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Structuring/Planning a project without "Start" / "Finish"

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John Flix
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Joined: 8 Jan 2018
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Dear reader,

occasionally I go back from my daily Software-Projectmangager practice to read some theory.

Once again, I stumbled on a link like this:

especially at:  DON’T Use the Start and Finish Columns. 

To be honest:  I do not understand it.


To give you an simplified idea on what I am planning as SoftwareProjectManager:


a) I get a SW-Project to plan    b) I break it down in a WBS    c) I calculate costs, assign resources,.... and more    d) I do a realease-planning


Finally, my MsProject-Plan looks like this:

  1. Delivery/Release 1
    1. Create this component       by Resource 1         from  5.April to 7.Jun4 18
    2. Create that component      by Resource 2        from   8.April to 20.April 18
    3. .....
  2. Delivery/Release 2
  1. Test this     by Resource 4         from  15. July to 20.Aug 18
  2. Test that     by Resource 3        from   20. May to 25.June 18


This is basically my approach.  But now, "this link" says:  To NOT fill START and FINISH.  Instead, "Link tasks together". And: My Releases have a fixed due-date. They should not be floating !?


Do you have any first idea/link/explanation available for me ?


Tom Boyle
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Joined: 28 Nov 2006
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Welcome to Planning Planet.  The majority of the folks on this site are practitioners of logic-based project planning and scheduling.  In this regime, virtually all dates are OUTPUTs.  The controlling inputs are volumes of work, activity definitions, durations, logical sequencing, and applied resources (including production rates).  Inputting dates to the schedule - typically using date Constraints - has the potential to override the logic-based schedule calculation that leads to a more valid forecast of project outcomes.  Consequently, it is best to restrict the application of the various types of constraints to only those cases where they are specifically required (and justified/documented) to meet project objectives. 

In the blog that you linked, the writer advises planners to avoid making manual entries in the task Start and Finish fields in Microsoft Project schedules. That's because MSP automatically converts most such entries into date Constraints, destroying any pretense of logic-based planning and scheduling of the project.  The advice is good for those seeking a logic-driven project schedule.

The approach you describe above is manual scheduling - it's what humans do.  Instead of using the power of the computer to compute the dates and floats based on key inputs, you are estimating them in your head and skipping straight to the end.  In effect, you are using MSP as a bar-chart drafting tool.  Manual scheduling is intuitive, requires little effort, and can lead to perfectly adequate schedules for simple projects.  MSP also makes it easy.  If that's your world, then continue on.