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trey25624 (Civil/Environmental) (OP)
10 Sep 07 13:50
I'm a civil engineer getting into project management.  One of the issues our department is having is how to effectively track the progress of our jobs.  We want to keep an accurate up to date record of items which need to be completed within a given project.  This would serve as a task list of sorts with milestone dates.  It would also hope to serve as a document we could show our client to keep them aware of the progress on the job.  The solution that everyone seems to be proposing is using Microsoft Word and Excel documents to do this.  I feel there must be better ways to do this than using those programs.  Does anyone have any suggestions for how to do this?  I have never use Microsoft Project, but that seems to be a good program to look into.  I want to use something that is versatile, yet at the same time keeps it simple and uncluttered.  I would appreciate any input you may have.

Thanks
IRstuff (Aerospace)
10 Sep 07 14:33
Project is part of the toolset that's required. although you can badger MSP into doing other parts of the job:
> Tracking hours actually expended per task
> Tracking earned value per task
> Backannotating actual expenditures versus bid basis for future jobs.

TTFN

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KENAT (Mechanical)
10 Sep 07 15:13
We have a master project plan using MS project but it's so High-level it's almost meaningless.  There are so many variables feeding into it that any estimated dates it comes out with are little more than best guesses.

For my departments work we use an Excell sheet, listing all the documents (mainly drawings) that need releasing.  However, this has its own issues.

Although things have got better in the last few months at the start of this year we were spending as much/more time tracking progress as making it - this is obviously a mistake.

At previous employer we used excel and project, I think they may even have been linked to some extent.  This was when we had a dedicated staff member to help with this.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

PSE (Industrial)
11 Sep 07 8:11
Where I work, we utilize or some have utilized, MS Project in a manner similar to what Kenat indicates.  Project works to provide a management level overview quite well.  Once you start getting down into the detail of work breakdown, contingencies, and critical paths, it can become unwieldy.  

I suppose you could create separate sub-project files if needed and track that way.  We broke the project into various phases with deliverables and generated an Excel spreadsheet with what needed to happen and who was responsible to meet the deliverables.  A periodic team meeting updated the spreadsheet.  We had a different software package for logging hours against a project.

All I can really recommend is to somewhat experiment and find out what works well for you.  As the PM you need a toolset that meets the information requirements of your management and "fits" within your personal work methodology.  I feel that a key activity is to do a post-mortem after a project is finished identifying what worked well and what did not.

Regards,
BruceTurner (Electrical)
11 Sep 07 16:22
I find the responses to your question interesting.  We have made several attempts (and continue to do so) to use MS Project to plan projects with less than satifying results.  I feel like I know Project fairly well so am not hindered by trying to use the software.  I agree that Project as it is used by most people, only provides a management-level view not a tactical-level view.  I believe this is the source of most people's fustration.  They expect Project to be a tactical tool without using the complex portions of the software that would make it more tatical in nature.  As an example, MS Project assumes that tasks have defined start and stop dates and work effort is applied evenly between these two dates.  In may experience this never happens in the real world.  Project will allow you to "contour" work to reflect a more realistic work effort but it is not easy to set up.  I am beginning to believe that at the tactical/WBS level, simple task lists/deliverable lists provide more satisfactory tools.  The MS Project Gantt chart looks cool and can impress clients but is not necessarily the best tool for those in the trenches.

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