Project Management Central

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Topics: New Practitioners, Schedule Management, Scheduling, Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)
MS Project Experience/Knowledge
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It seems unavoidable that a Project Manager is asked about MS Project experience when discussing an opportunity.

Now, being a Mechanical Engineer as well, I am accustomed to being asked about 3D CAD software and being criticized for not having experience in such and such software.

Similarly, in Project Management, there are many alternatives available that provide features very similar to MS Project. Some even suggest working with Excel as everyone has it.

How critical is this requirement actually?
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Either MS Project or P6 knowledge gives the PM a leg up. So i'll say its really critical that a PM understands the basics. Using excel won't help much, typical a Scheduler handles MS project or P6 not the PM.
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Initial thought is using MS Project generically. Easily can shift and speak of experience in similar software along with ability to adapt and come up to speed quickly as have demonstrated throughout career. I've been asked similar type questions regarding other types of s/w. I don't make a big deal about it. All organizations have their own specific toolsets. No big deal onboarding with a new one.
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Bogdan -

It really depends on the scheduling standards of the company you are applying for and their delivery approach. If they are following adaptive/agile lifecycles, they may get by without using a traditional CPM-based scheduling engine.

While familiarity with a specific scheduling tool might be asked during an interview or part of a job description, I've never heard of it being a "must have" as it is fairly easy to learn how to use one of these tools - the hard work is facilitating the development of the WBS and network diagram which are the prerequisites for it use.

Kiron
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In my opinion, the software used should not be one of the pressing issues during the interview. The concepts are more important. If the candidate has good knowledge of project management then picking up using a new software should be considered secondary as the candidate would learn it quickly once he hops onto the job.
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Bogdan,
When seeking a PM position, knowledge in Project is a valuable asset. Much like a PMP certification, it shows the prospective employer that you understand the fundamentals of how a schedule works, and is managed.

That being said, I've rarely used Project in over 20 years as an engineer and PM. Many of the suppliers and various technical teams involved in my projects use it to detail out the plan and it is an excellent tool. It's not a great tool to present a plan to the stakeholders however other than, "Wow, look how complex this is. Aren't you glad we have a detailed plan?" As a PM responsible for managing multiple complex inter-related pieces, my job is typically showing at a high level the interfaces and critical path of the various plans, which requires a higher level summary view in a larger font that is readable from the back of a large conference room.

Having used a lot of scheduling tools, including Project, I can become fairly proficient in just about any tool very quickly. When projects are very large, I often have a dedicated scheduler who is an expert in the tool de jour. Without reviewing my whole resume however, being able to say "I am proficient using Project." quickly says that I know my way around scheduling complex projects.
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2 replies by Bogdan Opris and Wade Harshman
Apr 28, 2019 1:08 PM
Bogdan Opris
...
Hi Keith,
Thanks for the input.
I will definitely look into some lectures on how MS Project works.
Get the fundamentals right for the prospective employers!
May 15, 2019 8:54 AM
Wade Harshman
...
I'm in a similar situation. I've found that very few people unlock the potential of MS Project. I haven't used MS Project on a job in years. And yet, I keep buying the upgrades, just in case.
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Apr 28, 2019 12:55 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
Bogdan,
When seeking a PM position, knowledge in Project is a valuable asset. Much like a PMP certification, it shows the prospective employer that you understand the fundamentals of how a schedule works, and is managed.

That being said, I've rarely used Project in over 20 years as an engineer and PM. Many of the suppliers and various technical teams involved in my projects use it to detail out the plan and it is an excellent tool. It's not a great tool to present a plan to the stakeholders however other than, "Wow, look how complex this is. Aren't you glad we have a detailed plan?" As a PM responsible for managing multiple complex inter-related pieces, my job is typically showing at a high level the interfaces and critical path of the various plans, which requires a higher level summary view in a larger font that is readable from the back of a large conference room.

Having used a lot of scheduling tools, including Project, I can become fairly proficient in just about any tool very quickly. When projects are very large, I often have a dedicated scheduler who is an expert in the tool de jour. Without reviewing my whole resume however, being able to say "I am proficient using Project." quickly says that I know my way around scheduling complex projects.
Hi Keith,
Thanks for the input.
I will definitely look into some lectures on how MS Project works.
Get the fundamentals right for the prospective employers!
Network:134



Bogdan
Best thing is try to have MS project and get hand on it during working. As a being Mechanical Engineer you are going through lot many projects. and scheduling may not be constraints but if your project has 100+ activities and think the picture in planning. Currently I am facing problem because of using Excel in our project that project performance is very difficult to determine. But in PM software it might be much more easier.
For start you can plan to have both Excel and MS project then you can decide what is better.
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Bogdan
I would say that using Excel is not an alternative to MS project! You might use Excel to develop a WBS or to prepare and gather important basic scheduling information (like production ratios and out puts) but not to pan the work!
More important than MS Project experience and knowledge is for you to know and master the principles behind it like Critical Path, Task Links etc. I you master the concepts Software is just a tool.
Best
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Yes, it is important for a project manager to have knowledge of the softwares or else it would be difficult for him to chart the duration in which the project will finish. Excel can only create a WBS but with the help of MS project you can easily link the tasks and know the hurdles while resolving the same. Interface between the activities can be easily found.
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I concur with Kiron on this.
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