What is Microsoft Project or MS project online free?
MS project online free is a suite of tools that help in the efficient and proper management of projects and portfolios. It has varied uses, which range from industries like construction, retail, finance, healthcare to name just a few. Not many of us are really familiar with MS Project, maybe because it does not come with the usual MS Office installed on our computers or laptops. Though unknown to most students, it is, in fact, a very popular 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 in a way, 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.
Maybe you’ve just gotten promoted and have been handed an important, long, and complex project that will take extensive planning with fifty different elements involved. What do you do? You get familiar with MS projects online for free! This application is designed mainly to assist people in developing plans, sorting resources, assigning tasks, tracking progress, and managing a lot of things, including yearly budgets and all. The MS Project creates path schedules with an add-on from third parties as well. That being said, using MS Project is not rocket science. You need to know only a few things before embarking on a journey 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 at hand which you need to analyze and streamline.
One of the most basic things one must learn if you plan to use MS project online free on a daily and professional basis, you need to know how to create a project plan. Now, as is the case with new software, you can either spend months and years navigating and investigating each nook and cranny or try to discover things for yourself, or you can be smart and do your research beforehand. I prefer to do the latter. Now that you are here and reading, I assume that you want to learn the basics of the MS Project and pick up the basic skills that go into it. The truth is, it is somewhat like every other Microsoft program; do you need to know each and every function of MS PowerPoint to create a good presentation? No. Exactly the same thing! You can run large and successful project plans knowing the basics.
How we can 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.
Let’s start with what you need.
Obviously, you will need MS Project, which you can purchase from the website as a Standard or Professional edition. The Professional edition has a lot 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 most probably find it on your desktop or your start menu.
Make a sample project.
Or if you have an existing project that you are working on, then use that. Just for the hypothesis, I will assume that we are developing a simple program that reads new client accounts from a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database. Easy enough? Right. It is a very simple project and quite useful if you are working with an enterprise. Let me give you a few key data points.
- Project Name
- Project Prep
- Project Kick-Off
- Testing of the Plan
This is fairly 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. There are a dozen underlying tasks in each of these, which will be brought to light further in the article.
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 isn’t really difficult to operate. The next step would be to the Project Phases that we just listed above (Project Name, Prep, so on and so forth).
Key in the detailed tasks under each phase.
Once you have entered in the phases that you wanted, you will need to fill in the detailed tasks underneath each phase. For example, under MS project online free Prep, you can add ‘Gather Documentation’ and ‘Extract Contact Information’. For the sake of an easier 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 come up with 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 creating the product, a time slot for reviewing it and a time for signing off. This will help you save time, and it is pretty standard practice anyway.
You should always assign time durations to each task you’ve entered. Think about the time you will save up on. For a moment, 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 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 that appears on the right, which graphically indicated the duration. This taskbar and the collection of these bars is called the Gantt chart. Name this MS project online free as Concert 1.0.
What do you do if you are not the only person 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.
Enter Project Start Date and Task Dependencies
So yay, you are almost there. Well, not quite, but halfway. You must be wondering why 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 say the end of June, and would only like to start this new project on the 1st of August. To do this, you can click on 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. For now, 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 on “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 1st of August.
Give a logical sequence ms project example.
This one is a given. But how do you go about doing so? Let me show you. This task is done by using the ‘Task Dependencies’ or ‘Precedence Relationships’. 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 this dependency instruction can be given. Here, we will do it by simply linking the tasks by the graphs. Use of logic is recommended here – we know that 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 pointer of the mouse over the second task, which you want to link. Release the mouse button. This will create a link line from the finish date of the first task to the start date of the second task.
- Please repeat this step with all the tasks (task 1, task 2, and task 3…) and link them with each other.
- A few tasks may be present which may not follow the sequence; for example, Task 7 of printing and selling tickets need not wait till completion of the prior task so that you can link task 7 with task 5. Do you see my point?
- The last two tasks are administrative tasks and can be done as soon as the artists are confirmed to link them directly after Task.
Remember, this is powerful stuff. You can build this kind of dependency everywhere in your project. So if one date changes, everything pertaining to it gets updated automatically!
It may be prudent to remember that all these tasks are pertaining to certain assumptions that we have made, and these are basically idealistic situations.
Review the Project Dates.
This 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 in order for your project to be a success. For example, one of the most important things you need to check is the overall project start as well as an end date. Does this meet your deadline? Will you be able to start work on the start date? You will also need to check the in-task tasks to make sure everything is alright.
Review the Gantt Chart
Before finalizing the project, the last and final thing you need to do is review the Gantt chart. To do this, 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. This will allow you to zoom in and out of the Gantt Chart with ease.
One more thing you can do is print out the Gantt chart on a large paper and stick it up to your desk so that you can really 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 to creating a simple, as well as a functional project plan in MS Project online free. If you are a novice, I would suggest that you 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!
In fact, my opinion is that most of the time, all you need is a simple plan. Complicated plans rarely tend to work out and add to your already stressed schedule. If you find yourself relying too much on advanced functionalities, you’re probably overdoing or over-analyzing things!
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