Your customer has told you what date your project deliverables are due. The good news is that your schedule is on target to complete before this date. However, you still want to highlight the requested completion date on your schedule. Thus, enters deadlines.
A deadline in Microsoft Project operates similar to soft constraints. Total float or slack is measured from the deadline, and if a deadline is missed the associated path becomes critical. But, unlike a simple soft constraint the actual deadline date is labeled on the Gantt chart timescale with down-facing arrows.
This is great because not only can you display on the Gantt chart your forecasted schedule completion dates, but also your project commitment dates or deadlines. And when you miss a deadline date, Microsoft Project displays a red indicator in the indicators column, so you are alerted. You also may be alerted by a non-critical path suddenly becoming critical when a deadline date is missed.
This article demonstrates how to insert deadlines in your Microsoft Project schedule, and shows the warning indicator for a missed deadline.
We have in Figure 1 our demonstration project.
This is Motor Stator modeling effort that has two main paths: experimental testing and modeling. These two paths come together in the motor ‘model modal analysis’ summary task. We want to insert three deadlines: an ‘experimentation complete’ deadline, a ‘model modal analysis’ complete deadline, and a project completion date deadline. As you can see in Figure 1 we already have milestones indicating the forecasted completion dates of all these activities. Let’s proceed by highlighting your commitment completion dates (deadlines) for all these same activities.
We begin by inserting a deadline on the ‘experimentation complete’ milestone. Highlight the ‘experimentation complete’ activity and select the task tab, properties ribbon group, and information feature, Figure 2.
In the task information dialog, Figure 3, we select the advanced tab and the date September 28th from the deadline drop down menu.
In Figure 4 we view our newly inserted deadline that is conveniently a few dates after the ‘experimentation complete’ milestone forecast date.
Note also the date listed in the deadline column of our activity table. Our ‘experimentation complete’ deadline makes us aware that if experimentation is not complete by September 28th its delay will have a negative effect on the succeeding activity, ‘compare experimental & analytical data’. It’s also a warning flag to our stakeholder sponsor that the project is behind schedule.
To give you a feel for the insertion of deadlines throughout a schedule, in Figure 5, we insert additional deadlines on the ‘model modal analysis complete’ milestone and ‘project completion date’ milestone.
Now we have highlighted important dates in the life of the project, including the requested project completion date.
In Figure 6 we progress the schedule to demonstrate what happens when a deadline is missed.
And also how you can keep an eye on the forecasted project completion date in relation to the committed project completion date. Note the red indicators in the indicators column for the ‘experimentation complete’ milestone and ‘model modal analysis complete’ milestone. (Note that we removed some labeling to make the deadline arrows more visible) Both these deadlines were missed.
The good news, however, is that our project is still on target to complete on time, as indicated by the ‘project completion date’ milestone and associated project deadline, Figure 6.
Deadlines are a huge advantage in Microsoft Project. At the very least it allows you to highlight and compare the forecasted project completion date to the committed project completion date. As you can see from our demonstration, deadlines may be placed throughout the schedule to highlight important dates that if not met will have a negative impact on succeeding activities.
It is again important to note, however, that deadlines operate similar to soft constraints. Total slack is measured from the preceding activity to the deadline. And if a deadline is missed you know because of the red indicator warning, and, possibly, when a non-critical path suddenly becomes critical. It is further interesting to note that total slack is measured from the activity to the nearest constraint or deadline. This of course is in the unusual situation where you have an activity restricted by both a constraint and a deadline.