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MS Project Terminology- 20 Must Know Terms-Part 2

The Microsoft Project is a versatile and powerful tool to create a project schedule. The MS Project is used in construction management, IT, healthcare and various other domains to manage the project. The MS project terminology will help you to learn the MS Project easily.

The versatility of MS Project has led to an increase in the demand of the MS Project professionals. This article covers the 20 most common MS Project terminology used.

This article is in continuation to the first part of the same title. Click here to read the first part of MS Project Terminology.

Top 20 MS Project Terminology-

1. Earliest Start and Earliest Finish Time-

The Earliest Start Time (EST) for an activity represents the earliest possible time when the activity can start without affecting the finish of predecessor activity.

Earliest Finish Time (EFT) of an activity is the sum of EST and the time taken by an activity to complete.

EFT= EST + Duration of the activity

2. Late Start and Late Finish Date-

Late Start Time (LST) of an activity is the last date on which the task can be started without affecting the start of the successor activity.

Late Finish Time (LFT) is the last day when the activity can be completed without affecting the project timeline. The LFT of all the last tasks on all the paths is equal as no activity can end after the completion of the project.

3. Total Slack (Float)-

MS project terminology- total float
Total Slack (Float) in MS Project

The difference between EST and LST is called slack or float. The float represents the duration by which the activity can be delayed without affecting the project schedule.

4. Delay-

Delay of activity represents the difference between planned completion and actual completion. If an activity is planned to complete on 21st January but actually completes on 24th January, the delay is 3 days. 

5. Critical Path-

The critical path is the longest path in an activity network diagram. The sum of the duration of all the activities lying on a critical path represents the minimum time to complete the project. Every project has a unique critical path.

6. Critical & Non-Critical Tasks-

MS Project Terminology- Critical & Non-Critical Tasks
Criitical & Non-Critical Tasks

The activities lying on the critical path are called critical activities. The critical activities have zero floats. If the critical activities are delayed, they delay the entire project completion.

The non-critical activities lie on paths other than the critical path. These activities have float greater than zero.

7. Task Constraints-

MS Project terminology- Task Constraints
Task Constraints

The task constraints define the scheduling and rescheduling of the tasks. Thus it becomes important to learn task types when talking about MS Project terminology.

The MS Project offers following types of task constraints-

7.1 Flexible Constraints-

As Soon As Possible- This is the default constraint for scheduling from the project start date. It allows the task to start as soon as the predecessor activity ends. It is helpful if the scheduling is being done from the project start date.

As Late As Possible- The task is delayed as much as possible without affecting the project finish date. It is the default for the scheduling from the project finish date.

7.2 Semi-Flexible Constraints-

Start No Earlier Than- The task doesn’t start before the specified date even if the predecessor activity ends earlier.

Finish No Earlier Than- The task completes only on or after the specified date.

Start No Later Than- The task starts before the specified date.

Finish No Later Than- The task completes before the specified date.

7.3 Hard Constraints-

Must Start On- This constraint enables the user to specify a start date for the task. 

Must Finish On- This constraint is useful when defining the deadline for the task.

8. Effort Driven and Non-Effort Driven Tasks-

If the duration of the task decreases on increasing the assigned resource unit or the duration increases on decreasing the assigned resource unit, the activity is said to be effort-driven. For example, concrete mixing by manual labour is an effort driven task as the duration is reduced if the manpower is increased.

Non-effort driven tasks have their duration unaffected by the assigned resource unit. For example, a monthly review meeting duration is unaffected by the resource units attending it.

9. Resource Overallocation-

MS Project Terminology-Resource Overallocation
Resource Overallocation in Resource Usage View

If a resource has been assigned with more work than its maximum specified limit, it is said to be over-allocated. For example, an excavator is hired for eight hours of work per day and if someday the allotted work is ten hours. The excavator is said to have two hours of overallocated work.

10. Resource Levelling-

Resource Levelling
Resource Levelling

Resource Levelling is a feature used to shed the overallocation of the work. The resource levelling feature in MS Project moves ahead the non-critical activities to reduce the overallocation. 

11. Work Contour-

The distribution of the work over the activity duration is called work contour. For example, an activity of a total of 40 hours of work and 5 days may have the work assigned may not be always eight hours per day. But in some cases, the activity may start slow and pick up in later stages or starts with higher work and the work decreases at the end.

The MS Project has the following types of work contours available- flat, front-loaded, back-loaded, double peak, early peak, late peak, bell, and turtle.

12. Schedule Update-

Project Update Option in MS Project
Update Project Dialog Box

The process of entering work progress and updating the project schedule is called Schedule Update. The schedules can be updated on a daily, weekly or monthly basis depending on the need for reporting.

The updates help in determining the delay in the project, variation in costs, earned value computation etc.

13. Split Tasks-

MS Project Terminology- Split Task
Split Task Dialog Box

The tasks are sometimes split into two or more parts to accommodate the work shutdowns or resource over allocation.

For example, if the project is closed for a month due to some reason the tasks can be split into two. The first part of the in-progress tasks ends at the shutdown date and the other part starts at the project restart date.

For overallocation, two tasks using the same resource the longer duration task can be split to accommodate the duration of the smaller task.

14. Task Inspector-

Task Inspector is a feature of Microsoft Project that helps in avoiding conflict in schedules. 

15. Task Form-

MS Project Terminology- Task form
Task Form

Task form is the MS Project feature that gives various information about the selected task such as predecessor and successors, assigned resources, work, duration, task type, etc. The task can be activated through View>Details>Task Form.

The task form is available in various types such as predecessor and successor, resource and predecessor, resource and successor, cost, schedule, work, show splits, notes and object. The mentioned task forms can be selected by keeping the cursor anywhere over the task form area and right-clicking.

16. Task Type-

The task has three variables i.e., work, duration and unit. Upon deciding the task type one of the variables is fixed and the second variable is the input by the user, the third variable is then calculated by the MS Project using the other two variables.

Task type in MS Project
Task Types in MS Project

The formula used for calculation is-

Duration = Work x Unit

When the duration is fixed for a task, it is called a fixed-duration task. Similarly, if the work is fixed, the task is fixed-work task and if the unit is fixed, the task type becomes a fixed-unit.

17. % Complete-

The % Complete of the task is entered when updating the schedule. The % physical completion can be entered in the % complete column.

18. % Work Complete-

% Complete And % Work Complete Difference
% Complete & % Work Complete Columns in MS Project

The % work complete involves the updation of schedule as per the work progress. The % complete and % work complete are one of the most confusing terms in MS Project terminology.

The difference between % Complete and % work complete is that the % work complete uses actual work done on the project with respect to the total work rather than the physical completion.

19. Planned Value-

The planned value represents the cost planned till the status date. It is the cost that is planned to be incurred till the status date.

20. Earned Value-

The earned value of the project is the actual cost incurred till the status date. The planned value and earned value are the commonly used terms in earned value analysis.

Interested in MS Project Terminology? Wanna read more? Click here for Part-1.

Want to move ahead with MS Project? Click here for Changing Working days and Time in MS Project.

For detailed article on Project Schedule, click here.

For detailed article on Work Breakdown Structure, click here.

Liked the article? Let me know in the comment below.

Happy Engineering!

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