MS Project Materials and Costs

Do you want the actual end-users of your MS Project plans to have input?

After all, what’s a project plan without input and adjustments from the boots on the ground? It’s static and lifeless. The project manager creates the plan, and minutes later it’s out of date. Why? Because the project manager doesn’t know the actual conditions on the ground. Only the actual employees know that. So you need their input.

This video describes getting input in the form of materials and costs that are synchronized with MS Project. Get a look below!

What is a material resource in MS Project?

There are actually three types of resources in MS Project

  1. Work resource — human resource, or equipment rented by the hour
  2. Material resource — consumable materials used on the job
  3. Cost resource — misc. expenses used on the job

Building a Microsoft Project with resources is much more than just human resources. It’s more than just Jim and Bob assigned to tasks. There are other types of resources that all have costs impacting the project.

The video below shows all three resource types. Scroll down and watch.

Work resources

Work resources are usually human beings. They have a standard rate for each hour of work. But Work resources could also be machines that cost you a certain amount to use for each hour. A trackhoe that costs you $10,000 per hour is a work resource. You assign it to a task for a specified number of hours. When the task is finished, you own $10,000 times the number of hours. Ouch!

Material resources

Material resources are normally consumables. You use up these materials on the job. The video describes buckets of nails as an example. You use a certain number of buckets for each task. When the task is done, you have cost the project the number of buckets times the cost for each bucket.

Cost resources

Cost resources are miscellaneous expenses your project incurs. Add these to your project so you know the total cost, including all the items used.

It turns out that all these MS Project costs come down to Standard Time during synchronization. Not only do your tasks come down, but so do all the resources and their costs. Of course you can send actual work back up to MSP from your employee timesheet, which lets you compare estimates with actuals. But this video describes resource costs.

Have a look at the video below.

Define Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart shows you task bars, task links, milestones and summaries. Pretty good for an invention from 1910! Quickie video below.

Define Gantt Chart: A chart where the X axis is time, and the Y axis contains task start and finish dates plotted horizontally on the time axis.

Actually, there is no Y axis. As stated above, there are just bars representing start and finish dates from scheduled tasks. Each task in the Gantt chart has a beginning and an ending dates. Those dates can be made into horizontal bars. The task start date is the left edge of the bar. The task finish date is the right edge of the bar. Each task potentially has different start and finish dates.

The Gantt chart itself has start and finish dates. It is small “window” into the full project schedule that has dates stretching from the beginning of the project until the end. So, you begin with the dates of a full project schedule, then look at a small part of that schedule using the Gantt chart, and inside it are individual tasks with even small increments of time, during which you’ll perform small jobs.

The Gantt chart scrolls inside the full project schedule dates. Tasks are visible in the Gantt chart “window” in the larger schedule.

It turns out that the timesheet app named Standard Time┬« also has a Gantt chart. You are able to view and manage tasks in ST. Those tasks show up on the timesheet where employee enter hours. The hours they enter into the timesheet go into the “Actual work” column in ST. You can compare actual work to estimations. Plus, you see percent complete.

You can download the ST timesheet and Gantt chart here.

Define PMO Office, Project Management Office

PMO = Project Management Office. That’s all we know.

Well… not exactly. ­čÖé

We also know which project management tool is best for the PMO. That’s Standard Time┬«. And we know how to manage projects and tasks. In fact, here’s a video that shows

Ten tools for the PMO office

And in case you were wondering… we also know that it’s not pronounced “PMO Office.” The extra “Office” at the end is redundant because the acronym “PMO” has the word Office in it. So if you said “PMO Office” you would really be saying “Project Management Office Office.” That’s dumb.

Watch the video, and then watch the “ten tools” video above. Comment on each one to let us know what you think. ┬áTalk to you soon!

Define Project Management

Project management is such a broad term that it can include a lot of activities. And everyone has a unique perspective or opinion of its meaning. But it’s basically everything related to doing a project. Please comment on the video below.

Define Project Management: The activities and methods used to successfully complete a project or job, usually constrained by time, cost, or scope.

The constraints listed above are the biggies! We all have an idea what the activities are. But often the constraints are not given the priorities they should. Consequently, projects go over their budgets, both from a time and cost perspective. This usually happens when the scope becomes a moving target you can never catch up to. The customer wants more and more, but forgets that it costs more and more, and that it takes time to reach that elusive goal.

Consider these two videos to learn more about project management and the constraints you’ll face:


Define Finish To Start Link

Sometimes you cannot start one task until another is complete. Try to build a bridge without the abutments. You’ll have┬áGalloping Gertie on your hands.

Define Finish to Start Link: A project task link relationship where one task cannot start until the previous task finishes.

Actually, Galloping Gertie was not caused by missing abutments. It was caused by resonating flutter from high winds. Sort of like swinging higher and higher in a playground swing set. Eventually bad things happen.

(see video below)

But abutments is a good example for link relationships, even if it doesn’t apply to Gertie. Sometimes you just have to finish up one thing before you can start another. That’s a “finish to start” task relationship. It turns out there are four type of task relationships.

  1. Finish to Start (FS)
  2. Start to Start (SS)
  3. Finish to Finish (FF)
  4. Start to Finish (SF)

In each of these cases, you’re linking either the finish or start of one task to the finish or start of another. If you think about it, you can imagine crazy cases where each one of these link relationships naturally occurs. Projects have all sorts of relationships you have to model in software so your project works.

Define Project Portfolio

When you’re starting to think about managing projects as groups, then you might be ready for project portfolios. Of course, you’ll always manage individual projects, but do you also want to manage groups of them?

Define Project Portfolio: A collection of projects managed as a single entity.

For example: in Standard Time┬« you can view revenue charts for an entire project portfolio. For the sake of this chart, you don’t care how much revenue a single project brings in. You care about an entire collection of projects. How much does the entire collection bring in?

Another example might be finding the effective billing rate for an entire project portfolio. In other words, how much are we making per hour on this entire portfolio of projects? We care about individual projects, of course. But we’re interested in comparing one portfolio against another. Which portfolio has the highest effective billing rate?

Watch the fanciful little video below, and then try this for yourself. It will take some time. You will need multiple projects to be able to call it a portfolio. One project doesn’t make a portfolio. So you’ll need to assign tasks to resources and track some time for multiple projects before you can really start seeing value. This is a high-level management technique.

Define Resource Allocation

In project management, resources almost always refer to employees.  I.e. human resources. And allocation almost always refers to scheduling tasks they will work on.  Hmmm, is that all there is to it? (watch the video below)

Define Resource Allocation: Using people and objects in projects on a shared or recurring basis.

So no… employees are not the only resources you can allocate to your project. Got a tractor? Using it for landscaping? Then it is a shareable resource that you must schedule use for. In other words, only one landscaper crew can use it at any given time. It can’t be used by two crews at the same time, right? After all, it’s just one tractor. If two crews need tractors at the same time, then you need two tractors.

And no… scheduling tasks is not all there is to allocation. But yes, scheduling shareable resources is often necessary, as described above. Consider a load of manure, used by those landscaping crews above. You’ll have to split that bad-boy load up. You can’t have all the crews fighting for their “fair share” of the poo, can you? So you allocate a percentage to each crew. You guys get a little poo, and you other guys get some too.

That’s resource allocation.

Consider this video for an overview of resource allocation:

Now consider what the snarky little Kat has to say about resource allocation.

Define Project Resource

When you come in to work and find that you’re assigned to 14 new projects, it’s time for an employee availability chart.

Define Project Resource: a person or shared object committed to a project, such that it cannot be used on another project at the same time.

And… what’s an employee availability chart?

It’s a chart that shows bars for each week, telling how many hours an employee has available to them. On an empty week, you’d see a 40-hour bar. On a booked week, you’d see no bar. Or, on a partially booked week you might see a short bar.

Bars on the employee availability chart are based on project and task assignments. You may be assigned 25% of your daily hours on a certain project, and 75% on another. These would total up to 100% of your daily hours. Or, you might be assigned to certain tasks that fill up your day.

Before assigning resources to projects, it might be good to check their availability; they might be assigned to other projects that you didn’t know about.

To be fair, project resources can be more than just people. They can be equipment that is assigned to a project so that nobody else can use them at the same time. Any shared item or person can be a resource.

Define Project Milestone

Dreading your next project milestone? It’s a date you hope nobody remembers so it can slip silently into the night. Watch Kat in the video below.

Define Project Milestone: A date marking a significant event in the lifestyle of a project. Standard Time® has billable milestones.

Project milestones mark dates where you evaluate the state of your project. They could be customer related, like a date you can invoice the client for work performed. Or, they could be go/no go events where you evaluate the status of your work and decide if you can move forward to the next phase. Project milestones could trigger staff meetings to bring everyone onto the same page, and make sure everyone is ready to proceed with the project. Is there anything outstanding? Any reason not to begin the next phase? Finally, project milestones can relate to release dates. You have completed a phase of the project and are ready for public delivery and release.

As stated above, ST has project milestones. You can get email notifications for upcoming milestones, and view a short list of them. Project milestones can be used for client invoicing. Just choose the billing type: date range, percentage of project cost, or fixed amount. The actual invoice amount is based on the project milestone settings.

Watch the video and give project milestones a try.