Santa Claus

Redmond, WA USA

Santa, we know you’re busy with dolls, Xboxes and toy trucks and that the elves are always working on SharePoint, Microsoft Project Server and the other goodies coming from the workshop, but don’t forget those of us using Microsoft Project this holiday season! We’ve been good this year too! So, without any regard for the technical challenges behind implementing them and in no particular order, (Well, maybe the first one on the list is the highest priority.) here’s what we’re hoping to find in our Microsoft Project stocking this Christmas.

  • A duration calculation that reflects how we all think of duration—Out of the tens of millions of Microsoft Project users surely at least three-quarters, and probably all of their managers to whom they’re reporting project status, misinterpret what the contents of the Duration field represents. Think a task that starts at 8am on Tuesday and ends at 5pm on Wednesday should have a duration of two days? It might, but it might not. If no work is underway on the task on Wednesday morning, for example, Duration will be 1.5 days in Project. Huh? Virtually everybody thinks of duration as the difference between the start of the task and the end of the task. Oh sure, we know that Duration is the number of days (as defined in File > Options > Schedule > Number of hours in a day) for which work is underway on the task and we know that we could use a custom calculation using ProjDateDiff to calculate Duration as we’d like, but Santa, why should we have to?
  • The ability to use two relationships between the same pair of tasks—Santa, Timmy’s got a toy, we think it’s called Primavera, that allows him to use two relationships between the same pair of tasks. Why can’t our toy do that? We want the start of burying the cable in the trench to start after we start digging the trench, but we also don’t want to finish burying the cable before digging the trench finishes. Yes, we know that by creating a milestone after the first task we can link the end of the second task to the milestone thereby effectively putting two relationships between a pair of tasks, but Timmy doesn’t have to do that with his toy. Please Santa, just an SS and FF between the same pair of tasks. Please?!
  • The ability to stipulate that certain resources have to be used together—We’re glad you’re not using Microsoft Project to plan the delivery of our gifts Santa or the sleigh might show up before you do. Please, can we have the ability to prevent the truck from being scheduled independent of the driver and vice versa?
  • Improved and expanded overtime capability—We don’t know what work regulations the elves operate under in your workshop, but in the world we work in there are exacting regulations regarding the use and scheduling of overtime. Rather than just authorizing that a portion of the work for a given assignment be worked outside of normal working hours, could we please have the ability to schedule overtime? We’d like to be able to tell Project that certain team members will be working overtime on particular tasks on Saturday, not that 5 out of the 20 hours of work they have to perform on those tasks can be scheduled beyond normal working hours as Project wishes. We know we can do this via resource or task calendars, but if capturing overtime costs for the overtime work is important this doesn’t work. On a related note Santa, how about one or two more Overtime Rate fields? In addition to workers being paid one-and-a-half times their standard labor rate, many are paid two or more times their standard rate if the overtime occurs on a holiday or other unique time.
  • Field level security—Santa, thank you for the improvements you made in the cost planning and tracking areas of Project in Microsoft Project 2007. Unfortunately, while all of your elves may know what the others make, we are unable to freely share labor rates in most organizations. We need the ability to prevent some users from seeing fields like the Standard Rate and Overtime Rate fields even though they have access to the file.
  • Pre-loaded Holidays—Mary tells me that the toy she got last year, Microsoft Outlook, has holidays in its calendar. Would it be possible Santa to put those same holidays into a calendar in Microsoft Project?
  • BCWP calculations for summary tasks that are consistent with those at the task level—Does 2+2=4? Maybe, but often not when it comes to earned value calculations in Project. Earned value is complicated enough without having to understand that the calculations for BCWP are done differently at different levels of the WBS and that the credit being given for progress at the summary task level may be different than the sum of that for the corresponding sub-tasks. Is there a reason why BCWP at the summary task level can’t simply be the sum of the BCWPs for each resource assigned to the task?

Please Santa, share the magic of Christmas and make believers of us!