What Does Percentage Complete Actually Mean

Percentage Task Duration Complete and percentage task Work Complete Explained.

Microsoft project 2010 presents you with a bounty of riches when it comes to task work. But getting there takes a little thought let me explain

How many times have you asked one of your colleagues have they finished their task yet, and been told something like 90% done Its almost a human trait and whatever percentage complete they give its almost always wrong!

Even if they respond by saying something like “only a few more hours left,” that too, is probably just a guesstimate. So how do we get around this human condition and try to get a little closer to the truth

Like most things in a project managers life, getting to the truth starts with planning.

If you are asking for a colleague to give them an estimate of a task, then asking them to estimate the duration is asking for trouble. Far better to ask them instead what are the work activities within the task, then go on to determine what resources are needed and hence calculate the cost.

Only then, can an estimate be made for the task duration.

So now you have your task schedule, youve loaded up and levelled resources, added costs, and youre good to go.

Youre now delivering the project and you need to track the progress. Just like in planning, you need to think through the best and simplest way to enter progress into your plan at a level that gives you sufficient control.

Good old Microsoft Project 2010 will allow you to put in a set percentage complete of 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% via convenient buttons on the task tab of the ribbon – and thats fine when that simple level of control is required.

Better yet, you may choose to double-click on the task name and enter any precise number between0% and 100% complete, hence giving you even better accuracy.

But remember my advice when planning: maybe its best to ask your team member how much work effort they have performed so far and how much work effort remains on the task. Work effort is normally measured in hours, and Microsoft Project 2010 will allow you to enter actual and remaining work in the work table for example.

Once such work effort is entered, Microsoft Project 2010 will automatically calculate the percentage work complete.

However, be careful not to confuse task percentage complete and work percentage complete. A task has a duration (typically measured in days), and when you assign resources to the task, they have work (measured typically in hours) to be performed on the task.For example,assume a 10 day task with 2 people assigned on it with a total of 160 hours work. The work may not be linear in time -the first 5 days may only have 60 hours of work planned. So assume you are at the end of the first 5 days and the team ison track -the percentage complete field inMS Project will show 50% complete (since it represents percentage DURATION complete). Whereas the percentage WORK complete will be 60/160 )expressed as a percentage = 37.5 percent complete). Because this is a typical situation on real world projects, MS Project 2010 provides both fields for you to use.


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Written by Dave Litten
David Litten spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He has created a wide range of project-related downloadable HD video training products under the Primer brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management. Learn more about his Primer Products.

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