For many, Microsoft Project 2016 is the go-to tool of choice for managing projects, and for very good reasons. It has a robust set of features and functionalities that cover all aspects of the project management lifecycle. Resource planning, scheduling, task assignments, critical path reporting, baselines, slick status reports, to name a few. You know, all the things that are going to make life easier for those of us responsible for managing projects. After all, isn’t Microsoft Project designed to simplify our lives as project managers?
So, why do so many first-time users struggle to manage their projects in a tool which is designed to make managing projects easier?
Isn’t it ironic that a tool intended to bring visibility and clarity to project data is very often viewed as complicated, cumbersome, and a real pain in the Alanis?
The reality is that there is a learning curve for first-time users working with Microsoft Project. It is a sophisticated product and, as with any product that delivers this much functionality, it takes some hands-on time and experience to get up to speed. There are ways to minimize frustration and get immediate value from the tool even while you are coming up to speed on the more advanced feature sets and project scheduling capabilities.
One of the fundamental keys to your success will be a clear understanding of what value you expect to get by using Microsoft Project. Your expectations of the product and how it will benefit your project management capabilities will be your biggest ally while navigating your first steps up the learning curve.
Here are three tips you should use when starting with Microsoft Project:
- Know Why
Why are you using Microsoft Project? Maybe the answer jumps to mind immediately. If you don’t have an answer to this question, then you’re headed for a lot of frustration. You may start with something like: “So I know what’s going on with my projects” or “My manager is making me!” If so, take a few minutes to define the value that you expect Microsoft Project will bring to you once you start using it.
- Identify the Quick-Wins for You
For instance, one of the common benefits experienced by teams using Microsoft Project is more accurate forecasting of project timelines and a better measure of how actual time is spent versus original estimations. Starting with this goal in mind, you can drive to quick-wins for you and your team by capturing a complete list of tasks, their estimated effort, and dependencies that drive the project’s critical path.
- Identify the Quick-Wins for Project Team Members
Once you have established the baseline plan, use the project plan to drive your subsequent conversations and status updates with your team. Share the plan with your team members and help them understand the story behind the tasks, predecessors, hours, and dates within the project schedule. As they begin to understand how the information they provide to you impacts the project schedule and reports, you will start to receive better updates and your team members will begin to see how the project plan benefits them. One of the first benefits they will find is their work and the value they bring to the team and organization will be accurately reflected and easily demonstrated with data.
If at some point, as you begin to take advantage of the more advanced capabilities of Microsoft Project, you find yourself with your forehead on your desk, fists clenched, gnashing your teeth. Don’t sweat it. Take a step back and revisit the immediate value you expect from your project schedule and refocus before moving on.
What other tips would you share for first time Microsoft Project Users? Please comment below!
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Posted by Tom Cantrell
Tom Cantrell is a Principal, SharePoint Consultant at KiZAN. Tom currently holds the following certifications: * Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Application Development * Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Configuration * Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Windows Server 2003