In my last post I announced 5 flaws that are common in using the stand alone version of Microsoft Project. Today I’m taking a closer look at “date related planning”.
So what is this flaw? Take a close look at this Gantt table, and more specifically the Indicators column (the blue i icon left to task mode):
How did these calendars get there? There’s a good chance you used the Start and Finish columns to enter the dates for the tasks. Granted, those dates are editable, but they should not be edited by hand.
What will go wrong?
If you have a schedule like this, non of the tasks are linked. And that will produce a lot of work for you when you change a tasks duration. Have a look at what happens:
Did you see that? I changed the duration for task 1, but now task 2 has a incorrect starting date. Let’s fix this.
Ideally there are just two dates that should be entered in any schedule, there can be more but I’ll get to that later. These dates are the Project Start date (you can find that one in the Project information menu) and a deadline on the milestone for the finished product. That deadline is a fixed point in time that will not move and often has a external source like your manager or a client.
All other dates are derived from dependencies!
A dependency will force the startdate of a task to a later date if the predecessor takes longer to finish.
The only thing I changed between the top and bottom image was the duration. Because task 1 was linked to task 2 (start-to-finish) the second task got a different start and finish date. Great!
Now for that exception I mentioned earlier. There are some tasks that should have a calendar (a “start no earlier than constraint” as it is officially called).These are tasks that have external predecessors. For example, you need approval of the board, and they meet only once a month. The first possible date they get together will be your constraint. Make sure you add a note to that task, that way you will know why you added that constraint.
That’s it for now, I hope you liked reading the post, leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond. Please keep a look out for my next post. I’ll be talking about flaw number 2: Capacity as activity.