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In Depth Information
One handy thing about this outlining structure is that you can roll up all the
timing and cost data from the subtasks within your phases into
summarylevel tasks. Three sequential subtasks that take a day each to complete and
cost you $200 apiece result in a summary task that spans three days and
costs $600. You can view your project at various levels of detail or get
automatic tallies of timing and costs if you prefer to simply view the summary
level of tasks.
For more about defining and creating tasks, check out Chapter 4.
All in the timing
They say that timing is everything: Rome wasn’t built in a day, a stitch in time
saves nine, and don’t even ask me about choosing exactly when to sell your
high-tech stocks. The importance of timing applies to Project tasks, too.
Almost all tasks have timing — referred to as duration — which is the amount
of time needed to complete the task.
The only tasks without duration are milestones. A milestone is a task of zero
duration; in essence, it simply marks a moment in time that must be reflected
in your Project outline. Typical milestones are the approval of a brochure
design and an assembly line startup.
Project doesn’t provide magic formulas for duration: You assign duration
based on your own experience and judgment. Does designing a product
package take three days or three weeks? Will obtaining a building permit happen
in a day or a month? (Remember that you’re dealing with city hall, so think
before you answer!) Project isn’t an oracle: You have to provide facts, figures,
and educated guesses to build your Project schedule. After that information
is entered, though, Project can do some wonderful things to help you
maintain your schedule and monitor your progress.
Task co-dependencies
The final piece in the puzzle of how long your project will take is the concept
of dependencies, or the timing relationships among tasks. If you have a
schedule that includes ten tasks that all begin at the same time, your entire project
will take as long as the longest task (see Figure 1-2).
After you define and implement timing relationships among tasks, your
schedule can stretch over time like a long rubber band. For example, one task
might begin only after another is finished. Another task can start halfway
through the preceding task. The second task cannot start until a week after
the first task is finished. Only after you start to assign these relationships can
you begin to see a project’s timing as related to not just each task’s duration
but also the specific ways in which the tasks relate to each other.
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