Sunday, 28 December 2008

Good planning techniques

A few things that you may wish to bear in mind when planning your project;

  1. Minimize number of assignments per task to say 1-2 assignments.
  2. Do not mix Resource Type assignments on common tasks. Split/create different tasks/assignments as necessary.
  3. Resource assignment (task) durations should be reasonable say 2-5days. Use re-occurring tasks as necessary to split larger single assignment durations.
  4. Use multiple ‘annual’ projects for long running assignments.

Hope this helps….

Task Planning: best-practice tips for Microsoft Project users

Here is a great article from Andy Jessop……….

Once you’ve created your project and have the basic building blocks of it in place, the next thing to do is define the tasks that allow the project to meet its aims. As with most aspects of using Microsoft Project, a little time (and thought) at this stage will pay you back many times over when your project plan is implemented.

Below you’ll find a handful of best-practice tips and tricks, gained over many years of experience in working with people who plan real-world projects using Microsoft Project as their project management tool of choice.

1. Plan from the top down

The easiest way to plan and manage a project is to start by thinking about the overall project deliverables and then successively break down each element into greater detail.

As you’ve already defined your overall project information (within the Project Information dialog box), your next step is to list the key deliverables that will make up your project.

If you’ve created your project from a template, common deliverables may already have been defined for you. If not, then simply list them on your Gantt chart in approximately the order in which they will happen. Don’t worry about exact sequencing at this stage, this will be explained in step 4 below.

If you’re not sure what your key deliverables are, take a look at your project documentation; for example a “Project Charter”, “Terms of Reference” or “Project Initiation Document”. Within these documents should be listed the key areas of your project that you will be measured against and will also contain the scope items that will be of interest to your project’s sponsor.

2. Add tasks and milestones

With top level entries listed (initially as simple tasks); you should now start adding the detailed tasks to accurately describe your project’s scope. An ideal way to do this is to take each top level entry in turn and break it down into several sub-deliverables.

Try to ensure that each sub-deliverable is measurable and can be allocated to a team member (or members) to perform. This breaking down of work is commonly known as ‘outlining’ and is similar in function to outlining a Word or PowerPoint document using the Indent and Outdent buttons.

Regarding detail, don’t be tempted to create tiny tasks with unnecessary detail in them – remember that every bit of detail you create here will have to be tracked and managed later on in the project’s lifecycle.

Don’t forget that you can use Task Notes to list detailed information about each task. If you are in an EPM environment, Task Notes are published automatically to team members assigned to relevant tasks.

Finally, don’t forget the project’s timescale in relation to detail. Tasks that happen early on within the lifecycle can be planned to greater detail than those nearer the project’s end (which has still to be accurately defined) – especially if the project is to last several months. Many successful projects are planned using this ‘rolling wave’ principle, with additional task and assignment detail added as the project progresses through its lifecycle.

Now, look at adding key milestones. These milestones may already be defined as part of a project template. If they aren’t, simply insert new tasks and make their duration values zero days.

Try to have milestones scheduled when major pieces of work (or expenditure) have concluded or are about to happen. Also place milestones at key decision points within the projects lifecycle.

One note on naming conventions; milestones are easier to read if they follow a noun-verb convention e.g. “Testing completed” or “Testing can commence”; task descriptions make more sense if they follow a verb-noun convention e.g. “Conduct user acceptance tests”.

3. Enter durations against tasks

With tasks, summary tasks and milestones listed, you should now enter best-guess duration values against tasks. Don’t worry about too detailed an estimate at this stage; remember that the resource assignments which you will subsequently add can change task duration values.

When entering durations, don’t forget that you can drag task bars directly on the Gantt chart. Do be careful when dragging to use the correct cursor. The one to choose has a single arrowhead and can be found when you hover the cursor over the right of a task’s bar.

The other two cursors, a percent symbol or a 4-way arrowhead (which can be found when you hover the cursor over the left and middle of a bar respectively) will either add percent complete progress to the task or schedule the task with a ‘Start No Earlier Than’ constraint.

If you’re following the ‘rolling wave’ principle explained above, consider having large duration values for tasks late in the project’s lifecycle. These tasks will invariably be broken down into smaller tasks with more discrete duration values as and when more detail about the project is known.

Another useful technique is to mark these large-duration tasks as being ‘Estimated’. When a duration is estimated, a “?” symbol is appended to the task’s duration. You can use the ‘Tasks With Estimated Durations’ filter to select tasks that are flagged as estimated.

4. Link related tasks together

Once you’ve defined your tasks, you should next place them in a logical sequence by linking them together. The easiest way to do this is to click on a predecessor task, hold down the CTRL key and then click on its successor task. Then click on the Link Tasks button on the Standard toolbar so that the successor will be scheduled to start once the predecessor is complete.

By linking this way, you can quickly create your project’s schedule, confident that tasks will happen in the correct sequence, especially if tasks or milestones have multiple predecessors or successors.

An alternative (and intuitive) way to link tasks is to drag a link from predecessor to successor. You should however drag with care. Use the 4-way arrowhead and initially drag up or down, but not left or right. The cursor will change to a link icon, which you can then drop on a successor task’s bar.

Try to ensure that the predecessor and successor bars are both visible on screen. If you have to scroll off screen, do be careful as scrolling can be very rapid. If sudden scrolling loses your position on the screen, don’t panic. To get your task bars back in view, just click on the Go To Selected Task button on the Standard toolbar.

Using this approach you’ll create a structured project plan encompassing all the relevant summary tasks, subtasks and milestones. By giving the tasks duration values and linking related tasks to each other, you’ll be well placed to identify which tasks are critical to you completing your project on time.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

EPM Database Maintenance Tasks

After you deploy EPM2007 in your production environment, I would highly recommend you have a SQL maintenance plan in place which includes;

  • Backup
  • Check DB integrity
  • Rebuild Index (-> update statistics)
  • History cleanup
  • Maintenance cleanup

Those who are not hard core SQL DBA’s, contact me and I will email you some simple scripts that will help improve your system performance.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Naming Convention - Special Characters

List of special characters (non Alpha-numeric) not to be used in names of entities (project names, resource names, custom field and values etc);


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Resource Types - Codes

For developers creating queries and SQL reports, this might be useful to know;

‘Res_TYPE’ field values in Published DB

1 - User NOT resource

2 - WORK Enterprise Resources

20 - Generic WORK Enterprise Resource

21 - MATERIAL Enterprise Resource

26 - COST Enterprise Resource

51 - BUDGET COST Enterprise Resource

101 - Inactive User (not resource)

Monday, 10 November 2008

Rules for Deploying Shared Service Provider

Before deploying an SSP, you will need a thorough understanding about the rules for deploying them. This topic discusses the rules for deploying SSPs.

The rules are as follows:

  1. You can associate each Web application with one SSP only. To associated specific web application to a particular SSP, Change Associations is used. All WSS site collections and sites under the associated Web application inherit the use of the SSP. It is required that you associate all Web applications to SSPs. When you create the first SSP in your farm, the SSP is marked as the default SSP for the farm. All Web applications that do not have an explicit SSP assigned use the default SSP.
  2. The application pool identity accounts of Web applications that will need to use a shared service from an SSP must be granted access to the SSP. The details can be specified in the SSP properties page as shown below.
    When you create a Web application, the application pool identity of the Web application is automatically associated with the default SSP.
  3. All shared services exist as a tightly bound cluster of services. This means that if you create a SSP, it will contain all services. These services include user profiles, Excel services, BDC, search, and usage reporting. All shared services are turned on at the SSP level. For example, you cannot turn off the Search service and expect all other shared services to work correctly.
  4. Every SSP you create must have an associated administration site. The administration site is used for managing application level settings and configurations for the SSP.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

EPM Vs Project Standard

Why use EPM instead of Microsoft Project Standard?

EPM Provides a Centralised working environment to manage projects/activities. Benefits by Roles;

Project Managers (PM)

  1. Use of Standard Enterprise work structure templates to plan projects/activities.
    • PMs simply select the most appropriate template to create their project plan or activity plan.
    • The templates have the 'core' work structure, with estimated durations and dependencies, already setup. PMs need to modify start date and certain key aspects of the new project.
    • Standard Enterprise Views for data entry/update. Consistent approach used by all PMs.
  2. Use of Standard Enterprise Views for monitoring and tracking project/milestone progress. Consistent approach used by all PMs.
    • Approving TM updates automatically updates projects
  3. PMs can manage associated Project Documentation, Risks and Issues in a central secure location. The Risk and Issues can be assigned to other members of project team to monitor/track and resolve. Project Artefacts can be linked to tasks/activities on projects.
    • Security/Access Control can be tightly controlled by owner
    • Project Artefacts are version managed.
    • Alerts for changes
    • Discussions, Wikis, Surveys
    • Workflow can set configured (MOSS)
  4. Existing Business Processes can be Mapped to EPM processes. In using EPM, Project Managers can reduce time taken for planning, monitoring and tracking projects/activities whilst helping the business achieve the overall objective of improving the Project delivery/Management maturity level.
  5. Status Reporting - Built-in workflow to request and collate updates from TMs
  6. Built-in workflow to automatically disseminate individual assignments from a project
  7. Use of Enterprise Baselines to track programme/project portfolio performance

Programme Managers

  1. Programme Managers can create cross-project dependencies (Hard and Soft)
  2. Review rolled-up progress on programmes and publish executives

Portfolio Managers (PPM)

  1. Project Portfolio Managers can review progress on all their projects/activity plans in their department/division

Team Members (TM)

  1. TMs can review detail of multiple projects they are working.
  2. TMs can collaborate on Project/Activities;
    • TMs review their 'work-stack'/assignments across multiple projects
    • TMs report progress on projects assignments
  3. Contribute in Project Status Reporting
  4. Subscribe to built-in work-flows for Alerts and notifications (Tasks and Status Reports)
  5. Subscribe to scheduled reminders for changes in artefacts or status of tasks.
  6. TMs can work on project documentation associated with Project
  7. Review and update project documentation
  8. Review, monitor and update project risk and issue status.


  1. As a by-product of PMs' managing projects in EPM, executives/managers gain 'real-time' visibility of Milestone/Phase and project progress, via flexible/customisable reports/views.
  2. Executives can collaborate on Project artefacts (documents, risks and issues)
  3. Built-in Workflow for requesting Status reports from PMs


  1. Ability Manage best practice for planning by maintaining the templates based on completed project performance i.e. following LL and EOP report.
    • Improving on best practice and consistency of Project Management including planning is key progressing up the CMMI scale.

Resource Managers

  1. EPM maintains a common ERP which is used by PMs to resource their projects
  2. Manage Proposed and committed resource requirement on projects
  3. As a by-product of PMs' managing projects in EPM, Resource Managers gain 'real-time' visibility of their resource demands.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Assignment Owner

There are situations where the team members that are doing the actual work on tasks do not have ready access to a computer. This makes their use of Project Server Web Access to report status on their task assignments impossible or at least highly unlikely. In the past situations like this would require assigning the tasks to a supervisor and then having the supervisor submit status for the resources. But this was not a great solution as it obscured the usage levels of the actual resources and was confusing for the supervisor to keep track of who was assigned to any given task. Project Server 2007 adds a feature that makes this kind of situation much easier to handle.

Every Assignment on a project in Project Server has a property called "Assignment Owner" that contains the name of the Project Server user that will be entering status updates for that assignment. If the Assignment Owner for an assignment is "Brian Kennemer" then it will show up on my "My Tasks" page in PWA. Every resource in Project Server has a property called "Default Assignment Owner." This property defines the default name that is put into the Assignment Owner field when that resource is assigned to a task. By default it is the name of the resource but you can put any active user into the field for a resource. So in our situation above the solution would be to put the name of the supervisor into the Default Assignment Owner field for each of their team members. Then whenever a task is assigned to one of the team members that assignment will show up on the My Tasks page of the supervisor.

With this solution the tasks are assigned to actual team members so their usage and availability can be accurately tracked and the assignments show up on the supervisors My Tasks page for easy status updates (the name of the assigned resource shows up in the view to help the supervisor keep track.)

Monday, 13 October 2008

SQL Server and database collation

The SQL Server database collation must be configured for case-insensitive, accent-sensitive, Kana-sensitive, and width-sensitive. This configuration is used to ensure file-name uniqueness consistent with the Windows operating system. For more information about collations, see "Selecting a SQL Collation" or "Collation Settings in Setup" in SQL Server Books Online.

  • Latin1_General_CI_AS_KS_WS

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Microsoft Project 2007 specifications

If you are interested in knowing the limitation then read on….

The following specifications are supported when you run Microsoft Office Project 2007 on Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista, although actual limits and performance speed depend on your computer's configuration.

Note   Out-of-memory errors may occur before you reach the listed limits.



Resources per project


Resource units per assignment

60,000,000 units or 6,000,000,000%

Resource availability dates


Tasks per project


Task dependencies per project

No limit

Predecessors per task


Successors per task


Outline levels per project


Consolidated projects


Open project files per consolidated project


Sharer files connected to a single resource pool


(That is, the maximum number of open project files, minus 1 for the resource pool itself.)

Open windows


Base calendars

Tested to 30,000+

Calendar exceptions per calendar

Testing was able to add more than 15,000 exceptions to a base calendar.

Rate tables to support varying pay scales and rates

5 per resource

Variable rates per rate table to support rate increases and decreases


Cost value in a currency field


Work value

1,666,666,666 hours

Assignment work values for work assignments

999,999,999 hours

Assignment work values for variable material assignments

999,999,999 units

Assignment work values for fixed material assignments

60,000,000 units

Custom cell formats


Print scaling adjustment range percentage


Page header text

5 lines

Page footer text

3 lines

Page legend text

3 lines

Page legend text box width

5 inches (12.7 centimetres)

Filter tests per filter


Filter tests per AutoFilter

2 per column

Earliest date allowed for calculation

January 1, 1984

Latest date allowed for calculation

December 31, 2049

Discontinuous selections in a sheet view




Characters in a text field


Characters in an outline code field


Values and characters in an Enterprise Resource Multi-Value (ERMV) field

255 values, each of 255 characters

Value in a number field


Monday, 1 September 2008


Topics covered;
EPM Blog
EPM Solution
EPM Solutions
Microsoft EPM
Microsoft EPM Solution
Microsoft EPM Solutions
Microsoft Enterprise Project Management Solution
Microsoft Enterprise Project Management Solutions
Resource Management
Project Management
Project Cost and Budget Management
Microsoft Project Server
Microsoft Project Portfolio Server



Project Solution Ltd (PSL)

PJ Mistry
PJ MIstry Blog

Other Sites/Blogs;