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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Defining Phases and Tasks with Microsoft Project

Project management allows businesses to coordinate large projects and ensure that resources are being used to maximum effectiveness. Although this process is much easier with Microsoft Project, training helps users get the most they can out of this powerful software.

Let's look one of the early phases of project management, defining phases and tasks, and show how Microsoft Project training can simplify this process.

Define and enter tasks

Clear task definition is one of the challenges of project management and training can help users understand this important step.

A task must have a clear beginning and end so the manager can see when it is complete. The level of detail depends on the scope of the project. Too much detail requires constant updates and wastes time, while too little detail means a manager may not know a project is running behind until too late.

Students learn about two kinds of tasks in Microsoft Project training: one-time and recurring. One-time tasks are entered as easily as typing in the task name. Recurring tasks also need recurrence pattern (daily, weekly, etc.) and range of recurrence.

Project management pre-planning often uses other software and training demonstrates methods to import tasks from other locations. A task list can be imported from Outlook 2003. A variety of task data can be imported from other file formats such as Excel, Access, or Microsoft SQL Server. If nothing else, task information can be simply copied and pasted.

Group tasks into summary tasks

Once all the tasks are entered, group them into an outline to make it easier to see related tasks together or see how different tasks interrelate.

Microsoft Project training shows how related tasks can be grouped under a summary task, which is a major phase or sub-phase of a project. The summary tasks combine any subtask values such as cost into sum values. Since these values are calculated, they cannot be edited at the summary task level. Instead, the planner must edit the underlying subtasks.

The summary tasks give a high-level view of the project and make it easy to monitor a project's progress. If a summary task is running behind, examination of the subtasks reveals which of them is the bottleneck.

Go back and fill in the detail

Once a list of tasks has been generated, Microsoft Project training shows how more detail can be added to each one. Notes and images give more detail about a task. Project related documents can be loaded and assigned to the project as a whole or to specific tasks on the list. Information such as cost and work required help define a task further. The more information available, the more accurate the final project management plan will be.

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