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Who's got advice on Microsoft Project being weird?

Looking for some advice about MS Project - ideally from a project manager or Project lover. So I acknowledge I don't know really what I'm doing; I'm trying to schedule in a set of fixed duration tasks (imagine a product-specific meeting with a user for live feedback) where two of our team need to be present (and, of course, the user needs to be there too). When Project auto-schedules, it changes the fixed duration meeting from 2 hrs to 44 hrs. And Project then schedules the task about 2.5 months into the future. Scary.

I'm more than happy to clarify anything that doesn't seem clear. In case you want to chat directly, message me on FD or reach me at adam [at] aetherealink [dot] com

9 Replies

Owen Rubel
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Owen Rubel Advisor
Creator of API Chaining, IO State, API I/O Abstraction and modern API Automation
Honestly for project management I would say stay far away from project as it is extremely limited, not agile in anyway and lacks flexibility to meet modern day project demands. I'd say use Pivotal Tracker or even Jira; Jira has bug tracker and agile development in one plus you can integrate it with Git/Github rather easily. And they both fit into a small budget when you purchase them online as a webapp.
Adam Porroni
0
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Adam Porroni Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur / Criminologist / Developer
Thanks Owen, I really appreciate your input. Sorry to get back to you slowly. Are either of these that you mention (or other agile-oriented apps) better for physical product development management rather than software development? I'm new to management software, as you can guess.
Owen Rubel
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Owen Rubel Advisor
Creator of API Chaining, IO State, API I/O Abstraction and modern API Automation
well product development often follows the same rules of project development so yes. though you will not run into bugs and things of that nature os i would say Pivotal tracker is a better bet for you; read up on Kanban's, agile development, scrums, burn-downs and other concepts of agile development. Learn your pigs from chickens.
Owen Rubel
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Owen Rubel Advisor
Creator of API Chaining, IO State, API I/O Abstraction and modern API Automation
Also, even though you are not doing project development for software development and instead doing product development, you often will find yourself interfacing and it is easiest when you use similar tools; you can converse in a similar manner and converge in a similar way both with reporting and with timelines and dates.
Matthew Cordasco
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Matthew Cordasco Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-founder and Head of Product
Agile vs waterfall. Agile is great for software but sometimes limited when planning out a year ahead and interfacing with other disciplines (like marketing and finance.) We typically use a hybrid approach with dev uses agile with tools like PivotalTracker, but on an executive planning level we can use water fall/ gantt charts, etc. When I use project I never let the app do the scheduling, I do it manually. to start, I list all of the items with only their title, duration and resource. Then I go from top to bottom linking dependencies, so that will push future tasks out to where its parent ends. This gives a pretty good projected estimate. As time goes by, change the duration or end date for competed tasks and the rest should adjust.

Microsoft has alot of template projects on their website, so that might be a good place to start and study how they group/ setup things.

That being said, Project can be a HUGE time suck. In all but the most complicated projects its overhead has not warranted the time investment. I personally track multi-quarter projects via a simple PowerPoint slide and then develop via PT.

good luck
Owen Rubel
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Owen Rubel Advisor
Creator of API Chaining, IO State, API I/O Abstraction and modern API Automation
@Mathew, You can plot agile with milestones as well which will allow for entire years worth of planning in 2 week increments if you wish to plan that far ahead. Waterfall isnt the end all be all in that sense. HOWEVER I will say that waterfall does provide a view for management who doesnt understand agile and need to see that view.

This is why most agile systems also generate GANTS so you can see the milestone for the next 6 months to a year on a GANT without having to revert to waterfall and having to tell people 'sorry you will have to wait 6 months to get that feature in'
Alexander Laszlo Ross
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Alexander Laszlo Ross Entrepreneur • Advisor
Head of Business Development at Verifide
My 2 cents from my years of product and project management:

Skip MS Project- it can be a huge time waste on most of the benefits you'll *think* gain from it, you probably won't.

I think the most important key- agile or not- is that you flesh out major milestones and what the overall the focus are in each. Any major dependencies should be included. Attempts to declare today what minor task will be started in 9 months are a waste of time. But a clear picture (for all involved) of the milestones and whether you are hitting them is key. And remember that everyone tends to underestimate the time things take. See Hofstadter's Law for a take on this.

There are differences between physical product and software project management- mostly less predictability in software- but this should apply to both.

Feel free to ping me at alex [at] presentista [dot] com if you wanted to chat more...
Adam Porroni
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Adam Porroni Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur / Criminologist / Developer
Thanks to everyone, Owen, Matt, and Alex. Each one of you has shed a good amount of light on a) what I'm missing in regards to project and/or product management techniques and b) better ways of thinking about the problem. Probably a big reason why FounderDating is worth it is it has people like you all!

Though I do have a follow-up question for Matt: how do you use PowerPoint for tracking projects? While everything else you mentioned was certainly useful, bringing up PP for something other than a form of business-endorsed meeting torture was interesting to hear. :)

Thanks again!
Amy Shutkin, MSc
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0
Senior Project Manager
Adam,
As a new advisor on FounderDating, I just came across your postings. Since you have alrady purchased MSProject, let me just say that you have made an investment in a powerful tool. It isn't the right tool for everyone, but it has many advanced features that you can learn to use and that will serve you well.
Take a look at the whitepaper, "Microsoft Project for the Masses," to help you take better advantage of your investment in MSProject.http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=25194
In my experience, entrepreneurial projects benefit most from a rolling wave form of project management. In general, you know where you're headed, but there are a lot of unknown unknowns between now and your finish line. So plan well to the nearest horizon. When the project begins to diverge most people will simply muster on and here's the thing. It takes discipline at this point to stop, conduct a brief retrospective, and then re-plan to the next event horizon. The rolling wave is how R&D moves forward, combining agility with waterfall.
namaste,
Amy
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