Sunday, December 12, 2010

5 Reasons to Upgrade to MS Project 2010

MS Project 2007 was a mess. A usability nightmare. Simple things required complicated workarounds. Simple features weren't available at all (recurring task anyone?). It lived in it's own world, oblivious to cousins Excel and Powerpoint. And for Interactive Producers and Project Managers, it simply wasn't an efficient tool for short, fast planning and resource allocation. But it is still the king of Gantt Charts and project planning, the hammer in the Producer toolbelt.

So this week we've upgraded to MS Project 2010. There's clearly been a lot of work on the usability front, all new features, and improved integration across the Microsoft Suite. So if your IT Manager is sitting on those licenses and not willing to update, here's five reasons you should get on their case -

1. Calendar Nonworking Days

Under the tab 'Change Working Time' you now have the option to set work holidays and nonworking days from a simple calendar view. Create a work holiday calendar, that can apply to all future projects. You can even schedule recurring half-days for your Summer Friday's via the Work Weeks tab.

2. Set Recurring Meetings

Finally you now have the option to set recurring tasks. This is godsend if you have regular meetings, client reviews or production tasks. They have borrowed the feature from Microsoft Outlook for this, and you can set by day of week, number of recurrences to a specific end date, and the duration. Simple.

3. Plan by Resource availability, not Tasks.

A totally new View has been added which lists Resources down the page, rather than Tasks. You can create tasks on the fly via the Task button, which by default sit in an Unassigned Tasks footer. Using the standard click and drag function or by right clicking, you can then assign these tasks to users, based on where you see availability. It's a lot more visually pleasing, and also provides visual cues for things like when a user is overbooked, or if there are scheduling conflicts. I'd envisage Microsoft will continue to grow and improve this View, it's a great way to schedule small tasks quickly and easily across a team.

4. Export Project Summary to Powerpoint

Ever find yourself recreating your detailed Gantt Chart in a simple Powerpoint view so that your client can understand it? Then you'll love this feature. Called 'Timeline', it's an addition to the Gantt Chart View. Sitting at the top of the page, it collects Summary tasks and presents them in a simple view to summarize the project key dates. You can edit this view, and add any of your tasks that you think a stakeholder will be interested in knowing, e.g key milestones, through a simple check-box list. Once you're done, you can then cut and paste this chart into your Powerpoint presentation and style away, knowing the dates, titles and durations are all consistent with your project plan. Boom.

5. User-controlled Scheduling

This is one of the biggest leaps from the 2007 version, called 'User-controlled' or 'Manual' scheduling. Essentially rather than have MS Project shuffle the task start and end times around based on default rules (the now call this 'Auto Scheduling'), it allows you to have complete control over start-end times, dates and durations. This may be confusing at first for long time Project users (you can easily toggle to Auto Scheduling via a drop-down in the footer), but I find this brilliant when importing a pre-completed schedule from Excel. Any conflicts or scheduling concerns are underlined in red or green for you to decide if you would like to adjust.