Microsoft Project Tutorial Part 16 – Being fooled by a Gantt chart
One of my biggest problems with Microsoft Project is that almost everyone can fool others (and themselves) by showing a Gantt chart, which is not thought through. It looks so valid!
As I explained in previous posts, one of my main reasons for giving these classes is to educate people about how hard it is to use Microsoft Project and how much effort you need to put into a Project file to make it the tool you want in your project. And sometimes Microsoft Project does not help you with what you want. For example, Microsoft Project will not help you solve resource conflicts. Yes, it can help you spot them but the automatic tools are too automatic to be of any use to a real project.
In this post, I will point at some real time problems which most users falls into. I will probably get back to this subject, but I guess this post will show the graveness of the problems.
Here is the first example. Take a look at this wonderful Gantt Chart. Great isn’t it:
When I view the Resource Sheet I can see that there are no over allocations. So, things are great, aren’t they?
Well, the answer is probably no.
I’ve been using the default settings, which will mean that this project will most definitely fail. And what does this say about a project when the default settings makes the project a failure.
The first problem is that the plan says that poor Bob will work 8h a working day with this project. Yes, he probably works full time, but does this mean that he will add 100% value and effort into these tasks? Probably not. We all know that it doesn’t work like that. Just to give you an example, you can see what happens when I add the Work column. I can now see how much work we expect Bob to put into the project:
A lot of work, wouldn’t you say? But if we made this more realistic, perhaps Bob has a focus factor of 5 hours per working day. To enable this, we need to change the Project settings and the calendar.
When I do this, the plan tells another story. If I keep the 80 work per task scenario, each task will be prolonged with 6 days:
That is a delay of 30 WORKING days. So, instead of the project finishing on July 17th, it ends on August 28th. And this is not due to any delays, changes in scope or plan. Just that Microsoft Project tricked us into believing in a non working plan. Scary, isn’t it. But another scenario can be that we stick to the original deadline. What happens then is that either do we cut the work, which result in the following scenario:
Now, we cut 30 hours of work from the original plan. And that is per task. 150 hours of work in total. That is a lot of hours we were counting on but cannot be performed. We could also play the evil project manager card and force poor Bob make those hours before the deadline:
Poor Bob. Working 160% is not what you want, is it. And people wonder why there are so many delays and burnt out people in the business. A project manager uses the default settings in a standard program. But let’s get back to to the first scenario. Let’s say that we take the delay, so we are back at our delayed project. We are done by August 28th, aren’t we?
Well, if your guys love spending all summer at the office. I guess Bob hasn’t counted on a vacation in Florida this summer. There are no holidays added and no vacations. So, you have to add this yourself. Now, the effects of this differs from country to country but even if you’re American and perhaps just have a two week vacation, the effects are visible. And do remember that this is a project with just one participant. What if they are more and they are off on different times. Will the project work with the same pace anyway? But even if we use just a simple one project and two weeks off we are now moving into September.
OK. But now, we’re OK. Aren’t we? Well, no. Have you ever been in a situation where you ended one task and the next second, you started with the next? well, this is what the plan says. The exact minute when one task has stopped, you can start with the next. What is reasonable? Well, it depends on the project and it depends on the task. But let’s say that you need to deploy, make some changes in your settings, etc etc. We’ll be reasonable and say that we will perhaps miss two working days between each task.
The effects are not huge, but they are there:
We are slowly moving nearer October. And let me just remind you that we have still not made any changes to our plans.
And this is just one example. I will soon get back to other, fundamental problems with using Microsoft Project in our planning process but I hope you will be more skeptical next time you see a Gantt chart.