Microsoft Project 2010
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April, 2010

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Assignment Units in Project 2010

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    If you are an experienced project manager then it’s likely that you are familiar with the Assignment Units field. For those who aren’t, Assignment Units determines the rate at which a resource is assigned to work on a task. This field is set to 100% or the Resource’s Max Units (whichever is the lesser of the two) by default, although it can be less or more depending on the needs of the project manager. In Project 2007, and previous versions, when this value differs from 100% we show it next to the resource name in the Gantt chart. For Project 2010 we’ve made some changes to the way that the Assignment Units field is calculated. Primarily, these changes were made in response to customer feedback about the way calculations were impacted when resources entered overtime work. For this release we’ve clarified the definition of the Peak field and the Assignment Units field which previously had some functional overlap but now fill more defined, separate, roles. As a result of these changes the Assignment Units field is no longer automatically modified to be greater or less than default value of 100%; as a consequence the field does not show up in the Gantt chart as often as it used to. This has led to some confusion which I’m hoping to clear up with this post.

    For an example of this, see the two screen shots below in which all the three day, fixed duration tasks were increased to 30 hours of work (up from the initial 24 hours of work) after the resource had been assigned to the task:

    Project 2007 SP2:

    clip_image002

    Project 2010 (Auto Scheduled task and Manually Scheduled task):

    clip_image004

    In Project 2010 we still show Assignment Units in the Gantt when the value is directly altered from 100%, but we have changed the product behavior so that changing scalar work after making an assignment on a task will no longer automatically alter the Assignment Units field as it did in previous versions.

    To understand the new behavior let’s have a short look at the intent and purpose of Assignment Units. When a resource is initially assigned to a task in Project there are three important values that characterize the assignment: duration, assignment units, and total work. The equation that governs the relationship between these three values is one of the core project scheduling functions, sometimes called the “iron equation of scheduling.” It’s defined:

    image

    In this way a resource with the standard 8 hour/day calendar assigned at 100% to a 3-day task would be calculated:

    image

    Thus, the assignment would have 24 hours of total work.

    But as it turns out, in previous versions of Project we were using the Assignment Units field to track two slightly different aspects of the resource assignments on each task:

    · Keep track of the workload initially assigned to the resource as detailed above.

    · Show the maximum workload experienced by or assigned to the resource.

    Because the field was being asked to do two different things users could experience inconsistent behavior around the extending of task duration in versions of the product prior to 2010. To help resolve this inconsistency we’ve leveraged the Peak field which already handles the second function leaving the Assignment Units field free to track the workload as initially assigned. Here’s an illustrative example:

    Let’s say that we have a three day, fixed duration task and let’s assign this task to Steven who’s working with the standard 8 hour/day calendar. When we make the assignment we see that Steven has 24 hours of total work for the assignment. This is how it will appear in Project 2007:

    clip_image010

    And now in Project 2010:

    clip_image012

    So far, things are about the same.

    Now let’s increase the scalar work on the task to 30 hours, that is, change the value for Work in the table on the left from 24 to 30 hours. In both versions we see that the work is distributed evenly (according to the default flat contour) across the three day assignment. Remember, the task is fixed duration not fixed units, so the work assigned will change to accommodate the new increased workload. In Project 2007 the value for Assignment Units increases to 125% to accommodate the change in total work on the assignment:

    clip_image014

    In this example, any increase in the duration of the task would result in work being defined according to the Assignment Units value consistent with 10 hours/day. This is not consistent with the desired behavior for Assignment Units which is to maintain the value at which the resource was initially assigned to the task. According to our iron equation, and customer feedback, the subsequent edit of scalar work should not have caused the Assignment Units value to be altered.

    In Project 2010 we see that the Assignment Units field has remained at 100% which was the workload initially assigned to the resource while the Peak field has changed to reflect the maximum workload on the resource of 10 hours/day:

    clip_image016

    There are two assertions that we have made in the conceptual framework around the scheduling engine that are now better served by the new differentiation between the Peak field and the Assignment Units field:

    · Overallocation should only be indicated when the resource is directly assigned more work than a can be completed at the Max Units allocation. Many users used the Assignment Units field as displayed in the Gantt chart as an indicator of overallocation. This was not always accurate.

    · Increases in task duration should maintain the initial assignment allocation.

    Here are a couple examples that demonstrate these points:

    Overallocation

    Take the previous example’s three day task. Let’s say that Steven worked on the task and entered actuals as shown below. For the first two days he worked 8 hours per day, but on the last day he worked 10 hours to ensure that all work on the task was completed. Here in Project 2007:

    clip_image018

    Note two things here. First, the value for Assignment Units is calculated based on the maximum effort expended by the resource on the task, which in this case is 10 hours on the last day of the assignment. Because of the increase in the value for Assignment Units the relationship between assigned work, duration, and assignment units is not valid for the first two days of the assignment. Additionally, this Assignment Units value will now appear in the Gantt chart seeming to indicate an overallocation even though the Project Manager did not assign Steven to more than 8 hours/day initially. This violates our first scheduling assertion.

    Now let’s examine how Project 2010 handles the scenario:

    clip_image020

    Here we see the Peak field is still 125% which is consistent with the additional actual work on the last day of the assignment. However, the Assignment Units field remains 100% and will not show an apparent overallocation for the resource consistent with the initial allocation. The scheduling assertion that overallocation only be shown when created by the Project Manager is maintained.

    Additionally in Project 2010 we’ve added new UI elements that help users more easily identify when a task contains a resource overallocation. The primary element to demonstrate this condition is the red “overallocation indicator” shown next to the task name in the grid:

    clip_image022

    We’ve also provided the Task Inspector which provides more information regarding issues with the assignment, and guides the user to possible solutions:

    clip_image024

    Increased Duration

    Continuing with the previous example Steven enters 10 hours for the last day of the assignment as previously described and then the Task Duration is extended by two days, the new work would be determined based on the Assignment Units. While this is the correct conceptual behavior we see the following in versions leading up to and including Project 2007:

    clip_image026

    The two new days are assigned at 10 hours per day. It’s unlikely that the Project Manager expects Steven to work at the same rate as he did on Wednesday, so extending the assignment at the rate of 10 hours/day is not expected given the Project Manager’s initial assignment of 8 hours per day. Additionally, the new work has been assigned in a way that will make it impossible for the built-in tools, like resource leveling, to resolve the overallocation and difficult for new/novice users to correct the issue. Simply changing the Assignment Units field back to 100% will not fix the problem; it will just scale the work contour.

    In Project 2010, we see the following behavior:

    clip_image028

    This is more in line with what the Project Manager might expect and consistent with our conceptual framework. New work should be assigned at the original workload, and the resource should not appear over allocated. In this case we see how we are not more consistently following the Iron Equation when it comes to assigning new work to the resource. Here’s the breakdown:

    image

    Where the Peak field captures the max (or “Peak”) assignment value of 10 hr/day for the Wednesday of the assignment.

    Common Questions

    A couple common questions have cropped up around our new behavior in this area, and I’ll try to address them here.

    “Allocation units no longer display in the Gantt!”

    Actually it does. You can still set it manually and it will show up in the Gantt. As previously mentioned some users were relying on the appearance of the Assignment Units field in the Gantt to indicate overallocation on a task but this was not the intended use of the Allocation Units field and was potentially inaccurate way to determine overallocation. Instead we’ve provided the overallocation indicator and the task inspector for this purpose.

    “Why not show the peak field in the Gantt instead of assignment units?”

    The display of the Allocation Units in the Gantt chart was meant to inform the user when they have a resource assigned to a task at a value other than 100%. If we show the Peak field in the Gantt there is potential that it would show up even when the user had initially assigned the resource at 100%. One example would be when accepting actual work updates from my tasks.

    “How is VBA based on the old behavior impacted?”

    Any script that relied on the Assignment Units field showing the maximum value for the assignment on a task should be altered to reference the Peak field for this information instead. Also, note that edits to the duration or timephased work or actual work for the assignment will no longer impact the Assignment Units field. If you want that field to change when any of these values are altered you must now explicitly set the Assignment Units field directly but also note that changes to the Assignment Units field directly will impact the assignment work (fixed duration) or task duration (fixed units) the same way they did in Project 2007.

    “What about fixed units tasks?”

    The only difference between the fixed duration tasks as described in this post and tasks that are defined as fixed units is that when the scalar work on a fixed units task is changed the duration of the task will change to accommodate the additional work. Here’s a demonstration of the “increase scalar work on the task to 30 hours” example from above but using fixed units tasks instead of fixed duration. First Project 2007:

    clip_image032

    And now Project 2010:

    clip_image034

    Because we are working with fixed units tasks, edits to the scalar value for work will not impact either the Assignment Units field or the Peak field. However, if timephased work entry will behave consistent with the behavior observed in the examples for fixed duration tasks.

    Hopefully this clears up some of the questions around the changes made to the Assignment Units behavior in Project 2010. We feel that the end result is more in line with what users expect from the product, and will resolve some longstanding complaints around overallocation and task extension.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Tips and Tricks: Deleting summary tasks

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    One nice thing about summary tasks is that changes to them get reflected (or “rolled down”) to their subtasks. This is fine if you want to move summary tasks around, because all the subtasks move with them. But if you want to delete a summary task, then all the subtasks (and any subtasks under those subtasks in a more complicated outline) are also deleted.

    In a simple project, you might notice the unattended deletions, but it is easy to miss this kind of mistake in a more complicated project. If a complicated project is organized using three phases, for example, deleting one phase can delete one-third of your Project’s tasks. Yikes! That’s no way to handle scope issues.

    The solution: Demote the subtasks to the same level as the summary tasks, then delete the summary task.

    image

    To demote (or outdent) tasks in a outline:

    1   Select the tasks you want to demote.

    2   If you’re using Project 2007, on the Project menu, point to Outline, and then click Outdent.

         If you’re using Project 2010, click the Outdent  image  button on the Task tab.

    3   Delete the former summary task.

    Note   Keep in mind that if you have a complicated outline with more than two levels of indented tasks, make sure you’re starting at the lowest level subtasks before you start deleting summary tasks.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Tips and Tricks: Clean up the Gantt bars

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    Sometimes the details aren’t so important. When people are assigned to tasks, their names by default appear next to Gantt bars. But if the work units are set to a value less than 100%, then this value appears next to the person’s name, as well. Now, this might be OK. But there are times when this can be distracting, like during a meeting where you’re presenting your project to stakeholders, and you’d rather not field questions on what the percents mean.

     

    image

     

    If you want names to appear on the bars, but without the work units appearing, you need to do two things.

    First, you need to format the Gantt bars to display people’s initials rather than their full names. Second, in the Resource Sheet view, you need to replace people’s initials with their names. Ok, that’s a little weird, but that’s the only way. Let’s look at the steps.

     

    First, format the Gantt bars to display initials

    1. In Project 2007, click the Tools menu, and then click Bar Styles.

    In Project 2010, click the Format tab, click the arrow under Format, and then click Bar Styles.

            image  

            Tip    You can also just double click in the blank part of the bar chart to display the dialog box.

    2. In the dialog box, click the Text tab, and in the “Right” row, select the “Resource Initials” field.

     

    image

     

     

    Second, replace the people’s initials with their full names

    1. Switch to the Resource Sheet view.

    2. In the Resource Initials column, replace the initials with the person’s full name.

     

    Now people’s names will appear in the Gantt Bar view, without their work units.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    How do You Report?

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    Project wants to know how you report. As we plan for future product improvements, we want to learn more about how you report on your project’s status today.

    · What tools do you use?

    · How often do you report on your project’s status?

    · What data do you care about?

    · How do you share your reports?

    · What do you find difficult with your current process?

    Please send any information you’d like to share to projrep@microsoft.com Screenshots of the reports you use are very useful too – feel free to blur out any confidential data. For example, we just care to see that your report contains late tasks, we don’t need to see the actual tasks that are late.

    To learn more about Project 2010 reporting improvements, check out this post.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Project 2010 reaches RTM!!!

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    On Friday we reached an exciting engineering milestone – the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) for Project 2010, Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Visio 2010.

    RTM is the final engineering milestone of a product release and a major achievement for all of the internal teams who worked so hard to get to this point. We couldn’t have done it alone though – we would have never reached this milestone without the incredible active participation from our customers and partners. A big thanks to everyone who tested the early releases and gave us feedback along the way.

    Signup for our virtual launch event in less than a month on May 12th. For information here: Microsoft Project 2010 Resources and Content – April 2010

    Eligible Volume Licensing Customers with active Software Assurance (SA), will be able to download the English products via the Volume Licensing Service Center starting April 27. Customers without SA will be able to purchase the new products through Volume Licensing from Microsoft partners starting May 1. You can expect to see Office 2010 in retail stores in June, and can pre-order Office 2010 at http://store.microsoft.com/OfficePreorder today to receive Office when it ships in June.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Microsoft Project 2010 Resources and Content – April 2010

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    The virtual launch of Project 2010, Project Server 2010,  Office 2010, and SharePoint 2010 is right around the corner on May 12th (wohoo!!!!).

    In preparation for the launch, we’ve released tons of content to the web for all audiences. To find out about all the information available, check out Christophe’s post.

  • Microsoft Project 2010

    Who Doesn’t Manage Projects?

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    Ludovic Hauduc, the general manager of Microsoft Project, recently had the opportunity to talk about how the Project 2010 release is aimed at more than project managers.

    To most people, Microsoft Project is only for project management pros. Project 2010, which will ship with Microsoft Office 2010, aims to erase that perception and appeal to millions of Office users worldwide.

    For the full article, click here.

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