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Step By Step Tutorial on Microsoft Project: Getting Started

This tutorial is designed to help you get started on Microsoft Project in literally 20 minutes. Without getting into the finer details, this article explains how to start your first project in Microsoft Project with any version of the software. Once you have an idea of the tasks, you can jump in...

Lesson 1: Getting Started

There are no pre-requisites to the course you are embarking upon. To begin learning how to start a project in Microsoft Project, this tutorial lesson, as well as the ones that follow, are written assuming the reader need not have any prior experience with any project management software. For that matter, you only need to know two things to start creating your first project using Microsoft Project application: 1) You need to know how to start the Microsoft Project software installed on your computer. 2) You must have a broad idea of your own project and its activities (also referred to as tasks). It is as simple as that, and we will keep it that way throughout the series of tutorial lessons you will go through learning new features of Microsoft Project software as you go along. The tutorial is written in such a way that it does not matter whether you have Microsoft Office Project 2007, or Microsoft Project 2003, or any earlier version up to Project 98 installed on your computer. The limitations of the older versions, if any, and the new features of the newer versions will be dealt with, as necessary and relevant to the tutorial. For this tutorial, of course I will give you an idea of a sample project and its activities, with which we will learn the steps required to create a project. You can (and it is recommended that you do) try out all the steps you learn here on your own project after completing each lesson. When you are finished with this lesson, be sure to check out some of the other Microsoft Project tutorials available at Bright Hub.

Ready to start. Here we go...

Entering Data for the Sample Project

For the Sample Project, assume you are the Project Manager with an Event Management firm, and the first simple project entails organizing a musical concert at one of the local auditoriums. The major activities involved, as you can realize, will be fixing a suitable date with the artiste, identifying and finalizing terms with one of the local auditoriums, co-ordinating with the media and placing advertisements for the event, getting tickets printed and selling tickets. Besides this you may also want to address the administrative tasks of organizing hotel accommodation and transport for the artiste's troupe. How can you plan all these activities on a calendar, using Microsoft Project? Here are the steps: Open the Microsoft Project software on your computer (In most cases, you may have the application icon on your desktop, which you can double-click to start the application. Else, click on Start-> Programs-> and look for your software and click). You should see

the opening screen of Microsoft Project. (Note: Click any image in this

tutorial to see a larger view.) In case you can see a blue Guide pane to the left of the "Gantt Chart" divider, as shown in the figure to the left here, please close this blue pane by clicking on the X at the top right of the blue pane, so as to increase the visible workspace for entering data in our Sample project. Once the Guide pane is closed, your screen will appear as shown in the figure to the right here, with only two panes - the Task pane and the Calendar pane to its right, as shown here. Enter Tasks and Duration Now you can start entering the data in the Task pane for our Sample project. For the moment, ignore the first column in the Task pane, and enter the data only under Task Name and

Duration columns. The tasks and the durations you need to enter are as follows (the default unit for duration is "days", hence you only need to enter the numeric part):

Call up Artistes - 5 days Finalize Artiste and performance date - 2 days

As you enter the task duration, you can see a Blue bar appearing on the right, graphically indicating the duration. This is the task bar, and the collection of these bars is called the Gantt chart. We will worry about this later. For now, keep entering the further tasks:

Call Auditoriums and check date availability - 6 days Negotiate with Auditorium - 3 days Confirm Auditorium and pay in advance - 2 days

Book advertisement slots in media - 21 days Print tickets - 20 days Sell tickets - 10 days Organize accommodation for artiste's Group - 5 days Organize Travel arrangements - 5 days

After you have entered all of the above tasks and durations, your screen should look like the screen shot on the right. At this point, please save the project (File-> Save as) in a folder of your choice with file name as "Concert 0". (Concert Zero, to indicate this is the Zero-th version of your project). All Microsoft Project files are saved, by default, with an extension ".mpp", and we will use the default extension.

Enter Project Start Date and Task Dependencies

Great.. If you have gone this far without any hitch, you are almost there. You are, of course wondering why all the activities are starting on the same date, right? By default, Microsoft Project will assume the Project and all activities start on the current date.

As a Project Manager, let us say you are tied up till the end of August 2009, and hence you

would like to devote time to this project only from 1st Sept 2009. For doing this, click on "Project" on the Top menu bar and click on "Project Information" from the choices in the drop-down list. The Project Information window should pop up as shown here. For now, ignore all other fields on this window, and look at only the first field "Start Date". Change this to 01 Sept 2009, and click on "OK". Immediately you will notice this window closes, and all the Gantt bars on your project have moved to a start date of 1st Sept 2009. (I know you are curious to know what the other fields on the Project Information window mean; we will come back to this topic in a later lesson). Now let's move to the question of how to give instructions to Microsoft Project that our activities need to follow some logical sequence? This is done by using "Task dependencies" or "Precedence relationships". There are several ways in which this dependency instruction can be given. For this lesson let us do it by simply "linking" the tasks graphically. First off, we know that the second task "Finalize Artiste and performance date" can start only after the first task "Call up Artistes" finishes. To indicate this 1) On the Gantt chart. position the mouse on the center of the task bar corresponding to the first task, until the mouse cursor turns into a 4-way arrow. 2) Hold down the left mouse button and drag the mouse pointer over the second task (Finalize artiste..) which is to be linked. and then release the mouse button. You will notice a link line from the finish of the first task to the start of the second task. 3) Repeat the above steps for linking task 2 with task 3, then task 3 with task 4, task 4 with task 5, and task 5 with task 6 since they all follow a similar sequential precedence relationship between them. The precedence relationship between task 5 and task 6 may be

debatable, but for this project let us assume, we want to be sure about availability of an auditorium before we book slots for advertisements, and hence that this is a reasonable relationship for now. We will go into other possibilities in later lessons.

4) Task 7 (Print tickets), as you can see, need not wait till completion of task 6, but can start as soon as the auditorium is confirmed. Hence, you will link task 7 with task 5. Task 8 (Sell tickets) will follow task 7. 5) Tasks 9 and 10, which are administrative tasks, can logically be taken up as soon as the date with the artiste is confirmed, and hence both these can be defined as tasks immediately following task 2. Now you have completed all task dependencies, subject to the assumptions we have made. Your Project should appear as shown above on the left. Again save this file (File->Save as) in the same folder, but with File name as "Concert 1", to indicate your "First" complete version.

Congratulations!!!. You now know how to start a project with Microsoft Project. Just to understand what all Microsoft Project software has done for you, behind the scenes even for a simple project like this, you can

Scroll to the right on the Task pane and look at the columns for Start date, Finish date and Predecessor. Click on View->Network Diagram. Click on Report in the Top menu bar and choose Reports (if you are using any version prior to Project 2007, please click on View->Reports->Summary); and try out some of the reports.

Go through these Reports and digest them to the extent you can.

Some of the reports you can try are given above. One last word before we sign off for the day; I am sure you will be curious to get answers to several questions about the screens you have seen and about the fields that appeared on the windows. We will cover them at appropriate times in the future lessons. We will also be building on this simple project we have started with, by introducing more complexities in the tasks, the relationships, resources required to carry out these tasks, costs associated with the tasks, and what if the duration estimated for a particular task is not correct.

Do keep watching, and we will have one tutorial lesson coming up every 3-4 days. Til then, as mentioned earlier, try out the steps you have learned in this tutorial lesson with another small project with 8-10 tasks, so that you familiarize yourself with all that you learn with our own sample project. Practice, needless to say, makes you perfect. If you have any questions, please fill them out in the comments section below this article, and we will address them soon. So long then. Look forward to seeing you on our next lesson.

Lesson 2: Task Insertions, Amendments and Other Features in Microsoft Project

This tutorial deals with tasks in Microsoft Project software. Questions such as how to insert a new task, how to modify an existing task, how to redefine dependencies between tasks are all answered here. We also cover special features such as defining milestones, dummy tasks and grouping.

Learning Objectives
In our previous lesson, we went through a step by step tutorial on how to get started on a project using Microsoft Project. In this lesson we will learn more about tasks. On completion of thus tutorial, you will be able to:

Insert new tasks in an existing project, and assess their impact on overall schedules Make changes to tasks Understand and define milestones in Microsoft Project Group tasks in some logical fashion Add notes to tasks to provide additional information about specific tasks

Thus, with this tutorial, you will have covered all aspects with respect to definition of tasks as the building entities in project management. Note: Also be sure to check out the other Microsoft Project tutorials available at Bright Hub.

Back to Concert 1 and the Changes We Want to Make

Let's get back to where we left our first sample project in the last lesson. We had saved our

project as concert 1.mpp with the tasks as shown in the diagram here. (Note: Please click on any diagram in this article to view a larger picture.) We would now like to carry out the following enhancements to this project to make this appear more realistic, assuming that there are other staff members available to carry out certain activities, and the Project Manager handles only certain key activities. 1) After asking your assistant to call the auditoriums to check on availabilities and other details, let us say, you would like your assistant to prepare a shortlist based on some criteria you have specified. You will then like to look at this shortlist and take up negotiations with specific auditoriums. 2) Before the task "Book advertisement slots..", we want to insert a task for getting rates from media agencies; and we also want to add a task for final confirmation of matter to the media, to take care of any last minute changes in the matter. 3) Make changes in the task dependencies based on points 1 and 2. In particular, since we are adding a task for final confirmation of matter to the media, you will realize that the task " Book advertisement slots.." need not depend on the auditorium confirmation, but can be taken up parallel to the tasks related to auditoriums. This only needs to follow "Get advertisement rates", and "Finalize Artiste and performance date." 4) Finally, we want to group the tasks functionally under three heads "Operations", "Sales & Marketing", and "Admin". And we will also add milestones for each of these functions.

Insert New Tasks

Here are the steps for carrying out the above enhancements: 1) Load Microsoft Project application and Open the file you had saved as Concert 1 from the right folder (File->Open).

2) Position the mouse pointer on the task "Negotiate with auditorium" and click to highlight this task. 3) To insert a new task above this task, click on "Insert" in the Top menu bar and choose "New Task" (alternatively, you can also press "Insert" key). 4) For the new task, enter task name as "Shortlist auditoriums" and enter duration as 1 day. 5) Similarly enter two more tasks as follows:

Before "Book advertisement.." add a task "Get rates from media agencies" with a duration of 5 days. After "Book advertisement..." add a task "Confirm Final matter to media" with a duration of 1 day. (Hint, for inserting a task after "Book advertisement..", remember to click on the next task i.e., "Print tickets" and then click on Insert->New Task.)

You must have noticed that the tasks "Shortlist auditoriums" and "Get rates from media agencies" have their dependencies automatically inserted by the software. This happens by default when you insert a task between two tasks that sequentially followed one another prior to the insertion of the new task. However, for the task "Confirm Final matter to media", the software has no clear clue on where it should be placed, and hence, as we had mentioned in the previous lesson, this task is assumed to start on the Project start date without any predecessor or successor dependencies. We will see how to modify these task dependencies in a while.

Add Functional Groups

Before we decide on how the dependencies need to be modified, let us think of Grouping the tasks functionally. We know that the last two tasks, "Organize accommodation" and "Organize Travel" are both Admin tasks. To group these two, follow these steps: 1) First insert a new task before Organize accommodation, and name this task as "Admin" with a duration of 0 (zero) days.

2) Now, highlight both the admin tasks (Accommodation and Travel). (Hint: For highlighting

multiple tasks, using the keyboard point to the task name of the first cell, in this case "Organize accommodation". Then, keeping the Shift key pressed, move down with the arrow key till the last cell, in this case "Organize Travel.") 3) On the Formatting Toolbar, click on the icon showing a Right Arrow (if you move the mouse over this icon, you can see the Tip as "Indent"). 4) You will notice that the two task names have moved to the right (this process is called Indenting). The task name for Admin appears in Bold font to indicate that this is a Group task (a summary of the following tasks). The task bar against the summary "Admin" has changed to a Black bar covering all tasks in its group. Next, you should group the five tasks from "Get rates from media agencies" to "Sell tickets" and call the Group "Sales & Marketing". Similarly, group the first six tasks from "Call up Artistes" to "Confirm Auditorium" and call the Group "Operations". Let us also introduce a super-group covering all groups, and call this "Concert Project." (For this, Insert a task above Operations and name this task "Concert Project". Then highlight all rows below this and Indent them. With this it becomes a higher level Group.)

Modify Dependencies
Now let us get back to the dependencies. As soon as you completed the Sales & Marketing Group, you must have noticed that the task "Get rates from media agencies" has moved from Project start date to the Group's start date. (Makes sense?) After grouping the tasks functionally, if we try to rationalize the sequencing of the tasks with the objective of completing all tasks as soon as possible you will realize that the Sales & Marketing function can start getting the rates from media without dependence on any other task, and can also make tentative Booking of slots immediately after getting the rates. The Final confirmation of matter is the only activity which needs to follow after the auditorium is confirmed, and after the Booking of slots is completed. To do these, follow the steps below:

1) Locate the Precedence Link between "Confirm Auditorium" and "Sales & Marketing" Group task. 2) Position the mouse pointer on this link line and double-click. 3) The dialog box for Task Dependency will appear as shown. 4) Delete this link by clicking on "Delete" in the dialog box. 5) Insert dependency between "Book advertisement slots.." and "Confirm Final matter.." 6) Insert an additional dependency for "Confirm Final matter.." on "Confirm Auditorium", since the advertisement matter can be finalized only after the Auditorium is also confirmed.

Milestones, Project Start And Project Finish

You are now almost through with Lesson 2. As a matter of convention, we will introduce two tasks "Project Start" at the beginning after "Concert Project", and "Project Finish" at the end of all other tasks. Both these will be with duration of 0 days. I will leave it to you to decide what dependencies you want to assign for these tasks with other tasks. You must have noticed that any project with duration of 0 days is considered as a Milestone by Microsoft Project. In addition to these, you can designate any task as a milestone. For our practice, let us designate "Confirm Auditorium" and "Confirm Final matter to media" as milestones. How do you do this? Click on the task. With the task highlighted, right-click with your mouse, and choose "Task

Information" in the pop-up box. In the task information window, click on the Advanced tab and you will notice a check box at the bottom left. Checking this will

designate the task as a milestone, and will be shown with a black diamond on the Gantt chart. Needless to say these milestones indicate crucial dates you will want to monitor from project management point of view. With all these done, your project should look like the chart shown here. Please save this as "Concert Project 1 - Final". In the next lesson we will take a quick look at the navigation aspects, toolbars and other cosmetics in Microsoft Project. Thereafter we will learn about other ways of task dependency assignments, and then move on to Resource Management. Please check back again every three days for new lessons. So long then....

Lesson -3: Getting to Know the Menus and Toolbars in Microsoft Project
Written by: Venkatraman Edited by: Michele McDonough Updated May 14, 2010 Related Guides: Microsoft | Gantt Chart | Microsoft Project In this tutorial, we will learn how to navigate through Microsoft Project screens and functionalities. We will discuss the initial screen layout, menus, various toolbars, the icons in the toolbars, and give a few useful tips and tricks as you enter data and move around in Microsoft Project.

One idea behind taking this subject up in Lesson 3 of this tutorial on Microsoft Project, rather than starting the tutorial with this, was that, in the first and second lessons you could get started with a simple example focusing on the outputs and get a working project plan up in the shortest possible time. The second idea, as you must have realized, was that without spending much time on learning this subject in a structured way, you already have a reasonable picture of how to move around in Microsoft Project. This is very characteristic of most software developed by Microsoft. You learn the fundamentals more or less intuitively, and the look, feel and user experience are pretty standardized across different applications such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and so forth.

Screen Layout and Menubar

Let us start with the Screen layout and the Menubar.

Start Microsoft Project, as you have done in the previous lessons. Before you open any file, the screen should appear as shown here. The opening screen is divided into two panes - the task pane on the left and the Gantt chart pane on the right with a divider line between the two panes. The topmost line below the application title is known as the Menu Bar. As you see, this bar contains menus for various actions under File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Project, Collaborate, Window, and Help. If you are using Microsoft Project 2007, you will see an additional menu for Report. (Click any image for a larger view.)

Just below the Menu bar you will see two toolbars - the Standard toolbar and the Formatting toolbar. These are the default opening components when you start Microsoft Project. As we mentioned earlier, depending on the settings in your version, you may also see a Guide pane to the left of the task pane. In case you do see such a pane, please close that pane for now, as you had done in Lesson 1. You have already worked with the task pane and the Gantt chart pane. The divider line, can be moved to the left or right depending on how you want to divide the visible portion of your screen between the two panes.

Move your mouse pointer over the divide line until you see a double headed arrow. Click the left mouse button and drag the divider line to the left or right.

To understand the menus in the menu bar, click on each heading and a dropdown list will display the options under each of them. You have already used the File menu for saving your file. The other options are similar to what you must have seen in other Microsoft Office applications. Try looking at the dropdown list under each menu to get a feel for the contents. Most options perform the functions that you would intuitively expect them to.

Toolbars and Icons

The option for toolbars appears under the View menu. As you can see in the View menu, the Gantt chart has a check mark to its left. This means you are currently using the Gantt chart view. At this point, open your Concert Project and the try clicking on other various options under View menu like Calendar, Network Diagram, Task usage, Tracking Gantt, etc. and you will get an

idea of the outputs of each of these views. As we progress with more features of MS Project in future lessons, these views will gain relevance and you will understand them more clearly. The View menu also has the option "Toolbar" with a pointer to the right indicating this option has further sub-options. When you move the mouse over the Toolbar option you can see the toolbar sub-options list popping up as shown here. Again, as you can see, the Standard and Formatting toolbar options are checked in this list by default. Move to the sub-option area and uncheck the Formatting toolbar. See what happened to the Formatting toolbar? It's not visible now. Check the Formatting option back again and make it visible. Similarly click on other options in the toolbar sub-options list and see the effects on your screen. Before we move on to understanding the contents of the toolbars, on the View menu, below the Toolbar option, you can see an option called "View Bar." Click on that and see for yourself what happens. Like what you see? Yes, this is a graphic navigational tool for the View menu. We will learn more about the toolbar icons and cover some additional tips and tricks in the next lesson. Check back soon for Lesson 4 of this series, and be sure to also take a look at the other Microsoft Project tutorials available on Bright Hub's Project Management channel.

Lesson 4:More about Toolbars and Some Tips and Tricks in Microsoft Project
Written by: Venkatraman Edited by: Michele McDonough Updated May 14, 2010 Related Guides: Microsoft | Gantt Chart | Microsoft Project This lesson covers some more details about toolbars and icons in Microsoft Project. We will also discuss a few useful tips and tricks for performing certain actions. The best way to learn more tricks in Microsoft Project is to play around with the toolbar icons, as you will learn here.

Toolbar Icons
The first two lessons in this tutorial on Microsoft Project took us through how to start a project using the Microsoft Project software. Then we learned some navigational aspects and about the Screen layout, menu bars and toolbars in the previous lesson. As you must have realized, some of these functionalities are similar to what you have seen in other Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Now, in this lesson of the tutorial, let us continue looking more at the contents of the toolbars in Microsoft Project. The small little graphics you see on each of these toolbars are referred to as icons, and as you have intuitively guessed, each icon has a function associated with it. Move your mouse over the icons in the toolbars and you can see a screen-tip indicating what that icon stands for. On the Standard toolbar, for instance, you have icons for New File, File search, Print preview, Spelling, Undo, and so forth. You are wondering where Open, Save, Print, Cut, Copy, and Paste have gone, right? We will come to them soon. On the Formatting toolbar you have icons for Indent, Outdent, Show and Hide subtasks, etc. You must also have noticed that most of these toolbar icons represent functionalities that you could otherwise access through the Menu options. Thus, in a way, these toolbars provide shortcuts for some functionalities. But these toolbars are much more friendly than being mere shortcuts, and in quite a few instances offer functionalities which are not easily navigable through the menu options. Moreover, these toolbars are extensively customizable. The best way to become friendly with these tools is to use them with your sample project and familiarize yourself with their power. How do you customize the toolbars? Let us start with the Standard toolbar. On the extreme right of the Standard toolbar (just before the Formatting bar starts), do you see small double arrows and a small down arrow? Click on this, and you can understand what we mean by customizing the toolbar. Similarly, you have the option for adding or removing buttons in most of the toolbars.

Some Tips and Tricks

As you go through these toolbars and icons and try them out on your sample project, I am sure you will start discovering tips and tricks for various actions you had performed during the first two lessons. And yes, that indeed is the best way to learn tricks with these applications. Practice, as we said in Lesson 1, makes you perfect. And it also makes you a lot more clever. Here are some more tips and tricks in Microsoft Project.

While working with your Concert project, you may have wondered how you could change the time scale on the calendar so that you could view the entire Gantt chart on the screen from Start to Finish instead of having to scroll to the right on the Gantt chart pane. Here is a smart way to do that. (Click any image for a larger view.)

Use the Zoom out icon in the Standard toolbar. You can immediately see the entire Gantt chart from Start to Finish, and you can see that the time scale on the calendar has changed, so that your view spans a larger horizon. Of course there are other ways to alter the calendar settings, which we will take up in a later lesson. Another useful feature available in the toolbars in Microsoft Project is the camera icon that you can find to the right of the zoom out icon (just after the "Go To Task" icon). Click on the camera icon and you will find a very friendly "Copy Picture" window. With this feature you can extract any part of the project and save it to a GIF file, print it, or paste it into another application like PowerPoint or Word. Try the following options:

Choose To GIF Image file under Render image. Give a file name to use when saving this extracted image. Under Time scale, choose a date range, say 1 Sep to 31 Oct 2009. Click on OK.

Now, go to the folder where you saved the image and open the image file. This image can then be embedded in any other document as mentioned earlier. There are several such tips and tricks which you will discover for yourself as you use these toolbars and icons in Microsoft Project. We will discuss more of them as we go along in future lessons. Play around with the toolbars and icons you have learned here, and get set for the next lesson. Also, be sure to check out Bright Hub's other Microsoft Project tutorials.

Lesson 5:Types of Task Relationships in Microsoft Project

In this lesson we will discuss the different types of task dependencies and learn how to define them in Microsoft Project. This is a continuation of what we have learned in Lesson 2 of this tutorial about task insertions and the default type of relationship.

What is a Task Relationship?

In the first lesson on Getting Started with Microsoft Project, we saw how to define tasks in the MS Project application. We also pointed out that Microsoft Project will, by default, assume that all tasks start on the Project start date. Then in the second lesson, where we talked about task Insertions and amendments, we briefly touched upon task relationships, and we said that we would take the topic up later. Now, let us understand what we mean by task dependencies or task relationships, and what their role in defining a project is. The very purpose behind breaking a project down into smaller, manageable tasks is that this process of work breakdown makes project planning easier. After having defined a project in terms of the planned tasks, we also need to address the more important part of project management - the part related to project scheduling. As you are aware, any scheduling activity will need to take the constraints into consideration in order to come up with a practical and meaningful schedule. The question then is how do we indicate the constraints that need to be considered while scheduling the tasks in a project to the MS Project application. The two major constraints that we will indicate to Microsoft Project are:

Sequencing constraints Capacity constraints

We will take up capacity constraints in a later lesson after we define resources in our project. The sequencing constraints are indicated in Microsoft Project using Task Relationships. Note: When finished with this lesson, be sure to check out the other Microsoft Project tutorials available at Bright Hub.

Types of Task Relationships in Microsoft Project

To understand the different types of task relationships that can be defined in Microsoft Project,

and to learn how to define these project, using the following steps:

relationships, let us create a new sample

Open Microsoft Project. Create a New project (File->New). Insert four Tasks with the names and durations in days as follows: Task 1 (7 days), Task 2 (10 days), Task 3 (8 days), and Task 4 (11 days). Save the project as "Sample For Task Dependencies" in your tutorial folder (File->Save As).

Now your project should appear as shown alongside, with all four tasks starting on the default project start date. (Note: Please click on the image to view a larger size for all images in this article.)

Let us now start defining the relationships between the tasks. In earlier lessons, you were defining task relationships by using the mouse and dragging a relationship line from one task to another. Here we will do this using Microsoft Project's Task Information Daialog Window.

Highlight Task 2 (either click on the task in the task pane or in the Gantt chart pane). Click on the Task Information icon in the Standard toolbar. (The Task Information Dialog window will pop up.) Click on the Predecessor tab. Under Task Name, select Task 1, and under Type, select Finish-to-Start. Click on OK.

As you can see, the drop-down box for Type has four Task Relationship types available as follows:

Finish-to-Start (FS) Start-to-Start (SS) Finish-to-Finish (FF) Start-to-Finish (SF)

We will come to the meaning of each of these in a moment. In the meantime, complete the relationships for Tasks 3 and 4 as follows:

Choose Task 3. Open the predecessor tab in the dialog window. Enter Task 1 with type as SS. Also enter Task 2 in the second row and define the relationship type as FF Choose Task 4. Open the predecessor tab. Enter Task 3 with type as FS. Enter Task 1 in the second row with type as SF.

Thus for Tasks 3 and 4, we have defined two predecessors each. The idea is to see for ourselves and understand how they show up on our project and in the Gantt chart. Continue to Page 2 to learn more about the meanings of task relationships in Microsoft Project.

Meanings of the Four Types of Task Relationships in Microsoft Project

Once you have completed entering the task relationships as mentioned, your project should appear as shown in the image below.

Now let us understand what these relationships mean. To begin with, we need to understand that all relationships are defined between a successor task and a set of (one or more) predecessor tasks in Microsoft Project. Thus, in each of the above case, the task you first chose is the successor and the tasks you entered in the rows in the Dialog window are the predecessor tasks for any given relationship. To view the relationships you have defined, you can check on the arrows appearing on the Gantt chart. Another way to see the relationships is to increase the width of the Task pane by moving the Divider line (between the Task pane and the Gantt chart pane) to the right, until the Predecessor column becomes visible in the Task pane. You will see the relationships with the two-letter codes as shown in the image here.

You can notice that the default task relationship type (FS - Finish-to-Start) is not indicated with code by Microsoft Project. Essentially the relationships have the following implications:

Finish-to-Start: The successor task cannot start until the predecessor task has finished Start-to-Start: The successor task cannot start until the predecessor task has started Finish-to-Finish: The successor task cannot finish until the predecessor task has finished Start-to-Finish: The successor task cannot finish until the predecessor task has started

Real World Examples

As you must have noticed, the most common task relationship type is the Finish-to-Start type, which also happens to be the default type in Microsoft Project. All the task relationships we had used in the Concert Project were Examples of Finish-to-Start relationships Among the other task relationship types, two are used occasionally to indicate scheduling conditions which are very relevant. Start-to-Finish Examples: Implementation of a new procedure and training for the employees on the new procedure are two tasks which can be related with a Start-to-Finish type. Although the new procedure may be ready for implementation after it has been designed, the procedure cannot be started until the employee training is completed. Similarly, you can finish scheduling production crews only when you start receiving materials. Start-to-Start Examples: This relationship is used whenever we can see the possibility of overlap between tasks, though they appear to be sequential.

Thus, proof-reading for a book can be started as soon as the first few pages have been written, and we need not wait for the composition of the entire volume to be completed. Coding for an application can be started as soon as the initial designs for some components are ready (as practiced in Agile methodology), instead of waiting for the entire design to be completed (as practiced in Waterfall methodology). Start-to-Finish is a very rarely used relationship. One complicated example can be the relationship between watering a garden and fertilizing the plants in the garden. As you can see, the plants have to be watered before fertilizing can start. However, the plants must be wet as long as the fertilizing process is going on. Hence we can impose a Start-to-Finish relationship between the two tasks "Fertilize the Garden" and "Water the plants in the garden."

It is important to understand how critical it is to establish the relationships between the tasks so that Microsoft Project can help in scheduling our project optimally. This also helps us understand the way the "lag" appearing in the dialog window will affect managing delays and overlaps between tasks as we get back to our Concert Project and start introducing additional features and constraints that will make the project more practical from the point of view of scheduling. In the meanwhile, spend some time looking at the effect of changing the relationships as defined by us between the four tasks. Experiment with the task relationships and see the impact. In the next few lessons, we will understand more about the project and task calendars, and we'll also introduce capacity constraints by defining resources available to complete the projects.