Chapter 7. Scheduling

7.6 Microsoft Project Tutorial

The exercise in Table 7.5 has the same activities, durations, and predecessors as the exercise we used to develop a network diagram. In this exercise, we have added different dependencies (not only F-S), lags (a positive number showing a delay), and leads (a negative number showing an earlier start).

Table 7.5: Activities
Activity Duration (week) Dependencies Lag Predecessors
A 1 F-S 0
B 2 F-S 0
C 2 F-S 0 A
D 4 S-S 0 A
E 1 F-S 0 B
F 2 F-S 0 C, D
G 3 F-S 0 E
H 1 F-S 2 weeks G
I 4 F-S 0 G
J 1 F-F -1 week F
K 3

       F-S for H

       S-F for J

5 days for J J, H
L 4 F-S 0 I
M 1

       F-S for K

       F-F for L

1 week for L K, L

When we start a new project on Microsoft Project, it is useful to check “Project Summary Task” under the “Format” tab. MS Project gives the row number zero to the project summary task. The question mark at the end of the duration shows that the duration is estimated.

Project Summary Task row on Microsoft Project
Figure 7.20: Project Summary Task

Besides, just in the very beginning, it is of high importance to check “Critical Tasks” and “Slack” under the “Format” tab (Figure 7.21). When we type the tasks (activities), the Gantt Chart will start to highlight the critical and non-critical tasks in red and blue colors respectively.

Critical tasks and slack options are checked on Microsoft Project
Figure 7.21: Checked critical tasks and slack under the Format tab

As the durations are in weeks, we should change the settings in the Options under the “File” tab. “Duration is entered in” is changed to “Weeks” (Figure 7.22).

Changing the duration unit in Project Options box on Microsoft Project
Figure 7.22: Changing the duration unit

First, we should type each activity on the “Task Name” column and durations on the “Duration” column. Then, we can select the predecessors from the dropdown menu on the “Predecessors” column (Figure 7.23).

Selecting predecessor A by clicking on A on the dropdown menu
Figure 7.23: Selecting predecessors from the dropdown menu

When we finish typing all the activity predecessors, Gantt Chart will be completed on the right side of the window (Figure 7.24). As indicated above, red bars show critical tasks (with zero slack) and non-critical tasks (with slacks). MS Project allows the users to change the colors of the bars.

Gantt chart with red bars showing critical tasks (with zero slack) and non-critical tasks (with slacks).
Figure 7.24: Gantt Chart

For this exercise, we are not changing the “Task Mode”, which is either automatically scheduled or manually scheduled (Figure 7.25). Project summary task is automatically scheduled since it adjusts the duration, and start and finish dates automatically when activity durations and predecessors are typed.

Task mode dropdown menu showing Manually Scheduled and Auto Scheduled on Microsoft Project
Figure 7.25: Task mode

When we double-click a task, the “Task Information” window opens (Figure 7.26). The dependency type is “Finish-to-Start (FS)” as default. Now we can change dependencies as indicated in Table 7.5.

Predecessor tab on task information window. The columns are ID, Task Name, Type, and Lag.
Figure 7.26: Task Information window

When we are done with predecessor types (dependencies), the predecessors with dependencies different from FS will appear on the “Predecessors” column for the relevant activities (Figure 7.27). These dependencies are shown inside a red circle in Figure 7.27.

Predecessors and their dependencies on the Predecessors column on Microsoft Project
Figure 7.27: Predecessors and dependencies

After we change the dependencies, it is important to click “Respect Links” under the “Task” tab since the task mode is manually scheduled and the new dependencies may affect the precedence relationships. As can be seen in Figure 7.28, MS Project highlights the boxes in light blue if there is a change.

Microsoft Project highlights the changes in a light blue color.
Figure 7.28: Highlighted changes

As can be seen in Figure 7.29, the dependency between A and D is not FS anymore D. It is Start-to-Start (SS). Therefore, the arrow starts from the left side of A’s bar on the Gantt Chart and connects to the left side of D’s bar. When it is FS, the arrow starts from the right side of the predecessor and connects to the left side of the successor as can be seen in Figure 7.29 between A and C.


Start-to-Start dependency between two activities
Figure 7.29: Start-to-Start dependency

In order to see the slacks for each activity, we can add a new column named “Free Slack” (Figure 7.30). The black underline attached to the left of Activity C in the Gantt Chart also shows the slack (Figure 7.29).

Free slack column on Microsoft Project
Figure 7.30: Free Slack column

Now we can create an activity network diagram by selecting “Network Diagram” on the dropdown menu that appears when we click the Gantt Chart located on the far-left part of the “Task” tab (Figure 7.31).

Selecting network diagram from the dropdown menu under Gantt Chart icon
Figure 7.31: Selecting network diagram

Figure 7.32 displays the network diagram in a non-collapsed format. We should scroll toward the right to see other activities.

Network diagram when it is not collapsed
Figure 7.32: Network Diagram (Not collapsed)

In order to see the whole diagram without details, we should click “Collapse Boxes” and check “Straight Links” under the “Network Diagram Tools – Format” tab (Figure 7.33). The network diagram in MS Project illustrates the links in FS dependency. Therefore, it is convenient to see other dependencies on the Gantt Chart view.

Network diagram when all the labels on the nodes are removed.
Figure 7.33: Network diagram (Collapsed)


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Project Management by Abdullah Oguz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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