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In our previous lesson, we went through a step by step tutorial on how to get started on a project using Microsoft Project. In this lesson we will learn more about tasks. On completion of thus tutorial, you will be able to:
- Insert new tasks in an existing project, and assess their impact on overall schedules
- Make changes to tasks
- Understand and define milestones in Microsoft Project
- Group tasks in some logical fashion
- Add notes to tasks to provide additional information about specific tasks
Thus, with this tutorial, you will have covered all aspects with respect to definition of tasks as the building entities in project management.
Note: Also be sure to check out the first Microsoft Project tutorial in this Bright Hub PM series.
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Back to Concert 1 and the Changes We Want to Make
Let's get back to where we left our first sample project in the last lesson. We had saved our project as concert 1.mpp with the tasks as shown in the diagram here. (Note: Please click on any diagram in this article to view a larger picture.)
We would now like to carry out the following enhancements to this project to make this appear more realistic, assuming that there are other staff members available to carry out certain activities, and the Project Manager handles only certain key activities.
1) After asking your assistant to call the auditoriums to check on availabilities and other details, let us say, you would like your assistant to prepare a short list based on some criteria you have specified. You would then like to look at this list and take up negotiations with specific auditoriums.
2) Before the task "Book advertisement slots..", we want to insert a task for getting rates from media agencies; and we also want to add a task for final confirmation of matter to the media, to take care of any last minute changes in the matter.
3) Make changes in the task dependencies based on points 1 and 2. In particular, since we are adding a task for final confirmation of matter to the media, you will realize that the task "Book advertisement slots.." need not depend on the auditorium confirmation, but can be taken up parallel to the tasks related to auditoriums. This only needs to follow "Get advertisement rates", and "Finalize Artist and performance date."
4) Finally, we want to group the tasks functionally under three heads "Operations," "Sales & Marketing," and "Admin." And we will also add milestones for each of these functions.
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Insert New Tasks
Here are the steps for carrying out the above enhancements:
1) Load Microsoft Project application and Open the file you had saved as Concert 1 from the right folder (File->Open).
2) Position the mouse pointer on the task "Negotiate with auditorium" and click to highlight this task.
3) To insert a new task above this task, click on "Insert" in the Top menu bar and choose "New Task" (alternatively, you can also press "Insert" key).
4) For the new task, enter task name as "Short list auditoriums" and enter duration as 1 day.
5) Similarly enter two more tasks as follows:
- Before "Book advertisement.." add a task "Get rates from media agencies" with a duration of 5 days.
- After "Book advertisement..." add a task "Confirm Final matter to media" with a duration of 1 day. (Hint, for inserting a task after "Book advertisement..", remember to click on the next task i.e., "Print tickets" and then click on Insert->New Task.)
You must have noticed that the tasks "Short list auditoriums" and "Get rates from media agencies" have their dependencies automatically inserted by the software. This happens by default when you insert a task between two tasks that sequentially followed one another prior to the insertion of the new task. However, for the task "Confirm Final matter to media," the software has no clear clue on where it should be placed, and therefore, as we had mentioned in the previous lesson, this task is assumed to start on the Project start date without any predecessor or successor dependencies. We will see how to modify these task dependencies in a while.
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Add Functional Groups
Before we decide on how the dependencies need to be modified, let us think of grouping the tasks functionally.
We know that the last two tasks, "Organize accommodation" and "Organize Travel" are both Admin tasks. To group these two, follow these steps:
1) First insert a new task before Organize accommodation, and name this task as "Admin" with a duration of 0 (zero) days.
2) Now, highlight both the admin tasks (Accommodation and Travel). (Hint: For highlighting multiple tasks, using the keyboard point to the task name of the first cell, in this case "Organize accommodation". Then, keeping the Shift key pressed, move down with the arrow key till the last cell, in this case "Organize Travel.")
3) On the Formatting Toolbar, click on the icon showing a Right Arrow (if you move the mouse over this icon, you can see the Tip as "Indent").
4) You will notice that the two task names have moved to the right (this process is called Indenting). The task name for Admin appears in Bold font to indicate that this is a Group task (a summary of the following tasks). The task bar against the summary "Admin" has changed to a Black bar covering all tasks in its group.
Next, you should group the five tasks from "Get rates from media agencies" to "Sell tickets" and call the Group "Sales & Marketing." Similarly, group the first six tasks from "Call up Artists" to "Confirm Auditorium" and call the Group "Operations." Let us also introduce a super-group covering all groups, and call this "Concert Project." (For this, Insert a task above Operations and name this task "Concert Project." Then highlight all rows below this and Indent them. With this it becomes a higher level Group.)
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Now let us get back to the dependencies. As soon as you completed the Sales & Marketing Group, you must have noticed that the task "Get rates from media agencies" has moved from Project start date to the Group's start date. (Makes sense?)
After grouping the tasks functionally, if we try to rationalize the sequencing of the tasks with the objective of completing all tasks as soon as possible you will realize that the Sales & Marketing function can start getting the rates from media without dependence on any other task, and can also make tentative Booking of Slots immediately after getting the rates. The Final Confirmation of matter is the only activity which needs to follow after the auditorium is confirmed, and after the Booking of Slots is completed.
To do these, follow the steps below:
1) Locate the Precedence Link between "Confirm Auditorium" and "Sales & Marketing" Group task.
2) Position the mouse pointer on this link line and double-click.
3) The dialog box for Task Dependency will appear as shown.
4) Delete this link by clicking on "Delete" in the dialog box.
5) Insert dependency between "Book advertisement slots.." and "Confirm Final matter.."
6) Insert an additional dependency for "Confirm Final matter.." on "Confirm Auditorium", since the advertisement matter can be finalized only after the Auditorium is also confirmed.
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Milestones, Project Start and Project Finish
You are now almost through with Lesson 2. As a matter of convention, we will introduce two tasks: "Project Start" at the beginning after "Concert Project", and "Project Finish" at the end of all other tasks. Both these will be with duration of 0 days. I will leave it to you to decide what dependencies you want to assign for these tasks with other tasks.
You must have noticed that any project with a duration of 0 days is considered as a milestone by Microsoft Project. In addition to these, you can designate any task as a milestone. For our practice, let us designate "Confirm Auditorium" and "Confirm Final matter to media" as milestones. How do you do this?
Click on the task. With the task highlighted, right-click with your mouse, and choose "Task Information" in the pop-up box. In the task information window, click on the Advanced tab and you will notice a check box at the bottom left. Checking this will designate the task as a milestone, and will be shown with a black diamond on the Gantt chart. Needless to say these milestones indicate crucial dates you will want to monitor from project management point of view.
With all these done, your project should look like the chart shown here. Please save this as "Concert Project 1 - Final".
In the next lesson we will take a quick look at the navigation aspects, toolbars and other cosmetics in Microsoft Project. Thereafter we will learn about other ways of task dependency assignments, and then move on to Resource Management.
Step By Step Tutorials on Microsoft Project
- Step-By-Step Tutorial on Microsoft Project: Getting Started in Twenty Minutes
- Task Insertions, Amendments and Other Features in Microsoft Project (Lesson 2)
- Getting to Know the Menus and Toolbars in Microsoft Project (Lesson 3)
- Toolbars Continued, Plus Tips and Tricks in Microsoft Project (Lesson 4)
- Types of Task Relationships in Microsoft Project (Lesson 5)