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Introduction

Introduction

Is This the Book for You?

Absolutely…if you have to plan how to coordinate a lot of different activities and people to reach a specific goal—and if you're already planning to use Microsoft Project 98 to help you do it. If you're still undecided about using project management software, or about which software to use, then this book will show you how instrumental Microsoft Project 98 can be to the success of your project. This book is as much for those who support the manager of the project as it is for the manager.

Almost every adult has to organize a project at some time. It's common enough in the workplace: planning conferences and conventions, a move to a new office, the introduction of a new product, the construction of a skyscraper, a landing on the moon, that sort of stuff. I've even known people to use Microsoft Project to plan weddings and the remodeling of their home. (The wedding was great, thank you; the remodeling is finally just a painful memory.) And if the stars on Touched by an Angel don't whip out a laptop on camera, you can bet the producers do so to coordinate all the details that go into filming the travails of those poor lost souls. Why, just what do you think made it possible for Him or Her to pull off a Creation in just six days? But, I digress…

Microsoft Project is a great friend to have if you are responsible for putting together a plan of action for reaching a goal (or if you are the one who supports the person with that responsibility). It helps you block out the big picture and then fill in and organize all the details that must be completed if the goal is to be reached. Of course, you have to provide the inspiration; but Project helps you capture your thoughts in an organized way so that you can turn them into a workable plan. Working with Project, you can easily estimate completion dates for each task or phase of the project, ensuring that you complete your project on time.

If you assign people and other resources to the tasks, Project will show you who's working when, and how much the project is going to cost, and it will alert you when someone's assignment schedule is beyond reason—the stuff that only a slave-driver's dreams are made of.

When work finally gets started on your project, you can update the schedule with the actual dates as tasks are started and completed, and Project will recalculate the schedule, showing you the implications when tasks are finished late or early.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, if you use Microsoft Project you will be able to print reports throughout the planning and production stages that illustrate and explain your plan and the progress that's being made. As you know, if more than one person is involved, good communication is essential to success.

This book is designed to help you quickly gain control of the planning, implementation, and recording of your project. All the essentials for using Microsoft Project 98 effectively are included, but I've omitted as much theory as possible, giving you only as much as you need to make good choices. If you need more details, you should see my comprehensive guide Special Edition Using Microsoft Projectm 98, published by Que.

How This Book Is Organized

Part I, "Getting Started with a Basic Schedule" (Hours 1 through 3), gets you up and running quickly with Microsoft Project 98. You learn early how to manage the main screen that displays project data, how to start a new project, and how to put together the list of tasks or things to do in the project.

Part II, "Developing the Timeline" (Hours 4 and 5), shows you how to give Microsoft Project the information it needs to turn the list of tasks into a reasonable schedule of dates for working on the tasks.

Part III, "Displaying and Printing Your Schedule" (Hours 6 through 8), shows you some of the alternative ways you can view a project in Microsoft Project 98 and then shows you how to get printed reports and copies of the project that look the way you want them to look.

Part IV, "Assigning the Resources and Costs to Tasks" (Hours 9 through 13), is where you learn how to let Project know who is going to do the work, when they are available, and how much it costs to use them and the other resources they need to do the work. This section also deals with how changes in resource availability and assignments can affect your schedule.

Part V, "Finalizing and Publishing Your Plan" (Hours 14 through 16), covers the steps you should take to review and optimize your plan. You will also see how to generate reports that explain the project in varying levels of detail, including how to publish your project on Web pages.

Part VI, "Managing and Tracking the Project" (Hours 17 and 18), explains how to track progress after the work is underway and how to analyze the progress to help keep things on track.

Part VII, "Beyond One Project, One Application" (Hours 19 through 21), expands your horizons to include combining multiple project plans into a master plan, using the workgroup features of Project to communicate changes and progress via email and the Internet, and exchanging data between Microsoft Project and other software applications.

Part VIII, "Customizing Microsoft Project" (Hours 22 through 24), shows you how to create your own reports and views of the project data, how to create macros to automate processes, and how to customize the toolbars and menus.

Conventions Used in This Book

This book uses the following conventions:

Text that you type and text that you see onscreen appear in monospace type:

It will look like this.

Note

A Note presents interesting information related to the discussion.


Tip

A Tip offers advice or shows you an easier way to do something.


Caution

A Caution alerts you to a possible problem and gives you advice on how to avoid it.


New terms are introduced using the New Term icon.

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