What’s the best sequence of steps involved in creating a Plan in MS Project ?


Note : This post doesn’t capture/discuss the activities involved in Planning a project. But it focus on entries required in creating a plan using MS Project. Menu references are based on MS Project 2010.

Your Project Plan will have the following key ingredients(may vary)

  1. Summary Tasks
  2. Sub Tasks
  3. Milestones
  4. Effort / Work
  5. Schedule
  6. Dependencies
  7. Resources assigned.
  8. Calendar

Based on my experience, I found the following order of Entry effective and eliminates any adjustments or rework later.

  1. Set the “Calendar Options for the Project”.
    This is accessible through “File” –> “Options” –> “Schedule”.  Set your Shift Timings*, Hours Per Day, Start work day of the Week and  Average days in a month as appropriate for the project
  2. Enable display of Project Summary task.
    This can be achieved by setting “Show Project Summary Task” check box under “Display Options for this Project” accessible thru “File” –> “Options” –> “Advanced”
  3. Key in your Key Summary Tasks. Only Task Names.
    Never Key in Estimates , Duration or Schedule for Summary Tasks.
  4. Create a dummy milestone to capture the Start date for the Project
  5. Key in your Milestones with the dates.
  6. Key in your Sub tasks / Detail Tasks. Only Task Names.
  7. Key in your Work Estimates in Work Column for your Detail / Sub Tasks.
    Never key in Work Estimates to any of the Summary Tasks. This will affect rolling up of Estimates of Detail Tasks to Summary Tasks.
  8. Key in your duration of each task for your Detail / Sub Tasks.
    Never key in duration to any of the Summary Tasks. This will affect rolling up of duration of Detail Tasks to Summary Tasks.
  9. Indent the Sub Tasks / Detail Tasks under appropriate Summary Tasks
  10. Set the Dependencies
    Stay away from setting Dependencies for any of the Summary task.
  11. Assign the Resources
    Stay away from assigning resources to any of the Summary task.
  12. Set the Project and Resource Calendar.
  13. Review the Plan so that it aligns with your Project Schedule agreed.
  14. Validate the Value in Work field for Project Summary Task against the Total Estimated Effort for the Project.
    If all the other tasks are either the child of this task or any other task coming under the task, then MS Project will roll-up the efforts of individual tasks to the Project Summary Task.
  15. Level your resources.
    Some of the resource’s total assigned effort for a day may exceed standard hours or their availability.  These cases can be identified in the Resource Sheet View. Over-allocated resources will appear in “RED”.   The main reason for over allocation would be due to assignment of a resource to multiple tasks whose schedule overlaps.
  16. Create a Baseline for the Project for tracking when the project is running.

* If you change the Working Times in Project Options, then you need to explicitly match the new timings by changing them in the “Change Working Time” dialog box. Select the “Work Weeks” tab, while the Default entry in this tab selected, click on “Details”. In the “Details” dialog box, multi-select your work days and select the “Set day(s) to this specific working times” radio button and then key in your Project specific work times.

See Also : More articles on MS Project

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Estimating Resource Requirements using Microsoft Project


This post will help you in Estimating the Resources needed to complete a given task with in a prescribed Schedule using MS Project..

I assume, Human resources here. One Full-Time-Effort(FTE) is taken as 8hrs / Day. If the Effort for 1 FTE is different in your case, for eg:9hrs/Day then change “Hours Per Day” option under “Schedule” in Tools –> Options on MS Project. On Project 2010 this option is available under File –> Options –> Schedule.

Let’s have a scenario first.

Here is the schedule given

Task Duration
Technical Design 20 Days
Code/Build/Test 18 Days

Listed below are the efforts arrived by your team for the above tasks in the Project.

Task Effort(Hours)</td>
Technical Design 600 Hours
Code/Build/Test 500 Hours

Now let us see using MS Project, how many Full Time resources(FTE) do we need to fit our efforts within the schedule given.

Steps required on MS Project

1) Set up MS Project

  • Go to “Tools” –> “Options”. On Project 2010, you need to go to File –> Options
    • Select tab “Schedule”
    • On the “Default task type” drop down select “Fixed Duration”
    • Select tab “View”. On Project 2010, Go to File–> Options. Select “Advanced” tab
    • On the “Outline Options for <projectname>” check the Option “Show project summary task”. This option is available under “Display Options for Project” in Project 2010
    • Click “Ok” to finish the Definition
  • Open a new Project in MS Project
  • If the default Gant Chart View doesn’t have the “Work Column”, do the following steps to insert the same
    • Right Click on the Column heading
    • Select the “Insert Column” menu item
    • On the “Column Definition” dialog opened, select “Work” from the “Field Name” drop down.
    • Click “Ok” to finish the Definition

2) Task Definition

  • Add a milestone task to denote our start date , On Row 2 enter the following
    • Enter “Start” on the “Task Definition Column”
    • “0 days” on the “Duration Column”
    • “0 hrs” on the “Work” Column
    • Now set the anticipated start date for our “Technical Design”, by entering the date on the “Start” column(either enter the date in the default date format or select the drop down to view the calendar)
  • Add our first task in the Project – i.e., “Technical Design”. Go to the next row(3rd) enter the following
    • “Technical Design” on the Task Definition Column
    • “20 Days” on the “Duration” Column
    • “600 Hrs” on the “Work” Column
    • Now MS Project will populate the “Start” and “Finish” column based on our effort and duration.
    • Go to the “Predecessors” column of our “Technical Design” Task and set the dependency to our “Start” milestone
    • Enter the id displayed on the “Id” column of our “Start” task in this column. You can see that MS Project updates the Start date based on the date set for our “Start” milestone
  • Add our third task – i.e. ,”Code/Build/Test”. Go to the next row(4th) enter the following
    • “Code/Build/Test” on the Task Definition Column
    • “18 Days” on the “Duration” Column
    • “500 Hrs” on the “Work” Column
    • Now MS Project will populate the “Start” and “Finish” column based on our effort and duration.
    • Go to the “Predecessors” column of our “Code/Build/Test” Task and set the dependency, “Technical Design” finish to start “Code/Build/Test”
    • Enter the id displayed on the “Id” column of our “Technical Design” task in this column. You can see that MS Project updates the Start date based on the finish  date displayed for our “Code/Build/Test” Task

3) Arrive at the Full Time Effort(FTE)

  • Enter a value, for eg: Developer on the “Resource Names” column for all of our non-milestone tasks. I.e., “Technical Design” & “Code/Build/Test”
  • You can see that MS Project appends a % value to the value we entered. The “Technical Design” task, “Resource Names” will display “Developer[375%], means you need 3.75 FTEs to complete 600hrs of Technical Design in 20 Days.
  • After completing the “Resource Names” entry on all our tasks – Technical Design and Code/Build/Test and from the values appearing on the Resource Names column, we can infer that the Technical Design task needs 3.75 FTE and Code/Build/Test  needs 3.47 FTE.

4)   Now what if, we don’t have the MS Project calculated FTE in hand?

  • Adjust the value on the “Duration” column of our tasks to arrive at the required FTE. Please note that when you change the value of the duration, MS Project adjusts the value in the work column. Please reset it to the original effort for the task (This Is the Default Behaviour For MS Project)

Once you arrive at the required FTEs, the Start and Finish columns should show the workable schedule

See Also : More articles on MS Project