Sharing tools and ideas for Portfolio, Program, and Project Managers

Custom scheduling tools and databases – Part I

In making your own custom scheduling tools it’s best to think of your scheduling software NOT as scheduling software but as a DATABASE!  When you get down to it that is all scheduling software really is: information inputs, information outputs.  Inputs are information like, e.g. Task Name, Resource Name, Duration, etc.  Output info  may be very different, e.g. finish dates or calculations, and are usually in the form of text, numbers, and or graphics, e.g. Gantt Chart or Network Diagram.  Make your database or tool work for you.  I try as much as possible to use my scheduling software as a database and input as much information into it as possible prior to going outside of it to use another type of software or creating another file.   Before I make any custom tools I figure out what information I need for OUTPUT which drives the required information INPUT.  Knowing this you can make your own tools for planning, tracking, and communication.

Regarding tools, I’ve been using Microsoft Project for years.  There are plenty of arguments on which tools are better or worse. That’s not the point here.  The point is that it is a tool and as a planning and scheduling tool it works well for the types of projects I’ve managed.  Typical projects for me have been 200-500 tasks.  I’ve used it successfully for a program with over 10,000+ tasks .  MS Project 2003 has about 300 fields while MS Project 2007 has 421 fields! Many of these fields are customizable for creating your own information inputs or outputs.  With this post and the next three posts I will show, share, and explain previous tools I’ve created for project planning, executing, monitoring and controlling by customizing MS Project using Views, Fields, Tables, and Filters.

All templates described below were created using MS Project 2003 single standalone version.  All have a screen view and a formatted printout.   Here’s the entire List:



PMO_Complete Tasks (Outputs) Prints list of all completed tasks grouped by week. Good for:
1) Verifying task completion,
2) Celebration of task completion,
3) Ensuring completion date is in the past. Note: If the PM checks 100% complete box instead of inputting the actual completion date the date may show complete in the future. E.g. If the schedule shows a baseline finish of May 1 and the task was actually finished on April 20 checking the 100% complete box will establish the finish date as May 1steven though the real date is April 20. You end up with a schedule that is not reflective of what’s really happening and you miss opportunities for improving execution.
PMO_Costs (Inputs) Shows task costs.  Calculates most likely expense costs from inputted pessimistic, expected, and optimistic costs and rolls up total costs.  Also includes Capital Costs.
PMO_Critical Path (Outputs) For schedule control.  Creates filtered view of the current critical path and shows progress on the critical path. If the critical path slips the project will be late.  Good for management reviews and updates. Placing Deadlines for key tasks will place an alert in the Indicators column if the task slips.  
PMO_Entry (Inputs) Data input and review.  
PMO_Gantt Chart (Outputs) All tasks with Gantt bar schedule.  
PMO_Issues Report (Outputs) Prints only incomplete tasks in which there is something printed in the Task Issues column in the PMO_Tracking Gantt.  Good for Issues tracking, management reviews and updates.  
PMO_Network Diagram (Outputs) To printout and review the network diagram and corresponding project logic, predecessors and successors.  It only takes one wrong dependency to screw up an entire project complete date. Can be used by the project team to track where the project is at.  Used in conjunction with the SCRAPP METHOD.  
PMO_Progress Rollup-Inputs (Inputs) Fill in Last % Complete column for only those tasks you want to highlight for management reviews and updates.  These are usually summary tasks and or milestones.  Start out by inputting “0%”.  Print out using the PMO_Progress Rollup-Report. Good for management reviews and updates.  
PMO_Progress Rollup-Report (Outputs) From PMO_Progress Rollup-Input generates a view that shows only those tasks that have a value in the Last % Complete column.  Adds progress line and shows current percent complete.  Placing Deadlines for key tasks will place an alert in the Indicators column if the task slips. Good for management reviews and updates.  
PMO_Resource-Incomplete Tasks (Outputs) Input a resource name and a time frame with a start date and end date. The print out filters and shows all INCOMPLETE tasks for that resource within the time frame chosen. This includes tasks not started.  
PMO_Resource-To Do Tasks (Outputs) Input a resource name and a time frame with a start date and end date. The print out filters and shows all tasks for that resource that START in the time frame chosen. 
PMO_Slipping Tasks (Outputs) The print out filters and shows all tasks that are Late in the Status column OR have a value >1 in the Slipping Tasks column.  Excellent for problem solving and getting the project back on track.  
PMO_Task Risks (Inputs) Allows inputs to Risk Cause, Risk, and Risk Effect with their associated tasks.  
PMO_Task Risks Report (Outputs) Filters and condenses project to only tasks with any inputs into any one of Risk Cause, Risk, and Risk Effect.  Requires completion of Risk Ranking, Trigger, Mitigation, and Owner.  Combine and add with the Risk Management Plan.  
PMO_Tracking Gantt (Inputs) This is the workhorse for schedule tracking. Filtered and shows all incomplete tasks.  Input the Actual Start, Actual Duration, Remaining Duration, Actual Finish, and Task Issues to get an up to date view of project status.  After updating the schedule the following reports are useful for managing and communication.
Print PMO_Issues Report to get a printout of all task issues.  Print PMO_Slipping Tasks for a report showing all slipping tasks. Print PMO_Critical Path to see if the critical path has changed.  
PMO_WBS Dictionary (Inputs) Use to define the task activities during project initiation, project charter, and preliminary scope definition.  

In the next post (Part II) I’ll discuss two of the primary tools, PMO_Entry and PMO_Tracking Gantt.

Do you make your own tools, customize, or use straight out of the box?  I’m interested in hearing how others have approached this issue.

Thanks for visiting…


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One thought on “Custom scheduling tools and databases – Part I

  1. Pingback: Why Projects Fail | ALL3PM

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