Project 2013 – Microsoft Project for Professionals
5 Simple & Practical Steps to Mastering Task Context in under 30 Minutes
Structure in summary tasks
In a logical order the tasks Prepare and submit the project schedule, Prepare and submit the schedule of values and Resource Allocation belong together. Creating summary tasks is useful to structure the schedule in multiple levels. A summary task consists of its subtasks and shows combined information.
Step 1. Open Project 2013 and open the project that we created the last time Task basics from the Commercial Construction project template.
Step 2. Select the three tasks Prepare and submit project schedule, Prepare and submit schedule of values and Resource Allocation –> Task tab –> Summary task.
Task tab: Add summary task
Step 3. Rename the summary task to Scheduling and resource allocation.
Parameters for the three tasks are shown in the summary task row.
Existing tasks can be indented to become a subtask to a summary task.
Step 4. Select the Obtain building permits task –> Task tab –> Indent Task icon in the Schedule panel.
Task to indent
Task tab: Indent task
Project changes the duration and finish date of the summary task. As this is not a task that belongs into this category, outdent it again.
Select the task and click the Outdent Task icon in the Schedule panel of the Task tab.
Task tab: Outdent task
Let’s practice manipulating the schedule by inserting a milestone task. A milestone depicts a major accomplishment in the project. We assume that once the task Submit monthly requests for payment is complete, the general conditions are met and the project is rolling.
Step 5. Select the Long Lead Procurement summary task –> Task tab –> Milestone in the Insert panel and name it General Conditions met.
Task tab: Add milestone
Note that a milestone is an accomplishment and therefore its Duration is 0 days. It is also displayed as a diamond in the Gantt Chart, instead of a bar as regular tasks. We will link the milestone properly to the submission of the monthly requests for payment.
Step 6. Select the Submit monthly requests for payment summary task –> Select the General Conditions met milestone task –> Task tab –> Link the Selected Tasks icon.
Task tab: Link selected tasks
NOTE: Be aware that the tasks are linked in the order they are selected. Here, the first selection is the task that is the predecessor that the subsequent selection will be linked to. See that the diamond shape in the Gantt Chart moved after the first occurrence is finished. We can also check on the consistency of our schedule, by observing if parameters like Duration, Start or Finish dates are highlighted in blue, which would lead to a recalculation of the schedule. As there are none, we can be confident that our alterations did not impact the schedule.
Add Recurring Tasks
A note in the information column on the task Submit monthly requests for payment indicates that this can be set up as a recurring task as it will occur monthly. Recurring tasks serve the purpose of having one summary task showing all occurrences in one place, rather than having them spread out throughout the project plan individually.
Step 7. Select the task Submit monthly request for payment –> Task tab –> Recurring Task…
Task tab: Add recurring task…
Step 8. Name the task Submit monthly requests for payment with a duration of 1 day, a recurrence pattern 1 month on the weekday that the original task was planned for and click OK.
Recurring task information dialog
NOTE: The range is automatically set until the end of the project, showing the number of occurrences until the end of the project.
Project identified that some occurrences will take place in non-working times.
Step 9. Confirm with Yes.
Confirm that some occurrences take place in non-working time
Every occurrence of this recurring task is shown under a summary task. The summary task of the recurring series is indicated by the circling arrows in the information column.
Occurrences in recurring task
NOTE: Now it is crucial to be careful to adjust the project schedule as is!
The original, single task is dependent on the task Receive notice to proceed and sign contract. We need to make sure that this dependency persists for the first occurrence of the new task. The Task Form provides a good overview of the dependencies to accomplish that.
Step 10. Select the first occurrence Submit monthly requests for payment 1 and click on the View tab –> Check the Details checkbox –> Select Task Form.
View tab: Select Details, Task Form
Step 11. In the Task form (at the bottom) right-click and select Predecessors & Successors.
Task Form: Select Predecessors and Successors
Step 12. In the predecessors pane choose the task Receive notice to proceed and sign contract and click OK.
Task Form: Choose predecessor
Task Form: Confirm with OK
NOTE: The drop-down is sorted alphabetically.
NOTE: Alternatively, in the outline pane click in the Predecessors column of the task Submit monthly requests for payment 1 and type the ID of the predecessor task, here: number 2.
Let’s check the dependent tasks for successors.
Step 13. Click on the milestone task General Conditions met.
Task Form: Show successor
The successors pane of the task form shows that Submit shop drawings and order long lead items – steel is dependent on it. Since we want it to be dependent on the task Submit monthly requests for payment we need to adjust its predecessor to the new task.
Step 14. Look up the ID of the first occurrence of the recurring task, in this case number 11.
Show ID of occurrence of recurring task
Step 15. Click in the Predecessors column of the task Submit shop drawings and
order long lead items – steel and type in 11.
Change ID of predecessor in column
As no fields are highlighted in blue, the schedule stays consistent with the original schedule. No dates have been recalculated after the creation and modification of the reoccurring task.
Finally, the single task has to be deleted to avoid duplication.
Step 16. Right-click the single task Submit monthly requests for payment –> Delete Task.
NOTE: The message of this exercise applies to every schedule manipulation you make: Be aware of the task dependencies and its predecessors before altering the schedule! Examine a task accurately before changing parameters to avoid scheduling issues.
Adjust lag, lead and elapsed time
When two tasks have a finish-to-start relationship
- Lead time causes the successor task to begin before its predecessor task concludes (delay).
- Lag time causes the successor task to begin sometime after its predecessor task concludes (overlap).
Some tasks may take longer than others based on the nature of the task. For example, while the execution of pouring concrete may take only one day of work, it will need to dry for a couple of days and only then the object can be cured. In this case, the drying time is not dependent on the work done, and thus, there is a delay between the finish of the tasks Pour concrete elevator walls and Cure concrete elevator walls. This is lag time.
Step 17. Scroll to the summary task Foundations and select the task Cure concrete elevator walls.
Currently, the task takes one day.
Step 18. Click on the View tab –> Details –> Select the Task Form.
View tab: Select Details, Task Form
Step 19. Right-click in the Task Form in a free spot and choose Predecessors & Successors.
Task Form: Select Predecessors and Successors
Step 20. For the predecessor task Pouring concrete the lag column increase the lag to 2 days and click OK.
Task Form: Enter lag time
NOTE: You must confirm every change made in the task form with OK to take place.
Now, the predecessor column in the outline pane changes to XX FS+4days and the connector in the Gantt Chart shows the lag time graphically.
Lag time effect
Sometimes one task can start while its predecessor is not completed yet. Let’s say we want to check on the drying concrete, take and analyze some measures for continuous improvement. This task will start before the concrete is dry, so its start will overlap with its predecessor.
Step 21. Right-click the task Cure elevator wall concrete and click Insert Task.
Step 22. Name the new task Analyze concrete drying stages and link the this task and Pour concrete elevator walls together by selecting both in the outline –> Task tab –> Link selected tasks.
Task tab: Link selected tasks
Step 23. Increase the duration to 3 days.
Step 24. In the task form decrease the lag of the predecessor to -2 days and click OK.
Task Form: Enter lead time
Note that in the Gantt Chart the tasks are now overlapping and the Predecessor column reflects the changes.
Show lead time in Gantt Chart
The uninterrupted span of time that it will take to finish a task, based on a 24-hour day and a 7-day week. It is not limited by project, resource, or task calendars.
In our case we want to add cushion time while the concrete dries. Elapsed time ignores the working schedule of resources and assumes a 24-hour day within a 7-day week. This is true for the drying time of concrete.
Step 25. Right-click on the task Cure elevator wall concrete and click Insert Task. Name the new task Concrete drying time.
Step 26. Type 4ed in the Duration column and press Enter.
See that the bar in the Gantt Chart expands to 4 days.
NOTE: It’s always a good idea to keep the Gantt Chart focused on the tasks you are working on.
Select the task with its surrounding tasks (some before and after) –> View tab –> Selected Tasks in the Zoom panel.
Determine critical tasks
A critical path is the series of tasks that will push out the project’s end date if any of those tasks are delayed. As the project schedule is created and updated, Project will calculate the critical path, and flag the tasks on the critical path (using the “Critical” field to flag the tasks on the critical path).
A key to understanding the critical path is to understand slack, also known as float. There are two types of slack: free and total. Free slack is the amount of time a task can be delayed before it delays another task. Total slack is the amount of time a task can be delayed before it delays the completion of the project.
A task is on the critical path if its total slack is less than a certain amount—by default, if it is zero days. In contrast, noncritical tasks have slack, meaning they can start or finish earlier or later within their slack time without affecting the completion date of a project.
Let’s take a look at our project.
Step 27. Scroll down to the summary task Site Grading and Utilities –> View tab –> Selected Tasks in the Zoom panel.
View tab: Zoom in on selected tasks
Step 28. Click on the Format tab –> Activate the checkbox for Critical Tasks.
Format tab: Activate Critical Tasks
Most of the tasks will turn red in the Gantt Chart indicating that they are on the Critical Path. They have no slack in their schedule.
The task Install storm drainage is not critical. Let’s show the slack.
Step 29. Activate the checkbox for Slack.
Format tab: Activate Slack
Step 30. Select the task Perform final site grading. This task is critical and has no slack.
Critical task in Gantt Chart
Step 31. Select the task Install storm drainage. Hover over the thin black line after the task bar in the Gantt Chart.
Slack in Gantt Chart
This has a slack of 2 weeks. The task form shows that it is determined to finish with its successor task Perform final site grading, as visible in the Type column. Here, the slack is the time between the finish of the current task and the successor task.
Condensed version (Clickthrough):
In our next post we will walk through the concepts of duration, work and units, assign resources to tasks, and create a project calendar.
It will be released on Monday, September 7th 2015 at 10:30am ET.