Solutions to 5 Common Microsoft Project Frustrations

Written By: Jason Petrie

MS Project frustrationsIf you’re like most project managers, you’ve had some frustrations getting your project schedule to look the way you want in Microsoft Project Professional. You spend precious time just trying to get a certain activity to occur on a specific date. When you finally do, the rest of the project has changed unwantedly. Perhaps you find it too cumbersome to maintain the schedule as the project moves forward. So, like many of us, you stop using MS Project and find some other way to communicate your project schedule.

Don’t give up so easily! MS Project has so many amazing features that take the guess work out of creating a project schedule. Here are solutions to 5 of the most common frustrations I hear about in MS Project Professional:

1. Frustration: Related tasks don’t move together appropriately.

Solution: Understand the predecessor/successor relationships and get them right at the beginning.

Setting task relationships appropriately is key. If not set realistically, then the project schedule will not remain realistic as activities deviate from the original schedule. Don’t set relationships between tasks unless there is one, and don’t omit a predecessor or successor relationship either. Keep in mind you have these relationships to work with:Predecessors in MS Project

For a closer look, you may consider reviewing task constraints.

2. Frustration: Rescheduling work is cumbersome. Who has time to change all of those start dates?

Solution: Use the ‘Move Task’ feature.

Under the Task ribbon, there’s a button titled Move. This button allows you to move any selected task(s) forward or backwards with the click of a button. It also allows you to move more than one task at a time.
Move task feature

3. Frustration: My schedule should consider certain days as non-working or include weekends as working days.

Solution: Change the project calendar to create exceptions to the normal working calendar so you don’t have to try and manipulate tasks around those days.

Under the Project on the ribbon, select Change Working Time. Use the Exception tab to change what days should be non-working, or set very specific work hours by clicking Details for specific exception days.
Change working time MS Project

For more information on Project calendars, visit the Microsoft Support forum.

4. Frustration: I’ve tried everything and this task just won’t do what I think it should!

Solution: If you have the luxury of using Microsoft Project Professional 2010 or newer, turn on Manual scheduling mode.

Select the troubled tasks and turn on Manual mode. This will allow you to make the task do anything you want and ignore Project Professionals’ calculations.

Manual scheduling mode MS Project

5. Frustration: I just need to print a high-level schedule in a way that looks nice! Why is printing a schedule in MS Project so difficult?

Solution: Use the timeline feature.

One of the main reasons you are creating this schedule is to share it. But sharing it becomes yet another frustration. You often just want a simple high-level view of your schedule. Perhaps something that looks like this:
Timeline in MS Project

Follow the instructions here to see how easy it is to create the timeline.

Microsoft Project Professional is incredibly helpful once you figure out a few tricks. Hopefully, these tips will help you use the software to its fullest.

Jason is the Scheduling and Quality Manager at Bastian Software Solutions in Louisville, KY.

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