Can Microsoft® Project Be Used for Agile Projects?

Can Microsoft® Project Be Used for Agile Projects?

Can Microsoft® Project Be Used for Agile Projects?

By Keith Wilson, B.Comm., PMP, MCT, MCTS  |  Senior Trainer and Consultant, IIL 

Can Microsoft Project be used for Agile projects? Yes! Customizable fields and custom groups can be used effectively to create an Agile template. Custom fields allow you to add project-specific information, which can be used to filter or group tasks to provide different views into the Agile schedule. It is possible to create a schedule for planning, communicating, and tracking Agile projects, or with an Agile or a hybrid method.

Key characteristics of the Agile development method are Iterative, Incremental, Embraces change and Delivers a deployable product early for a quick ROI.

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Agile teams deliver complete and functioning code within short iterations. During the iterations, all of the necessary work to take features from an idea to a working product is completed without artificial dependencies that prevent work from being done in parallel. The end result is that portions of the product are delivered on a regular and frequent basis. This gives stakeholders a much better idea of the state of the project because they can see and use the end result as it becomes available.

The strengths of Agile development:

  • Delivers minimum usable subset
  • Delivers on time and to cost
  • Iterative development for evolving solution
  • Flexible processes
  • Collaboration of the whole team

So what project-specific data must be added to create an Agile schedule?

An Agile project starts with a backlog, which is a list of features to be implemented, and a number of iterations or sprints to implement those features, which are represented as tasks in the schedule.

In addition, each feature will have a priority and a size estimate represented in story points and will be mapped to a sprint. Story points (which can be numbers – e.g., 1, 2, 5, 8) are relative values based on the size or difficulty of a user story relative to other stories. When you estimate using story points, you estimate the “bigness” of a user story compared to other stories. Each feature and sprint will also require a status (e.g., not started, in progress, or done).

To create an Agile project schedule we need to know:

The duration of each sprint, the release date if there is a planned release including several sprints, the priority of each feature in the backlog, the feature complexity or story point value, user-need or priority and state. In addition, we will need to know the resources and the percentage of their time available per sprint and each resource loaded labor rate.

We will need to create custom fields for Agile-specific information including:

User Need                   Text Field

Lookup Table: Low, Medium, or High

State                             Text Field

Lookup Table: Not Started, In Progress, or Done

Story Points               Number Field (Estimate of Story Points)

Set Calculation for task and group summary rows to Rollup: Sum

Sprint                            Text Field:

Lookup Table: Backlog and Sprint 1 through Sprint n

It will also be necessary to create two Groups:

Sprint                  Group by Sprint.

The Sprint group will list all features in each Sprint; story point totals rollup for each sprint. Features not assigned to a sprint will be grouped under Backlog.
Burndown         Group by State, then by Sprint.

The Burndown group will provide story point summary by categories: Done, In Progress, and Not Started.
Story point totals roll up.

The Agile schedule will also require two summary tasks: Sprints and Features. Under Sprints, enter the expected number of sprints, including the name and duration of the sprint, and link them in sequential or finish to start order. Then list the features under Features summary task. Make each of the features a milestone, by indicating a zero duration. By default, the features will all be in Backlog. To assign a feature to a specific sprint, select the sprint number in the Sprint drop-down. Also, when you assign a feature to a sprint, set a finish-to-start predecessor to that sprint so the expected finish date of each feature will be known. When tracking the project, if one or more features are not completed in a specific sprint, it is easy to just update the sprint number and the predecessor to move those features to another sprint.

Build a resource pool with real or generic resources. Be sure to include a rate per resource and other know attributes such as Calendar, Max Units, Group, and Rate. Once you have the resource sheet complete, assign the resources to each sprint and indicate the percentage of time that they will be working on the Sprint. Since there is a rate per resource, Microsoft Project will multiply the duration by the percentage allocation time for each resource and then by the resource rate. It will then summarize each resource cost per sprint to provide a total cost per sprint, which in turn can be rolled up to show the total cost of the project.

The following is an example of a schedule with sprints that have a duration of 15 and a dozen features and is using the custom Burndown group, grouped by state and sprint. It also displays the total number of story points for each of these states:

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Custom fields are a powerful feature of Microsoft Project, and when used with custom groups, we can actually use Microsoft Project for an Agile project without knowing which features each sprint will be addressing. Given the duration of each sprint, the resources, resource rate, and percentage assigned it will be possible to calculate the cost per sprint; and if the sprints are rolled into one release, the total cost, and duration for that release or project.

Leave a comment below if you’re interested in receiving a downloadable template.

Keith-1About the Author
Keith Wilson is a Microsoft Project and Project Management Senior Consultant/Trainer for International Institute for Learning, Inc. His background includes over 25 years of successful management and consulting experience, with a focus that includes project management, training, and business planning. Well known for his public speaking skills and enthusiasm, he has been a welcomed facilitator at numerous Fortune 500 corporations, Universities and Associations worldwide.

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Comments (22)

  • ahmed amin

    Thanks for the illustration and details.
    can you please share the template you cam up with after the above steps. Thanks In Advance

  • Sonika

    Hi Keith, This is awesome information. Is it possible to please share the template for Agile with custom fields?

  • Scott

    Very nice info, would love a template

  • Wikus

    Is Agile used in Europe since they are more into Prince 2 than PMP?

  • J. LeRoy Ward

    Hi Wikus: Agile is widely practiced in Europe. In fact, according to the 10th Annual State of Agile report, published by VersionOne (it’s a free download) 26% of the respondents were from Europe. My personal experience is that Prince2 is practiced in the UK in larger numbers than on the Continent, although there are certainly practitioners there. Also, While Prince2 is a methodology, and Agile is more of a framework, the two can co-exist. Many organizations develop their own unique and custom ways to do Agile (primarily Scrum) within certain other frameworks. Hope this helps. If anyone else has an opinion, please opine.!

  • Darrell

    Thank you for this informative BLOG. I am new to the Agile approach, and our clients are adopting Agile. May I please get a template. Thank you again

  • Ed Horn

    Good day to you. I would love to receive this template. Thank you.

  • Jack

    Hi, Doesn’t this mean that the project would need all backlog items(with story points) included as early as possible? Otherwise the baseline values Vs projected cost/work will be unusable.
    No agile project would ever have a complete backlog

    • admin

      Hi Jack – It is possible to add item user stories to backlog at any time. You merely baseline the sprints not the entire project.
      –Keith E. Wilson, PMP, MBA, B.Comm., MCT, MCTS

  • Ronny

    I’ve liked your article very much, thanks for sharing. I’m on the edge of creating a Scrum MS project plan. Would be great to have a template for reference. Can you share the MS project template you have discribed with me? Thx

  • Matt

    Really great guide, would love a template. Thanks

  • yoshue

    Great template, you could share the template please, thank you

  • Simmzzee

    Interesting idea, would love to try out the template. Thanks

  • Chris

    Thank you for this article. Would you please share the template.

  • Steven Devino

    The template would be greatly appreciated, thanks for the great article.

  • Rikesha

    Great article! I would greatly appreciate the template. Thank you!

  • Saviz

    Dear All,
    I want to plan a project with progressive elaboration. I just want to ask how to get progress from the plan when the size of the project change over time. As in my project, resource will not be allocated until the next month. Thank you in advance 🙂

  • Phil Mastrolia

    This is really great information. Please send me the Microsoft Project Template.

    Thank you!

  • Yang Cher Ming

    Thanks for sharing. I is very helpful. May I have a copy of the template? Txs.

  • Tony Damian

    Great information. Thank you for sharing. I am new to this and would appreciate a copy of your template.

  • Robert Chase

    Wonderful explanation. Please send me the template/

  • Diane Sisti

    Exactly what I’m looking for. Thank you for sharing.. May I have a copy of your template?

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