Best Practice Series: Schedule Management between PPM and MS Project
By abhijit.kakhandiki on Feb 25, 2009
I have been asked this question often enough that it warrants a Best Practices blog entry. A lot of project managers are familiar with Microsoft Project, and want to use it to carry out project planning and scheduling. No problem there. Agile PPM has a built-in integration that allows users to schedule using Microsoft Project and publish the results back to PPM.
However, some users expect that they will be able to simultaneously schedule projects using MS Project AND PPM, and this is where one needs to be cautious. Scheduling engines are inherently different because of all the details that go building them. Using two scheduling engines on the same project at the same time, can lead to schedule conflicts, because of the slightly different rules used in rescheduling, default settings for activity constraints etc. To guard against this, PPM has a 'Schedule Editor' switch that can be set for each project to indicate which scheduling engine needs to control scheduling. Note that this switch can be set at the project level, which allows project managers the flexibility to use PPM or MS Project for that particular project.By default, the Schedule Editor is set to 'PPM', but you can control the setting at a Template level i.e. settings from the Template will transfer to projects created from that template.
To change the Schedule Editor from PPM to MS Project, you simply need to go to Actions -> Microsoft Project -> Launch in Edit Mode
When a user launches MS Project in Edit mode, this action changes the Schedule Editor to ‘MS Project’. PPM then assumes that all scheduling will be done in MS Project, and hence PPM will not allow rescheduling of activities in the system. This is a common question from users: "I launched MS Project and now the Gantt Chart will not automatically move dependendent activities". The logic is this. By launching the project in edit mode in Microsoft Project, the user has indicated that rescheduling will be performed by Microsoft Project. PPM then flips the Schedule Editor flag because we don’t allow simultaneous scheduling using MS Project and PPM, since this can lead to scheduling conflicts and undesirable results.
The recommended best practices here are:
• If you want to use MS Project as the scheduling engine, perform all rescheduling etc. by launching MS Project in Edit Mode. Don’t make scheduling changes in PPM.
• If you want to use PPM as the scheduling engine, turn off the ‘Launch in Edit Mode’ for MS Project. Users can still launch MS Project in read-only mode but cannot publish changes back in. This can be done by removing the ‘Launch in Edit Mode’ from the Applied To for the ‘Microsoft Project’ privilege type. For those project managers who want to use Microsoft Project, you can create a separate Role that includes launching it in edit mode (by including this option in the 'Applied To'). These users would need to be informed in the logic behind one scheduling engine to control scheduling for a particular project.
That being said, I would encourage all users to try PPM's scheduling engine and the Gantt chart. In fact, I would argue that the usability of the Gantt Chart is at par and in some cases above that of Microsoft Project. Some examples of this are:
• the line selection extends to the bar chart
• there is a 'go-to activity' function that allows user to center the bar chart around a selected activity
• the 'Zoom-to-fit' function fits the entire schedule in the window so you don't have to scroll horizontally
• PPM Gantt has column freeze functionality that is really handy
• the Comparative Gantt view allows users to overlay any baseline, estimated and actual schedules with current schedule
• Gantt Chart allows editing of Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 attributes for any activity or gate type object (inherent advantage of using a single system)
Go ahead and give it a try. You may be surprised by how powerful and easy-to-use the PPM Gantt Chart is.
As usual, your comments are welcome.