By Rich Talbot
Nowadays, professionals are increasingly expected to have mastered the principles of project management in addition to their many other talents. Having basic project management skills, at least, is rapidly becoming a requirement for many professionals. In a fast paced working environment, it therefore seems logical to take advantage of available tools, such as Microsoft Project software, which can help to streamline project management activities.
Once a project has been initiated, the planning phase can begin. The next step is to execute the planned tasks and ensure that they are kept on schedule until the final completion date is reached. A successful Project Manager must successfully manage four basic aspects of a project: resources, time, money and scope. Let us briefly consider how Microsoft Project software is designed to assist in the management of these four elements.
The scope of a project refers to the fact that the project itself should be clearly defined from the very beginning. The project scope may need to be adjusted as variables change during the course of events. These changes will have a knock-on effect upon the resources, time scale and budget. Microsoft Project offers a project guide to assist in the setting up of a new project.
Project management involves the effective management of all resources needed for the project. These include personnel, equipment and all materials required for project completion. Microsoft Project allows the user to input all the necessary resources required for the project and assign resources to a particular task. It is also possible to review how efficiently resources are being used.
Any project can be broken down into a list of tasks which need to be performed and approximation of how long each task will take. The principle difficulty is that many of these tasks will need to be performed simultaneously. Microsoft Project allows the user to design and manage Gantt charts, which are very useful for monitoring progress. A PERT analysis indicates the duration of particular tasks. Critical path analysis, which highlights those tasks that dictate the start date and finish date, can also be performed with Microsoft Office software.
Completing projects within budget is a key aspect of project management. Expenses, contingency plans for unexpected costs and potential future profits all need to be considered. Microsoft Project allows you to create a budget for your project and subsequently calculate costs as the project progresses.
It is becoming increasingly important for individuals to have project management capabilities in their armamentarium of talents. It’s important to fine tune your project management skills and potentially enhance your chances of success in the workplace.