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Plan your project user goal

It’s good to start your planning before you open Microsoft Project.

To capture your early thoughts about your project’s goals, use an application like Word, Excel, OneNote, or Outlook.

After everyone has bought off on your ideas, you can start planning your schedule with Project.

Go back to The Project Road Map for more articles that teach project management.

Project management tips before you start . . .

  • Make sure you have a project    Make sure that what you’re thinking about is an actual project. A project has three characteristics:

    • It's temporary and unique    Designing a car manufacturing plant is a project because it is a one-time activity. The manufacture of cars at the plant is a repeated series of activities and is therefore not a project.

    • It has clearly defined deliverables    Deliverables give a project focus and purpose. Stakeholders won’t feel that their project investments are worthwhile if deliverables aren’t clearly stated.

    • It has a beginning and end    Without a project end-date, stakeholders and investors won’t enjoy the project’s outcome and benefits that their investment made possible.

      Here are some examples to help you decide if you have a project.

Activities that aren’t projects

Projects clearly defined

Manufacture cars

  • Project to upgrade a manufacturing plant to increase efficiency.

  • Project to locate maintenance plant closer to manufacturing facilities.

Reduce risk from competition

  • Project to replace security software.

  • Project to recruit risk specialists from related industry.

  • Identify project constraints    Constraints are factors that limit the project manager's options in designing and managing a project. Most projects have three constraints:

    • Limited time span    End dates for major deliverables usually fix the overall length of the project.

    • Limited people and other resources    Project managers usually have a limited number of people to perform work on a project, or a limited budget.

    • Small scope    A project is usually constrained by how much the team can accomplish. If the project has too many deliverables or features, there might not be enough time in the schedule to get them all done.

A change in one constraint usually affects the other two and can affect overall quality. For example, decreasing the duration of the project forces the project manager to make decisions about the number of workers needed to complete the project deliverables. If there aren’t enough workers, then shortening the project might have other tradeoffs like reducing the project’s scope.

  • Identify your stakeholders early    Nothing hurts a project more than failing to identify who the critical stakeholders are and how to best communicate with them. If you fail to identify a critical stakeholder after a project begins, the project can grind to a stop, or become over budget as new project objectives and methods are proposed.

Step 1: Capture your early thoughts

Capture early thoughts in OneNote

Jot down notes with OneNote while you think about your project and what you want it to accomplish. Your notes can contain emails, links to web sites, videos, or early specs.

Import Excel data into Project

Projects sometimes start as simple lists in Excel. But when they grow, import them into Project where you can organize and schedule tasks more efficiently.

Use Microsoft 365 on any PC to capture project notes anywhere

Work with early project specs using Microsoft 365. As long as you’re working on a PC with an Internet connection, you can work on your documents using full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote—on demand, anywhere.

Use Office Online in a web browser

Work with Office for the web without Microsoft 365. As long as you have a Microsoft Account, you can use the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote to capture your early project ideas.

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Step 2: Get in touch with your stakeholders

Report on early progress

No matter where you are in project planning, a well-presented report helps to gain stakeholders’ acceptance of project deliverables.

Join an online meeting

If stakeholders can’t be present, use online meetings to connect with them. Share PowerPoint slides, Excel sheets, or OneNote notes to discuss early project plans. People can participate in Microsoft Teams online meetings in their office, on the road, or on their mobile device.

Chat with a project team member

When questions come up while you’re working on a project schedule, chat with them online using Teams.

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Step 3: Start a project

Copy and paste from Word, Outlook, or PowerPoint into Project

Copy a list of tasks in Word, Outlook, or PowerPoint and paste it into Project to start a schedule quickly. Project will keep the outline structure and formatting (only in Project 2013 and later versions).

Create a new project from another project or template

Create a new project based on a template pre-populated with tasks from projects similar to yours. Industry experts created many of these projects to help you get started quickly.

Import Excel data into Project

Move a task list that was started in Excel into Project. Project will keep the outline structure and formatting.

Import a SharePoint task list as an early project

Projects sometimes start as tasks lists in SharePoint for sharing with people without Project. Once the task list grows to a certain size, move it into Project to continue working on it there.

Project management goal: Create a new project schedule

After you’ve started your project in Project, you can start to add tasks, organize them, link them together, add people, and so on.

Return to the Project Road Map

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