Project Management

How to create deadlines in Microsoft Project 2007

Sample project schedule

IT project teams rarely have the luxury of deciding a project's end date. The team is usually handed a high-level scope with an expectation to deliver by the end date, while keeping project costs within a fixed budget. The end date is often based on management commitments, government mandates, political pressure, or unrealistic or unmanaged expectations.

A common reaction from project managers is to conduct a high-level analysis, provide a high-level estimate, and push back on the mandated deadline. Pushing back on a management deadline without supporting data is futile and will make you appear inexperienced. Fortunately, there is a better way to validate whether the deadline can be met. In this tutorial, I show how to create and then validate a deadline in Microsoft Project.

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Step 1: Build a detailed project schedule
The key to validating a deadline is a realistic project schedule. Analogous and top-down estimation techniques are useful for high-level budget and duration forecasts; however, if you are going to determine whether a deadline is realistic, you'll need a detailed project schedule.

Management will often question if all the dependencies and resource constraints have been considered, so be sure to verify that: the plan has well-defined dependencies, resources are accurately leveled, and the project calendars accurately reflect working times. At this stage in the project, you may not have all the specific resource names defined, but you should have a good idea of the number of resources and roles. This figure is a sample project schedule.

Screenshot by Dr. Andrew Makar for TechRepublic

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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