' t have to buy expensive project management software in order to accomplish your project management needs. MinuteMan costs $49.95, and though it isn't nearly as robust as a full-featured program such as Microsoft Project 2002 (shown in Figure 7.1), it will certainly allow úMs to handle the bulk of their project management work. MinuteMan gives you a 21-day evaluation period before you' re required to purchase the software. The opposite end of the ÚM software spectrum is a product called Niku Workbench (www.niku.com). This software allows enterprise úMs to coordinate lots of huge projects at one time. Of course, it' s more pricey (by an order of magnitude) than more common project management software.

Text table You don't have to have expensive (or shareware) project management software program to manage your project' s schedule (but it helps). You could use a basic word-processor or spreadsheet program to do the same thing that you' d use project management software for. However, you won' t have the benefits of the automated update, calculation, and report capabilities that project management software brings you. Figure 7.3 shows a sample project plan listing tasks, activities, and phases using ordinary spreadsheet software.

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Figure 7.3: A sample text table rendered using Microsoft Excel

Milestone chart A milestone chart is similar to a Gantt chart but doesn't show the start or end dates of a task. Instead, it displays the milestones that occur in a project, the date they occur, and perhaps the dates and durations of associated tasks. The exact arrangement of information depends on the software used. Figure 7.4 shows how Microsoft Project 2000 renders a milestone chart; in Project, you must denote a particular task as a milestone. In Microsoft Project, black diamonds represent milestones. Figure 7.5 shows how you'd do the same chart in Excel.

Figure 7.3: A sample text table rendered using Microsoft Excel

Milestone chart A milestone chart is similar to a Gantt chart but doesn't show the start or end dates of a task. Instead, it displays the milestones that occur in a project, the date they occur, and perhaps the dates and durations of associated tasks. The exact arrangement of information depends on the software used. Figure 7.4 shows how Microsoft Project 2000 renders a milestone chart; in Project, you must denote a particular task as a milestone. In Microsoft Project, black diamonds represent milestones. Figure 7.5 shows how you'd do the same chart in Excel.

Figure 7.4: A sample milestone chart rendered using Microsoft Project

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Figure 7.5: A sample milestone chart rendered using Microsoft Excel Ordinary calendar Finally, you can opt to keep track of the tasks, milestones, predecessors, successors, and Gantt and PERT charts on a regular calendar, whether on paper or digitally.

There may be other ways that you can think of to represent your schedule, but these are the most common and probably the ones that you'll find the most flexible.

Tip Now is the time to denote the type of project management software you'll be using to track the project. Make sure that all stakeholders who will view the project's phases, activities, and tasks have the same kind of software so the project doesn't have a file-format problem.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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