iLab

iLab

Objectives – MS Project 2010

?    Use constraints to set date limitations
?    Set a project schedule baseline

A task constraint is a restriction or limitation that you or MS Project set on the start or finish date of a task. During the course of a project, limitations may have to be placed upon a start or finish date of a task.  For example, while you can start doing your income taxes at any time, you must complete them by April 15 (assuming you do not file for an extension).  Do not confuse task constraints with task dependencies.  While you may schedule two tasks to start at the same time (dependency), you may not specify a certain starting date (constraint).

All tasks are assigned constraints.  A constraint is either flexible or inflexible.  A flexible constraint is not tied to a specific date; whereas an inflexible constraint is tied to a specific date.

Task constraints can help create a more accurate schedule by using detailed information to control start and finish dates of important tasks.  But they can restrict your flexibility in scheduling.  You should make sure that any constraint for a task is necessary before assigning that constraint, particularly if the task is part of the critical path.

For this lab, we will be using the MS Project Lab, MyLab5_XXX (where XXX are your initials) from where we left off in Lab 5.  You may use your previous file or download MyLab5_XXX.mpp from Doc Sharing.

Applying Flexible Constraints

The following table lists the flexible constraints and when they are flexible:

Constraint    Description    Flexible for…
As Soon As Possible (ASAP)    Starts the task as soon as possible based on other constraints and dependencies    All projects
As Late As Possible (ALAP)    Starts the task as late as possible based on other constraints and dependencies    All projects
Finish No Earlier Than  (FNET)    Finishes the task on or after an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a start date
Start No Earlier Than  (SNET)    Starts the task on or after an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a start date
Finish No Later Than  (FNLT)    Finishes the task on or before an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a finish date
Start No Later Than (SNLT)    Starts the task on or before an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a finish date

The As Soon As Possible constraint is the default constraint for projects that are scheduled from a start date.  Therefore, our project’s tasks all currently are assigned the ASAP constraint.  (If project is scheduled from a finish date, As Late As Possible is the default constraint.)

1.    Log onto Windows.

2.    Open your completed file MyLab5_XXX.mpp.  Check the addendum at the end of this lesson to make sure your beginning file is correct.

3.    Save as MyLab6_XXX.mpp, where XXX are your initials.

4.    Make sure you are in Gantt chart view, with the Entry table appearing.

5.    Click on task #6, Proposal To Accounting.

6.    Double click to open the Task Information dialog box.

7.    Be sure that the General tab is selected and view the currently scheduled start and finish dates for this task.  (The task is scheduled to begin on Monday, October 21 and finish on Wednesday, October 23).

8.    Click the Advanced tab.

9.    Click the Constraint type down arrow and select Finish No Earlier Than.

10.    Click the Constraint date down arrow and select Wednesday, October 23, 2013. (See Figure 1).

Figure 1
11.    If the Effort Driven box is not checked, do so now and then Click OK.
12.    If you get a Planning Wizard, select “Continue. Allow the scheduling conflict.”

13.    The constraint is set for this task.  We have said that this task cannot finish prior to October 23, 2013but can finish any time beginning with October 23 (or later!).

14.    You will notice beside the task, Proposal To Accounting, a flexible constraint indicator icon.  Notice that a similar icon is next to the task, Install Software.  What is its constraint?  When was this constraint applied?  (Hint: these are the tasks we manually leveled to avoid resource conflicts, MS Project helped us in changing the constraint on one of these tasks to meet our needs).
15.    Save the file.

Applying Inflexible Constraints

Inflexible constraints are tied to a specific date and should be used less often because they take flexibility away from the schedule.  Inflexible constraints are generally applied if the project’s start or finish date is absolute and beyond your control. But be careful!  The following table lists the inflexible constraints and when they are inflexible:

Constraint    Description    Inflexible for…
Must Finish On (MFO)    Finishes task on an entered date    All projects
Must Start On (MSO)    Starts the task on an entered date    All projects
Finish No Earlier Than  (FNET)    Finishes the task on or after an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a finish date
Start No Earlier Than  (SNET)    Starts the task on or after an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a finish date
Finish No Later Than  (FNLT)    Finishes the task on or before an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a start date
Start No Later Than (SNLT)    Starts the task on or before an entered date    Projects scheduled based on a start date

1.    From the Gantt View, select the task, Issue RFPs.  Open the Task Information dialog box for this task.

2.    Click the General tab and view the currently scheduled start and finish dates for this task.  The task is scheduled to begin Monday, October 28 and finish onTuesday, November 12, 2013.

3.    Eleven days should be sufficient to issue and receive replies to our Requests for Proposals. Although we should receive all the responses byTuesday, November12, we do not want to wait beyond Monday, November 11, 2013.  Therefore, we are going to mark this task with a Finish No Later Than constraint for November 11.

4.    Click the Advanced tab.

5.    Click the Constraint Type down arrow and select Finish No Later Than.

6.    Click the Constraint Date down arrow and select Monday, November 11, 2013.  (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2
7.    Click OK.

8.    The Planning Wizard dialog box appears.  (Figure 3)

Figure 3

9.    The Planning Wizard indicates a possible conflict and offers us three options.  One, to just cancel the request.  Another to continue, but change to a better constraint.  Or finally, to continue with our original selection.  Generally, you should either cancel or accept the advice on how to avoid the conflict.  Only when absolutely necessary, continue with your selection; however, it could possibly affect your project’s finish date.

10.    Select the “Continue. A Finish No Later Than constraint will be set.” option, and click OK.

11.    A Scheduling Conflict message may appear.  Select “Continue.  Allow the scheduling conflict.” and click OK.
12.    The constraint is set.  An inflexibleconstraint indicator icon is displayed in the Indicated field.  Note the “red” square versus the “blue” square for a flexible constraint.

13.    Please Note: MS Project will, by default, honor constraint dates over scheduled dates unless you remove this default from the Tools-Options menu, then select the Schedule tab and uncheck Tasks Will Always Honor Their Constraint Dates.  Bottomline, it is best to wisely use constraints and preferably flexible constraints.

14.    Save your file.

When task constraints are set, conflicts can occur that can affect the project finish date or a task dependency.  When a conflict occurs, the Planning Wizard appears, indicating a conflict (or a potential conflict) will exist if the constraint is applied.  The Planning Wizard monitors scheduling activities and offers suggestions when appropriate.

1.    Click on the task, Evaluate Bids.

2.    Open the Task Information dialog box for this task.  Click the General tab and note the start date for this task is Monday, November 11, 2013, finish date is November 14, 2013.

3.    Click the Advanced tab.

4.    Click the Constraint Type down arrow and select Must Start On.

5.    Click the Constraint Date down arrow and select Monday, November 11, 2013.

6.    Click OK.

7.    The Planning Wizard dialog box appears again.

8.    This time select the Cancel option.  No constraint will be set on “Evaluate Bids”.

9.    Save your file.

10.    From the Viewtab select Tables from the Data group.  Then select More Tables.  The More Tables dialog box opens.

11.    Select Constraint Dates from the list and click Apply.

12.    Move the Gantt chart to the far side of your screen.  Widen the table columns so all information can be seen.

13.    Printthistable. Include all the columns of the Table: Constraint Dates but NOT the Gantt chart.  Be sure to include proper project header information.  Make sure you widen the columns showing task information.  This will be Printout 1.

14.    Save the file.

Establishing a Baseline

Once the project schedule is completed and all resource and task conflicts have been resolved, your current schedule represents the best estimate of how the project should proceed and what resources it will take.  The emphasis is estimate.  When entering any type of project, regardless of experience, no one knows exactly what will really happen; we can only give it our “best guess”.

Before the first task in the project begins, a baseline should be set.  (Notice we have always saved our project files without one in the past.)  A baseline is a record or “snapshot” taken of our forecast or expectations.  Without a baseline, we cannot measure progress of a project.  A baseline is useful for comparing the planned schedule with later versions of the schedule.  A project baseline should be viewed also as a learning tool.  Comparing the baseline to actual progress on a project can help you identify upcoming problems on the project as well as helping future projects with better duration estimates and more accurate resource assignments.

Think of a baseline as a forecast.  If I predict that on my vacation I will spend $400, I will make that my baseline or prediction.   At the end of my vacation, if I discovered that I spent $450, I know that I was overbudget (by $50) because I had a baseline ($400) to compare to my actual progress ($450).

Note: Once you save a project with a baseline, any changes to the baseline should not be made.  However, if a baseline is saved before the schedule planning is finished, a new baseline can be saved over the existing baseline.  If this is necessary, you would access the Tools menu, point to tracking and then click Save Baseline.  This should only be done to reset a baseline that was saved by accident.

We are now ready to save this project with a baseline.  Read the following instructions carefully, because once saving a project with a baseline, it is difficult to undo any mistakes previously made.

1.    First, save your current file asMyBaseline_XXX.mpp (where XXX are your initials), without a baseline.  This way, if you made any mistakes, you can go back to MyLab5_XXX.mpp.
2.    On the Project tab and the Schedule group select SetBaseline.

3.    From the drop down select Set Baseline.

4.    The Set Baseline window appears.

5.    In the For area, be sure that the Entire Project option is selected.  Press OK.

6.    Once you set a baseline, you can quickly monitor baseline statistics for your project.

7.    On the Project menu, click Project Information.  In the Project Information dialog box, click Statistics.  The Project Statistics window should appear.

Figure 4

8.    The Project Statistics window will compare basic progress of your project with your baseline.  This information comprises your Project Summary Report. (Notice that the fields for baseline now contain information).

9.    Close this window and save your file.
10.    Print your ProjectSummaryReport, (from this file, MyBaselineXXX.mpp).  Make sure it has all appropriate information.  This will be Printout 2.

At this point, you have been introduced to the basics of project scheduling and resource management.  There is much more to the software, but you should be encouraged to experiment and discover on your own using on-line help or books on MS Project.

Now that we have set a baseline for our project all that is left to do is to implement our project and track our progress.  However, a little review before we do…

When submitting required printouts, if you are not bringing them to class, from the Print Preview Page, take a screen shot (in Windows <ALT><Prt Scr>) of the report and paste the screen shot to a MS Word Document. Make sure to crop the screen to show only the report. After cropping, resize the image appropriately.  If the printout is on more than 1 page, paste each page individually. Save the Word document containing printouts as Week_6_Printouts_XXX.docx (where XXX are your initials) and submit this file to the Weekly iLab Dropbox.

Addendum

Task Information for the Beginning of Lesson 6

Project Information Statistics at the Beginning of Lesson 6

When you have completed this lesson please save it as MyBaseline_XXX.mpp and submit the file to the Weekly iLab Dropbox.

Also complete the following page and submit the Review Question sheet to the Weekly iLab Dropbox.

Review Questions

Name ____________________________

Answer the following questions:
1)    What is the difference between a task dependency and a task constraint?

2)    Give a real-world situation when you might used the following task constraints:
a)    Start No Earlier Than

b)    Start No Later Than

c)    Finish No Later Than

d)    Finish No Earlier Than

e)    Must Finish On

f)    Must Start On

g)    As Late As Possible

3)    What is the importance of a baseline?
4)    What is an interim plan?

Turn in this sheet with your MS Project file to the Week 6 iLab Dropbox.

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