Project management is an important aspect of most modern businesses. Although there has always been someone appointed to oversee projects, there is a definite trend toward specific project management training and even degree paths that focus on this important skill set.
Microsoft Project is helping to make project management easier by providing a set of useful management tools that can be used to successfully oversee projects of practically any size. If you are unfamiliar with project management, consider the Project Management Training course for a high-level review of project management principles and terminology.
This article explains how to set up Microsoft Project on your computer and how to use some of the basic functions provided by this powerful program. As you become more comfortable, there is a host of advanced features which you can learn more about in Microsoft Project Advanced Training.
Setting Up Project
Before taking advantage of the many features offered by Microsoft Project, you need to install it on your computer. Project actually comes in many versions of the Microsoft Office suite so make sure to check for Project before purchasing a separate license. You will be required to enter your product key if you have purchased a stand-alone copy of Project and the installation is automated from that point forward.
After installation, you can find Microsoft Project in your Start menu along with the other Office applications you may have installed on your PC. With set up complete, you can now focus on managing projects using this powerful management tool.
Managing Your Projects in Microsoft Project
Once you open Project, you’ll notice that it’s ready for you to start entering tasks. All you have to do is enter a task name, duration, start and finish times, and any other details that pertain to your project.
Your new tasks are automatically populated in the Gantt chart found on the right side of the Project window. You can drag tasks to and from the Gantt chart to edit them as needed.
If you are not familiar with using Gantt charts for project management, the Microsoft Project Beginner’s Tutorial provides additional information about this powerful planning tool.
You may find yourself turning existing tasks into subtasks rather frequently. Fortunately, Project makes this extremely simple because there is an arrow next to each task/subtask which allows you to move the task left or right depending on where you want it to fall in the hierarchy. This also makes adding additional subtasks into an existing task hierarchy extremely simple.
Microsoft Project is not only designed to help with project task completion, but also with managing resources. A resource in Project is usually a person involved with the project. You can track their time and individually assigned tasks easily. New people can be added to your project team by simply adding their names in the Resource field.
In the Resource Details dialog box, you can modify specifics about each person working on the project team including their individual hourly rate, available hours, and other important information that makes your job as a project manager much easier.
You can also add other resources including materials and cost resources.
Since Project is part of the Microsoft Office suite, it goes without saying that it integrates with other Windows programs easily. You can import people into your project from the Active Directory or from your Outlook Address Book.
By the time you finish adding resources, there is likely to be some conflicts. Project always highlights conflicts in red in your task list. By right clicking on the task, Project even offers possible solutions to fix these conflicts.
Alternatively, you can use the Task Inspector to get more insight on how to solve scheduling problems. Task Inspector helps you understand potential scheduling conflicts and gives you options to extend the deadline, add more people to the task, as well as other options as appropriate.
These features make it very difficult to accidentally over schedule a particular individual or group, which is one less thing you need to worry about when working on a large company initiative.
More complex projects may require a different view. The Chart button allows you to select from a wide range of built-in views, sheets and reports that you can use for your project. You can learn more about using different views in Microsoft Project 2013.
Another helpful feature is that Project allows you to easily split up large projects while still keeping everything together. From the Project tab, you can link various projects together or create subprojects to keep your large projects organized and sensible.
Reporting is another key feature offered by Microsoft Project that will be useful when generating information for board members and other interested parties regarding the progress of the project initiative. You can easily generate reports about cost, workload, and a host of other criteria. To make sure your reports are as accurate as possible, you need to enter as much information as possible into each task, subtask, and resource.
You can export your reports as PDF files that everyone can easily view on their computers. If you are unfamiliar with using PDF files, Learn Acrobat XI can help.
This overview of Microsoft Project is designed to get you started using this powerful project management tool quickly. There are thousands of other features that allow you to customize absolutely every aspect of your project, tasks, and resources.
If you have never used Microsoft Project before, you will be amazed by how much your productivity increases by using this software tool to manage all of your project needs – large and small.