MS Project Templates
One of the first things that I do when I start a project is to put a schedule or a plan. Being in IT for such long a time I like to make myself comfortable that my project is meeting the timelines. I have used Microsoft Project 2013 in the example you can any project version as the basics should remain the same.
Sample MS Project Plans
You can also try this with excel however you will have to spend extra effort on writing formulas and automating calculations. Microsoft Project has a lot of amazing features which will make your life a lot easy.
We will look at the process on creating the plan in 3 steps - Step 1 will be to have the basic or bare- bones schedule, Step 2 will be to populate the schedule and finally, in Step 3 we will look at maintaining the schedule.
Before you start work on the plan make sure you have a list of tasks and following information about each task -
- The Owner or the person who will do the task.
- An Estimate for the task.
- Is the person available to start the task?
- Availability of the person (full time, part time, % availability etc).
- Task dependencies – are any tasks dependent on each other?
- It’s good to know the stakeholder expectation of the project delivery.
Step 1: Bare Bones Schedule for the project plan
Open Microsoft Project 2013 and select a blank project plan template. I generally prefer to personalize the field names and having the below fields in my schedule. After you create these fields you can store a copy of the plan as it can re-use any number of times.
Default Field Name
|Name of the task.
|Person / Resource assigned to the task.
|Contains the task ID of the task which needs to be completed before the current task starts.
|The date on which the task is planned to start.
|The date on which the task is planned to finish.
|The duration of the task. It the actual elapsed time.
Example - A person may start on 1-Feb and finish on 5-Feb but might work just for 2 days and take off for 2 days. In this case, the duration will be 5 days but the work will 2 days.
|The effort which we have estimated for the task. This is estimated so can change.
|The effort spent on the task.
|The effort remaining.
|The % of work done. If you update percent complete the Actual Effort and Remaining work will be updated automatically.
Let’s assume you start a task which is 3 days and as you just started the
% Complete will be 0%.
Actual work will 0 days
Remaining Work will 3 days.
After a day if you update the % complete to 50%.
% Complete will be 50%.
Actual work will 1.5 days
Remaining Work will 1.5 days.
|This is my favorite column. This allows you to write free-form text like delayed as machine crashed, a person is sick etc.
Step 2: Build the Schedule or Plan
After you have the schedule ready the next step is to populate it with the information for your projects. Generally, you can group the tasks together and form a phase. A project will have many phases depending on the domain you are currently working in.
I have taken an example of typical a IT Project. I will walk you through on adding a single phase and will leave rest of the phases to you. Please see How to add resources and working times in MS Project to understand how you can resources.
Sample MS Project Plans
Sample MS Project Plans
I have assumed we will have an Analysis Phase with 3 tasks – Documentation, Review and Approve. You can enter the tasks in order and then indent the three tasks as it creates a parent–child relationship.
Indenting is important as effort, duration and other fields for a child will add up to the parent. Updating either the child tasks will roll-up to the parent and visa-versa. It will always be recommended to update the child tasks.
You can have any number of child and sub –child tasks. I would recommend keeping to 2 -3 levels at max. as more than that would make it confusing to maintain. You can add the rest of the phases by yourself. I would also recommend that you use colors to show the different levels of tasks.
If you look at the picture you can see that I have used some colors to highlight the phases. It makes it more presentable and easy to read for the team. You can change the colors for cells like you I highly recommend that you use Traffic light indicators so that people can see where the issue
Selecting Task Owner
Pre Cursor Tasks
After you have defined all your phases. You can start populating the effort estimates. Microsoft Project will calculate the rest of the fields automatically. Then proceed to assign resource names to the tasks. It is very important to configure the dependencies in the tasks so that you can get a good workable schedule.
Step 3: Maintaining the Schedule
The most difficult part of all the tasks. It is important that you keep the project plan updated all the time. I use various techniques like having a planning meeting. Then having daily updates to get the % complete.
I send out daily updates as it will a make sure that the team is aware of the latest changes to the schedule and have it handy when they have a doubt. You should only send the phases in-progress.
Sample Status Update Email
Please see the sample email which I use to send updates. It is a good idea to use baseline feature in Microsoft Project or you can make copies of the plan when you update it.
Below link will take you to an IT Sample Project Plan(MPP) which can be used a template for creating new project plans.
Click here to check out Sample MS Project Plans