Leverage your Microsoft Project Investment

Leverage your Microsoft Project Investment

Increasingly, fellow Mac users come to me with this common challenge: how to open, edit, view or even print MPP files (the file format for Microsoft Project) when using standalone versions of Microsoft Project. After researching the problem, I found that Microsoft flat out does not provide a solution, as there is no Mac version of this popular PM planning tool. PMs using Apple computer users are simply left out in the cold.

Of course, one can run Parallels Desktop or some other brand of virtualization software on a Mac, but that seems like a lot of trouble and overhead to accomplish what should be a very simple task: to manipulate Microsoft Project plans using an Apple computer. Virtualization was a non-starter for me, as that would require a hardware upgrade to my simple MacBook.

Many of my clients and even team members here at Housatonic also needed this functionality, so we developed a commercial solution: Project Plan 365 for Mac. Using this solution, existing users of Microsoft Project can leverage their investment and extend their PM activities to any Apple computer, or even work on an Apple device such as an iPad. For teams considering expanding their PMO software suite to include options for Mac users, this solution is also appropriate.

How to…

To work on your Microsoft Project plans while using a Mac, all you need to do is try or buy Project Plan 365 for Mac. Once installed on your Mac, you simply open up any MPP file created in Microsoft Project and then you do what you normally would: manage the schedule, produce Gantt charts, balance resources, monitor costs, etc. etc.

Sample MPP started in MS Project and finished in Project Plan 365
Sample MPP started in MS Project and finished in Project Plan 365

 Project Plan 365 for Mac opens Microsoft Project plans directly and seamlessly (no conversions or importing/exporting needed), and the interface for Project Plan 365 is nearly identical to what you are accustomed to inside of Microsoft Project - no retraining required! And even if some aspect of Project Plan 365 for Mac is unfamiliar, we have a website full of training videos and help articles (in addition to a 24/7 support ticketing system).

Once you are working in Project Plan 365 for Mac, there is the added benefit of being able to edit and view your plans on an iPhone or an iPad – for example, in case you have left your Mac in the office and you are out on a job site with only your iPad in hand. (See this video case study that documents just this situation.)

Next Step…

To start leveraging your investment in Microsoft Project and to start working on your plans using a Mac, simply download and install Project Plan 365 – its free to try and inexpensive to buy.

The Importance of Resource Calendaring

The Importance of Resource Calendaring

With so many projects of late either failing, partially failing or coming in way over budget, those of us in the business of managing projects are concerned, and rightly so.

The reason for project failures and cost bloats are many fold, and this article only covers one problem that falls under the category of resource management - future posts here will cover other reasons, such as problems in task, cost and collaboration management.

While proper calendaring is just one important aspect of resource management, it is often forgotten about amid the furry of rapid project design and implementation.

In our rush to meet project-design deadlines, our up front estimates for human or material resources are often more vague than accurate, and this lack of precision often proves detrimental later on down the project road.

So let's take a look at just how that dynamic works (imprecise calendaring), or in this case, doesn't work to the benefit of project outcomes.

Proper calendaring (or in other words, knowing when your workforce is available for work) is important during all phases of project management, from the initial proposal & budget work-up, to the final analysis conducted once the project is complete.

While your organization may have a standard working calendar (start/end times, company days off, corporate holidays, etc.), it’s important to realize that individuals - and even materials - can have unique calendars that will deviate from the standard one used by your organization, and if not taken into consideration, can skew any plan calculations significantly.

So let's first look at the relationship between a human resource, and their related calendar data points. Figure 1 shows the many related data points for any given human resource.

In addition to these human resource calendar deviations, even materials can be considered to have their own calendar data points - see Figure 2.

 Although with specific materials, you usually have them or not, but machines that use material resources can certainly be thought of as having a calendar with data points.

These points of concern (shift-work times, special leaves and holidays, etc.) are all factors that affect the bottom line, in terms of workforce availability, project costs and length of task durations.

One must look at all of these points combined to get a more complete picture of your project's scope.

Implications during the Initial Phase

So when preparing a proposal for any project, instead of picking a number out of a hat (for resource costs) or relying on an enterprises standard 8-hour / 5-day work week, you can use the above data points to get an much better estimate all of these data points are factored in.

One common example of an error during this phase, is when a globalized company uses a standard US calendar for work being performed in Asia, where workers may be using a 10-hour / 6-day workweek - see Figure 3.

But regardless of location, if these often forgotten factors are not considered, you might be proposing a planned budget and schedule that can never be met.

Implications during the Middle Phase

When scheduling the work, unless precise calendaring is used that takes into account all possible calendaring points, planned schedules will most likely be shorter than the actual outcome, and cause your project to have needless cost overruns and delays.

Implications during the Final Phase

When evaluating project performance during the post-mortem, the results will be skewed by the initial errors in calendaring, and that will not be helpful when repurposing previous project data in order to project costs and schedules for the next like-project coming down the road.

In Conclusion…

So, in this post we have 1) explored the importance of calendaring across all phases of project planning, 2) shown how a single resource has many calendar data points, and 3) been given a simple procedure for getting a handle on your project's workforce availability (and how that affects project scope).

The benefit of proper calendaring should become evident in your next project that takes this knowledge into consideration, so give that a try – since as they say - the proof is in the pudding!

Watch this space for future posts that will help ensure that your project is successful, and never placed into the category of "failed" or "partially failed."

Project Success Rates
Machine Resource Calendar
Figure 2. While materials are not thought to have calendar data points, the machines or processes that use them certainly can! (click to enlarge)
Human Resource Calendar
Figure 1. Human resource calendar data points that may deviate from a standard calendar. (click to enlarge)
Granular calendaring tool
Figure 3. Use a scheduling tool (such as Project Plan 365, Microsoft Project, etc.) that is granular enough to capture important calendaring data points, on a per resource basis. (click to enlarge)