MS Project 101 for Developers

(Emphasis on For Developers)
BLUF: the simple idea here is that it’s quite easy to project your aggregated Remaining Duration estimates into a quickie calendar date.

  1. capture a list of rational tasks – do an initial break down by individual screen if you don’t have something else in mind… a little sub-task depth is good but don’t go too deep at first… in typical software architecture, program functions and/or database objects are good candidates.
  2. then spend a little time throwing out a rough estimate for each task… don’t get too hung up on accuracy here
    • leverage the out of body experience by pretending you’re not the guy that’s gotta do all this work
    • it can be sorta fun in a twisted way and a surprisingly worthwhile organizational moment if you’re lighthearted about it
  3. fully expand your outline (Project > Outline > Show > All Subtasks)
  4. select all your tasks from top to bottom…
  5. and link them together (Edit > Link Tasks [Ctrl+F2])
  6. in the normal task grid, make sure you have the columns: Duration, % Completion and Remaining Duration (right click a column header > Insert Column)
  7. fill out the % Completion numbers as best you can
    • as you’re doing so, the Remaining Duration for each task will go down accordingly
  8. use sub-task nesting to create a task nodes with automatically summed Remaining Duration totals which represent your Milestones du jour
  9. and then use Business Day Calculator > Add Business Days to project some quick and dirty milestone completion dates to talk to
  • to me this approach can give you something reasonably concrete to talk to in an hour
  • there becomes some “safety in numbers” here… it’s harder for someone to throw out the timeline w/o somehow acknowledging the existing one
  • you can print out your task list and a pretty Gantt chart for a little more razzle dazzle than empty hand waving
  • you can back yourself up at the next review by working the old estimates to correspond with actuals

Misc notes:

  • The different kinds of Percent Complete
    • % Complete – deals with time
    • % Work Complete – deals with man-hours
    • % Physical Complete – deals with physical progress (link) … in Development land “physical” of course gets very abstract and therefore makes it fun deciding where to draw the line on what is the smallest “thing” be a trackable task – but for example: screens, stored procedures, classes are granular enough “physical” things typical worthy of tracking completion.