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Get A Grip With Project-Management Software
by Barbara Lewis MBA and Dan Otto MBA

At times, your work may seem overwhelming with a huge amount of tasks that you can’t possibly complete. This type of work may be a trial with a fast approaching deadline, an office move to new space or a comprehensive marketing campaign. When confronted by these overwhelming tasks, you can lose sleep and suffer mental anguish as you attempt to manage the daunting project.

When our clients face these situations, we recommend the use of project management software. Although there are a number of project management software products on the market, we are partial to Microsoft Project, because of its ease of use and capability to interface with other Microsoft software.

Centurion Consulting Group used Microsoft Project when we relocated our business a few years ago. When first contemplating the plethora of tasks involved in the move, we found the project was overwhelming. However, after using Microsoft Project in planning and executing the move, we would have no hesitation about relocating our business again. The move was easy, efficient and organized.

Project management is segmented into three basic areas:

Milestones

Milestones are associated with dates. For example, you have to file a brief by a specific date.

Tasks

Tasks are the jobs that must be completed prior to meeting the milestone deadline. Tasks can be completed simultaneously or sequentially.

Predecessors/Successors

Some tasks need to be completed in serial order i.e., one task cannot begin until the prior task is completed. For example, you decide for strategic reasons that you want to take the deposition of plaintiff A prior to taking the deposition of witness B. This feature is extremely useful in Microsoft Project software, because predecessor/successor tasks are linked to other tasks. So if one task is not completed, for some reason, all the linked tasks move together to the next available day.

Each task has three characteristics apart from predecessors and successors:

Duration, which indicates the length of time the task requires,

Cost, which reflects the amount of money required to complete the task, and

Resources, which are required to complete the task.

One of the advantages of using project management software, such as Microsoft Project, is the preparation required to complete the initial document. The user lists the milestones with their tasks, links the tasks with other tasks that may be predecessors or successors, assigns people responsible for the tasks’ completion, and indicates the amount of time, money and resources required to complete each task.

Once the durations and links are developed you can visually see the effect a delay in one task will have on successor tasks and milestones. Tasks that cannot be delayed without delaying the project finish date are called critical path tasks. Tasks not on the critical path will have slack time calculated. This is the time a task can be delayed without delaying the project finish date.

Resources are another constraint to the project. You may find that some tasks could be done simultaneously if there were another resource such as a paralegal. Using project management software you can perform scenario analysis by adding paralegals to the model to see if they will reduce time or increase total costs.

This exercise is an excellent way to organize the project. The ease in completing the project is facilitated by this initial preparation of the project management document. The document can be used as a template for other similar projects.

The value of the document is the comprehensive view of the total project. Yet each day has a snapshot of the day’s tasks, which allows the user to manage the project in a simplified manner. The project’s vastness is diminished by tackling each day’s specific tasks.

The user can print the day’s tasks at the beginning of the day and then delete completed tasks at the end of the day.

In moving our business, we had a project management document with 65 tasks – ones linked with other tasks and ones with milestones. Each day, we worked on several designated tasks, completed them and then went on to the next day’s tasks. During the relocation, there was no stress and no sleep loss. We were relaxed and enjoyed the move.

Research reflects that moving is one of the most stressful activities. Yet with proper project management, it can be easy and (would you believe) fun. If you find yourself with an overwhelming project, consider project management software to reduce stress and eliminate those sleepless nights.

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