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Constrain a Schedule to an Immovable Date RRS feed

  • Question

  • Does anyone have any suggestions for constraining a schedule to an immovable date without it being impacted by re-forecasting, removing holidays & vacations from available working time and negative slack?

     

    Thanks!


    Michelle
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:43 AM

Answers

  • Michelle --

    If it were me, I would use a Deadline date instead of a Must Start On constraint on the final milestone in the project.  If I see negative Total Slack on tasks in the project, this means that the final milestone has slipped past its Deadline date, and the negative number shows how late the project is currently against its target Finish date.  The negative Total Slack shows you how many days you must chop from the schedule by adding helpers on Effort Driven tasks to shorten Duration values, adding Overtime Work for assigned resources, asking team members to work weekends, etc.

    As you know from all of the replies you have gotten so far, there is no perfect solution to your problem, but there are a number of realistic workable solutions available for you.  Hope this extra helps.


    Dale A. Howard [MVP]
    VP of Educational Services
    msProjectExperts
    http://www.msprojectexperts.com
    http://www.projectserverexperts.com
    "We write the books on Project Server"

    • Proposed as answer by Jim AkselModerator Thursday, July 21, 2011 2:09 AM
    • Marked as answer by Mouchoux Tuesday, August 2, 2011 3:06 PM
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 9:03 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • Hi mouchoux,

    May I ask why you want to do this?

    Because of of the biggest advantages of Microsoft Project over for example Excel is the fact that scheduling is dynamic and that your schedule responds to changes in scope, th forecast, holidays, ... This way, you can identify problem early and react more quickly to problems in your schedule. If you would fix the schedule, you are simply hiding all problems.

    Now to answer your question: no you cannot fix an entire schedule, but...

    ... If you are asking this because you want to be able to compare the current schedule with an approved schedule, you can use the baseline feature.Build your schedule, and save a baseline. Later on, you can compare this baseline with the current schedule by using for example the Tracking Gannt Chart

    ... If you want to fix some tasks because they have to occur on an agreed date, no matter what, you have several options. Use a 'Must Start On' constraint to fix the task start date. You can switch the task to manually scheduled (if you are using Microsoft Project 2010).

    Please let us know what version of Microsoft Project you are using, what you are trying to do, and why you need to fix some tasks or the schedule.

    I hope this helps,
    Hans


    My EPM blog: Projectopolis
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 12:07 PM
    Moderator
  • Hi Hans,

    Thank you for your response.  I am working with Project 2007. 

    We have a fixed deadline for a certain project.  I have explained to my team the fact that regardless of how the schedule is presented (resource leveled with date that extends beyond the deadline OR with the deadline maintained and the resources ridiculously overallocated) there are still management decisions that need to be made in order to assess feasibility and to ensure that the target deadline be met.  My management team feels more comfortable with constraining the duration and addressing the resulting overallocations in order to solve the problem. 

    Constraining the date with a must start on constraint creates negative slack, while constraining the duration still gets impacted when vacation times are entered and tasks are delayed.  My other suggestion was to assume a certain amount of overtime work, set the project calendar accordingly and to use that to bring the date in and then socialize the amount of overtime needed to do so.

    Normally, I would re-forecast work, level resources, present a date that is later than the deadline and start asking questions and offering solutions about how to bring the date in; but this team is adamant that they do not want to the schedule finish date to ever extend beyond their target.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    mouchoux


    Michelle
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 1:32 PM
  • All standard caveats aside, and semi-jokingly, I might propose taking a baseline,
    then creating a view and removing everything but the baseline representation.
     
     

    Andrew Lavinsky [MVP] Blog: http://azlav.umtblog.com Twitter: @alavinsky
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 1:42 PM
    Moderator
  • Hello Michelle,

    First - keep in mind that MS Project is a planning tool. So what are you planning to do. That is, if you want a schedule that complete on a given day - Project will enable you to do that. It will even allow you to put items in the schedule that are impractible - e.g. - you want to start last week, no problem' you want a given resource to work 40 hour days, you can put that in as well.

    But what's the point? Are you really trying to plan out the work and resource requirements - or are you simply building a report for someone?

    It's rare - but I have worked on a few projects that had an absolute finish date. Management recognized something had to flex - in my cases budget was first (I had absolute control) and scope was second (required management approval). (note - I turn down projects if management does not have moldable/reasonable expectations)

    To hit an absolute date, you must agressively manage the critical path (MS Project helps, but other tools are needed as well). When reality happens, you then have 2 options, add resource or cut scope.

    Good luck!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:27 PM
  • Michelle --

    If it were me, I would use a Deadline date instead of a Must Start On constraint on the final milestone in the project.  If I see negative Total Slack on tasks in the project, this means that the final milestone has slipped past its Deadline date, and the negative number shows how late the project is currently against its target Finish date.  The negative Total Slack shows you how many days you must chop from the schedule by adding helpers on Effort Driven tasks to shorten Duration values, adding Overtime Work for assigned resources, asking team members to work weekends, etc.

    As you know from all of the replies you have gotten so far, there is no perfect solution to your problem, but there are a number of realistic workable solutions available for you.  Hope this extra helps.


    Dale A. Howard [MVP]
    VP of Educational Services
    msProjectExperts
    http://www.msprojectexperts.com
    http://www.projectserverexperts.com
    "We write the books on Project Server"

    • Proposed as answer by Jim AkselModerator Thursday, July 21, 2011 2:09 AM
    • Marked as answer by Mouchoux Tuesday, August 2, 2011 3:06 PM
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 9:03 PM
    Moderator
  • I agree. Dont mess with constraints or 'artificial' means. Create your best schedule set deadline dates on the key milestones, including the finish date and then as changes are made to the schedule based on reality and your tasks move out past the deadline dates you can easily see where you need to pull back in order to meet them.

     

    if you constrain a bunch of tasks it might look good right away but the impacts of changes might be harder to see.


    Brian Kennemer – DeltaBahn Senior Architect
    Blog | Twitter | LinkedIn
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 9:36 PM
    Moderator
  • I also agree with Dale.  There is zero sense in producing a plan that will tell you from day one that "we cannot get there from here."  You really have only a couple of options once you plan it out "Dale's Way" ...

     

    1. Forgive Scope and descope to the point where you have half a prayer to make it.  Your story is, "In the allotted time, we can do this..."

    2. Bring additional resources to bear on the problem.  Although 9 women cannot have a baby in one month, you may be able to switch technologies or methods to decrease task durations along your critical path.  For example, you can mow the lawn faster with a riding lawnmower than a push mower.  Spray painting takes less time than a brush, etc. With a deadline date in place for your final milestone, you can crash the critical path by fast tracking (running things in parallel), decrease duration with additional resources, overtime work, weekend work, subcontracting, perhaps buying something rather than making it (don't invent Notepad, just purchase Micrsoft Office for example).

    3. You may want to look at things "top down" ... if you have to build some software then allocate time frames for requirements, design, integration & test, etc based on your experience.  If you have two weeks for requirements, then that's 100% of the time alloted... requirement stop and there are no more.  That's not good practice because you should be spending most of your time there but it makes the point.

    4. Remember, your team is going to "tell you what you want to hear" to get the time scale correct.  If the schedule requires they be done with "design" within 6 weeks, they will tell you "We'll give it a go and we'll get it done" .... anything like that is a big red flag.  You'll want quantitative data to back up their claim that they can get it done so quickly ... what is the track record?

    5. Consider a risk analysis ... I seriously doubt someone is going to get a task done in an impressive amount of time just because they say so.  A risk analysis might help managment in deciding what additional resources are necessary along the critical path, and if they are willing to pay the price to add the avaiable labor pool.

    If you truly believe "I don't think we can get there from here" given the risks, I'd ask to be assigned to another project ...  Remember, they aren't going to remember you were given an unreasonable deadline, but they will certain remember if you make it or break it. 


    If you feel this post answered the question, please vote for it. I am also available here:
    msprojectblog.com
    Thursday, July 21, 2011 2:23 AM
    Moderator
  • Gentlemen,

    Thanks for your responses. 

    My biggest issue with this was really managing up.  I'm already extremely proficient having scheduled with Project for 12 years.  You backed me up 100% (while also eliciting chuckles) and I and a co-worker were able to manage this a little bit better than what we were originally asked to do. 
    And hi to Dale!

    Michelle


    Michelle
    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 3:13 PM
  • Hi yourself, Michelle!  :)  And you are more than welcome for the help, my friend.


    Dale A. Howard [MVP]
    VP of Educational Services
    msProjectExperts
    http://www.msprojectexperts.com
    http://www.projectserverexperts.com
    "We write the books on Project Server"

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 3:47 PM
    Moderator