Forecasting Programs with Microsoft Project 2013

This 2-day course is for program managers, their support staff and their subproject managers who use Microsoft Project Professional as a standalone tool to manage an integrated program schedule that is broken into subprojects.

About This Course

What to do when you have 500 handoffs between 15 subprojects in a 10,000 task program schedule? Programs are notoriously hard to schedule: the amount of data is mind-boggling, subprojects are dependent upon each other and the client wants to see the Critical Path for the entire program. The presenter will share special techniques with you that he and his team developed for identifying the Critical Path in large programs and managing it. If you have more than 1,000 tasks in your schedule, you should attend this course.

Each participant will receive a copy of the 120-page course manual and an electronic certificate with PDUs upon completion.

This course is based on and aligned with the PMI® Standard for Program Management, third edition.

Program Prerequisite

Participants must have managed at least one project from beginning to end with Microsoft Project. If you don't meet this requirement, we recommend you take our Forecast Scheduling course first.

Course Learning Objectives

Overall, you will learn how to effectively use Microsoft Project for managing programs. The following learning objectives are subject to customization in onsite training:

  • Be able to determine whether to keep one large schedule for the program or split it into sub schedules
  • Be able to choose the best orientation to break a program schedule into subproject schedules
  • Be able to re-integrate subproject schedules into a program schedule
  • Be able to create dependencies across the subproject schedules
  • Be able to track the buffers or slippages of handoffs between the subprojects
  • Be able to identify the Critical Path to the next major milestone
  • Be able to track subproject progress and program schedule during execution
  • Be aware of best practices for managing integrated program schedules

Course Topics


  • What is a 'program'? How is it different from a 'project' or 'project portfolio'?
  • Modeling a large program: How to prevent drowning in the data?
  • What orientations are possible for breaking down programs? Pro's and con's
  • Establishing scheduling guidelines and standards for subproject schedules, e.g. 
    • Importance of focusing on deliverables (handoffs between subprojects)
    • What is the appropriate level of detail: 1%-10% rule
    • Minimizing the use of date constraints
    • Recurring tasks and overhead tasks
  • Rolling wave approach: look-ahead window for detailed planning: how many months ahead?
  • WBS: put the major milestones at the top? Pro's and con's
  • Dependencies: the importance of identifying all dependencies within each subproject schedule as well as between the projects (handoffs)
  • Deadlines (target dates) and schedule constraints (fixed dates): types of schedule constraints and how they make your program schedule rigid

Centralized versus Delegated Scheduling?

  • Keeping one large program schedule or splitting it into separate subproject schedules: centralize or delegate scheduling? Pro's and con's.
  • Centralized scheduling: the need for a program management office and scheduling support services; how many schedulers do you need?
  • Delegated scheduling: Splitting the program schedule into multiple sub schedules:
    • What orientations for breaking down programs are available? Pro's and con's
    • Transferring ownership to the subproject managers
    • Training subproject managers on the scheduling guidelines
    • Implementing quality assurance for sub schedules

Separate subprojects and the dependencies between them: re-integrating the subproject schedules:

  • Ways to re-integrate sub schedules: cross-project links feature, deliverables feature, macros to create and remove cross-project links on as-need basis, third-party solutions
  • Creating the cross-project dependencies: use the master schedule!
  • How to check the completeness of the network logic in a large program (while keeping your sanity)
  • What to do if circular dependencies suddenly appear?
  • Creating the back-end schedule for the program where all subprojects come together: assembly and integration testing
  • Monitoring cross-project impacts and governing cross-project impacts

Monitoring and managing subprojects as a program manager

  • Tracking Gantt view: how to verify if schedules are up-to-date and how to assess progress performance
  • Earned Value as a program performance measurement technique
  • Drilling down from the program schedule into the subproject schedules


How to Keep Your Program on Schedule

  • Should we find the Critical Path for the entire program schedule that has, for example, 1,000 tasks in a 10,000 task schedule?
  • We recommend identifying the detailed Critical Path into the next major milestone of the program and we will share a technique we developed to identify the Critical Path into a major milestone:
    • Sequester the sub network of the major milestone
    • Isolating the Critical Path into the major milestone
    • Shortening the Critical Path
  • You also need to monitor the forecasted finish date of the entire program


  • Creating one-page reports ... always ... even on very large programs!
  • Earned Value report, Major Milestone view, Swim Lane Chart
  • Working with large schedules requires you to become a master at filters: using multiple conditions, using and/or boolean logic and interactive filters
  • Reporting the project the way you want: developing custom views using custom Fields, Tables, Filters and Grouping
  • How to defend a visible time buffer or cost reserve to your manager, sponsor or client?


  • Updating tasks: what update info to ask for?
  • Maintaining the integrity of the program Baseline
  • An easy check to verify if a subproject schedule is up-to-date
  • Interpreting the Tracking Gantt chart of a subproject