Minutes – such small things in a 1, 2, or 3-year project. But they can become important as you set up a project schedule. This is a look at Why Minutes Matter in Projects.
Minutes matter in a variety of situations:
- Workers may be on different shift patterns as they hand-over tasks. So, a task is completed but there is a delay before the next task starts due to the resource shift pattern
- Delays pushing a task completion back over a weekend, so what appears to be a 2-hour delay, becomes a 3 day impact on the next task
- If a successor task is time constrained, and cannot start immediately
- The consequence of small ‘gaps’ in the schedule can have an effect on displaying the critical path
This blog will examine how to use Microsoft Project to understand exactly – to the minute – what is happening on your schedule. But the reasons for using the methods should apply to any scheduling software.
Why Minutes Matter in Projects
One thing that I often teach students to do in Microsoft Project is to zoom into the project to view the minute that a task is completed.
In order to zoom into minutes, use the ‘View’ tab and the zoom option many times. (Note that Ctrl+ and Ctrl- do not seem to work anymore on my Windows 10 computer running Project 2016!)
So that the display looks as follows.
This is in fact each hour of a day broken down into 15-minute intervals. It is easy to misread this as February 8th, 9th etc. But it is in fact February 23rd, 8:00 am, 8:15 am, 8:30 am, 8:45 am, 9:00 am etc.
Note that the zoom slider in the screens lower right-hand side allows you to zoom to a maximum (minimum?) of 2 hour intervals.
Zooming to minutes can be useful when trying to understand exactly what is happening in a project, and why subsequent tasks are delayed. An important method to use when interpreting the Gantt chart results.
Showing the Critical Path
The issue of small ‘gaps’ in the critical path, especially when a task handover is affected by resource calendars (shift patterns can ‘disrupt’ the critical path). A common question is “Why is my critical path not showing?”
If a task finishes at 10:30 in the morning, but the next task is performed by the afternoon shift starting at 2:00 pm, Microsoft Project will assume that a delay of three and a half hours is acceptable and treat this as ‘Slack’.
The critical path will then be lost as the task will be shown ‘Normal’ rather than ‘Critical’. It only takes a 15-minute gap to lose the critical path, and this is why Minutes Matter in Projects.
To get Microsoft Project to ignore small amounts of slack, you can change a setting in ‘File – Options – Advanced’ Menu – right at the bottom. I have changed this from ‘0’ to ‘3’.
In this case, any task in the project with slack of less than 3 days is treated as a critical task.
Minutes matter in projects when sorting out scheduling problems. Understanding how you can use your scheduling software to show minutes, and to ignore small gaps in the schedule is important.