The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide, by Lisa A. Bucki, ISBN-13: 978-1-59863-284-2

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, April 2007
Published by: Thomson Course Technology
Requires: N/A

MSRP: US$24.99, CAN$33.95

Completing a project of any kind on schedule and within budget seem to be the primary goals of project managers, product managers and general managers the world over, even when doing so in some cases means compromising quality and other important considerations. Everywhere you look, projects are behind schedule. Too often as well, bulldog managers who bring projects in on time are guilty of tactics which compromise the value of the final result. So what is an honest, ethical project leader to do? Good tools used well, help to get the job done more thoroughly than not. But good tools on their own don't create successful results. Tools have to be thoroughly understood in order to help get projects organized and completed. Microsoft Project 2007 is one of a long line of Project versions stretching back to 1987. The software is used by project managers to develop plans, assign resources to tasks, track progress, manag budgets and analyze workloads and points of failure. It is in wide use around the world for everything from software development to construction, industrial design, architectural development, engineering and a thousand other project management applications. According to all the statistics I could find while doing research for this review, Microsoft Project represents 80% of all the project management software currently in use. The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide is a substantial attempt to provide new users of Microsoft Project (and Project 2007 in particular) with the best possible guidance and training.

The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide really is all about the software. The book is not a project management training manual. If you're new to Microsoft Project and project management software in general, you'll need something besides the less than stellar documentation provided by Microsoft. I rarely complain about a lack of direct product documentation in any case, mainly because average or poor quality documentation by product makers gives third parties the opportunity to produce something genuinely helpful. That's what happened in this case. Author Lisa A. Bucki and technical editor Jack Dahlgren have assembled a very thorough guide to getting started with Project 2007 and using the software to help plan organize and manage a wide range of projects.


The first flaw I look for when reviewing any books of this nature is the one that indicates the authors are not truly authorities on the application of the subject matter. In this case, I tried to figure out if Bucki was just a software expert, as opposed to someone who had repeatedly used the software to help successfully manage real projects. Lisa A. Bucki has been conducting Microsoft Project training sessions for ten years as well as consulting with real project managers and product developers, so the book provided me with a sense that the authors clearly understand the needs they're addressing. That's a home run all by itself.

The second flaw I look for is the absence of flow and tutorial. I see a lot of books for review which explain in great detail all of the features and functions of a product, but still leave you with little or no idea how to use the product. They're not good books. The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide provides a well organized, essentially step-by-step guide to starting, managing and completing a project, as well as all the detailed feature and function explanations needed to understand Microsoft Project 2007. You can fit almost any project you have in mind into the book. As you work your way through the book, it's possible to move back and forth from the software as you plug in all the details of your particular project. That's another home run.

The third flaw I look for in this sort of book is the absence of technical review. Thankfully, The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide has a succinct review section at the end of each chapter. If you treat the book like a Project 2007 course, you'll have the opportunity to work through all of Project 2007 while doing a standard review after each part of the course.

The fourth and final flaw I look for is related to depth and concern. Very often, so-called Hot Tips or Special Notes or Warnings or Bright Ideas, etc., etc., scattered randomly throughout a reference, tutorial or guide book, provide little more than a physical method of breaking up vast expanses of otherwise monotonous text. The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide offers dozens of genuinely useful and thoughtfully placed Notes, Tips, and Mis-Step warnings. The authors have taken the time to add real value to these sidebars and boxouts, ensuring that the contents of each one represents an important piece of information that might not be obvious to the majority of people getting started with Project 2007.

Cons: The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide barely mentions Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Every book on Microsoft Project should provide some coverage, tutorial and application examples of VBA programming. VBA is a simple programing language with which every serious Microsoft Project user should develop some basic familiarity.

Pros: If you read The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide thoroughly, it's likely that your thinking about the applications for project management software may expand quite a bit. In the right hands, Microsoft Project 2007 is an extremely powerful tool. The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide walks you step by step through all of the typical tasks, configurations and applications for every major feature in Project 2007. After only 45 pages (most of Part One), you'll be able to jump into the creation of your first project plan with confidence, which represents a very quick start indeed with such a complex and powerful piece of software. Very good coverage of some design and configuration tricks (e.g., calendar and schedule synchronization—a crucial step whenever you create a custom calendar), several of which are included in the immensely useful Appendix B. Chapter 7 is completely devoted to the importance and coverage of resources lists and the importance of the Resource Sheet. The pace of the book is excellent—each chapter in each part provides a balanced set of explanations and practical instructions on why and how to use the software as you plan, organize, set up and manage a project. The language is quite clear (mercifully, project management in general imposes only minimal jargon), so the book is essentially filled with easy to understand text. Coverage of data import and integration with Microsoft Excel and Outlook is good, providing active Project 2007 users with a positive and productively useful view of the tremendous power available in Project 2007 and Microsoft Office. If you're new to Project 2007, The Microsoft Office Project 2007 Survival Guide will help you hit the ground running and help you avoid making mistakes with the software. Highly recommended.

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