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Tracking Starts with a Status Date

There are four steps involved in tracking a project:  setting the status date, entering actuals and schedule revisions, rescheduling incomplete work, and resource leveling the remaining schedule. These steps are repeated throughout project execution once a schedule baseline has been established.

Measure Progress Relative to a Schedule Baseline and the Status Date

At the end of planning, once you have a time-feasible and resource-feasible schedule, a baseline should be set. This is done using the Set Baseline dialog on the Project tab. If a schedule has been baselined, the Baseline table in a Task Sheet view will be populated and a Baseline task bar will appear in the Tracking Gantt chart view. Prior to tracking, the current and baseline schedules will be the same. While the current and actual schedules change as we track, the baseline schedule remains constant.

Figure 1: Tracking Gantt Chart with Baseline table after baseline is set but before tracking starts.

The status date is a reference date through which progress from the start of the project is measured.  It is set periodically based on how often project time and cost information is collected.  Usually it is weekly, monthly, or quarterly, but, with advances in technology and automation, it could be daily.  Changing the Status Date changes progress measure that are dependent upon what is baselined and when the status date is set.

Setting the Status Date

There are two ways to set the status date in Project:  in the Project Information dialog and from within the Status Date dialog. Both commands appear on the Project tab in the ribbon and are shown below. If you set the Status Date in one area, it will automatically propagate the other.

Figure 2: Entering the status date using the Project Information dialog.

 

Figure 3: Setting the status date using the Status Date dialog.

Highlight the Status Date Using a Gridline

It is good practice to highlight the status date in the Gantt Chart or Team Planner views. This is done using the Gridlines dialog on the Format tab in either view, as illustrated in the following figures.

Figure 4: Setting a vertical Status Date gridline in the Gridlines dialog.

 

Figure 5: Team Planner view with vertical gridlines for Project Start, Project Finish and Status Date

Questions to Ask

If you are currently tracking a project, ask yourself these questions:

  • Has the baseline schedule been set?
  • How often is the status date updated?
  • What is the current status date?

If you use different steps in your tracking cycle, please share them in the comments section below.

Written by Robin Nicklas

Robin Nicklas is a project management consultant and educator. Since 2001, he has trained project managers in the aerospace, financial, telecommunications, government, and software sectors. Prior to teaching, he spent twenty years in information systems and technology, twelve of which he managed software development at large information service companies.

Since 2003, he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in project management at the University of Washington in Seattle, as well as MS Project courses at Bellevue College Continuing Education since 2011.

Robin is a former president of the PMI Puget Sound Chapter in Seattle and a certified PMP. He can be contacted through his website, robinnicklas.com.

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