Project Management

Create schedule quality checks in Microsoft Project 2010

Here's how to build custom filters in Microsoft Project 2010 to ensure you have a quality project schedule.

In my previous TechRepublic article, I shared the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA)'s objective criteria for creating a quality project schedule. You can use the 14 quality checks to ensure your project schedule is free of many scheduling errors novice and even experienced project managers can make. In this article, I show how to build custom filters in Microsoft Project 2010 to ensure you have a quality project schedule. 

Incomplete tasks

The DCMA quality recommendations only evaluate baselined tasks at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure. Summary, subprojects, milestone, and tasks missing baselines are not evaluated.

Follow these steps to build the Incomplete Tasks filter:

  1. Go to View | Filters | New Filter.
  2. Rename the filter Incomplete Tasks.
  3. Add the Summary field equals No.
  4. Add And Baseline Duration does not equal 0d.
  5. Add And Actual Finish equals NA.
  6. Click Save (Figure A).

Figure A

qualitychecksmsproject2010_figa_11513.jpg

This filter will display all the incompleted tasks at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure.

Hard constraints check

A quality project schedule avoids hard constraints. The ideal schedule is dynamic and allows the logic to drive the forecast dates. Constraints such as Must Finish On, Must Start On, Start No Later Than, or Finish No Later Than stop the logic from flowing through the schedule and often results in scheduling error messages. A quality schedule will not have more than 5% of its tasks with hard constraints, and the rest should be set to Start As Soon As Possible.

Follow these steps to build the Hard Constraints filter:

  1. Go to View | Filters | New Filter.
  2. Rename the filter Hard Constraints.
  3. Add the Summary field equals No.
  4. Add And Baseline Duration does not equal 0d.
  5. Add And Constraint Type does not equal As Soon As Possible.
  6. Click Save (Figure B).

Figure B

qualitychecksmsproject2010_figb_11513.jpg

If the filter displays any tasks, you'll want to revisit the need for the constraint and consider using Predecessors to control the start of the task.

High duration check

The high duration check identifies any task that has a baseline duration greater than 44 days (i.e., two months). As competent project managers, we know such tasks should be broken down into more discrete tasks. Trying to track progress against a two-month task doesn't provide enough granularity to understand if the task will be delivered on time.

Follow these steps to build the High Duration filter:

  1. Go to View | Filters | New Filter.
  2. Rename the filter High Duration.
  3. Add the Summary field equals No.
  4. Add And Baseline Duration does not equal 0d.
  5. Add And Baseline Duration is greater than 44d.
  6. Click Save (Figure C).

Figure C

qualitychecksmsproject2010_figc_11513.jpg

If the filter displays any tasks, you'll want to revisit the task duration and consider breaking the tasks down into smaller tasks with shorter durations. 

Summary

These filters are just one way to implement DCMA schedule quality checks. You can use Visual Basic to write complete macros in Microsoft Project to check the schedule quality. There are also several vendors such as Steelray and Deltek that provide their own DCMA software tools.

If you ever wanted to experiment with custom filters, you can use this tutorial as a basis for future customization.

 

About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

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