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Fine-Tuning Task Details in Microsoft Project 2010

In this chapter from Microsoft Project 2010 Step by Step, you examine and use a variety of advanced features in Microsoft Project 2010. These features focus on fine-tuning task details prior to saving a baseline, as well as commencing work on the project with the goal of developing the most accurate schedule representation of the tasks you anticipate for the plan.

Chapter at a Glance

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In this chapter, you examine and use a variety of advanced features in Microsoft Project 2010. These features focus on fine-tuning task details prior to saving a baseline, as well as commencing work on the project with the goal of developing the most accurate schedule representation of the tasks you anticipate for the plan.

Adjusting Task Relationships

You might recall from Chapter 2, “Creating a Task List,” that there are four types of task dependencies, or relationships:

  • Finish-to-start (FS): The finish date of the predecessor task determines the start date of the successor task.

  • Start-to-start (SS): The start date of the predecessor task determines the start date of the successor task.

  • Finish-to-finish (FF): The finish date of the predecessor task determines the finish date of the successor task.

  • Start-to-finish (SF): The start date of the predecessor task determines the finish date of the successor task.

When you enter tasks in Project and link them by clicking the Link Tasks button on the Task tab, the tasks are given a finish-to-start relationship. This is fine for many tasks, but you will most likely change some task relationships as you fine-tune a project plan. The following are some examples of tasks that require relationships other than finish-to-start:

  • You can start setting pages as soon as you start illustration work on a book project (a start-to-start relationship). This reduces the overall time required to complete the two tasks, as they are completed in parallel.

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  • Planning the editorial work for a book can begin before the manuscript is complete, but it cannot be finished until the manuscript is complete. You want the two tasks to finish at the same time (a finish-to-finish relationship).

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Task relationships should reflect the sequence in which work should be performed. After you have established the correct task relationships, you can fine-tune your schedule by entering overlap (called lead time) or delay (called lag time) between the finish or start dates of predecessor and successor tasks.

Assuming that two tasks have a finish-to-start relationship:

  • Lead time causes the successor task to begin before its predecessor task concludes.

  • Lag time causes the successor task to begin some time after its predecessor task concludes.

The following is an illustration of how lead and lag time affect task relationships. Assume that you initially planned the following three tasks using finish-to-start relationships.

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Before task 2 can begin, you need to allow an extra day for the copyedited manuscript to be shipped to the author. You do not want to add a day to the duration of task 5 because no real work will occur on that day. Instead, you enter a one-day lag between tasks 1 and 2.

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However, task 3 can start as soon as task 2 is halfway completed. To make this happen, enter a 50 percent lead time between tasks 2 and 3.

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You can enter lead and lag time as units of time, such as two days, or as a percentage of the duration of the predecessor task, such as 50 percent. Lag time is entered in positive units and lead time in negative units (for example, –2d or –50%). You can apply lead or lag time to any type of task relationship: finish-to-start, start-to-start, and so on.

Places in which you can enter lead or lag time include the Task Information dialog box (Task tab), the Predecessors column in the Entry table, and the Task Dependency dialog box (viewable by double-clicking a link line between Gantt bars).

Lucerne Publishing is about to begin editorial and design work on a new children’s book. At this stage, you have an initial project plan with task names, durations, and relationships, and resource assignments.

In this exercise, you enter lead and lag time and change task relationships between predecessor and successor tasks.

  1. On the File tab, click Save As.

    The Save As dialog box appears.

  2. In the File name box, type Advanced Tasks A, and then click Save.

  3. On the Task tab, in the Tasks group, click Inspect.

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    The Task Inspector pane appears. This pane succinctly reveals the scheduling factors that affect the selected task, such as predecessor task relationships, resource calendars, and/or task calendars. You can click any item in the Task Inspector that appears in blue to get more details. For example, you can click the assigned resource’s name under Calendar to see the resource calendar.

  4. Select the name of task 31, Print and ship.

    In the Task Inspector pane, you can view the scheduling factors affecting this task.

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    For task 31, you can see that its predecessor is task 30, Generate proofs. You can see in the pane that the two tasks have a finish-to-start relationship with zero lag time. Next, you’ll adjust the lag value on the task relationship to account for the transit time of the proofs to the printer. Because you cannot edit this value directly in the pane, you’ll display the Task Information dialog box. First, though, you’ll display this task’s Gantt bar so you can more easily observe the effect of adjusting the lag.

  5. On the Task tab, in the Editing group, click Scroll to Task.

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    Next, you’ll adjust the lag value between this task and its predecessor.

  6. On the Task tab, in the Properties group, click Information.

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    The Task Information dialog box appears. It contains details about the currently selected task, 31.

  7. Click the Predecessors tab.

  8. In the Lag field for predecessor task 30, type 3d, and then click OK to close the Task Information dialog box.

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    Task 31 is now scheduled to start three working days after the end of task 30.

    Next, you will adjust the lag time between two other tasks.

  9. Click the name of task 10, Copyedit incorp.

    You’d like to overlap this task with its predecessor; the Copyedit incorp task can start before the author review of copyedit is completed.

  10. On the Task tab, in the Properties group, click Information, and then click the Predecessors tab.

  11. In the Lag field for predecessor task 9, type –25%, and then click OK.

    Entering lag time as a negative value produces lead time.

    To see the adjustment you made more directly, you’ll scroll to the task’s Gantt bar again.

  12. On the Task tab, in the Editing group, click Scroll to Task.

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    Task 10 is now scheduled to start at the 25 percent remaining point of the duration of task 9. Should the duration of task 9 change, Project will reschedule the start of task 10 so that it maintains a 25 percent lead time.

    To conclude this exercise, you will change the task relationship between two tasks.

  13. Double-click the name of task 14, Interior illustration design.

    The Task Information dialog box appears. The Predecessors tab should be visible. Note also that the Task Inspector pane in the background updates to display the scheduling details for task 14, the currently selected task.

  14. On the Predecessors tab, click in the Type column for predecessor task 13. Select Start-to-Start (SS), and click OK.

    Project changes the task relationship between tasks 13 and 14 to start-to-start.

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    Assigning tasks start-to-start relationships and entering lead times where appropriate are both excellent techniques to fine-tune task relationships so that you get the results you want. However, Project cannot automatically make such schedule adjustments for you. As project manager, you must analyze the sequences and relationships of your tasks and make those adjustments where necessary.