Who Should Read This Blog Post Series?
This blog post series is primarily for staff who occasionally manage a “task list” of items to complete to accomplish a business objective. For example, consider the following:
- A team member on the Retail Operations team is responsible for managing the packing and shipping of merchandise, shelving, and signage for the opening of a new retail store.
- A team member on the Marketing team is responsible for creating a marketing plan for a new product.
- A team member on the HR team is responsible for locating suitable candidates, then interviewing and hiring a new student intern.
In each of the preceding scenarios, the team members in question are not full-time or even part-time project managers. They are what we call “occasional” or “informal” project managers, and the “task list” they are managing constitutes what we refer to as a small, simple project. If you are an “occasional” project manager who manages small, simple projects, then this blog post series is for you, because the new Project for the web would be the perfect tool to help you manage your small, simple projects.
Overview and Introduction
Because of its simplicity, users of the Project for the web application do not need much training, but they do need some training. In this series of blog post articles, we will provide in-depth training on best practices for using the new Project for the web application. In the first blog post in this series, we will discuss how to access Project for the web, how to create a new project, how to define the project, and how to plan the task list.
In the second blog post article, we will discuss how to create the project team, assign team members to tasks, manually enter task progress, and how to use and customize the views available in Project for the web. A “view” by the way, is how you can look at the information in your project.
In these blog post articles, we will be using an account that has access to only Project for the web. This means you will be able to see Project for the web in “standalone” mode and understand how it would work in an organization that uses Project for the web exclusively.
Accessing Project for the web
To access Project for the web, launch your preferred web browser and navigate to your organization’s Office 365 home page. In the list of Office 365 apps shown on the Home page, click the Project icon, such as shown in Figure 1. If you do not see the Project icon on the Home page, click the All apps icon and then click the Project icon on the next page.
Figure 1: Office 365 home page
The system launches a new web browser tab and navigates you to a page known as Project Home, such as the page shown in Figure 2. The Project Home page displays “pinned” projects in the Favorites section at the top of the page, plus the list of projects to which you have access, displayed in the Recent section in the bottom half of the page. The projects you see on this page will include projects created by you using Project for the web, plus projects created by others in your organization and which those users shared with you.
Before we teach you how to create a new project using Project for the web, we would like to discuss some of the basics you need to know about using the Project Home page with Project for the web. These basics include:
- Opening an existing project
- Closing an open project
- Pinning and unpinning a favorite project
- Deleting an existing project that is no longer needed
Figure 2: Project Home page
Opening an Existing Project
To open an existing project, click the name of the project in the Recent list, or click the tile for the project in the Favorites section. Project for the web opens the project in Read/Write mode and continuously saves the project while you work with it.
Closing an Open Project
To close an open project, click the Home button in the upper left corner of the page, such as shown in Figure 3. Project for the web returns you to the Project Home page.
Figure 3: Click the Home button
Pinning and Unpinning a Favorite Project
To pin a favorite project to the Favorites list, float your mouse pointer over the project row, and then click the Mark Favorite icon (the “star” icon), such as shown in Figure 4. Project for the web leaves the project displayed in the Recent list, but adds a tile for the pinned project in the Favorites section of the Project Home page.
Figure 4: Pin a favorite project
To unpin a project and remove it from the Favorites section, click the More options button (three vertical dots) in the upper right corner of the project tile, and select the Remove from favorites item in the menu, such as shown in Figure 5. Project for the web removes the project tile from the Favorites section, but leaves the project displayed in the Recent list.
Figure 5: Unpin a favorite project
Deleting an Existing Project
One of the problems users in your organization will probably experience is that they will click the + New blank project button to “see what happens when I click this button.” The result is that Project for the web creates a new blank project and immediately saves the blank project using the name Untitled project, such as shown in Figure 6. The user will then quickly discover that there is no obvious way to delete the new project, which can lead to a number of “orphaned” projects displayed on the Project Home page.
Figure 6: Untitled project
To delete a project, such as a project created accidentally, first click the name of the project to open the project in editing mode. In the upper left corner of the open project, click the name of the project. Project for the web displays a sidepane on the right side of the screen. In the upper right corner of the sidepane, click the More Options button (the … button) and then click the Delete project item on the menu, such as shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Delete a project
Project for the web displays the confirmation dialog shown in Figure 8. Click the Delete button in the confirmation dialog to complete the deletion of the project. Project for the web deletes the project from the database and removes the project from the Recent list.
Figure 8: Confirmation dialog
Creating and Defining a New Project
Now that we have taught you the basics of using the Project Home page, let’s discuss how to create a new project using Project for the web. To create a new project, click the + New blank project button at the top of the Project Home page, such as shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9: Create a new project
Project for the web displays the Grid view of the new untitled project, such as shown in Figure 10, and immediately saves the project in the database. Remember that the software continuously saves you project as you work with it, so there is no need to manually save your project.
Figure 10: New untitled project
To define the project with the official name for the project and with high-level information about the project, click the Untitled project name in the upper left corner of the page. Project for the web displays a sidepane for the project on the right side of the page, such as shown in Figure 11.
Figure 11: Project sidepane
In the name field at the top of the sidepane, enter the official name of the new project. By default, Project for the web automatically designates you as the project manager of the new project by entering your name in the Project Manager field.
By default, Project for the web schedules project work to start on the current date by entering today’s date in the Start field. To set the official Start date of the project, click the Calendar icon at the right end of the Start field, such as shown in Figure 12. In the calendar grid, select the official Start date of the project. In the calendar grid, you can use the ↑ and ↓ buttons to navigate to the correct year and month, as needed.
Figure 12: Set the Start date of the project
Figure 13 shows the sidepane with the definition information entered in the relevant fields. To close the sidepane, click the Close button (the X button) in the upper right corner of the sidepane. Project for the web saves the latest project information in the database. At this point, you are ready to begin planning the task list for your new project.
Figure 13: Definition data entered in the sidepane
Planning the Task List in a New Project
The task planning process consists of several waves of planning which include the following:
- Create the task list
- Move the tasks into their order of sequence
- Organize the tasks into groups, if needed
- Specify task dependencies
- Enter task Duration values
- Add task notes wherever needed
Creating the Task List
Creating the task list is probably the easiest step of all. To create a new task, click the + Add new task button. Enter the name for the new task in the Name field, such as shown in Figure 14, and then press the Enter key on your computer keyboard. Continue entering names in the Name field for each new task row and then press the Enter key when you finish entering each task.
Figure 14: Add a new task
Moving Tasks Into Sequence
Moving tasks into sequence is a simple “drag and drop” operation. To move a task to a new location in the task list, float your mouse pointer over the left end of the task row until your mouse pointer appears as a four-headed arrow, such as shown in Figure 15. Click and hold the mouse button to “grab” the task row, then drag the task row to its new location, and release the mouse button to “drop” the task row in its new location.
Figure 15: Click a task row to move it
You can also move tasks using “cut and paste”, although doing so requires more steps to move the task. To move a task using “cut and paste”, click the More options button (three vertical dots) at the right end of the task and then select the Cut task item on the menu, such as shown in Figure 16. To paste the cut task, click the More options button in the task row where you want to move the cut task, and then select the Paste task item on the menu.
Figure 16: Cut a task row to prepare to move it
Organizing the Tasks Into Groups
Depending on how many tasks you include in your project, you may find the need to organize them into groups to give meaningful and logical organization to the project. For example, you might want to organize tasks into groups, where each group represents a department responsible for performing the task work, or where each group represents the type of work to be performed.
In Project for the web, the method you use for organizing tasks into groups is by using summary tasks. Summary tasks are not required, but you can use them if it helps you to organize the tasks in your project. Before you can create a summary task, you must create a new task that will become a summary task.
To insert the new task, click the More options button (three vertical dots) at the right end of the task above which you want to insert the new task. In the menu, select the Insert task above item, such as shown in Figure 17. In the new task row, replace the Untitled task name with the intended name for the summary task. In my example, I will enter the name Pre-Shipping Activities as the name of the summary task.
Figure 17: Insert a new task
To promote the new task to become a summary task, you must indent one or more tasks below it to demote them and make them subtasks of the summary task. Click and drag to select all of the tasks you want to demote to become subtasks of the new summary task, and then click the More options button (three vertical dots) at the right end of any one of the selected tasks. In the menu, select the Make subtask item, such as shown in Figure 18. By the way, you can also right-click anywhere in the selected block of tasks and select the Make subtask item on the shortcut menu.
Figure 18: Make selected tasks subtasks
Project for the web promotes the task immediately above the selected tasks to become a summary task, and demotes the selected tasks to become subtasks of the new summary task. Notice in Figure 19 that we created two summary tasks in my project: the Pre-Shipping Activities task and the In-Store Activities task. Notice the ⌄ symbol to the left of each summary task name. You can click the ⌄ symbol to collapse the summary task and hide all of its subtasks. If you collapse all of the summary tasks in your project schedule, you can see a high-level summary view of the entire project.
Figure 19: Two new summary tasks created
Specifying Task Dependencies
The dependency planning process is the process of telling Project for the web the sequence in which the project tasks must occur. As of the writing of this blog post article, Project for the web only offers a single task dependency relationship in which the Finish date the one task drives the Start date of another task. For most users, this single dependency relationship will meet their project management needs.
Before you specify task dependencies, we recommend that you customize the Grid view of your project to display additional columns and to display the columns in a different order. To customize the Grid view following my recommendations, click the Add Column button and select the Depends on item on the menu. Click the Add Column link again and select the Dependents (after) item on the menu. You can see these two menu items in Figure 20.
Figure 20: Insert two additional columns
After adding these two additional columns, click and hold the Assigned To column header to “grab” the column, drag the selected column to the right of the Dependents (after) column and then release the mouse button to “drop” the column in its new location. Figure 21 shows the columns in this customized Grid view of my project.
Figure 21: Customized Grid view
In the customized Grid view shown previously in Figure 21, we also adjusted the width of several of the columns. To change the width of any column, use the same technique that you would use with Microsoft Excel. Float your mouse pointer over the column header of the column whose width you want to change, click and hold the right edge of the column header, and then move your mouse pointer right or left to increase or decrease the column width. Release the mouse button when finished.
When you finish customizing the Grid view, you are ready to specify task dependencies. To quickly set a dependency on a block of tasks to link a sequential “chain of events”, select the block of tasks you want to link. Right-click anywhere in the selected block of tasks and select the Add dependency item on the shortcut menu, such as shown in Figure 22. For example, in my project I need to link all of the tasks in the In-Store Activities section as a chain of events.
Figure 22: Set dependencies on a block of selected tasks
When you specify dependencies using this method, Project for the web automatically calculates the task ID numbers in both the Depends on column and the Dependents (after) column. In addition, the software also specifies an initial Duration value of 1 day for each of the linked tasks, and calculates the Duration of any impacted summary tasks as well. You can see the calculated values in all three columns in Figure 23.
Figure 23: Task dependencies set
To specify dependencies on non-contiguous tasks, select the first task, press and hold the Control key on your computer keyboard, and then select the second task. Release the Control key, right-click on either one of the selected tasks, and then select the Add dependency item on the shortcut menu, such as shown in Figure 24. Continue selecting sets of non-contiguous tasks and specifying task dependencies until you have linked all of the tasks that require dependencies in your project schedule.
Figure 24: Set dependencies on two non-contiguous tasks
Entering Task Duration Values
The next step in the task planning process is entering Duration values for each non-summary task. A good way to think of a task’s Duration is as the “window of opportunity” during which work will be performed on the task. By default, Duration is measured in days, but Project for the web will allow you to enter Duration values in hours, days, weeks, or even months. If you enter a Duration value in months, however, be aware that the software calculates each month as 20 working days.
Enter a value in the Duration column for every non-summary task in your project schedule. Project for the web will not allow you to enter a Duration value for summary tasks, and even warns you with a tooltip in its Duration field if you attempt to do so. When you finish entering Duration values, Project for the web calculates the current Finish date of your entire project based on the Duration values you entered and the task dependencies you set for each task in the schedule.
To view the Start date and Finish date of every task in your project schedule, click the + Add Column button and select the Start and Finish fields on the menu. You may want to “drag and drop” these two columns to the right of the Duration column as well. Notice in Figure 25 that my project is currently scheduled to finish on October 1, 2020. This is indicated by the date range shown in the upper left corner of the project, and by the date in the Finish column for the New store is open for business task, which is the final task in the project schedule.
Figure 25: Calculated finish date for the project
Adding Task Notes
The final task planning step, which can be performed at any time by the way, is adding notes to tasks to provide additional documentation about the task. To add a note to any task, float your mouse pointer over the task and then click the Open details icon at the right end of the Name field, such as shown in Figure 26.
Figure 26: Click the Open details icon
Project for the web opens the task details sidepane on the right side of the screen for the selected task, such as shown in Figure 27.
Figure 27: Task details sidepane
In the upper right corner of the sidepane, you can click the Open in dialog icon (the angled double headed arrow icon) shown previously in Figure 27 to display the task details in a dialog rather than in a sidepane. We recommend using a dialog to view task details because it does not require the scrolling needed to view the task details in the sidepane. When you click the Open in dialog icon, Project for the web displays all of the relevant task details in a dialog such as the one shown in Figure 28.
Figure 28: Task details dialog
At the top of either the sidepane or the dialog, click the Add a note… link to add a note to the selected task. Enter the text of your note in the note field, such as shown in Figure 29. By the way, Project for the web allows you to add multiple lines of text by pressing the Enter key on your computer keyboard at the end of the line. When you finish adding the note, click the Close dialog button (the X button) in the upper right corner of the dialog to close both the dialog and the sidepane. If you entered the note in the task details sidepane, click the Close pane button (the X button) in the upper right corner of the sidepane to close the sidepane.
Figure 29: Task note added in the task details dialog
At this point, you now know how to create a new project, to define a new project, and how to complete the task planning process. In the second blog post article, we will discuss how to create the project team, assign team members to tasks, manually enter task progress, and how to use and customize the views available in Project for the web.