Project 2013 – Microsoft Project for Professionals
5 Simple & Practical Steps to Mastering Task Basics in under 30 Minutes
You can also follow these steps if you create a project from scratch.
Step 1. Open Project 2013 and double-click on the Commercial Construction project template.
Project 2013 – Commercial Construction Project Template
The interface shows the Timeline (1) and the Gantt Chart view. The timeline is a high-level overview that is mostly used for reporting purposes. The Gantt Chart view is widely used for entering and manipulating tasks. It consists of two panes: The task outline (2a) and the visual Gantt Chart (2b).
Timeline, Outline, Gantt Chart
We will hide the timeline to get more real estate on screen.
Step 2. Right-click on a free spot in the timeline and deselect Show Timeline.
Show / Hide Timeline
Creating a task
We want to create a task to review and allocate resources, based on the submitted project schedule and schedule of values – see IDs 4 and 5.
The task to create should follow after Prepare and submit schedule of values.
NOTE: The Task IDs change while we insert and delete tasks.
Step 3. Right-click on the task below Obtain building permits and click Insert Task.
Step 4. Name the task Resource Allocation.
New task name “Resource Allocation”
Take a moment to look at the task created. It is created on the same level as the preceding and succeeding tasks, under the Summary task General Conditions.
Summary Task “General Conditions”
Summary tasks are organizational elements that consist of one or multiple sub tasks. The Project Summary task in the first row displays information of the whole project.
NOTE: For certain activities, it may be best to hide the Summary tasks. To hide the summary tasks:
Format tab –> deselect Project Summary Task and Summary Tasks
Set the task mode
There are two task modes in Microsoft Project: Auto Scheduled and Manually Scheduled. This task was created in Auto Scheduled Mode.
Auto Scheduled vs Manually Scheduled
Auto scheduled tasks
For Auto Scheduled tasks, Project will automatically set basic parameters, like the duration, a start and finish date. While calculating these, Project considers the context and date constraints. The tasks will be recalculated by the Project Scheduling Engine every time something that affects this task in the project schedule changes. Creating tasks in Auto Scheduled mode is recommended for most tasks, because it minimizes manual manipulations and can avoid scheduling errors that can occur in complex project environments. When configuring Auto Scheduled tasks avoid setting dates manually when possible, as these will act as constraints and prevent the scheduling engine from doing its magic.
NOTE: Ideally, Projects should be completely Auto Scheduled and driven by logic (predecessors, successors, durations, work, units, constraints, resource allocation, and more). If you have to set a date for Auto Scheduled tasks then choose only one – either start or finish.
Manually scheduled tasks
If you create a task in manually scheduled mode, no calculations take place. Once set up, project will not move the task when re-calculating the project schedule. Usually, you want to create manually scheduled task when there is a lot of uncertainty, as you can enter text values in the start, finish and duration columns. When hard parameters are clear you should replace the uncertain values and change the task mode to Auto Scheduled.
Here, we want new tasks to be created in Auto Scheduled mode. Make sure that the default mode is set to Auto Scheduled at the bottom left-hand corner.
Default task mode: Auto Scheduled vs Manually Scheduled
Working with tasks in the Gantt Chart
Looking at the Gantt Chart we see that a bar was created as a graphical representation of this task. Zoom in to get a better feeling of the tasks context.
Step 5. Select one task before and one after the newly created task. Click on the View tab and there the icon for Zoom in Selected Tasks in the Zoom panel.
Zoom in on selected tasks
Now the Gantt Chart view adjusted to support our actions visually.
Setting the duration of a task
The outline page shows that Project estimated duration of one day. The estimate is indicated by the question mark. Estimates are useful for durations that we are lacking information about.
Estimated duration 1d?
As we imagine the work, this task will take a meeting of the General Management for review, include some changes, and the decision of resource allocation to this project, we give it initially two days.
Step 6. Click in the duration column and type in 2.
NOTE: Alternatively, you can increase the duration with the arrows.
NOTE: You can enter the duration in different scales. Try to type in
2m = Minutes
2h = Hours
2d = Days
2w = Weeks
2mon = Months
By altering the duration, the question mark disappears. Project assumes that we are confident how long the task will take by changing the duration. Further, the finish date expands in the finish column and the bar in the Gantt Chart gets longer. All changes to the schedule are highlighted in light blue.
Changes are highlighted in light blue
NOTE: Changes to the schedule are always highlighted in light blue for the last action taken.
Link the tasks
Reviewing the schedule and values is a task that has to be done after their submission. Obtaining the building permits can only start after the review and allocation of resources is finished. As these tasks are dependent on each other, they need to be linked together.
Step 7. Select the three tasks, click on the Task tab in the ribbon and click the icon for Link the selected tasks in the Schedule panel.
Link the selected tasks
Project adjusts the start and finish dates for the new task. It also adds the IDs of the predecessor tasks into the Predecessor column.
Changes in schedule after linking tasks
In the Gantt Chart you will notice that the task has an arrow from its predecessor and an arrow to its successor, indicating a finish-to-start relationship. The new task starts, when the preceding task is finished.
Changes in the Gantt Chart after linking tasks
Let’s take a closer look at the different relationships.
Step 8. Click on the View tab, check the Details checkbox and select the Task Form.
Checkbox Details: Task Form
The Task Form opens in the bottom area of the window.
Step 9. Right-click in the free space of the Task Form and select Predecessors & Successors.
This view shows the dependency types. By default, it is set to Finish-to-Start (FS). In a start-to-start relationship (SS), this task and its predecessor start at the same date. Finish-to-finish (FF) would create a relationship where both tasks need to finish on the same date. And finally, in a Start-To-Finish relationship (SF) the preceding task can only start, after the current task is finished. The last option is very rarely used.
Task Dependency Types
As we want this task to start after the schedule of values was submitted, we leave it at Finish-To-Start.
Task Dependency Types
NOTE: We can also set the dependencies in the Task Information Dialog.
Double-click on the task in the Outline pane –> Predecessors tab
NOTE: Be aware that every change that you make in the Task Form will only take effect after confirming with OK.
Set task constraints
Setting the “Finish No Later Than” constraint
A task can also have constraints as to the dates that it needs to start or finish on or around. The constraint types affect the project when it is recalculated by the Project Scheduling engine, so we should be careful when we use these.
Let’s assume that the task Receive notice to proceed and sign contract can not finish later than the given finish date, or else the project can not proceed. This should be reflected in the schedule.
Step 10. Double-click on the task Receive notice to proceed and sign contract –> Advanced tab –> Choose the Constraint Type Finish No Later Than –> Enter the finish date of the task as the Constraint date –> Click OK.
Double-click task to open Task Information Dialog
Advanced Tab: Constraint Type “Finish No Later Than”
When we hover over the icon in the information column we see information about the constraint.
Saving the project
To persist the current state for the next post save the project at this point. For now, we will save it locally in a .mpp file.
Step 11. Click on File in the Ribbon –> Save –> Computer –> Browse –> Choose a folder, here Desktop.
File Tab: Save button
Project save location: Desktop
Step 12. Name the file as you wish. Here, we chose the name Project 2013 Task Basics and click Save.
Project name “Project 2013 Task Basics”
Project Save button
NOTE: For the project to be accessible on different computers and for safety reasons it is recommended to save it in the cloud. If you have OneDrive you can save it as an .mpp file there.
Click on File in the ribbon –> Save –> OneDrive –> Browse –> Choose a folder –> Name the file –> Save.
NOTE: Another option is to save it to SharePoint, as it provides a structure where all necessary project documents can be tagged with metadata to provide a better overview, including the project plan.
Click on File in the ribbon –> Save –> Sync with SharePoint –> Choose an Existing site if you have one or Create a new site –> Type in the Site Address –> Save.
Project will throw a warning because the resources in the project plan don’t exist in SharePoint. We will cover how to synchronize Project with SharePoint in a later post of this series. For now, click OK to ignore the warning.
A new site and task list will be created where the file will be saved.
Condensed version (slideshare):
In our next post we will dive into different task types (summary tasks, milestone, recurring tasks), explain lag, lead and elapsed time and show how to determine critical tasks.
It will be released on Monday, August 31st 2015 at 10:30am ET.