Friday, 2 December 2011

Project Planning

As a contractor, I have found that there is no standard tool for planning my projects. I can understand this as every project is unique and different companies work in different ways in terms of planning and reporting.

When I tell people that I am a project manager, they often jump to the conclusion that I am an expert with the well know software package, Microsoft Project. Well, I can say that I can use the software, but it is sometimes too much to use for smaller projects and too difficult to use for some larger, more complex projects.

In terms of reporting from MS Project, I like the way that the project can be broken into phases and a percentage complete can be marked against each task within a phase to give the Phase Percentage Complete, which in turn is used to calculate the Project Percentage Complete.

A tip that my first Project Management mentor taught me was to NEVER mark a task as a percentage complete, other than 0% or 100%. Something he installed in my thinking was that a task is either complete, or it isn't. If you want to mark the task as a part-completed, he told me to add sub tasks and mark each of those as either complete, or not. This way you can see a true reflection of the tasks that need to be monitored.

I find sending out a project plan is a little difficult. Most people,other than project managers, do not have MS Project, or even a viewer installed on their machines. This usually results in me printing the plan to pdf, which usually does not work very well. For this reason, I tend to use Excel to define the high level project plan and to show the progress. This was a tip passed on to me from an Australian college at a previous workplace. It is clear and simple, plus everyone in the company tends to have MS Excel installed.

What tools do you use and how do you share your project plans and progress?

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