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Archive for 2009/05/10

Microsoft Project Tutorial Part 21 – Splitting tasks

Sometimes you realize during a project that you need to split a task. So how do you go about that? Well, like with everything i Microsoft Project, it depends. So, I’m going to show you two alternatives.

We start with the following Project:

SplitTask1

We have two tasks, of which one was added after we saved baseline.

If we view the Resource Usage view, we can see the planned work:

SplitTask2

OK! Let’s do some splitting. We return to the Gantt Chart view and hit the Split task butcon: SplitTask

We move the cursor to one of the tasks in the Gantt chart and voilâ, we get some help with our splitting:

SplitTask3

Click where you want the split to begin. The result will be something like this:

SplitTask4

You can now drag the right part of the task bar to specify how big gap you want. But what did really happen? Well, to see that we move back to the resource usage view:

SplitTask5

Can you see what happened? 8h work was moved from that Thursday to the Monday about a week later.

So, what is keeping you from doing this manually in the Resource view? Well, actually nothing but when you do this manually, you need to have a look at the total sum in the Work column. But below I create a split in task B by moving some hours from Thursday and Friday to the coming week:

SplitTask6

When we return to the Gantt chart we can see that it looks exactly the same (besides me creating a longer gap manually:

SplitTask7

How do you remove a split in a task? Well, one method is to take the right bar and drag it to the left. Or you can start adding some numbers to the dates with 0:s in the Resource Usage view.

But now we move on the other, fundamentally different method of creating splits.

The previous method only works when you want to stop the work between two specific dates but it does not help you if you want to add a task in the gap and that the gap depends on the length of that task. So, here goes.

First, I add two new tasks between task A and B. The easiest way to do this is to select a field on row two and hit the INSERT button. I call the new tasks A1 and A2. The next thing I do is that I make the specifications for these two new parts. That is, I specify length and add resources.

SplitTask8

Next thing I do is that I set the Units of Bobs assignment on Task A as 0%. The reason for me not removing the assignment is that I have a baseline value, and I don’t want to lose this history (a previous blog post discusses deletion specific)

I then select tasks A1 and A2 and click Indent . Your plan should right now look something like this:

SplitTask9

And now you can go ahead and start linking. I Link task A1 to B and B to A2. The result will look something like this:

SplitTask10

In other words, you have created a split and you can now select to hide the sub tasks. But if you do so, you will not see the split in Task A. To accomplish this you select Tasks A1 and A2 and click the TaskInformation butcon.

Make sure not to change anything else but that Roll up Gantt bar to Summery is selected:

RollUp 

The result will look something like this:

SplitTask11

Well, now you can see the split, but that black bar doesn’t look nice. So we double click Task A and select Hide Task Bar. Observe that Show rolled up Gantt bars is what makes the sub tasks visible on this row so if you have a problems when sub tasks are visible or not visible on a summery task this can be a good place to look.

HideTaskBar

Now things should look like this:

SplitTask12

But it really looks best if you hide the sub tasks for Task A:

SplitTask13

This ends another series on how to use Microsoft Project and I’ll wait for a while before adding more posts on the subject but if you have a favorite topic which you want me to cover, please get back to me. Otherwise, I’m considering how I use Project when planning for scrum projects.

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Microsoft Project Tutorial Part 20 – Debunking the critical path

The Critical path, a wonderful way to find the critical tasks in a project, wouldn’t you say? Well, perhaps not. Here goes. We have a project:

CriticalPath1

According to Microsoft Project. the tasks which are included in the critical path are A, B and D. How can I see that? Well, using the default Gantt chart you cannot see this, but if you switch to the Network Diagram (View—>Network diagram) shows you just this:

CriticalPath2

Other ways to view the critical path is to use the Gantt chart wizard or viewing the Tracking Gantt:

CriticalPath3

But what is the critical path?

Well, everything in Microsoft Project is based on calculations and fields and the critical path is no different. We insert two fields, Critical and Total slack.

CriticalPath5

Do you spot the pattern? Yes, what differs task C from the others is that Total Slack is over 0 and Critical is set to No. You cannot manually change Critical, since it’s based on Total Slack. So, the definition of a task belonging to the critical path is that total slack is 0, which leads to Critical being Yes. So, if we want C to become critical, we can change the duration with 3 days.

CriticalPath6

And if we add another day to the duration of C, guess what happens:

CriticalPath7

Yes, now that C > A + B, A and B are no longer critical.

If you look at this very briefly, it sounds all right, but really; we have no idea at this point which type of tasks we’re dealing with. Are all tasks as crucial? Critical path does not take into consideration how devastating it would be for D if C was not completely finished. Perhaps we can start anyway?

The problem is not unique to the Gantt chart view, the network diagram have the same problems and if you use some kind of PERT diagram, you will see the same definition.

As with everything using a tool like Microsoft Project it is important to understand how the program works. Think about your definition of a word like Critical and compare that to the definition in Microsoft Project.

I end this post with yet another setting in Microsoft Project. I wrote that the definition of a task being Critical as Total slack being 0. If you have very long tasks, this might not be very telling. Perhaps you want Project to highlight all tasks which cannot be delayed more than 5 days before turning red in your diagram. You can then select Tools—>Options. Select the Calculation tab and change the setting of Tasks are critical if slack is less than or equal to X days.

CriticalPath8