Lessons Learned with Microsoft Project (Part 1)

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of the Microsoft Project Made Easy series. For more project management advice, visit the website TacticalProjectManagement.com.

How do project managers first learn how to use MS-Project or another project-scheduling tool? The answer depends on the project manager's experience and an organization's project management support and training. Some project managers have had formal training in project management tools such as MS-Project or Niku's Workbench. Other project managers learn tool implementation through on-the-job usage, self-study or trial and error without the benefit of structured training.


New users to MS-Project often find themselves using MS-Project like a task list, assigning team member names, updating them to be 100 percent complete and changing start and finish dates as a project executes. New users often experience frustration when MS-Project's start and finish dates change and the project manager doesn't know why the change occurred. Once the original dates start to change, the project manager tries to change the dates back and the project schedule becomes jumbled, inaccurate and difficult to understand. Team members appear over-allocated, constraint-warning messages appear and the project plan is out-of-sync with the original timing. The project manager quickly becomes frustrated and concludes MS-Project is not an effective tool. Fortunately, experienced MS-Project users have written books, articles and lesson learned on how to avoid this situation.


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