Book Review: Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual

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Bonnie Biafore, in Microsoft Project 2013:The Missing Manual, aims to teach you the basics of project management. She will also show you how to get what you want in Microsoft Project 2013. This is a lot to ask for one book. Part 1 is a primer in project management. I was surprised to find so much information about project selection. It is written as if it were written for beginners – at least the beginning. The book also gets technical quickly. There are nice boxes called “reality check” scattered throughout the book. They show it the way it is, such as this one (which you probably won’t be able to read) called ‘When stakeholders aren’t supportive’.
When stakeholders aren’t supportive: One of the Reality Check boxes in the bookChartering a project
Biafore refers to a project charter in the “How to do Project Management” section. This appeals to me, as I write press releases and it’s something I hadn’t thought of before. She writes:
Publicity is also needed for the project manager. Your authority comes from the sponsor of your project, not your position within the organisation. People need to be aware of how far you have gone. The project charter is a press release for the project. It announces the project and your responsibilities as its manager.
This is a great piece of practical advice. One tip is to not ask the most senior manager to send the charter unless they are familiar with the project. You need authority but also credibility. Choose someone who can give it to you, not just any senior manager wearing a suit.
She writes that project work can be “like the pop-fly ball that falls to the ground as third baseman and shortstop stare at one another,” whatever that might mean.
MS Project 2013: Getting technical
The book’s second part is where MS Project is discussed. The most important news since the product’s last update is that Project is now part the Office 365 suite. There are also easier-to-digest reports (which honestly wouldn’t be difficult). There’s a lot of information on reports, which makes me think that it could be difficult to get them to look the way you want.
The book covers only Project Server editions in Standard and Professional editions. Although some of the 365 suite features have been covered, the software is constantly changing and the book will likely become out of date quickly (Biafore admits to that).
There are many usability tips, such as collapsing your ribbon to see more of the plan on the screen, and keyboard shortcuts. Biafore shows how to create a basic project, and then uses another example to create an elaborate schedule.
She also offers tips on how to use other Microsoft products along with Project, such as how you can create a RACI matrix using Excel and how to import resource names from your Outlook contacts.
You will find many tips in the book, such as how to create a resource while assigning it to tasks. These tips are designed to make you more efficient. The book offers downloadable worksheets and links to MS templates online. These resources make the book more useful and give it a longer shelf-life. They will also help you get your project moving faster. Despite that, I have not downloaded any to test them out.
Check your schedule
You can find a lot of information about how calendars control resource scheduling and task scheduling, as well as screenshots and details about how to set up the right working hours for your project.
There are also detailed walkthroughs and how-to information. Practical advice is provided to help you make the most of your schedule. Biafore suggests that you pay attention to these 8 things when you are planning your schedule.