My first encounter with project scheduling software was somewhere around 1990, when I learned Artemis 9000, a mainframe tool from a company called Metier. I wasn’t all that keen for it, as I was already convinced PCs would soon be the computing platform of choice for the average knowledge worker (I think we just called ourselves office workers back then).
Shortly thereafter, a company by the name of Advanced Management Solutions came out with a PC based scheduling tool called Schedule Publisher. It was much friendlier than Artemis and I took to it immediately, eventually becoming the goto guy for using it at Rocketdyne. When the company also started using MS Project, I wasn’t impressed, as it was not as powerful as SP.
I moved on to bigger and better things, but always retained a deep interest in program/project management and, by the time I left in 2010, I reported to the Director of the PMO, where we had been struggling mightily to move the organization to a portfolio approach to PM. I have to say, since returning, I’m disappointed to see there are still larger issues related to access to machines, processes, and the technicians and mechanics who know how to operate or perform them. Nobody seems to be “minding the store”, merely attending to their own department or program.
Now that I’m back, I’ve been presented with the opportunity to become truly proficient in the use of MS Project (I have 2007) and I’ve been experimenting like crazy once I’ve completed the work I have to do to support my program. My former boss and I used to discuss how program/project management was both a science and an art. The use of a tool such as Project comes down squarely on the science side, except when it comes to the hardest part of scheduling; getting honest, accurate status information from the people doing the work. Then the art part is invoked.
Mostly, though, because I’m just a temp contractor, I don’t get to exercise my artistic chops, so I’m concentrating on the science part. This is where MS Project comes in. Granted, it’s only a tool, but it’s a fearfully complex tool; far more capable and complex than most people realize. My experience is a large percentage of users only scratch the surface and use it mostly as a shield (reactively reporting on progress) rather than as a sword (proactively managing the downstream work).
I asked a friend in IT, who is in charge of these things, for a list of people in my building and the one next door who have Project licenses. I then sent an email to about a dozen of the ones I know and asked them if they could help me by answering some questions. So far, only three have responded and they all have demurred, claiming they only use it occasionally and in a very limited way. One of them, however, when prodded further gave me the name of someone he thought might be a “power user”. I have contacted her, as well as another person she suggested, and we have a meeting in a couple of weeks (she’s going on vacation) to discuss how we might help each other.
I have a feeling, at the rate I’m learning, by then I will be able to teach them a thing or two. I have also purchased three used books, one of which has arrived. The other two are, according to Amazon, on their way, presumably by dogsled. I’m already getting views, tables, groups, and filters (as they’re combined) down. I have every intention of moving into customized fields and, a blast from the past, digging into a little VB as well.
This is fun!