Updated June 2, 2023
What is Microsoft Project or MS Project Online Free?
MS Project online free is a suite of tools that help efficiently and adequately manage projects and portfolios. It has varied uses, ranging from construction, retail, finance, and healthcare, to name just a few. Not many of us are familiar with MS Project because it does not come with the usual MS Office installed on our computers or laptops. Though unknown to most students, it is a viral project management software developed by Microsoft.
For many people, learning how to use MS Project is the same as learning the basics of project management simultaneously, and they go hand in hand. In a nutshell, project management means planning, organizing, and managing resources in such a way as to minimize losses and attain a particular goal.
You may have just gotten promoted, and your boss hands you a significant, long, complex project involving extensive planning with fifty elements. What do you do? You get familiar with MS projects online for free! This application assists people in developing plans, sorting resources, assigning tasks, tracking progress, and managing many things, including yearly budgets. The MS Project also creates path schedules with an add-on from third parties. Using MS Project is not rocket science. You must know only a few things before going to MS Project Expertise. A) You need to know how to install and start the MS Project Software on your computer or laptop, and B) You must have a project you need to analyze and streamline.
One of the essential things one must learn if you plan to use MS Project online free daily and professionally is how to create a project plan. As with new software, you can spend months and years navigating and investigating each nook and cranny or trying to discover things for yourself, or you can be thoughtful and research beforehand. I prefer to do the latter. Now that you are here and reading, I assume you want to learn the basics of the MS Project and pick up the essential skills that go into it. It is somewhat like every other Microsoft program; do you need to know every function of MS PowerPoint to create a good presentation? No. The same thing! You can run large and successful project plans by learning the basics.
How Can We Make a Good MS Project Plan?
So without further ado, let’s dive into the basics of MS project online free, and let us see how we can make a good ms project plan.
1. Let’s Start with What you Need
You will need MS Project, which you can purchase from the website as a Standard or Professional edition. The Professional edition has many more complex features, so if you are a beginner at MS Project online free, a Standard edition should suffice. After installing this program, you will probably find it on your desktop or in the start menu.
2. Make a Sample Project
Or, if you have an existing project that you are working on, then use that. For the hypothesis, I assume we are developing a simple program that reads new client accounts from a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database. Easy enough? Right. It is a straightforward project and quite helpful in working with an enterprise. Let me give you a few key data points.
- Project Name
- Project Prep
- Project Kick-Off
- Testing of the Plan
It is reasonable enough to follow, and I always keep in mind these six ms project example planning steps while making a project plan. Of course, this is not all. Each of these has a dozen underlying tasks, which the article will bring to light further.
3. Start MS Project Online Free and Shoot in Project Phases
Of course, you need to start an MS project online for free. It opens up as a workbook that is easy to operate. The next step would be to the Project Phases we just listed above (Project Name, Prep, and so on).
4. Key in the Detailed Tasks Under Each Phase
Once you have entered the phases you wanted, you must fill in the detailed tasks underneath each stage. For example, under MS project online free Prep, you can add ‘Gather Documentation’ and ‘Extract Contact Information.’ For a more accessible example, let me break it down for you. You can enter tasks like ‘Call up Artists’ – Name of the artists, and so on. The question that arises now is how do you develop these ms project online free plan steps? All you need to do is break down large tasks into smaller, simpler-sounding ones. Decompose a task into sub-tasks. Break it down, but don’t go all out and risk going overboard.
An extra thing you can do is, when creating a project plan, you can build in a time slot for making the product, a time slot for reviewing it, and a time for signing off. It will help you save time, and it is standard practice anyway.
5. Assign Time
It would be best to always assign time durations to each task you’ve entered. Think about the time you will save up on. Ignore the first column in the task pane and enter data under the Duration columns. For example, you are planning a concert. It could go as the following:
- Ring up artists – 3 days
- Finalize artists and performances – 2 days
- Call auditorium – 3 days
- Confirm and pay advance to the auditorium – 2 days
- Book ad slots in newspapers – 12 days
- Print and sell tickets – 25 days
- Set up accommodation – 4 days
- Organise travel arrangements – 3 days
As you press enter in the Task Duration slot, you can see a blue bar on the right that graphically indicates the duration. This taskbar and the collection of these bars are called the Gantt chart. Name this MS project online free as Concert 1.0.
6. Assign Resources
What do you do if you are one of many people working on this project? (Which will be the case 80% of the time). So, as the Project Manager, you need to assign these tasks yourself. You can type in the name of the person supposed to do the task under the Resources named tab. You can key in the initials of the person’s name, like Nita Shetty as NS, or if you have an entire team on that task, you can type in Team A, for example.
7. Enter Project Start Date and Task Dependencies
So yay, you are almost there. Well, not quite, but halfway. Why do all the activities start on the same date? It is by default, so don’t worry too much. So as a Project Manager, you are busy till the end of June and would only like to start this new project on the 1st of August. To do this, click on a project on the top menu bar and click on Project Information from the choices in the drop-down menu. Rest is easy. The Project Information window should pop up as shown here. Ignore all other fields on this window, and look at only the first field that says “Start Date.” Change this start date to the 1st of August and click “OK.” And almost immediately, you will notice that this window closes, and all the Gantt bars on your project have moved to a start date of the 1st of August.
8. Give a Logical Sequence MS Project Example
This one is a given. But how do you go about doing so? Let me show you. Use the ‘Task Dependencies’ or ‘Precedence Relationships’ to do the task. Now you might be wondering what a ‘Task Dependency’ is. A task dependency is a connection between one task and another. For example, if the end and start date of Task 1 changes, so does that of Task 2. There are a dozen ways to give this dependency instruction. Here, we will do it by linking the tasks with the graphs. Use logic here – we know we can only finalize the artists after calling them. To indicate this, we can
- On the Gantt chart, position the mouse on the taskbar of the first task until the mouse cursor turns into a 4-way arrow.
- Click the left mouse button and drag the mouse pointer over the second task you want to link. Release the mouse button. It will create a link line from the first task’s finish date to the second task’s start date.
- Please repeat this step with all the tasks (task 1, task 2, and task 3) and link them.
- A few tasks may be present which may not follow the sequence; for example, Task 7 of printing and selling tickets needs to complete the last task so that you can link task 7 with task 5. Do you see my point?
- An individual can do the last two administrative tasks after the artists are confirmed to link them directly after the task.
Remember, this is powerful stuff. You can build this kind of dependency everywhere in your project. So if one date changes, everything about it gets updated automatically!
It is prudent to remember that all these tasks pertain to certain assumptions we have made, which are idealistic situations.
9. Review the Project Dates
It is a rather important step. Once you have written in the task dependencies across your ms project online free plan, you must review your project milestone dates. You need to set realistic dates for your project to be a success. For example, one of the most important things you need to check is the overall project start and end date. Does this meet your deadline? Can you start work on the start date? You must also check the in-task tasks to ensure everything is alright.
10. Review the Gantt Chart
Before finalizing the project, the last and final thing you need to do is review the Gantt chart. You can go into the View menu and select Tracking Gantt. If you are on a Windows PC, you can press ‘Ctrl’ while moving your scroll wheel on the mouse up and down. It will allow you to quickly zoom in and out of the Gantt Chart.
You can print out the Gantt chart on a large piece of paper and stick it up to your desk so that you can be aware of all your deadlines and track them efficiently!
That’s that. Coming to an end, I do hope that this article has given you some pronounced understanding of creating a simple, as well as a functional project plan in MS Project online free. If you are a novice, start with simple ms project online free plans and learn advanced functionalities later. Everything you need to know to create a fully functional ms project online free plan is explained above in explicit detail!
Most of the time, you only need a simple plan. Complicated plans rarely work out and add to your already stressed schedule. If you rely too much on advanced functionalities, you’re overdoing or over-analyzing things!
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