Microsoft Project 2010
The official blog of the Microsoft Office product development group. Learn how to manage your work effectively

July, 2008

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Back to Basics: Understanding task dependencies

    • 12 Comments

    In most cases, the tasks in a project are related to each other, and the relationships between them drive the schedule for the project. The relationships between the tasks are called "dependencies." In Microsoft Office Project, you can create dependencies between tasks in the same project, and between tasks in different projects.

    What kinds of task dependencies are available?

    Project offers four kinds of task dependencies: finish-to-start, start-to-start, finish-to-finish, and start-to-finish.

    First, let's talk about finish-to-start (FS) dependencies. This is the most common type of dependency and is the default type of dependency that Project uses. In a finish-to-start dependency, the second task in the relationship can't begin until the first task finishes. So, for example, if you were planning a project to make a wedding cake, you might use a finish-to-start dependency between the "Bake cake" and "Decorate cake" tasks. When the "Bake cake" task is finished, the "Decorate cake" task begins.

    FS

    Start-to-start (SS) dependencies are used when the second task in the relationship can't begin until after the first task in the relationship begins. Start-to-start dependencies don't require that both tasks start at the same time. They simply require that the first task has begun, in order for the second task to begin. Going back to the wedding cake example, let's say you had planned to make the icing for the cake while the cake is baking in the oven. You can't start making the icing until the cake has started baking, so you might use a start-to-start dependency between the "Bake cake" and "Make icing" tasks.

    SS

    If one of your tasks can't finish until another one finishes, you can use a finish-to-finish (FF) dependency between them. Finish-to-finish dependencies don't require that both tasks be completed simultaneously. They simply require that the first task be finished, in order for the second task to finish. The second task can finish any time after the first task finishes. In our wedding cake example, let's say there are some finishing touches to the decorations that you can't finish until the cake is delivered. You can use a finish-to-finish dependency between the "Decorate cake" and "Deliver cake" tasks. When the "Decorate cake" task is finished, then the "Deliver cake" task can be completed.

    FF

    Finally, the start-to-finish (SF) dependency is a little tricky. When you use this type of dependency, you are saying that the second task in the relationship can't finish until the first task starts. However, the second task can finish any time after the first task starts. Going back to our wedding cake example, let's say you have a task for billing the customer. It begins when the customer requests the cake, but it can't be completed until after the cake delivery has begun. You can use a start-to-finish dependency between the "Deliver cake" and "Bill customer" tasks, so that when the "Deliver cake" task has begun, it is okay for the "Bill customer" task to finish.

    SF

    So when you put the entire plan together, with these dependencies intact, the plan might look something like this:

    AllLinks

    How do I create dependencies?

    First, you need to determine whether you want to create a dependency between two tasks in the same project, or between a task in one project and a task in another project.

    If you want to create a dependency between two tasks in the same project, review Create task dependencies (links) within your project.

    If you want to create a dependency between a task in one project and a task in another project, review Create task dependencies (links) across projects.

    Where can I learn more?

    Learn more about task dependencies in the following articles:

    · View and update task dependencies (links) across projects

    · Create and link tasks with Project 2007

    · Watch this: Create a cross-project link

    · Watch this: Link tasks in your project

    · Change or remove task dependencies (links)

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Back to Basics: Understanding summary tasks and subtasks

    • 10 Comments

    When you sit down to think through a project plan, it often makes sense to group the project into several sections. For example, let's say I'm planning a software development project. First, I need to identify the scope for the project, and then write functional specifications documents that detail how the software application should work upon completion. After the specs are written, then the development team gets to work coding the application and handing off builds to the test team. The test team sends the bugs back to the development team for fixing, and eventually a finished product is ready to head out the door to customers. If I take a step back and look at this process, I can identify three distinct phases in my initial description of the work: Planning, Development, and Release. I can represent these phases in my Microsoft Office Project plan using summary tasks and subtasks.

    image

    Looking at this example, the summary tasks are "Planning," "Development," and "Release," and the subtasks are the tasks that are indented below each of the summary tasks.

    How are summary task dates and durations calculated?

    Subtasks determine the start and finish dates for each summary task, as well as the summary task's duration. For this section, let's look closely at the first summary task in the example above, and its subtasks.

    Task Name

    Duration

    Start

    Finish

    Planning 40 days

    Thu 6/26/08

    Wed 8/20/08

         Identify Scope 10 days

    Thu 6/26/08

    Wed 7/9/08

         Write functional specificatin 30 days

    Thu 7/10/08

    Wed 8/20/08

    Duration. The duration of a summary task is the total duration of its subtasks. Using the example above, we can see that the duration of the "Planning" summary task is 40 days, which is the total duration of the two subtasks (10 days + 30 days).

    Start date. A summary task gets its start date from the earliest start date among its subtasks. Using the example above, we can see that the "Planning" summary task takes its start date, 6/26/08, from the "Identify scope" subtask.

    Finish date. The finish date for a summary task is the latest finish date among the subtasks. So, in this example, the "Planning" summary task takes its finish date, 8/20/08, from the "Write functional specifications" subtask.

    What about resource assignments?

    In a typical project, resources are assigned to subtasks, not summary tasks. However, there may be some situations where assigning a resource to a summary task is appropriate. If you decide to assign a resource to a summary task, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

    First, watch out for accidental overallocation. If you assign a resource to a summary task, don't also assign that resource to the subtasks, or the resource may appear overallocated. When dealing with resource allocations, Project treats summary tasks the same as subtasks, so if a resource is 75% allocated to a summary task, and 75% allocated to one of that summary task's subtasks, as well, the resource will appear to be 150% allocated. In actuality, the resource still has 25% availability, but it isn't represented correctly in Project because the resource is assigned to the same task twice.

    Also, if a resource is assigned to a summary task, and that resource's time spent on the subtasks stays the same regardless of how the total duration of the subtasks changes, then that resource should be assigned to the individual subtasks, rather than assigned to the summary task. That is, let's say we have a resource, Ana Pavicic, assigned to the "Planning" summary task from our earlier example. Ana is a contract employee, and is required to log exactly 40 days on the subtasks associated with the "Planning" summary task. Currently, that's just fine, because the two subtasks add up to exactly 40 days. However, let's say the "Identify scope" task ends up taking 15 days instead of 10. The "Planning" summary task's duration increases to 45 days. Ana's assignment to the summary task now exceeds her required 40 day contract. Instead, it is better to assign Ana directly to the two subtasks, so that you can easily maintain control of her exact assignments.

    Additionally, you should refrain from assigning resources to summary tasks if you do task status updates through Project Web Access.  Since summary task dates are driven by their corresponding subtasks, this can cause issues if the resource enters actuals outside of these dates.

    Where can I learn more about summary tasks and subtasks?

    The following resources can help you learn more about using summary tasks and subtasks in your project:

    · Goal: Define phases and tasks

    · Outline tasks into subtasks and summary tasks

    · Display outlined subtasks and summary tasks

    · Assign a resource to a task

    · Create and link tasks with Project 2007

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Announcing the Infrastructure Update for Office Servers

    • 12 Comments

    On July 15th, 2008 Microsoft announced the availability of the Infrastructure Update for Office Servers. The Infrastructure Update for Office Servers is a set of updates to improve platform performance and contain several customer driven fixes. The updates are applicable to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Search Server 2008 & Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Project 2007.

    There are several noteworthy new features and fixes shipped in these updates for Project Server 2007 and Project 2007; specifically:

    Project Server

    • Timesheets and My Tasks stability and usability improvements
    • Queue Management user interface improvements
    • Logging Tracing improvements
    • Project Server performance improvements
    • Project Server 2003 to Project Server 2007 migration fixes
    • Database performance improvements to enhance the cube building process and Project Professional Save/Publish scenarios

    Project Professional

    • Cost Resources calculation fixes
    • Improved Custom Fields stability
    • Improved local Project Cache stability
    • Fixed Excel Import problem

    Please read Project 2007 Infrastructure Update Release for Server and Client to learn about its content in detail.

    The Infrastructure Updates are available as free downloads to customers via the download center on http://www.microsoft.com/download.

    Before you install the Infrastructure Update there are some very important things to understand.  In this post we'll try to provide you with the resources you need to be successful in your updates.  It is essential that you understand the appropriate links, and thoroughly read the guidance and test out the patch in a separate environment prior to a production rollout. 

    Full installation instructions and guidance is provided in the Knowledge Base articles linked from the download pages for each update along with existing TechNet guidance for patching Office Servers. The links are also included further on in this Q&A, but for reference, the following products require the following updates to be applied.

    • If you are running SharePoint Server 2007 you should install the Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695) first and the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) second.
    • If you are running Project Server 2007 you should install the Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695) first and the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) second. You should also then install the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007 (KB951547) on all Project 2007 client PC's.

    Read more about the new SharePoint features here

    Read more about the new Search features here

    Read more about the Content Deployment updates here

    Knowledge Base Articles

     

    Descriptions    
    Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 KB951695

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951695

    Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers KB951297 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951297
    Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007 KB951547 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/951547
    Fixes    
    Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007 KB953751 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953751
    Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 KB953749 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953749

    Installation Instructions

    It is strongly recommended that you install Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Service Pack 1 and Office Servers Service Pack 1 before installing the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) and the Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695).

    The installation process will incur server and farm downtime that you will need to plan for - the updates should be installed on all servers in a farm.

    Downloads

      x64 x86
    Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695) http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=3A74E566-CB4A-4DB9-851C-E3FBBE5E6D6E&displaylang=en http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=256CE3C3-6A42-4953-8E1B-E0BF27FD465B&displaylang=en
    Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=6E4F31AB-AF25-47DF-9BF1-423E248FA6FC&displaylang=en http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=3811C371-0E83-47C8-976B-0B7F26A3B3C4&displaylang=en
    Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007 (KB951547)   http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=F385ADB8-0425-4BA4-BECE-7664B8F49D12&displaylang=en

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Is Office Servers Service Pack 1 (SP1) a prerequisite or installed as part of this fix?
    A: No. Our supportability commitments to customers include providing the ability to install hotfixes on the two most recent versions of a product, in this case RTM and SP1. So installing these updates directly onto an RTM server is not blocked and will install some of the fixes shipped in Office Servers Service Pack 1, but only those that are contained in files that are changed by the Infrastructure updates.

    Q: Can I uninstall the server updates?
    A: No. The Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297) and the Infrastructure Update for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (KB951695) cannot be uninstalled. Both updates make database schema changes.

    Q: Can I install the "Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007 (KB951547)" Project 2007 client update without installing the "Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Servers (KB951297)" on the server?
    A: Yes, the "Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007 (KB951547)" includes fixes for both client/server communication and local client features, so if you don't have Office Project Server 2007 but use Office Project 2007 client this update can be safely installed and you will be able to take advantage of all the client updates.

    Q: Where can I find information on Service Pack 1 for Project Server and Project Professional 2007?

    A: Please check the following: http://blogs.msdn.com/chrisfie/archive/2007/12/12/announcing-the-release-of-epm-2007-service-pack-1.aspx 

    Q: What if I have an issue that isn't addressed by this update?
    A: If your customer has a specific issue that these updates do not address you should follow the Microsoft Support process to log the issue and request a hotfix.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Infrastructure Update and Cost Resource Behavior

    • 7 Comments

    Hello, this is David Ducolon.  You may have noticed that we have just released the post-SP1 “Infrastructure Release” of our software – one of the areas where we’ve made some changes is with Cost Resources, a feature I helped design and continue to own and love the feature area.

    History

    Cost resources were originally designed to fulfill the frequent customer request for more than one task-level fixed-cost entry with additional scope to support cost entry across multiple cost categories and across time for better cost tracking and possible accounting integration..  .

    In keeping with the way in which a Task's fixed cost works, we decided that the cost resource should also be as schedule agnostic as possible.  Meaning the dates from the cost resource assignment should never have an impact on the task dates or level of completeness.  By the time we released Project 2007, we had achieved much of that goal with a couple of known and avoidable things to watch for, more below.  

    After a year of learning

    We’ve been very pleased with the rate of adoption of this new functionality, and especially at some of the more innovative uses in some deployments. However a couple of deployments have had issues with some unexpected side-effects from the implementation which have encouraged us to make some changes, especially around controlling schedule impacts, leading to my new vision:

    Costs displayed should always show the left hand side and right hand side of usage views to be equal.

    This may seem obvious but in Project there are often times when we show a single data value in two places on one screen.  For example, cost of an assignment as a single value on the left and cost of an assignment time-phased on the right.  By making this change cost resources became stable, predictable and above all accurate.

    Enter Project Server into the mix...

    Now I have talked about Cost Resources and Project but noticeably absent was any discussion of Project Server.  Why?  Well resources are assigned in Project and not in Project Server. But we cannot forget Project Server since work is updated via Project Server and with the 2007 release we have enhanced the server to calculate real time schedule updates.

    So why am I mentioning this now?  Because the scheduling and calculation engine of Project Server is unaware of cost resources and in spite of our most valiant efforts; the server may change the actual cost values for cost resources in ways that might seem to be corrupting the data when the feature is not used as designed.  This leads me to our "User Scenarios to Avoid" or "Best Practice Use Cases" rules, follow these and you’ll enjoy success with the Cost Resource feature!

    Rule 1 : Project Managers should avoid assigning cost resources to the same tasks as work or material resources, especially when those work or material resources are going to update their progress in Project Server. <What happens?>

    Rule 2 : Avoid setting your resource default calendar to the 24 hour elapsed calendar since this setting on a cost resource may have unintended results.  Again let me explain: costs do not have a capacity (8 hour or 24 hour work days) like work resources and to limit cost resources to only having a usage value would not allow cost resources to represent revenue.  Therefore; costs will get scheduled under a 24hour calendar with very little regard for individual days in which they were allocated.  And if this is done on a server without work resources on the task the start and end dates become hard to predict.

    The remaining examples are much simpler so I will complete this post with a set of bullet points:

    Rule 3: Do not disable cost calculation (tools\options\Calculation - Actual costs are always calculated by Microsoft Office Project).  This will zero out all costs even the ones you as the user entered for cost resources not just the ones that Project calculated on behalf of you.

    Rule 4: Avoid using undo on the "remaining duration" field for tasks where cost resources are assigned.  Using the undo feature here will alter the cost values in the time-phased side of a usage screen and it does not always accurately restore a previous value of the cost.  So if you insist on using this pay close attention to the cost values before and after.

    And finally here is a last word of caution.  Remember that Project knows what date today is and if you assign costs at a monthly level then be aware that costs for the current month will start on the date for today.  This also applies to assignments that do not start on the first of the month or end on the last day of the month.  Always think of costs at the day level regardless of the UI display scale.  I mention this since at initial release the costs would have been distributed across the full period shown in the UI time scale.

    Well that is all for now. Please reply to this post with any feedback – I’m always looking for suggestions on making this feature as useful as possible!

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Office Online Gadgets

    • 1 Comments

    Just when you thought Windows Live couldn't get any livelier, Microsoft now offers a Web gadget for Project and Office content. Web Gadgets for Office Online are miniature programs that can be placed on a customer's home page allowing instant access to Project content and other Office Online services.  These Web gadgets are now available in Windows Live Gallery and can be added to a user's Windows Live Spaces or my.live.com personalized site.

    Help has never been so close (or livelier) than before.

    clip_image002

    Here is a complete list of all the Web gadgets we now offer:

    1. Office Online Clip Art and Media Search

    2. Office Online Templates Search

    3. Office Online Help and How-to

    4. Office Online Training and Demos

    5. Office Online Blogs

    6. Office Online Columns

    7. Microsoft Office On-Demand Webcasts

    8. Office OFFline Web Comic

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    New Help Content - June/July

    • 1 Comments

    Check out the new help content that has come out over the past month.

     

    Office Online Content and Demo Videos

    Connect with other Project users

    Connecting with the community of Project users has now gotten more interesting with the addition of more community resources.

    Project functions for custom fields

    Examples have been added to this popular article to you customize Project functions and fields.

    Use Project 2007 on Office Live

    You can now use Office Live to share Project files.

    Watch this: Create an inter-project dependency

    Watch the video on creating relationships between groups in your organization through Project dependencies.

    Watch This: Split a view

    Work like the pros. Learn now to split a few for easy task and resource manipulation.

    TechNet Content

    Deploy the Infrastructure Update for Office Project Server 2007

    This article describes how to install the Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project Server 2007.

    Report Data Service optimizations for custom fields

    This article provides some tips and examples that can help optimize custom reporting solutions built for the Reporting Database (RDB) of Office Project Server 2007. If you are interested in building custom views or applying custom indexes on any views in the RDB, read this article for some helper stored procedures that can be used in conjunction with your solutions.

    Project Server 2007 Infrastructure Update Release

    This white paper covers the new features and changes associated with the Project Client and Infrastructure Update for Microsoft Office Project 2007.

    Back up and restore your farm (Project Server 2007)

    With the new Infrastructure Update, the globally unique identifier (GUID) and change log of each content database are retained when you restore or re-attach the database. Therefore, if you are reattaching a recent database version, Search does not need to perform a full crawl to integrate the reattached content database. This is a substantial improvement over the RTM release of the product.

    Best practices for viewing proposals

    This article describes best practices for configuring the Proposals and Activities page in Project Web Access, including tips for obtaining best performance.

    New Community Content option available to articles in TechNet:

    The Community Content feature for Microsoft documentation provides the ability to add and edit content notes, similar to a wiki. Examples include code samples, tips, undocumented scenarios, links to additional resources, etc. Anyone is welcome to contribute or edit content. To get started, we require you register and agree to code of conduct and licensing agreements. At that time, you choose a display name that is used to identify your contributions across this site. More details are available on the Community Content FAQ.

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