Now that Project 2010 has been released to manufacturing (or RTMed, as we say), I'm eager to start talking about some of the features in the new edition. I've been running the beta for some time as Tim and I work on the Project 2010 Step by Step. You may have been using the beta as well. This week I'll show you one of my favorite features in Project 2010.
Speaking as a Project user, I have to say one of my favorite features is inactivate tasks. This feature is available in Project Professional 2010 only, and not in Project Standard 2010.
The basic idea of inactivate tasks is this: I may have some tasks (including resource assignments) in a project plan that I'm not sure I need. In the past I might have just deleted the tasks, or if I really wasn't sure I might want to revive those tasks later, I'd perhaps save a version of the plan that included the tasks. Or I might have just copied the tasks into a separate "holding pen" Project plan.
All of these options present a problem though--now I have to keep track of what I did with the unwanted tasks, and what I have to do to get them back (should I discover I do indded need them).
Inactivating tasks lets me "line out" the tasks and leave them right in the project plan. Inactivated tasks are visible in the plan but have no scheduling effect on the plan, including critical path, cost, or resource availability. Here's what inactivated tasks look like in a project plan.
First, my initial task list:
TIP Click the screenshot image to see a larger view.
After inactivating the tasks I I may not need, they look like this:
Inactivating tasks is a little like deleting text in Word with change tracking on, except there's no option to not see the inactivated tasks (it's a bit like tracking changes in Word but always showing the markup).
As soon as I started playing around with inactivating tasks, I knew this was a feature I'd use a lot in my day job. Being able to easily restore previously inactivated tasks is great. I can envision inactivating tasks for a number of reasons, such as:
- Developing what I sometimes call "low road" and "high road" task sequences for a given problem. The low road plan is what I know my team can deliver; it meets the time constraint we're given and we can produce adequate (if not spectacular) results. The high road plan is what we'd like to do, if given more time or resources. In my schedules I like to develop both low and high road plans. Now in 2010 I'll inactivate the high road plan until/if I get the additional time or resources to upgrade from the low road plan to the high road plan. When this happens, I'll then inactivate the low road plan. Doing so preserves the schedule details in the plan, so I can refer to them later as needed.
- Developing simpler, speculative "plan A" and "plan B" options for a given set of tasks. These may depend on a specific choice yet to be made, or maybe adopting a new tool related to our work. This is more modest than the low/high road focus, but lets me map out different options and preserve the knowledge of both the paths taken and not taken.
- Developing "fire drill" risk responses to be activated should a certain predefined trigger condition be met.
I don't have any specific how-to references I can give you yet to inactivated tasks yet, but trust me it will be covered in the upcoming Project 2010 Step by Step. In the meantime, you can see what the Project team has to say about 2010 on their blog here.