Utilizing MS Outlook 2007 for small project related functions

The interface of Microsoft Outlook 2007 (MS Outlook) is more like an intuitive experience compared to previous versions. The messaging interface in 2007 allows it’s users to compose and respond more effectively. Incidentally, for those who do not have Microsoft Office Project 2007 (MS Project) and would like to have the capability of managing small projects…the Task function (MS Outlook 2003) now called the To-Do Bar (MS Outlook 2007) may be the answer for users not familiar with the practice of project management.

The primary functionality of MS Outlook 2007 is the messenger interface, which allows users to compose and respond to email in an effective manner. In addition, the Calendar and Contacts function in the 2007 version has also been expanded for user convenience. Consequently, Calendar, Contacts and Email can be easily synchronized with the under-utilized To-Do Bar function to enhance small project related tasks.

Unlike MS Project 2007, the primary functionality comprises managing project work, schedule, and communicating project data across user groups: the To-Do Bar function of MS Outlook 200 has the ability to mirror some of the primary functions in MS Project 2007 for users who may not require MS Project 2007.

Since the updates in MS Outlook 2003, Microsoft discontinued features and modified functionality in MS Outlook 2007. For example, the Task Pad has been replaced with the To-Do Bar. The Task bar in MS Outlook 2007 was available for viewing in MS Outlook 2003, but no longer available in 2007. Microsoft’s rationale for the change was to make to the To-Do Bar more inviting for novice users and expand the overall scope of the platform.

Project management comprises planning, organizing and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific goals and objectives. A project may be described as a finite endeavor—having a specific start and completion dates. What makes a project interesting; is the striking contrast to processes and operations—which appear to be permanent. One of the unique challenges of being an effective project manager is achieving all of the project goals, while adhering to project constraints. These constraints may include, scope, quality, time and budget. For an individual or novice not familiar with the practice of project management— the MS Outlook To-Do Bar is a good start.

The To Do Bar acquaints the user with various applications specific to project management. For example, in terms of organization, a crucial component in project management, the To-Do Bar has the ability to orchestrate the various tasks a user may need to act upon. Utilization of the date navigator, appointments and follow-up flags are crucial ingredients in organization.

Managing resources is also crucial in project management. This may be introduced in the To-Do Bar with various methods. When initializing a task, the user has the ability to assign a start and completion date, identify the status and prioritize; all in the same interface. Completion % can also help guide the success of the project or related task in terms of deliverables compared to the project or task time constraint (in this case, the completion date the user assigned). Furthermore, the owner of the task has the ability to assign tasks to other users with the assistance of the messaging interface. Within this platform, the owner of the task has the ability to send status reports and reminders to keep those assigned on track. MS Outlook 2007 also mirrors an important component in MS Project 2007-the recurrence of tasks. Recurrence has several applications, for the purposes of this article it means repeated dates or tasks based on frequency (daily, weekly, monthly or yearly).

Once the user is more acquainted with the To-Do Bar, the user will be exposed to the concept of project constraints, such as scope, time and budget. One of the primary challenges in the practice of project management; is understanding the relationship of these unique constraints as it relates to the successful outcome of the task or project. Finally, as the user increases the use of the To-Do Bar in everyday office tasks, the user also increases his or her knowledge in the basic principles of the practice of project management.

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