How to Create Milestones in Your Project Using MS Project

planning-and-scheduling-with-microsoft-project-2010All of us have our own personal milestones that we want to achieve like owning a home or investment property or starting up a business.  A milestone refers to a different type of achievement in project management however.

A milestone is placed at the end of a particular phase in a project to signify that the said phase/project has been completed successfully.

In the project management framework, it is the only event that receives special attention due to its nature. Another purpose of a milestone, as regards project management, is to indicate an important decision that needs to be taken immediately before the end of a work phase or a project. Thus, with this, a milestone can be considered to show both the distance traveled and the direction of the travel.

How, then, does a project manager or specialist add a milestone event in his or her project plan? The following section lays out the steps in successfully making a milestone event using Microsoft Project 2010.

Creating a Milestone

Upon opening your Microsoft Project, you will find the different tabs in the menu bar, which is found at the topmost part of the Microsoft Project interface. Once you have successfully located this, do the following steps in order to end up with a milestone:

  • Choose the Gantt Chart found on the Task Views group in the View tab.
  • Enter the desired name for you milestone on the first empty row in the Task Name field.
  • Type “0” (zero) in the field that is labelled as “Duration”.
  • Once you are done, press the “Enter” key.

A milestone usually does not have any duration (or 0 duration). However, if you wish to add a duration to the milestone your are putting, another set of steps can be followed in order to end up with it.

Creating a Milestone with Duration

Follow the first two bullets/steps outlined above and then do the following steps:

  • Go to Task Information found at the Properties group of the Task tab.
  • Click on the Advanced button on the Task Information. You will find the Duration field here.
  • Input your desired Duration for the particular milestone.
  • Check the Mark task as milestone
  • Click “OK”.

However, do take note that when you are changing a task into a milestone, you may not need to go through adding a name in the Task Field (both for “with” and “without” duration) as the task is considered to be the label for the milestone.

Project managers have to remember that although milestones can be effective in monitoring the progress of your projects, there are still limits to its effectiveness as they show only the progress in the critical areas.

Adding a project milestone is particularly easy once you follow the outlined steps above. However, if you are using other project management software, a different set of instructions may be given in order for you to come up with the milestone.

Eastwood Harris produces project management training materials and online training courses on Primavera P6, MS Project and PMBOK.

5 Tips for Using MS Project 2010

99 Tips and traps for microsoft project - ebookMicrosoft project is everything a project manager needs to develop a plan, resources and tasks assignment, progress updates, budget management, and manage overall workloads.

Microsoft has been known as the giant company when it comes to office applications, and Microsoft Project is one of its most used products since it has features that make planning and implementing a project easy to handle.

This article will help you understand the pros and cons of Microsoft Project, before you go out and buy the product.

Microsoft designed MS Project as an easily adaptable program, but take note of these tips first before you forge ahead:

1. Take note of the prerequisites To get started on MS project, you need a name. Keep it as straightforward as possible, and avoid overly intricate wordplay. Next two things you need are a.) start date and b.) end date. Also, you might need to highlight information about your client i.e name, background and location.

2. Make use of the shortcuts For everyone familiar with Microsoft, well, software keystrokes and commands are a necessity for everyday use. MS Project utilizes the ALT Key and certain keystrokes for those folks who prefer to use a keyboard instead of a mouse.

3. Filters, filters, filters. This isn’t an Instagram thing, just in case that’s what you had in mind. Filters display tasks for particular scenarios that a manager might find handy. These help him/her delve into the task at hand, and hopefully understand the task more. Most filters are built-in, or simply came with the software. But managers also have the ability to customize them by simply downloading them from Microsoft.

4. Progress is key in every Project, a project manager has the capability to track and monitor different activities’ progress at a keystroke. These are simply outlines tagged to let you know where you are project-wise. Named accordingly, they are: A.) Not Started

B.) In-progress

C.) Complete.

5. Costs are everything. A budget is worth taking note of The Fixed Cost Function is Microsoft’s golden lining. Making everything easier and more practical by giving the manager the ability to simply assign costs to tasks, and illustrate them with the Resource Graph function.

These five tips would help you realize if Microsoft Project is really the right tool for you and for your company to use when it comes to project management.

Because at the end of the day, it is still how applications help you do your job faster and more efficiently that really counts.

Five Tips for Using Microsoft® Project

99 Tips and traps for microsoft project - ebookMicrosoft® is one of the leading companies offering high-quality office tools and software that can help you manage your projects very effectively if you know how to get the most out of the software.

Here are five tips to help get more out of MS Project:

Create the Projects from Scratch

With Microsoft Project, all you need to have in order to create a project are your project name, target dates (both start and finish), your client’s name, and your client’s information such as location.

If you have these needed prerequisites, then you can then start defining your calendars as regards the tasks you have added that are involved in your project. For each project, you can also add logic and constraints as well as schedules. When all of these are done, you can now start formatting your output and distribute your project plan.

Use Alt Key and Keystrokes for Commands

To save time, familiarize yourself with the shortcuts or make use of the Alt command key and keystrokes to be able to view the letters assigned in most of the tabs in the menu bar and in other functions of the interface.

For example, pressing Alt followed by the letter R brings you to the Project tab of the menu bar. Furthermore, if you press the Alt key quickly followed by letter H and number 1 will bring you to the save icon from the Task tab.

You can use these shortcuts and Alt key commands to minimize the use of the mouse (or in cases where the mouse in not available or dysfunctional) and save time.

Understand and Use Filters

Like any other project management tool, understanding and using filters can help managers in a great way.

With filters, users can display a particular task with specific criteria. Meaning, users can use the filter function to choose which criteria of a specific task he or she opts to display at the specific moment. This would further help him or her understand the data in a task more. There are two types of filters in Microsoft Project.

These are the following:

  1. Built-in. Built-in filters are filters that are embedded into the software by default.
  2. Custom. Custom filters are those uploaded and customized by the user.

Track Your Progress

Microsoft® Project comes with a function that permits users to track the progress of different activities of a particular project. Three labels or stages of a project are usually used in tracking progress. These are the following:

  1. Not Started. The dates are set for the project; however, no so-called Actual Start and/or Actual Finish is inputted.
  2. In-Progress. This stage contains an Actual Start which signals that the project has already started but has not been completed or is in the process of completion.
  3. Complete. Finally, activities or tasks in the Complete stage has both the Actual Start and Actual Finish dates to serve as a proof that it has passed the completion stage.

Assign Costs to Tasks

Finally, a user can assign a cost to a specific task(s) by using the Fixed Cost function in Microsoft® Project. This Fixed Cost is added to the total cost of your project which is then further illustrated using Resource Graph function. This function enables a user to keep track of the actual cost of each task and can use such costs in providing cash flows if needed.

Eastwood Harris produces project management training materials and online training courses on Primavera P6, MS Project, PMBOK and Prince2.

How to Make Calculation Options Work in Microsoft Project

ms project tips and trick - how to make calculations workWhy Do Calculation Options in MS Project – Move End of Completed Parts…Not Work?

These new functions were introduced in Microsoft Project 2002 intended to assist schedulers to place the new tasks as they are added to the schedule in a logical position with respect to the Status Date. This function is difficult to use and some practice is required to make it work properly.

Here are some tips if you are unable to get it to work:

  • Select the Tools, Options…, Calculation tab and these options are found under the Calculation options for ‘Project Name’:
  • If the Status Date has not been set then the Current Date is used.

For all these options to operate all four of the following parameters must be met:

  • The Split in-progress tasks option in the Schedule tab must be checked, and
  • The required option on the Calculation tab must be checked before the task is added or edited, and
  • The Updating task status updates resource status option on the Calculation tab must be checked, and
  • The Task MUST NOT BE assigned Task Duration Type of Fixed Duration.
  • These options may NOT be turned on and off to recalculate all tasks. The options only work on new tasks when they are added to a schedule or when a task is updated by changing the % Complete.
  • This function will ignore constraints even when the Schedule Option Tasks will always honor their constraint dates has been set.
  • This function may not be applied to existing schedules, but only to new tasks if the options are set before the tasks are added or when a task % Complete is updated.

This function has some restrictions:

  • Existing schedules may not be opened and the function applied.
  • When the Move start of remaining parts before status date forward to status date is used, it will change any Actual Start date that you have entered prior to entering a % Complete. Changing an Actual Date is not a desirable event.

Note: This option should be used with caution and users should ensure they fully understand how this function operates by statusing a simple practice schedule multiple times.

Paul Harris writes training manuals for MS Project and Primavera P6 and Delivers Project Management Training Courses Throughout Australia and the world.  His books are available on Amazon and Kindle.

How to Set the Project Current and Status Dates in Microsoft Project

99 Tricks and Traps for Microsoft projectCurrent Date and Status Date

Microsoft Project has two project data date fields that may be displayed as vertical lines on the schedule. These dates may be edited from the Project, Project Information… form:

  • Current Date – This date is set to the computer’s date each time a project file is opened. It is used for calculating Earned Value data when a Status Date has not been set. The time of the Current Date is set by default to the start time of a day, see the picture below.
  • Status Date – This field is blank by default with a value of NA. The Status Date will not change when the project is saved and reopened at a later date. It overrides the Current Date for calculating Earned Value data and is set by default to the finish time of a day, see the picture below.

set current status date in ms project

I recommend that the Status Date is set and displayed as a vertical line on a progressed schedule and the Current Date not displayed, because the Current Date represents the date today and does not normally represent any scheduling significance.

Auto Statusing Using Update Project

The Microsoft Project facility titled Update Progress is used for updating a project as if it had progressed according to plan. This function sets Actual Start and Actual Finish dates, % Complete and Renaming Durations in proportion to a user-assigned date, and also sets the Status Date.

Select Tools, Tracking, Update Project… to open the Update Project form:

update project in ms project

There are two options under Update work as complete through: which apply to in-progress tasks only.

  • Set 0% – 100 % complete and this is the recommended option which sets the progress in line with the Status Date, or
  • Set 0% or 100 % complete only. This option leaves the % Complete at zero until the task is 100% complete. This option supports the progress measurement philosophy of not awarding progress until the task is complete, but tasks often look behind schedule.

Eastwood Harris Supplies Project Management Training Manuals, Project Management Training Presentations and Consulting on Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project 2010 across Australia.

How to Set the In-Progress Task Finish Date Calculation – MS Project Tips

ms project 2010 training manual - spiral editionIn-Progress Task Finish Date Calculation in Microsoft Project

Many planning and scheduling packages calculate a task Finish Date from the Data Date plus the Remaining Duration over the Task or Resource Calendar, whichever is applicable.

Unlike most planning and scheduling software packages, Microsoft Project ignores the Current Date and Status date when calculating an in-progress schedule. Instead it calculates the Finish date from the Actual Start Date plus the Duration and effectively ignores the Remaining Duration for normal calculation.

There is an in-built proportional link between Duration, Actual Duration, Remaining Duration and % Complete. It is not possible to unlink these fields (as in other scheduling software) and therefore not possible to enter the Remaining Duration independently of the % Complete.

setting the in progess schedule date in ms project

Thus % Complete reflects the % of Duration of a task.

Current Date and Status Date

Microsoft Project has two project data date fields that may be displayed as vertical lines on the schedule. These dates may be edited from the Project, Project Information… form:

  • Current Date – This date is set to the computer’s date each time a project file is opened. It is used for calculating Earned Value data when a Status Date has not been set. The time of the Current Date is set by default to the start time of a day, see the picture below.
  • Status Date – This field is blank by default with a value of NA. The Status Date will not change when the project is saved and reopened at a later date. It overrides the Current Date for calculating Earned Value data and is set by default to the finish time of a day, see the picture below.

setting current date status dates in microsoft project

I recommend that the Status Date is set and displayed as a vertical line on a progressed schedule and the Current Date not displayed, because the Current Date represents the date today and does not normally represent any scheduling significance.

Paul Harris writes training manuals for MS Project and Primavera P6 and Delivers Project Management Training Courses Throughout Australia and the world.  His books are available on Amazon and Kindle.