Network Diagram Activities

A Network Diagram Activity is:

A Network Diagram is made up of a number of Activities, and each of the Activities consists of one or more Work Packages.

An Activity is an element in the project that consumes time, such as work or waiting.

Types of Activities:

  • Merge Activity – an Activity that has more than one activity immediately preceding it
  • Parallel Activities – two Activities that can take place at the same time
  • Path – A sequence of connected, dependent Activities
  • Critical Path – the path in the Network Diagram with the longest duration through the network. If any Activity on the critical path is delayed, the project will be delayed by the same amount of time.
  • Critical Activity – an Activity on the Critical Path
  • Non Critical Activity – an Activity not on the Critical Path
  • Event – an Event represents a point in time when an Activity is started or completed – it does not consume time
  • Burst Activity – an Activity that has more than one Activity immediately following it
  • Hammock Activity – creating of a Macro Network by grouping or rolling-up Activities to get the right level of detail

Notes:

  • Activities may or may not require resources
  • Activities may represent one or more tasks from the work package
  • Activities descriptions of activities should use a verb/noun format such as: Develop Product Specifications
  • Refer to the Task Dependencies in Microsoft Project 2010 post for more information on Activity Relationships

Developing a Network Schedule or Network Diagram

A Network Diagram is:

A Network Diagram is a visual flow diagram representing the sequence, interrelationships and dependencies of all activities that are required to be completed to complete of the project.

Work Packages from the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) are used to build the activities found in the Network Diagram. An Activity can include one or more Work Packages and are placed in a sequence that allows orderly completion of the project.

The nodes on the Network Diagram represent the Activities, and the arrows depict the dependencies and the project flow.

Notes:

  • A Network Diagram is constructed from a number of Activities, each of which are made up of one or more Work Packages
  • Work Packages are the primary input for developing a Network Diagram
  • All Activities that must be completed in order to complete the project
  • Work packagesare:
    • Defined independently of other work packages
    • Have a defined scope
    • Have definite start and finish points
    • May require specific resources
    • Include technical specifications
    • Include cost estimates
    • Are owned by an organisational unit
    • Belong to a single Cost Account. One cost account can have more than one Work Package associated with it
    • Do not include dependencies, sequencing, and timing
  • Well-developed Network Diagram should be easy to adjust when unexpected events occur while the project is under way
  • A Network Diagram provides the basis for scheduling labour and equipment
  • Network Diagrams enhance communication that melds all managers and groups together in meeting the time, cost and performance objectives of the project
  • Network Diagrams provides an estimate of the project duration
  • Network Diagrams identify the critical activities – those that should not be delayed

Contouring Resources in Microsoft Project 2010

He is another feature of Microsoft Project that I bet almost nobody knows about – Resource Contouring.

Resource contouring describes that shape of the contour with which a resource is assigned to a task. In reality, when we have a task that spans over multiple weeks and ten resources assigned to the task, it is highly likely that not all of the resources are going to be starting on the task at the same time, they would probably be staggered.

Project 2010 provides two methods to contour your resources:

Manually

To manually contour your resources, follow these steps:

  1. Allocate the required work resources to the task
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  2. Switch to the Task Usage View – this view shows all the work resources allocated for the same amount of time each day.
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  3. Manually adjust the hours in this view until you achieve the required staffing contour.
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Automatically

To automatically contour your resources, follow these steps:

  1. Switch to the Task Usage View – this view shows all the work resources allocated for the same amount of time each day.
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  2. Double click on the resource to open the Assignment Information dialog
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  3. Select the preferred contour and hit OK to apply it
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That’s it! That’s how easy it is to contour resources in Project 2010.

Task Dependencies in Microsoft Project 2010

And once again, I would be willing to bet money that many of the users of Microsoft Project never change the default task dependency types within their project schedules.

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The 4 types of Task Dependencies in Project 2010 are:

  1. Finish-To-Start (FS) – the initiation of the successor task depends on the completion of its predecessor
  2. Finish-To-Finish (FF) – the completion of the successor task depends on the completion of its predecessor
  3. Start-To-Start (SS) – the initiation of the successor task depends on the initiation of its predecessor
  4. Start-To-Finish (SF) – the completion of the successor task depends on the initiation of its predecessor

The most common and default type of task dependency found in project schedules are the Finish-To-Start (FS) dependencies.

Leads and Lags:

In addition to selecting a type of dependencies between tasks, you also have the option of assigning leads and lags on the relationship.

  • Lead – a lead allows for the acceleration of the successor task. For example, the landscaping can be scheduled to start three weeks prior to the completion of the construction of the house. This would be a Finish-To-Start task dependency with a three week lead.
  • Lag – a lag is a delay in the successor activity. For example, the editing of an instruction manual could begin one week after the technical writers have begun. This would be a Start-To-Start task dependency with a one week lag.

Task Constraints in Microsoft Project 2010

I would be willing to bet money that many of the users of Microsoft Project never change the default constraints on tasks within their project schedules.

The As Soon As Possible constraint is the default constraint that is applied when scheduling projects from their start date.

The As Last As Possible constraint is the default constraint that is applied when scheduling projects from their finish date.

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The List of Task Constraints in Project 2010 are:

  • As Late As Possible – this constraint schedules the task for as late as possible with the task ending before the project finish and without delaying subsequent tasks
  • As Soon As Possible – this constraint schedules the task to begin as early as possible
  • Finish No Earlier Than – this constraint schedules the task to finish on or after a specified date
  • Finish No Later Than – this constraint schedules the task to finish on or before a specified date
  • Must Finish On – this constraint schedules the task to finish on a specified date
  • Must Start On – this constraint schedules the task to start on a specified date
  • Start No Earlier Than – this constraint schedules the task to start on or after a specified date
  • Start No Later Than – this constraint schedules the task to start on or before a specified date

Resolving Schedule Conflicts in Microsoft Project 2010

Microsoft Project 2010 provides several different techniques for you to overcome scheduling conflicts.

The most common ways of overcoming Schedule Conflicts in Project 2010 are:

  1. Adding Additional Resources – can reduce the amount of time required to complete the work for Effort Driven Tasks. Project reallocates the work amongst the additional resources and allows you to protect your project completion date. Learn more about Tasks in Microsoft Project.
  2. Approving and Using Overtime – when no additional resources are available, the next best option is to approve overtime and extend the work resources hours. The additional hours are added to the Ovt. Work field and calculated at the resources Overtime Rate defined in the Resource Sheet.
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  3. Adding Time to the Project Schedule – is when you have the luxury of being able to extend the duration of the work. Changing the duration of the task may allow you to access a resource that was not previously available, or to recruit a new resource. Remember that Duration and Work are different. Work is the amount of effort required to complete the task and the duration is the allocated time in which the work needs to be completed.
  4. Removing Tasks (Features or Deliverables) from the Project – you can do this by marking a task as inactive in Project 2010. Project does not remove the task from the entry sheet, however it does exclude it from all calculations, schedules and network diagrams. This is an easy way to perform scenario analysis without actually removing the task information from the project schedule.
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  5. Adjusting the Available Slackfree slack is the amount of time that a task can be delayed without having an adverse affect on any of its successors and the critical path. Tasks on the critical path almost never have any free slack. Project 2010 has a cool new feature for moving tasks – see the image below.
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    There is a similar option on the Project Tab of the ribbon to move the entire project.
  6. Changing Task Constraints – when you have a scheduled task with free slack, you can change the constraint from Must Start On to Finish No Later Than, which will give you a little more headroom in some cases.
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  7. Adjusting Task Dependencies – when you reassess the dependencies of tasks and remove any unnecessary dependencies that may be causing bottlenecks in your schedule. You may also consider moving around some tasks to where they may be better suited in the project schedule.
  8. Splitting Tasks – this is a really useful option when you have a large task that you are unable to complete in consecutive days due to resource constraints. Project 2010 has an option to split tasks.
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The Visual Reports in Microsoft Project 2010

Microsoft Project 2010 contains a number of built in visual reports that are probably used more frequently than the standard reports. The default visual reports are built using Microsoft Excel to create PivotTables and Microsoft Visio to create PivotDiagrams, making it easy for you to manipulate the data or to create your own custom report templates within Project 2010.

Microsoft Project 2010 contains a number of standard text based and visual reports found on the Project Tab in the Reports Group. I have covered the standard reports in another post.

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The Visual Reports included in Microsoft Project 2010 are:

  • Task Summary Reports
    • Critical Tasks Status Report (Visio PivotDiagram, US and Metric) – produces a diagram that displays the work, remaining work and percent complete for both critical and non-critical tasks.
  • Task Usage Reports
    • Cash Flow Report (Excel PivotTable) – displays the costs and cumulative costs in a bar graph using the data from the time phased PivotTable. There is also a Visio based version of this report available in the Resource Usage Reports group below.
  • Resource Summary Reports
    • Resource Remaining Work Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart showing the work, remaining work and total work for each work resource assigned to the project.
  • Resource Usage Reports
    • Cash Flow Report (Visio PivotDiagram, US and Metric) – produces a diagram that displays the planned and actual costs over time, broken up by resource type, showing work, material and cost information.
    • Resource Availability Report (Visio PivotDiagram, US and Metric) – produces a diagram that displays total capacity, work, and remaining availability for work resources.
    • Resource Cost Summary Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a pie chart that breaks down resource costs by resource type.
    • Resource Work Availability Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart showing work availability, work and remaining availability over time. The PivotChart tools allow you to drill down into the individual resources.
    • Resource Work Summary Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart showing work availability, work, remaining availability and work for each work resource assigned to the project.
  • Assignment Summary Reports
    • Resource Status Report (Visio PivotDiagram, US and Metric) – produces a diagram that displays work and cost values for each of the resources assigned to the project.
    • Task Status Report (Visio PivotDiagram, US and Metric) – produces a diagram that displays work and percent complete for tasks at the highest level in the project outline.
  • Assignment Usage Reports
    • Baseline Cost Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart that compares baseline costs, planned costs, and actual costs.
    • Baseline Report (Visio PivotDiagram, US and Metric) – produces a diagram that shows baseline and actual work and costs for your project over time. The report also highlights areas of the project where the planned work exceeds the baseline work and the planned cost exceeds the baseline cost.
    • Baseline Work Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart that compares baseline work, planned work and actual work.
    • Budget Cost Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart that compares the budget cost, baseline cost, planned cost and actual cost.
    • Budget Work Report (Excel PivotTable) – produces a column chart that compares the budget work, baseline work, planned work and actual work.
    • Earned Value Over Time Report (Excel PivotTable) – uses time phased data to produce a chart that plots actual cost of work performed (ACWP), planned value (PV)/budgeted cost of work scheduled (BCWS), and earned value (EV)/budgeted cost of work performed (BCWP) over time.

Another nice thing that you can do is include report templates from a directory on the main Visual Reports dialog.

The Standard Reports in Microsoft Project 2010

Reports are another thing that I would imagine Project Manager do not use very often in Microsoft Project, probably because they are not aware that they actually exist, or they are not sure how to use them. I am not going to be covering how to use these reports, rather I am going to list out the standard reports that exist to hopefully give some exposure to them.

Microsoft Project 2010 contains a number of standard text based and visual reports found on the Project Tab in the Reports Group. I’ll cover the visual reports in a later post.

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Standard Reports included in Microsoft Project 2010 are:

  • Overview Reports
    1. Project Summary – displays high level information about your project including key dates, work, duration, costs, task and resource status.
    2. Top-Level Tasks – displays the summary tasks at the highest level in your project as of today’s date. You can also see the scheduled start and finish dates, % complete, cost and the work required to complete each task.
    3. Critical Tasks – displays the status of tasks on the critical path of your project. It also displays the planned duration, start and finish dates, resources, predecessors and successors for each task.
    4. Milestones – displays information about milestones listed within your project schedule. It also displays the planned duration, start and finish dates, resources and predecessors for each task.
    5. Working Days – displays the working days and time for your project based on the calendar working times, exceptions and exclusions.
  • Current Activity Reports
    1. Unstarted Tasks – displays duration, start and finish dates, predecessors and resource information for tasks that have not yet started, ordered by scheduled start date.
    2. Tasks Starting Soon – displays duration, start and finish dates, predecessors and resource information for tasks that are within the date range parameters, ordered by scheduled start date. Completed tasks are displayed in this report and highlighted with a tick.
    3. Tasks In Progress – displays duration, start and planned finish dates, predecessors and resource information for tasks that have started but not yet been marked as complete.
    4. Completed Tasks – displays the actual duration, actual start and finish dates, percent complete (which appears to always be 100%), the actual cost and actual work hours.
    5. Should Have Started Tasks – displays the planned start and finish dates, baseline start and finish dates, and variances for start and finish dates, and information about any successors. This information is based on a supplied date parameter.
      A project baseline is mandatory for this report to function due to planned dates coming from the project baseline.
    6. Slipping Tasks – displays tasks that have been rescheduled from their baseline start date.
      A project baseline is mandatory for this report to function due to planned dates coming from the project baseline.
  • Cost Reports
    1. Cash Flow – displays the costs for each task on a weekly basis in a tabular format. The time increments can be changed by editing the report definition.
    2. Budget – displays all tasks, their budgeted cost, actual cost, and the variance between the budgeted and actual costs.
    3. Over Budget Tasks – displays the baseline, cost, actual, variance, and remaining information about tasks that exceed their budgeted amounts.
      At least one task needs to be partially completed and resources need to be allocated with costs in order for this report to print.
    4. Over Budget Resources – displays the baseline, cost, actual, variance, and remaining information about resources whose costs will exceed baseline estimates.
      At least one task needs to be partially completed and resources need to be allocated with costs in order for this report to print.
    5. Earned Value – compares each tasks planned vs. actual costs and schedule against a project baseline.
      The acronyms used in this report are: 

      1. BCWS – Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled
      2. BCWP – Budgeted Cost of Work Performed
      3. ACWP – Actual Cost of Work Performed
      4. SV – Schedule Variance
      5. CV – Cost Variance
      6. BAC – Budget At Completion
      7. EAC – Estimate at Completion
      8. VAC – Variance at Completion

      A project baseline is mandatory for this report to function due to all planned costs come from a project baseline.

  • Assignment Reports
    1. Who Does What – displays a list of resources, the tasks assigned to each, the amount of planned work and the planned start and finish dates.
    2. Who Does What When – displays a list of resources, the tasks assigned to each and focuses the attention on the daily work scheduled for each resource. The time increments can be changed by editing the report definition.
    3. To-do List – displays a list of the tasks assigned to resources on a weekly basis.
    4. Over Allocated Resources – displays a list of resources that have been over allocated, the tasks to which they have been assigned and the total hours of work assigned to them.
  • Workload
    1. Task Usage – displays a list of tasks, the resources assigned to each and the amount of work that’s assigned to each resource in weekly increments.
    2. Resource Usage – displays a list of resources, the tasks assigned to each and the amount of work that’s assigned to each resource in weekly increments.
  • Custom
    1. Base Calendar – similar to the Working Days report – displays the working days and time for your project based on the calendar working times, exceptions and exclusions.
    2. Budget Report – displays a list of tasks, their fixed costs, accrual methods, total costs, baseline costs, variance, actual and remaining costs.
    3. Cash Flow – displays a list of tasks and their expenditure in weekly increments.
    4. Completed Tasks – same as Completed Tasks above.
    5. Critical Tasks – same as Critical Tasks above.
    6. Crosstab – displays tasks, resource and time information in a crosstab format.
    7. Earned Value – same as Earned Value above.
    8. Milestones – same as Milestones above
    9. Over Allocated Resources – same as Over Allocated Resources above.
    10. Over Budget Resources – same as Over Budget Resources above.
    11. Over Budget Tasks – same as Over Budget Tasks above.
    12. Project Summary – same as Project Summary above.
    13. Resource – displays a list of resources and relevant information over two pages. The first page includes information such as the resource Id, indicator icons, name, type, initials, material label, group and maximum units. The second page includes information such as rate information, accrual information, calendar information and code information.
    14. Resource (material) – same as Resource above, filtered by resource type of material.
    15. Resource (work) – same as Resource above, filtered by resource type of work.
    16. Resources Usage – same as Resource Usage above.
    17. Resources Usage (material) – same as Resource Usage above, filtered by resource type of material.
    18. Resources Usage (work) – same as Resource Usage above, filtered by resource type of work.
    19. Should Have Started Tasks – same as Should Have Started Tasks above.
    20. Slipping Tasks – same as Slipping Tasks above.
    21. Task – displays a list of tasks with their Id, name, indicator icon, duration, planned start and finish dates, predecessors and resource names.
    22. Task Usage – same as Task Usage above.
    23. Tasks In Progress – same as Tasks In Progress above.
    24. Tasks Starting Soon – same as Tasks Starting Soon above.
    25. To-do List – same as To-do List above.
    26. Top Level Tasks – same as Top Level Tasks above.
    27. Unstarted Tasks – same as Unstarted Tasks above.
    28. Who Does What – same as Who Does What above.
    29. Who Does What When – same as Who Does What above.

Almost all the standard reports found in Microsoft Project 2010 are customisable. You are also able to create your own project reports reports from scratch, or you can start off by copying any of project’s existing custom reports.

There are 4 basic Project 2010 Report Formats that you can work with, they are:

  1. Task Report Format
  2. Resource Report Format
  3. Crosstab Report Format
  4. Calendar Report Format

Project 2010’s built in reports are pretty basic, so it shouldn’t take you to long to figure it out and get up and running.

Did you know Microsoft Project 2010 has 27 Built in Views?

I have a feeling that most of the users of Microsoft Project only use the Tracking Gantt Chart to schedule projects and allocate resources to tasks as required. Microsoft Project does so much more than simply showing tasks on a Gantt Chart with some random resource allocations!

It provides many predefined views that allow you to simply view any aspects of your project quickly and easily. In addition, you can also quickly and easily customise existing views or create your own, allowing you to view critical information about your projects in your own preferred format. And what’s event better, you don’t need to start from scratch, you can start by copying any of the existing views.

Did you know that there are 27 default views in Microsoft Project?

  1. Bar Rollup – is a way of viewing summarised task information. It is especially useful when the project dates are far apart.
  2. Calendar – is pretty similar to a calendar fount in Microsoft Outlook. It presents the tasks across the days in either a in Month and Week view with the current day highlighted.
  3. Descriptive Network Diagram – is based on the Network Diagram with a focus on the general flow of work, the relationships between tasks, and task progress information.
  4. Detail Gantt – shows a list of tasks and their related information in both the list view and the Gantt view with thin lines showing the individual task slippage. You will need at least one baseline to be able to see task slippage.
  5. Gantt Chart – is one of the most commonly used views in Microsoft Project. It is used to view tasks, create dependencies between tasks through links, and see how your project is project is progressing over time.
  6. Gantt with Timeline – is identical to the Gantt Chart with the addition of the new Timeline view above the Gantt Chart.
  7. Levelling Gantt – is used when levelling resources. It focuses on delayed tasks and provides information in both a detailed and a graphical view and includes the before and after effects of the resource levelling process.
  8. Milestone Date Rollup – is a way of viewing summarised Date information. It is especially useful when the project dates are far apart.
  9. Milestone Rollup – is a way of viewing summarised Milestone information. It is especially useful when the project dates are far apart.
  10. Multiple Baselines Gantt – is based on the Gantt Chart view with the addition of allowing you to see the first three baselines saved for the project. Each of the baselines are represented by a different colour.
  11. Network Diagram – is used to access the relationships and flow of work in your project, with the critical path highlighted in red. Non critical tasks are shaded in blue and manually scheduled tasks are textured.
  12. Relationship Diagram – is based on the Network Diagram with the current task in the centre pane, its predecessors to the left and successors to the right.
  13. Resource Allocation – is used to manage task resource allocations. It is not the only way to manage resources, it is a cleaner, simpler, more focussed way to do so.
  14. Resource Form – displays detailed information about individual resources. You can navigate through the resources by using the Next and Previous buttons.
  15. Resource Graph – is a graphical view that allows you to assess how a resource is being used on a project and to easily spot inappropriate allocations. Over allocations are highlighted making them easier to spot.
  16. Resource Name Form – is a simplified version of the Resource Form.
  17. Resource Sheet – allows you to manage your project resources including their types and cost information.
  18. Resource Usage – displays each resource and allocated tasks. It is useful when checking for over allocations and examining the number of hours or percentage of capacity at which a resource is assigned to work. The list of tasks are grouped by the resource name.
  19. Task Details Form – is similar to both the Task Form View and the Task Name Form. It enables you to view and edit tracking information about one task at a time. You can navigate through the tasks by using the Next and Previous buttons.
  20. Task Entry – is a combination of the Gantt Chart and the Task Form.
  21. Task Form – appears at the bottom of the Task Entry view.
  22. Task Name Form – is a simplified version of the Task Form.
  23. Task Sheet – is the counterpart to the resource sheet in that the Task Sheet view displays task information in a spread sheet  style. You can create, edit and link tasks and allocate resources in this view.
  24. Task Usage – is used to focus on how resources affect the task by showing resource assignments for each task.
  25. Team Planner – is only available in the professional edition of Microsoft Project. It is particularly useful when assessing resources, tasks and resource allocations. It has 4 quadrants that display tasks in particular statuses. The quadrants are: resources, assigned and scheduled, unassigned and scheduled and unassigned and unscheduled. What’s really nice here is that tasks can be reassigned and moved by simply dragging them around.
  26. Timeline – is a new 2010 feature that allows you to add key tasks to a timeline that can be used to graphically communicate high level schedules to project stakeholders.
  27. Tracking Gantt – is based on the Gantt view and provides a great visual way to evaluate the progress of individual tasks, the project as a whole, or any level in between. It presents additional information about tasks such as planned vs. actual progress and slippage visually, allowing you to plan necessary corrective action.You will need at least one baseline to be able to see planned vs. actual progress.

Most of the views have filtering options, allowing you to filter based on the type of task, it’s level in the work breakdown structure, a date range, or type of resource.

If your preferred view is not available on any of the ribbon tabs, drop down the View option from the Task or Resource Tabs and select More Views. This will present you with a complete list of views that are available in the current project for Tasks or Resources.

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Did you know you can change the details area of most views?

Most views contain a detail or sheet entry are, referred to as a table, with predefined columns. What most people do not realise is that there are actually multiple tables to chose from.

To change the table in a view, right click on the select all area – the top left hand block of the table – and select your desired table. If you are unable to locate the table that you would like to use, select the More Tables option.

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Did you know you can customise the Quick Access Toolbar?

The Quick Access Toolbar in the upper left hand corner of Project 2010 is completely customisable. You can add the options that you use most frequently to this toolbar within seconds!

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To add buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar, simply click on the downward arrow on the right hand edge of the toolbar.

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Select the commands that you would like to add to the toolbar, and if the ones that you would like to add are not available, select More Commands option, and then continue with your customisations.

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Did you know the 4 most common views are available from the lower status bar?

The Gantt Chart, Task Usage, Team Planner and Resource Sheet are all available as quick links in the lower right hand corner of Project 2010 Professional?

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