Project Management

Provide better MS Project support with these five quick tips

If you're looking for a way to provide better Microsoft Project support, try our Project TechMail. Here are five quick tips to show you examples of what this newsletter has to offer.


Before you go on another Microsoft Project support call, sign up for our Project TechMail. This newsletter contains valuable information that can save you both time and effort. Below, you'll find several examples of what this TechMail has to offer. Get tips on installation, troubleshooting, and much more, all delivered straight to your inbox—absolutely free. Sign up for the Project TechMail today!

Living in a material world
For many Project users, it's habit to enter a units value for resources as percentages. This is fine except when dealing with material resources in Project 2000. A units value for materials can only be expressed as decimal numbers with up to two decimal places. If the units value for a material resource is entered as a percentage, users will receive an error message and will be forced to enter a new value.

This can also be an issue when importing data from Excel or other data sources. If the units value in the data source is stored as a percentage and then imported into an existing project, the decimal equivalent for the material resource will automatically be assigned. So if a data source shows 25 percent, this assignment will be for .25 units rather than 25 units.

Is the progress bar not progressing?
Have you ever had a task in which the little black progress bar didn't show the task's progress? Well, we may have just the solution for you.

If the calendar for the resource is a 24-hour calendar, then the progress bar will not draw correctly. The normal Bar Style for the progress bar is set to have the bar draw to the Complete Through data point.

To fix this, double-click the Gantt Chart icon. Now that you see the Bar Styles dialog box, find the Progress Bar Style and look in the To field. Instead of Complete Through, edit the Bar Style to say Stop and then click OK. The progress bar will now show your 24-hour tasks properly.

The basics of leveling
Leveling, as a general project management term, means the process of adjusting your project plan so that your resources are working at the right levels. In a leveled plan, no resource is working more than its allowable number of hours per time period.

In Project, use the leveling features found at Tools | Resource Leveling to perform these adjustments for you. What they do is analyze your project and add what is called a "leveling delay" to tasks in order to level out the number of hours any resource is assigned during a given time period. Leveling does not adjust units or the number of hours of work or the duration of tasks. It only adds delay, which changes the scheduled start of the task.

Leveling calculations: Standard
Resource leveling is sometimes a confusing concept in Project. It can, however, be quite helpful when trying to understand what Project is "thinking" when it levels.

The Standard order uses the following criteria (in this order) to determine how it will add a delay to tasks for leveling:
  1. Successor tasks are delayed before their predecessors.
  2. Tasks with later start dates are delayed first.
  3. Tasks without hard constraints will be delayed first.
  4. Tasks with the lowest impact (or weighted slack) will be delayed first. Weighted slack is a calculation MS Project performs that determines how much impact the delay of a task will have on total project duration.
  5. Tasks with the lowest priority will be leveled first.
  6. Tasks with higher ID numbers will be leveled first.

Leveling calculations: Priority, Standard
The “Priority, Standard” method of leveling calculations gives users greater control over how Project will adjust the plan to level.

These are the steps (in order) that the Priority, Standard goes through to determine how it will add a delay to tasks for leveling:
  1. Task priority
  2. Predecessor relationships
  3. Scheduled Start dates
  4. Constraints
  5. Weighted slack
  6. Task ID

As you can see, Priority, Standard basically just moves Task priority up to number one on the list. While in the Standard order, leveling priority is number five on the list of criteria.
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Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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