old timeIn a perfect project delivery situation, where every team member completes every task on schedule, there should never be unfinished work in the past. Or to put it a different way, there should never be a case where the work is scheduled to be completed before the project status date. In reality, very few weeks go by without at least one task not getting completed on schedule and therefore being late. Having a late task in the plan, while obviously not ideal, doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is red. It simply means that the work scheduled didn’t happen as planned.

And while late tasks are a project reality, we still have to make project adjustments to move this work forward and get it rescheduled. Why? Because the “resource” can no longer complete those tasks on the originally planned date. Failing to make this adjustment results in a potential resource overload — the resource could now be scheduled not only to complete the unfinished work from the past but also a full load of new work.

The first step is to move the scheduled dates for all incomplete work forward, past the status date (which represents the last day of the previous reporting period). This is the earliest possible date on which the work can get completed.

We do this from the Project ribbon > Status Section > Update Project button. This launches the Update Project dialog, shown below. On this dialog, select the second option — Reschedule uncompleted work to start after — and ensure that the date field is set to the current status date. Then ensure that the Entire project radio button is selected and press OK.

Kenneth Steiness scheduling figure 1

Caution: Do not select the first option from the Update Project dialog — Update work as complete through. This option assumes that all work has been completed based on the original plan as of the status date and updates the completion percentage accordingly. A proactive project manager won’t want the project status updated automatically without detailed status and timesheets from the team members.

Project will then move all tasks with uncompleted work forward to start (or continue if some actual work had been recorded) after the current status date. Change highlighting will provide full details of the changes made to the overall project. This will move the uncompleted tasks forward along with predecessor tasks and could even create resource over-allocations as this work is rescheduled. Because doing so can have a significant impact on the project, it’s important to review all the changes.

Kenneth Steiness scheduling figure 2

Next, it’s important to review the plan to fully understand the impact that moving this work forward has on the overall schedule and resource workloads. It may be necessary to make additional schedule changes. Bringing the rescheduled work forward could have over allocated some resources and changed critical project deadlines. At this point, you should use other Microsoft Project functionality such as Critical Path Analysis, Resource Leveling and Task Path to further adjust the schedule as needed.

Rescheduling uncompleted work lingering from the past is a simple but powerful function in Project. Using this feature ensures that your project schedule always reflects the full amount of work required to complete the project. We recommend that you include this step in your weekly status update cycle to reduce the amount of manual scheduling effort otherwise required to bring this work forward.

Photo courtesy Orange County Archives through a Creative Commons CC By 2.0 license.