The Project Success Toolkit for Microsoft Project – Microsoft Project Add-On
Founded thirty-three years ago, Project Success Inc. began life as a methodology training organization, later branching into consultancy. It currently has an international client base of approaching four hundred organizations, including some giant household names.
In the early days they used premium brand planning and scheduling software but as most of their clients used the less expensive Microsoft Project application, they switched to that and have become a Microsoft Partner.
Their experience with Project led them to realize that substantial improvements could be made and so, about fifteen years ago, they developed their toolkit, purely for internal use. As the toolkit developed, they came under pressure from their clients, who saw it in use, to make it accessible to everyone. They have now bowed to this pressure and the toolkit is available to buy.
The Project Success Method promotes duration-based planning and so the toolkit adds functionality to Project to allow an activity’s owner to specify its duration and amend it if necessary. Project’s plans are updated using percentage complete figures. The toolkit adds the ability to update plans using estimated remaining durations or estimated dates complete, motivating the activity’s owners to achieve these self-imposed targets.
A tab containing several options is added to Project’s Ribbon. The “Calculate Schedule” option tells you about any activities that are not connected to predecessors and/or successors and also tells you if any activities are being performed out of sequence.
All activities are allocated to an “Activity Manager” and the toolkit’s “Group and Sort” function lets you group activities by their manager, letting you see what each person’s responsible for. You can also group activities by other attributes.
I especially like the “Driving Path” function whereby you highlight an activity and are shown its predecessors for completion before it can start. Think of it as being able to find the “Critical Path” to any activity in your project.
When an activity’s deleted, its predecessors have nowhere to link to. Using the toolkit’s “Extract” function causes the activity’s predecessors to be linked to its successor but leaves it available for repositioning. The “Dissolve” function works similarly, but deletes the activity.
An “Activity Update” form lets people report progress to their manager. The forms are received by an Excel spreadsheet which, when approved, can be forward to the project manager. An “Electronic Activity Update” system is available for use on large projects.
Some useful reports have been added to Project’s native set. These include a “Look Ahead” report, used by the project manager to remind Activity Managers about activities due in the next work period, and the tabular “Precedents Relationship Report”. I particularly liked the “Project Metrics” report containing helpful metrics like the average activity duration, missing predecessors and successors, the percentage of tasks on the critical path, total slack and projected finish date.
Overall the toolkit streamlines vital areas of Project’s functionality and adds the reality of a fixed duration mode. For the users, these attributes not only lessen the burden of their dependency on the off-the-shelf software version, but also increase urgency, awareness and commitment with the fixed duration mode.