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Different Ways to Track Project Progress with Microsoft Project

Posted: 1/23/19

Presenter: Nenad Trajkovski

Moderator: Kyle

We are going to cover different ways of tracking progress using Microsoft Project. I only have one PowerPoint slide which you can see on the screen. I already created some tasks, from task 1 to task 9 and I’ve also created resources that are 100% assigned to those tasks. I’m not only going to show you which tracking progress options are available in MS Project but I’m going to show you which ones to use when and why you’d use them. Before I start, I want to mention one important thing: whichever way you choose to track the progress, be aware you’re dealing with accurate data. So, for example, if you’re going to say one task is 50% completed, be aware that it IS 50% completed. MS Project is only a tool. Powerful tool but a tool. When you say something is 50% complete, it must be 50% completed so be aware of this accurate data. Of course you can track task progress from many different ways, from the most simple to the most complicated and I’m going to cover all of them during this session.

First of all, we have two possibilities. We can track percentage of complete and track percentage of work complete. What is the difference? The difference is, when you say something is 50% complete, it means that 50% of time is consumed. And if you say 50% of the work is complete, it means that 50% of estimated effort is complete and I’ll show that to you later. You don’t have any effort until you do not assign resources to those tasks. Let me start with the simple one. Here you can see task 1 which has 4 days estimation of duration. Let’s say the task is 50% finished, or 25% or 75% or 100%…those tasks are shown here on the schedule part of task tab and you can see that it’s 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100%. So, if I say for example that task 1 is 50% completed, in that case I say to MS Project, my task 1 here started as it was planned. All resources spent 50% of the time, task is 50% done. So it means that 2 days out of 4 are completed and you can see here, this is 50%. This is the easiest way of using task [?] progress. By the way, this will be the only way in which you can be able to use for the task in which you will not have a resource assigned [this sentence needs to be reworked]. Why? Because as I told you previously, if you don’t have assigned resources on the task, you don’t have the work as an effort and if you don’t, you cannot track work or effort, whichever you prefer, don’t track. Let me show you one specific example. Let’s say that this is task 10, no resources. Now, you will see that I make it 4 days and you’ll see that I can put 50% here but this task has no resources assigned and I’ll show you the difference between this task and task 1 a little bit later. So, let me show you another thing. What if I don’t want to say the task is 25% or 50% completed but 40% completed? In that case, I can’t use this shortcut but in most cases. On the task tab, I’ll use Mark on Task then update task. When I go to update task, I see a lot of things here. First of all, I’ll see current situation. The current situation is that duration is 4 days and the current start and finish dates are the 21st to 24th of January. Now, here, in percentage of complete, I can put any percentage that I want. For example, I’ll put 13% and click okay but…I strongly don’t recommend this way of updating a task. Why? How can you say that task 4, which should last 4 days, is 13% or 16% complete? It’s hard to measure those strange numbers so I would advise you use 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% or whichever percentage of completeness you are aware of which you are sure that’s accurate. For example, I can put here 40%. When I put 40% here, 50% or any number, it says that my task example is 40% completed but it started as it was planned (21st of January) and it is only completed 40%. Now, let’s give another example. I have another task and I’m going to show you percentage complete on that task but I’m going to show you here something a little different. I have George and Suzanne, those are my resources. I’m going to switch to resource sheet view and I’m going to you, for example, Suzanne, in Project, in changing working time, Suzanne is going to be on vacation from the 23rd to the 23rd so Suzanne is on her vacation today. So she’s not able to perform anything on that task today. On the other hand, George, is available because there are no exceptions here so he’s available to work on that task today. Now, let’s go back to the Gantt chart. Let me show you how this task is shown in another view which is task usage view. In task usage view, I think you already know, you can see the hours which are going to be spent or planned to be spent per task, per day, per resources. So, here you can see that George, because…first of all, it’s estimated 4 days duration. George is going to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Suzanne is going to perform those 4 days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday because she’s not available to work Wednesday. I’m going to show actual work here is because I’ll need it a little bit later. I’m going to show you one thing which I’ve already shown you in the Gantt chart. My task number 10, a task with no resources, no work here and you’re not going to be able to put it here because you don’t have resources. If you want to see accurate data task usage view, be aware that you should assign resources on a particular task. Otherwise, task usage view is useless for you because here you can see how many hours is going to be spent per task and these other tasks, with these particular resources, for example in task 9…I hope that this is clear and now let’s go see what happens in task 2, which has different calendars, if it’s 50% finished. If I start 50% finished, you will see that Suzanne and George were working on the task first day, second day and for half of the third day, only George was working on it. Suzanne didn’t work at all because she was on her vacation which leads us to one major point here. You can see the actual percentage of complete and actual work complete are not the same thing. Because I put 50% duration, it means that 50% for task 2 duration was spent. It’s 2 and a half days. But on the other hand, the total hours which were spent are 16 hours on Monday because George and Suzanne were working. 16 hours Tuesday and only 8 hours Wednesday because only George worked while Suzanne was on holiday. And Thursday, Friday, no one worked. This leads us to 56% of work complete. Why? Because the total of work was 64 hours and the total of work completed is…let me count here, 32. And this is 32, 36…and if you divide 36 with 64, you will get to this number of 56%.

Okay, the second thing you should be aware of when you’re putting in percentage of complete. Now let’s go to a more complicated task and this is a task where you also have percentage of complete, with duration of percentage of complete but you can update something else. Let’s say that you don’t know percentage of completeness or you don’t care about it. You can see here, actual duration and remaining duration. If you put here that actual duration is 1 day and you don’t touch anything else, even the remaining duration, and you hit okay…what will happen? MS Project will calculate that one day is [?] duration and remaining duration will be 3 days. When I click okay and go back to that task, you will see that percentage of complete is now 25% because I previously put 1 day of [?] duration and the remaining duration is 3 days which is more accurate than percentage of complete. In this case, I know exactly that I already spent 1 day, all resources spent 1 day for that task and 3 days are calculated as remaining duration. Now let me put that nothing happened and now I’m going to go back. I can say, for example, of course I already spent 1 day on this job duration but I need, for example, 7 days. It means that, now, you can see that the previous plan duration was 4 days. Now, let’s say, on the task, all resources, already spent 1 day but I need 8 days. If I now click on okay, you will see that these tasks will be spread and the finish date will be changed but also that the whole duration of the task will be 8 days. Which comes from actual duration which is always “how many days did I spend?” and remaining duration is “how many days are going to be spent on that task?” I’m going to click okay. You’ll see that the duration is 8 days now. So I put, how many days I spent on that task but on the other hand, I put how many more days I estimated that I need for that task. If I put actual and remaining, it still means here that for my task it started when it was planned.

Now I’m going to show you a more complicated way. Let’s say that I make this task 4 days needed, that’s it not started. We have to reset the previous date and I’m going to select update task. Let’s say we already spent a day, 1 day for this task and yes, we need 7 days but for some cases, we didn’t start with that task as it was planned on the 21st of January but maybe earlier or later. Let’s say that we didn’t start the 21st but we started on the 22nd. Now, what’ll happen is that this task will have actual duration for 1 day. The core duration will be 8 days which you’re going to see here but the start date will be moved on the actual task start date. It means, in that case, that we spent 1 day and we need another 7 days but we started later, on the 21st of January. When I hit okay, you’ll see that here’s the 21st of January and we’re going to be finished at the end of the month, 31st of January, that we need 8 hours and if you look here, that we spent 13%. Why? Because 13% is calculated by MS Project. Okay, I’ve now shown you how you can track task progress when you put actual duration, remaining duration and even start date but be aware of that.

I’m going to switch to the next task with start and finish date. If you put start date here, let’s say a start date of Tuesday, you can put any number you want here. 8 days and 2 for remaining days. But if you put the 25th of January in finish date, then these numbers which are entered here are not going to be taken into consideration. MS Project will focus primarily on the start and finish date. Remember this: when you put finish date, the task is always 100% complete because when you enter it, it means the task is finished at that date. So when I put 22nd of January as the start date and 25th of January as the end date or finish date, no matter what I put in percentage of complete, actual duration or remaining duration, I will have the 22nd of January as the start date, 25th of January as the end date…you can see here that the task was 100% completed not matter what I put here. Those two fields, they precede us on any other fields in this form so, no matter, no matter what I put here, 80%, 75%, here I can put 1,000 days, 10,000 days in remaining duration but if I put 21st here for example and 25th of January, actual duration will be calculated on those 2 days. Remaining duration will be 0. Why? Because I put the finish date and when I put that, no work is left because the task is finished and percentage of complete will be 100%. And those are the easiest ways when you track according to duration.

We have another way in which we want to track our task and those tasks can also be tracked with how much work is completed. If I go here and I put update task, I’m not able to track through this form. What I can do is switch from Gantt chart, for example, to task usage. Okay, now, in task usage, I have task 5. And I have Jim and Jane. You can see that Jim and Jane are going to work 32 hours each because task duration is 4 days and they’re going to work 8 hours per day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Okay, I’m going to show you how to track how much work Jim has completed, Jane has completed and what if there’s a difference? If I double-click on Jim, I’ll have this form and I switch to tracking. If I track that, I’ll see fields similar to duration. I have work, I have percentage of work complete, I have actual work, remaining work…actual start and actual finish. So let’s say this task is planned to start the 21st of January and is planned to be finished on the 21st of January. I’ll double-click on Jim, go to tracking and type that he has completed 25% of his work. What does that mean? It can be calculated that actual work is 25% of this work or let’s say for easier calculation, 50% of 32 hours is the actual work so 16 hours and remaining work will be 16 hours. So I’m going to put in 50% and click on Jim. You’ll see that Jim already completed 8 hours on Monday, 8 hours on Tuesday but Jane didn’t work at all. Why? Because Jim is the only one I gave work to. Of course, I can say another thing. I can say, for example, that my actual work…I’ll give my previous example with duration, is let’s say 16 hours but I need 24 hours more. So it means that even though [?] was 32 hours, I put 16 hours as the actual work. It means that Jim has worked on that task 16 hours, he’s already spent 16 hours but he has to work another 24 hours and I will click okay. You can see those 16 hours are here but since I need another 8 hours because I put instead of 16 remaining hours of work, 8 hours remaining of work, he is assigned with 8 hours of work on Friday. Now, this also means that, I put 16 hours and 24 hours here without touching actual start and that Jim has actually started as he planned, but let’s say that he’s started one day later. I can leave those 16 and 24 hours, what will happen? You’ll see that this work will be moved. So here it says Jim didn’t work on Monday at all because he started Tuesday. He already spent 16 hours…which 16 hours? 8 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday. And since he needs the remaining 24 hours, he’s going to work 8 hours on Thursday, 8 hours on Friday and another 8 hours on Monday. And that’s okay. Now, the same thing can be done with Jane. Let’s say for example that Jane has 24 actual hours of work but let’s say as an example that remaining work is 0. If I put remaining work 0 and hit okay, what I’m saying to MS Project…even when we planned that Jane has to work 24 hours for this task, actual work, performed work, spent work is 24 hours, Jane…she doesn’t have to work anymore. This work will be completed and you can see here from…those 32 hours here in the front, she spent 24 hours and remaining work is 0, Jane has nothing to do on that task on Thursday. Of course, I could put that another way. I can say Jane started, with that task, on Tuesday, she finished it on Wednesday. What will happen now? Now, the work which was needed for Jane to work on that task will decrease from 24 hours to 16 hours because she started to work on the 22nd of January which is Tuesday and she finished on the 23rd which is Wednesday. Now you can see that exactly what I told you would happen actually happened. She started work Tuesday and everything is complete Wednesday.

Now, this is the second complicated way. Let’s say I have a task usage view and resource usage view. When I go here, I can go to task usage view and resource usage view and do the most complicated way of tracking work. Now I’ll show you exactly how it can be done. I hope you know that the work is calculated by a magic formula which is work is duration [?]. Let’s say Nenad and Paula work on this task. I’m going to switch on task usage view. You can see that since I planned 4 days of work, I put Paula and Nenad on to the task. Paula, 100% and then 100% available. I assign us as 100% available. You can see that here in task 8, we are assigned to 8 hours per day so it’s 32 hours for me. 4 days, 8 hours per day and 8 hours per day multiplied by 100% means that I’m going to work 8 hours per day and Paula as well. But if I want to say to MS Project, that I know I finished 16 hours and Paula finished 10 hours but I know how many hours were spent per day on the task, this is the most complicated way and you should be aware of one very important thing: if you’re going to track your task in that way then you’re breaking the formula. Because work is duration multiplied by units means that it has spread it evenly. But you will see, if I say, for example Paula has worked 4 hours Monday…what will happen? Since I have 32 hours of work which Paula should complete, if I put 4 hours here, you will see that remaining 4 hours from Monday will be put here on Friday. So Paula worked on Monday for 4 hours and since she needs to complete her hours, she needs 32 hours, she’s going to work Friday for 4 hours. If I put, for example, 10 hours here, then it means that it means that Paula had worked 10 hours on Tuesday. So these 4 hours are now going to be 2 hours. Why? Because those 32 hours are 4 hours on Monday [?] Paula, 10 hours for Tuesday and remaining work is 32 hours minus completed work which is 14 hours and this becomes 18 hours. So Paula should work 8 hours Wednesday, 8 hours Tuesday and 2 hours Friday. So if I hear, say, that Paula didn’t work Wednesday at all, those 8 hours are going to be Monday. The remaining work will spread so Paula has to work 8 hours Thursday, 8 hours Friday and the remaining 2 hours on Monday. But let’s say Paula has worked hard and Thursday, she fulfilled all the tasks so let’s say she worked the 18 hours. What will happen? Everything will go up from the right [?]. Let me show you once again. You should see that Paula should work 8 hours on Thursday, 8 hours on Friday and 2 hours Monday. I can say, okay she’s finished those 18 hours and if I hit the enter button, it means that those 18 hours [?] and no work is left. This is how to work a day by day basis. Of course, I can do the same thing for myself. I can say for example, 32 hours. I worked 16 hours Monday and let’s say 24 hours Tuesday. The whole day. What will happen? Nothing. The task will be finished, it will be 100% finished but the actual work will be increased. Why? Let me do this example step-by-step. I was assigned for 32 hours. I said I worked 16 hours on Monday. What does it mean? It means the remaining 16 hours will be fulfilled Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s say I worked 18 hours instead of 24 on Tuesday, then I have 16 hours left but I worked 18 hours. It means I worked more than 16 hours but I’m completed with my task. Unless I say here that I did 2 more hours. I can say okay, I worked but I need 2 more hours here and 6 more hours here. Well, I can do whatever I want for so for example I can say I worked 4 hours here but I also worked 6 hours here so you see, I can do whatever I want. Here, you’ll see one specific…in information column, an assignment work has been added. So it was not edited by a machine or Microsoft Logic, it was edited by you. Be aware of that. If you go that way, you should be 100% sure that everything you put here is accurate because you’re going to lose the magic formula which is work is duration multiplied by unit. Now this is day by day.

Let me show you one specific example here. Let’s say that here we have 25 days of duration, not 4. Let’s say, for this case here, I’m going to assign one resource. Let’s say Peter. Peter is over allocated, he’s assigned on another task but it shouldn’t concern us here because this is just an example, what can I do? If I go to task usage view and I have Peter and he has to work 200 hours. What can I do? I can put day by day how many hours he’s completed. I’ll put 0% here because in my previous example, when I started this webinar, I already put that it was let’s say 8% of the actual work was calculated but now, let’s start from the beginning. Maybe I don’t want to put day by day, maybe I want to put week by week. I’m going to right-click on the right part of this task usage. I’m going to go to timescale and in the middle tier, will be, let’s say, month. But bottom tier is going to be week. Now, I can see that Peter has to work 40 hours which started on the 21st of January, 40 hours on the second week which started on the 28th, etc. I can put here, for example, that Peter was working 32 hours that week. Okay, everything is great and you will see that Peter has to work the remaining 8 hours which are fulfilled here because it was 40 hours (which started the 25th of February). But how many hours did Peter spend per day? I’m going to return to timescale. I’m going to switch from weeks to days and I can see that it was spread evenly. So I put the amount of hours and those are divided by working days. It was calculated that Peter was working 6.4 hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So it can be done this way. Of course you can put month, you can put whatever you want in the timescale but be aware that you have accurate data. This is what I planned to show you with task usage view. Of course, you can have resource usage view. Let’s say, for example, if I go to resource usage view, here I have a similar situation. But what is the difference between resource usage view and task usage view? By the way, I use both of them. Task usage view is something which says I have a task and those are resources that are going to perform that task. Task usage view is very useful when you’re using task view when you’re concerned about tasks. I want to see who is going to work on that particular task. But let’s say that you want to how your resources are occupied. Then you would look at resource usage view because in the resource usage view, you will see each…for example, Peter. Peter is going to work on task 9 and task 10. Task 10 I edited just a few minutes ago. Here I can do the same thing for Peter. You can see that I can go to task and I can see here…put the same thing for Peter. You can see here, if I go to resource usage, I will have resource information. I will not be able to…when I double-click on Peter, actual work, I have to choose who task I want Peter to work on. I’m going to show you actual work. I can see here Peter has worked 6.4 hours previously on task 9. Now I’m going to double-click on task 9 here. For example, let’s Peter started on the 21st of January and he did all the jobs on the 21st. It will be 100% completed. Peter is done with his work so that is another way I can track progress of the task in resource usage view. Of course there are many different ways which you can use…for example, you can go to details. You can go to work and you can put here actual work and remaining work as you move from task to task. Let’s say here, I can put actual work, remaining work per user if I’m using task form. Right-click on this task form, go to schedule, I can see how much work should be performed by Barbara and Christine on this task. But if you want to use this task form, I suggest that you use work and here you can put actual work and remaining work. You can’t put actual start and finish as well.

You can choose different ways of tracking task in your project. You don’t have to use one approach for the whole project or task. For example, you can track task 1 by percentage, for task 2, track it by actual work and remaining work and task 3, I’m going to put actual day-by-day or week by week or whatever you want. So this is up to you but whichever approach you’ll take, be 100% aware of one thing: get the accurate data because you shouldn’t have inaccurate data.

I hope that you learned something new, I hope that this was successful for you and thank you very much for listening.

Oliver GildersleeveThere is an important addition that needs to be made to Nenad’s WebnLearn:

• There are three problems with updating by %-complete:

o Most resources, project managers, and executives believe that %-complete expresses progress toward the task’s objectives, not the fraction of the task’s Duration.

o The result of updating by %-complete is almost always that the progress bar within the Gantt Bar will either leave in the past an incomplete part of the task, or that the progress bar will show part of the task has been accomplished in the future. Accomplishments in the future are physically impossible. Similarly, it is physically impossible to return to the past and continue working on the part of the task scheduled to be done previously.

o Updating by %-complete has no effect on the Finish date of a task, without change to Remaining Duration or Remaining Work. Successors’ dates remain unaffected, as may be the product delivery date.

• Inserting the %-complete column and pausing over its header shows the definition Nenad quotes: %-complete = Duration * Assignment Units. In Primavera, there is no such term as “%-complete.” However, it does have the more meaningful term, “%-duration-complete.”

• Because of the three problems with updating by %-complete, better updating is by:

o Setting the Status date and updating with Actual Start and Mark on Track. However, if the resource has not worked on each past day of their task; then, update with Actual Start, Actual Duration, and Remaining Duration – plus, move any incomplete part from the past into the future where additional progress can actually occur.

o Similarly, for Work estimating schedules, better updating is by Actual Start, Actual Work, and Remaining Work – plus the move of any incomplete part from the past into the future.

• It can be useful to insert the %-complete column next to the Physical-%-complete column, as they appear in the Tracking table. If a task’s Physical-%-complete is less than it’s %-complete, the task might be slipping and need additional Remaining Duration or heroic, error prone, recovery. But, if the Physical-%-complete is greater than the %-complete, then the task’s Remaining Duration possibly might be reduced.

• For precise tracking, task Durations should be less than double the interval between project reviews. Thus, a task that is on track is approaching, in progress only once, or completed.

• Conclusion: %-complete and %-work-complete are better as outputs calculated by Microsoft Project using actuals, not as inputs for updating tasks

Comment by Oliver Gildersleeve on 01/29/2019 at 1:03 pm

Hi Oliver,

what can I say? Great comment. Taht is exactly my point, but you put it in worda as great takeaway. Thank you a lot.

Best regards,

Nenad

Comment by Nenad Trajkovski on 02/03/2019 at 1:05 pm