MS Project blues -Guy Macon

For contractual and corporate reasons, I am obliged to

>use MS Project. I find many of its features irritating.

Here is a tip: when asking for help about software, specify what version you are using. I will assume MSP Pro 2003, that being the most commonly used. Let me know if this assumption is incorrect.

You will also get better advice if you explain what you are trying to do. A software development project may share the the word "project" with a microprocessor fabrication project and a construction project, but they are quite different things. I will assume a board-level electronics design, based on your decision t post your question in Let me know if this assumption is incorrect.

My problem is that my use for it (tracking what needs >to be done now or soon), my manager's use for it >(tracking real costs), and the customer's use for it >(monitoring actual progress against the plan) require >different treatments of the inputs.

Are you sure you are using the right tool? MS Project Pro is not particularly good at collaboration -- it is a single- user, stand-alone tool. Consider whether Microsoft Office Project Server might be a better fit for your workflow.

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(Note: I have never myself used Project Server and cannot comment on how good it is.)

I don't want to have to spend weeks becoming a Project >expert, and I don't want to spend an hour running in >circles until the dates and hours expended come out >"right". >Any advice on how to make Project behave rationally?

I have managed several projects that use microsoft Project as the PM software. Here are some survival tips.

First, some bad news; you accepted a job that requires that you become proficient in Microsoft Project. Bite the bullet and learn how to adapt the tool to your needs.

These books should be on your bookshelf:

Dynamic Scheduling with Microsoft Office Project 2003 by Eric Uyttewaal ISBN-10: 1932159452 ISBN-13: 978-1932159455

Using Microsoft Office Project 2003 by Tim Pyron ISBN-10: 0789730723 ISBN-13: 978-0789730725

Microsoft Office Project 2003 Inside Out by Teresa S. Stover ISBN-10: 0735619581 ISBN-13: 978-0735619586

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute ISBN-10: 193069945X ISBN-13: 978-1930699458 (Also see: IEEE Std 1490-2003)

The next steaming pile of bad news is that the waterfall model is deeply ingrained into the design of Microsoft Project. The tools you own shape how you approach a problem; if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you prefer an iterative prototyping lifecycle, agile development or even extreme programming, too bad. The tool will fight you every step of the way. In many cases, you will find yourself in an environment where nobody even knows that anything other than waterfall PM exists. They may not even know what "waterfall" or "phase gate" means! Sort of like trying to explain "wet" to a fish...

Take a look at what Edward Tufte has to say on this:

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For another interesting opinion, see:

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Now the good news. You don't have to use Microsoft Project to manage your project no matter what the contract says. You can use any tools you like as long as you can easily translate the results into something that you can enter into MS Project -- and working with MS Project is a lot easier if you already know the end result you want it to give you.

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