If you manage large projects or several smaller projects, you need to track how your staff is used, how your machinery and equipment is used, all while keeping up with the project schedule. The goal is to maximize all of your resources so you can maximize your billing and minimize the time it takes to complete a project. Keeping track of all of this information on paper can be almost impossible and will likely lead to inefficient use of resources.
When preparing a proposal for the office or for a customer, you need to plan how long a project will last and how much it will cost. You might be able to do this on paper initially, but you can’t perform a what-if analysis to prepare for a contingency, or make some guesses as to where you can require more resources.
Plus, if an unforeseen event changes the project (for example: weather, sick employee, broken machinery, task took longer than expected, etc.) you need to be able to predict how this change will affect the overall timeline, budget, and usage of resources. Sharing tasks and updating the project schedule can be a paper-intensive process for the project manager if employees are not connected electronically.
The solution to these problems is project management software. Microsoft Project is an application that allows you to electronically plan and manage one or more projects at a time.
After creating a list of tasks you can assign resources and time estimates for completion of each task. Then you have the choice of having tasks follow a critical path (one task begins after the other is complete) or run the tasks parallel to each other. Once the task assignments are complete, Project can automatically generate a total budget and produce a schedule in the form of a Gantt chart, Pert chart, or calendar.
As the project is in progress, an unforeseen event might change the length of time for a given task. You can make this change to the one task and Project will automatically recalculate the new schedule and cost change. You can easily view your total utilization of resources (people and equipment) and ensure that each resource is optimized.
Microsoft Project is focused on the entire spectrum of planning, and offers major feature additions and enhancements for anyone with a planning need.