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7 Incorrect Ways to Use Microsoft Project: Forgetting to Set a Status Date

This is the last article of this series highlighting common incorrect uses of Microsoft Project. The images are built using the Microsoft Project 2013 Pro edition, but this series can be useful for all versions of the product. This article will be about setting a status date.

Flaw #1: Date-Related Planning

Flaw #2: Capacity as Activity 

Flaw #3: Lack of Structure (Work Breakdown Structure)

Flaw #4: Too Much Detail in the Schedule

Flaw #5: Not Using the Baseline Functionality 

Flaw #6: Using Predecessors in Summary Tasks

You, the planner of projects, will almost certainly build schedules for an organization. Therefore you are not alone – comforting thought right? There is a team working on that project, maybe you are the project manager, or a member of a PMO (Project management organization) or maybe you are the MS Project guru and people just know how to find you and build schedules the right way. In any case you are the go-to guy when they want an update of the schedule.

What’s your status?

What happens to your schedule when you close the application MS Project? The project happens!

The real work is done within your company (or with third parties) and there is real progress. We need to update the schedule regularly. But what happens when you win a lottery, or when you take a long vacation? The schedule should still be edited, but who knows what the last update date was?

With the Status date you can make it really clear for everyone what your status (date) is. This is because it is a fixed date you manually change when you update a schedule. By using the tips on this Microsoft page you will be able to view the status date in a different perspective, making it more tangible.

A status date can also be used in reports to show management. It will be quite clear to them that something is wrong when a status date hasn’t been changed in months…

In the screenshot the red line is the status date, the green line is the current date.

statusdate_currentdate

 

 

This article was originally published on Erik van Hurck’s website, The Project Corner. You can visit his website for more helpful tips.

 

Written by Erik van Hurck

Erik van Hurck is a Senior PPM consultant for Projectum, a western European Microsoft Partner with offices in Denmark and The Netherlands. On top of that Erik is a Microsoft MVP. As such, Erik assists enterprise customers to adopt the new Project Online cloud solution for Project and Portfolio Management. Erik has a personal blog (www.theprojectcornerblog.com) and is also a writer for the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG.com).

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11 Comments
  1. Great tip.. Nobody ever uses status date and it is so crucial.

    Reply
  2. So True, it’s a really nice little feature that should not be overlooked.

    Reply
  3. I agree that the Status Date being displayed is a key part of statusing a schedule. In addition to adding the Status Date graphically, I find it very helpful to add the textual status date in the header of the reporting. That makes it obvious. If you want to enhance your graphic status date vertical bar, add a text box via FORMAT =>Drawings => Text Box. Here, you add text “Status Date: XX/XX/XXXX” and attach the text box to your status date in Properties. Then update with you regular update cycle.

    Reply
  4. What are your feelings about multiple status dates?

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  5. I agree Chris, is a nice addition for reporting purposes.

    Ray, There is no functionality to add more than 1 status date by default. If there would be an option I would be hesitant in using it, because the question arises: “what is your REAL status?”

    Could you give a user case where you would like to have more than 1 status date?

    Reply
  6. You may have different reporting requirements, some financial, some feature or value oriented. Different stakeholders may require different status reports at different times. it would serve the same purpose, if the status date were changed to accommodate the ‘next’ status reporting requirement.

    Reply
  7. Bear in mind that the status date also plays a vital role in Earned Value reporting.

    Reply
  8. For me, another important reason for the status date and graphic line on the chart is to make sure that all project tasks are properly updated. All of the Gantt bars in my schedule should have progress shown through to the status date line. Any un-started tasks behind (to the left of) the status line should be re-scheduled (they aren’t going to start in the past).

    Another way to think of it — to the left of the line shows Actual dates, to the right of the line shows scheduled / calculated / estimated dates.

    Reply
  9. Mark, Gilbert,

    I completely agree.

    Ray, The data should always be the same, if you draw an extra line in it that doesn’t change the status. You can not say “stake holder 1, this is your status. Stake holder 2, here’s yours”.

    Thank you all for the kind remarks and additions,
    Erik

    Reply
  10. Excellent post Erik, thank you for sharing it!
    Your advice is really the key basis to start with. No need to start doing complicated reports and computation if the project is not up to date. This could lead to data misinterpretation such as EV as Mark mentionned.
    “Garbage in, garbage out”!

    Reply
  11. Guillaume, thanks for the kind words.

    It’s nice to read all the comments, every one seems to agree about the need for the status date.

    I believe it’s a bit like baselines: every one knows it is best to use them, but we seem to “forget” about is in practice…

    Kind regards,
    Erik

    Reply

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