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Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 10) - Playing What-If Games

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1/13/2015 3:01:21 AM

Playing What-If Games

There’s more than one way to skin a cat—or plan a project. The project stakeholders may ask for the moon. Then when they see how much it costs to land on that hunk of rock, they might backpedal and ask for alternative plans. How much less would it cost if we cut this portion of the scope? How much longer will it take if we add these change requests to the plan? And invariably, why can’t we do all this extra work in the same timeframe and for the same cost? Project 2010 has two new features to help you evaluate alternatives: inactive tasks and the Compare Project feature. This section shows you how to use both.

Inactivating Tasks

If nothing seems to shorten the schedule or reduce the budget, a reduction in scope may be in order. You don’t get to eliminate scope; only the stakeholders can, and even then, only if the project customer approves. Decisions have a way of changing, so making tasks inactive (new in Project 2010) is a great way to cut scope. Should the stakeholders decide to revert to the original plan, you can reactivate the inactive tasks without skipping a beat.

Tip

Inactive tasks also work well if you want to document nice-to-have work. Create tasks, assign resources, and fill in other fields; then make the tasks inactive. Their values are visible (and editable) but don’t affect your project schedule. If you find that the project has the time and budget for the work, you can make them active.

Making tasks inactive removes their values from your project’s rolled-up schedule and cost. However, the tasks, their resource assignments, and field values remain in the plan, as Figure 14 shows, so you have a record of what you cut out. You can edit inactive tasks as you do active tasks. If you reactivate the tasks, you don’t have to re-enter any information.

Inactive tasks are grayed out and have a strikethrough line drawn through their values. However, you can select a cell in a table and edit its value, or double-click the task to open the Task Information dialog box. When you inactivate tasks, their duration and cost don’t roll up into summary task values. In addition, resource assignments don’t affect the assigned resources’ availability.

Figure 14. Inactive tasks are grayed out and have a strikethrough line drawn through their values. However, you can select a cell in a table and edit its value, or double-click the task to open the Task Information dialog box. When you inactivate tasks, their duration and cost don’t roll up into summary task values. In addition, resource assignments don’t affect the assigned resources’ availability.

Changing tasks to inactive is a snap: Select one or more tasks in a task-oriented view and then choose Task→Schedule→Inactivate. The inactive tasks immediately change to gray with a strikethrough line drawn through their values in the table area. However, you can edit an inactive task’s values by double-clicking it to open the Task Information dialog box or by editing directly in the table cells.

To reactivate a task, select it, and then choose Task→Schedule→Inactivate once again.

Comparing Projects

For more involved what-if games, it might be useful to make a second copy of your Project file. With a backup safely in place, you can edit to your heart’s content while keeping both the original file and the new one. That way, you can examine both options in detail to see which one is better. For example, you may save copies of a Project file to compare changes in the critical path as you shorten it or at different stages of project execution. No longer must you open files side by side, using your left and right index fingers as you scan through the corresponding fields in each file. In Project 2010, the Compare Projects feature simplifies these types of comparisons.

Say a remodeling contractor prepares a plan for remodeling your condo to set up a home theater. The price is higher than you had hoped, so you ask for an alternative plan that doesn’t cost as much. You want to see exactly where the contractor cut costs, though, so you don’t end up with the right price and the wrong TV. The Compare Projects feature produces a comparison report that compares values from two files side by side along with a column showing the difference between the two. In addition, the timescale includes two sets of task bars, so you can visually compare when tasks start and finish.

Here’s how to compare two versions of the same project:

  1. Open the two project files you want to compare and select the one that’s your current version. Then choose Project→Reports→Compare Projects.

    The Compare Project Versions dialog box opens with the “Compare the current project (<project_name>) to this previous version” label at the top, where <project name> is the name of the active project.

  2. In the drop-down list, choose the name of the previous version you want to compare with your current file.

    If the other file isn’t open, click Browse and then, in the Open dialog box, choose the file you want to compare.

    Note

    Compare Projects uses current to identify the values for the first file you selected and previous to identify the values for the file you selected in the Compare Project Versions dialog box. That’s why it’s easier to keep things straight if you select your current file version first.

  3. In the Task Table drop-down list, choose the table that contains the fields you want to compare. In the Resource Table drop-down list, choose the table that contains the resource fields you want to compare.

    The comparison table that Compare Projects builds can become unwieldy, because it includes three columns for each field in the original table you selected. To focus on the information you care about most, consider creating a custom table  that contains only the fields you want to compare—for example, for tasks, Task Name, Duration, Finish Date, and Cost.

  4. Click OK.

    A message box tells you it’s creating a comparison report, and windows flicker on and off for a few seconds. When things calm down, you see a Comparison Report window at the top and the two versions you’re comparing at the bottom, as Figure 15 shows.

When you compare two versions of a project, the program displays the Comparison Report window across the top of the Project main window. A window for the current version of the project appears at the bottom left. A window for the previous version appears at the bottom right.

Figure 15. When you compare two versions of a project, the program displays the Comparison Report window across the top of the Project main window. A window for the current version of the project appears at the bottom left. A window for the previous version appears at the bottom right.

A legend on the left side of the Comparison Report window identifies the symbols it uses:

  • Tasks that appear only in the current project include a plus sign.

  • Tasks that appear only in the previous version include a minus sign to indicate that the task has been removed in the current version.

  • The task bars for the current version are green.

  • The task bars for the previous version are blue.

  • For each column in the table you selected, the Comparison Report displays three columns. For example, Cost: Current shows the cost for the current version. Cost: Previous shows the cost for the previous version. And Cost: Diff shows the difference in the values between the two versions.

The Compare Projects tab appears between the File tab and the Task tab on the ribbon. You can choose Task Comparison or Resource Comparison to switch between the task table and resource table you specified. By choosing Compare Projects→Show→Filter and then choosing a filter, you can view different aspects of the comparison. For example, in the drop-down list, choose “Changed items” to see only the tasks or resources that changed between the versions. You can also view items that appear only in the current or previous version. If you want to view a task in each version, select the task in the Comparison Report window and then choose Compare Projects→Compare→Go to Item. Project highlights the task in the windows for each version.

 
Others
 
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 9) - Paying More for Faster Delivery
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 8) - Overlapping Tasks - Finding Tasks to Fast-Track
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 7) - Adjusting Resource Assignments - Assigning a Different Resource , Using Slack Time to Shorten the Schedule
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 6) - Adjusting Resource Assignments - Increasing Units to Decrease Duration
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 5) - Project Tools for Change - Undoing Changes
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 4) - Project Tools for Change - Seeing What Changes Do
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 3) - Evaluating the Project Schedule - Reviewing Project Costs
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 2) - Evaluating the Project Schedule - Finding the Best Tasks to Shorten
- Microsoft Project 2010 : Refining a Project Schedule (part 1) - Evaluating the Project Schedule - Comparing Finish Dates to Deadlines
- Microsoft Onenote 2010 : Using Tables to Organize Information (part 5) - Deleting a Row in a Table, Using Keyboard Shortcuts to Modify Tables
 
 
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