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Need experts opinion on the way we do planning

9 replies [Last post]
Evgeny Z.
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I have several years of experience working as project manager as well as using MS Project.

But I am not sure, that the planning technique we are using in organization is “the state of the art” one.

I will appreciate if experienced planners can comment on the way we (I ) do the planning using MS Project.

Program setup in MS Project

1) Our group runs several projects, using the same pool of people, therefore we use “resource sharing” in MS Project. There is one dedicated file, which has only resources (no schedule). All individual projects are setup to use resource sharing with this file.

2) There is separate “project” with people’s vacations and holidays. In this project individual vacation is just an activity, to which person is assigned 100%

Stages of planning

1) I 1st make project schedule without resources (only with durations). This is because in our business the duration of activity pretty much doesn’t depend on amount of people involved.
2) Then I assign resources using general names (e.g. Systems Engineer, Field Engineer etc)
3) Once it is done, I check the total budget needed (in man hours).
4) After that I start looking at all tasks and start replacing a generic resources with specific ones on task by task basis (e.g replace Systems Engineer on task “Design system” with Richard Smith )
5) Then I start manual work of resource balancing. I look at the shared resource file and check for resource over allocation / under allocation. I use the following techniques to fix resource over allocation:
a. Assign a task to somebody else
b. Manually delay task (start not earlier then), if the task has a slack.
c. Manually split task
6) I never let MS Project to do resource leveling, because you never know what he has done (or may be I just didn’t master the technique yet).

So, if you have any comments of how the things can be done better of different – I will appreciate them.

Replies

Darren Kosa
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Hi Giles,

The only thing I would add to your comprehensive list is keep a log of the scheduling assumptions you make during the project lifecycle and review it periodically to ensure that they still hold water.

It also ensures that anyone who takes over from you has a clear understanding of how the schedule has been developed.

Regards,

Darren
Mike Testro
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Joined: 14 Dec 2005
Posts: 4409
Hi Giles

Vladimir and I had a robust discussion on resource levelling and came out about even.

I never trust the software to level resources because you just don’t know what it is doing to your project.

I set up the chart view to show:

1. Trade filter to be levelled
2. Resource histogramm
3. Float Column
4. Gang size - allocation column

In the time period where there is an over allocation - adjust the gang size until the resouce is at the correct level and there is still float.

Keep rescheduling.

I referred to this technique as "piano playing" Vladimir said that on his programmes it would be more like an organ.

Spider may well do the job better - damn clever chaps those Russians.

Best regards

Mike Testro

If you have to reduce the gang size on critical activities then you will over run.
Giles,
if you need reliable resource levelling try Spider Project (Demo can be downloaded from http://www.spiderproject.ru/demo_e.php).
In any case please remember my advice on creating Typical Fragments Library. It helps a lot.
Evgeny Z.
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Blair,

thanks. Fo you have any tool in mind, which you trust more to do resource leveling, then MSP?
Gordon Blair
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Giles,

Pretty much concur with Mike, unless and until your team sizes become so large that steps 5a,b,c become unwieldy, the only room for improvement is with your Planning Package. However, if your comfortable with MSP and can make it do the job you require, there’s no real pressing need to change.

and i never trusted it to auto level when I used it either ;)
Mike Testro
User offline. Last seen 15 weeks 1 day ago. Offline
Joined: 14 Dec 2005
Posts: 4409
Hi Giles

You do not need any guidance from me - in fact you have taught me a thing or two already.

The only advice I can give you is ditch Microsoft Project and invest in PowerProject.

Best regards

Mike Testro
Hi Trevor,
you gave good advice for working with MS Project. But I don’t agree with your first point that
"There is no need to explain why you start with the Duration estimate, because this is the correct starting point regardless."
You are right only if activity duration does not depend on assigned resources. In other case initial information is the quantity of work to be done and the number and productivities of assigned resources. Activity duration become a calculated field.
Best Regards,
Vladimir
Trevor Rabey
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Giles,

Step 1 is good. There is no need to explain why you start with the Duration estimate, because this is the correct starting point regardless. Get a duration first so the Task is almost completely defined schedule-wise and you have a starting point to work from and then the Resources, Assignments, Work and Cost are the icing on the cake. Contrary to some advice you might receive, don’t start with Work.

Step 2 is good, although you could skip it and go straight to assigning the real people at Step 4.
Step 3 is good.
Step 4 is a must.
Step 5a is good.
Step 5 b and c and 6 are where it all looks unnecessarily very messy and handraulic.

You don’t need any alternative software to make leveling reliable, just some practice. You can tweak leveling by using Priority and the Leveling options.
Start by turning off all the options in the check boxes.
Leave them all off until you need them, and try to avoid needing them.
Test them one at a time to make sure you know what they do.
Set Priority on every Task and force leveling to delay Tasks in an order exactly to your taste.

Use the Leveling Gantt to see the Leveling Delay etc.
Make a new Table which shows the delay and leveling related fields.
2) There is separate “project” with people’s vacations and holidays. In this project individual vacation is just an activity, to which person is assigned 100%

Stages of planning

1) I 1st make project schedule without resources (only with durations). This is because in our business the duration of activity pretty much doesn’t depend on amount of people involved.
2) Then I assign resources using general names (e.g. Systems Engineer, Field Engineer etc)
3) Once it is done, I check the total budget needed (in man hours).
4) After that I start looking at all tasks and start replacing a generic resources with specific ones on task by task basis (e.g replace Systems Engineer on task “Design system” with Richard Smith )
5) Then I start manual work of resource balancing. I look at the shared resource file and check for resource over allocation / under allocation. I use the following techniques to fix resource over allocation:
a. Assign a task to somebody else
b. Manually delay task (start not earlier then), if the task has a slack.
c. Manually split task
6) I never let MS Project to do resource leveling, because you never know what he has done (or may be I just didn’t master the technique yet).

Hi Giles,
I do it differently but I use different software and can rely on automated levelling.
But I want to suggest you to create a set of typical fragments - small projects modelling typical processes that are repeated in your projects. I am sure that such processes exist though you did not write about your application area.
Generic resources can be assigned in these fragments.
Besides it is useful to create a set of WBS templates.
It is easier and more reliable to create project models inserting typical fragments in your projects. I think that in MS Project it can be done using copy and paste.

You described very hard work that shall be repeated each time aftr entering actual data. The schedule will slipped and you will again move activities manually. I think that your projects are rather small, in large projects manual planning is just impossible.