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Microsoft Project 2010 : Tracking Progress on Tasks (part 4) - Entering Actual Values for Tasks

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1/17/2014 3:26:53 AM

Entering Actual Values for Tasks

A more detailed way to keep your schedule up to date is to record what actually happens for each task in your project. You can record each task’s actual start, finish, work, and duration values. When you enter these values, Project uses the following rules:

  • When you enter a task’s actual start date, Project moves the scheduled start date to match the actual start date.

  • When you enter a task’s actual finish date, Project moves the scheduled finish date to match the actual finish date and sets the task to 100% complete.

  • When you enter a task’s actual work value, Project recalculates the task’s remaining work value, if any.

  • When you enter a task’s actual duration, if it is less than the scheduled duration, Project subtracts the actual duration from the scheduled duration to determine the remaining duration.

  • When you enter a task’s actual duration, if it is equal to the scheduled duration, Project sets the task to 100% complete.

  • When you enter a task’s actual duration, if it is longer than the scheduled duration, Project adjusts the scheduled duration to match the actual duration and sets the task to 100% complete.

In this exercise, you record actual work values for some tasks as well as start dates and durations for other tasks.

  1. On the View tab, in the Data group, click Tables and then click Work.

    Entering Actual Values for Tasks

    The Work table appears.

    Tip

    You can display whichever table is most relevant to the details you are focused on while tracking progress in a project plan. Useful tables include the Work table, which focuses on work values, and the Cost table, which focuses on cost values. The Tracking table is a good all-around table when recording or viewing progress.

  2. Drag the vertical divider bar to the right to expose the other columns in the Work table.

    This table includes both the total scheduled work (labeled “Work”) and Actual and Remaining work columns. You’ll refer to the values in these columns as you update tasks.

    In the chart portion of the Gantt Chart view, you can see that task 9 is partially complete. In the Work table, note the actual work value of 8 hours. This 8 hours is the result of setting the task at 50% complete in the previous exercise. The task had 16 hours of work total, so 50% complete equals 8 hours actual work completed and 8 hours remaining. You want to record that the task is now complete but required more actual work than expected.

  3. In the Actual field for task 9, Prepare book P&L statement, type or select 24, and then press the Enter key.

    Project records that 24 hours of work have been completed on task 9. Since 24 hours is greater than the originally scheduled 16 hours, Project marks the task as completed and extends the Gantt bar of the task to indicate its longer duration.

    Tip

    Now suppose that more time has passed. To conclude this exercise, you will enter actual start dates and durations of other tasks in the Internal Launch Phase.

  4. In the Task Name column, click task 10, Plan author’s travel itinerary.

    This task started one working day ahead of schedule (the Tuesday before its scheduled start date) and took a total of seven days to complete. You will record this information in the Update Tasks dialog box.

  5. On the Task tab, in the Schedule group, click the down arrow to the right of the Mark on Track button, and then click Update Tasks.

    Tip

    The Update Tasks dialog box appears. This dialog box shows both the actual and scheduled values for the task’s duration, start, and finish, as well as its remaining duration. In this box, you can update the actual and remaining values.

  6. In the Start field in the Actual group on the left side of the dialog box, type or select 1/17/12.

  7. In the Actual dur field, type or select 7d.

    Tip
  8. Click OK.

    Project records the actual start date, duration, and scheduled and actual work of the task. These values also roll up to the Internal Launch Phase summary task (task 7) and the project summary task (task 0), as indicated by the change highlighting.

    Tip

    To conclude this exercise, you will record that task 11 started on time but took longer than planned to complete.

  9. In the Task Name column, click task 11, Channel Sales prep.

  10. On the Task tab, in the Schedule group, click the down arrow to the right of the Mark on Track button, and then click Update Tasks.

    The Update Tasks dialog box appears.

  11. In the Actual dur field, type 7d, and then click OK.

    Project records the actual duration of the task.

    Tip

    Because you did not specify an actual start date, Project assumes that the task started as scheduled. However, the actual duration that you entered causes Project to calculate an actual finish date that is later than the originally scheduled finish date.


Project Management Focus: Is the Project on Track?

Evaluating a project’s status properly can be tricky. Consider the following issues:

  • For many tasks, it is very difficult to evaluate a completion percentage. When is an engineer’s design for a new motor assembly 50 percent complete? Or when is a programmer’s code for a software module 50 percent complete? Reporting work in progress is in many cases a “best guess” effort and inherently risky.

  • The elapsed portion of a task’s duration is not always equal to the amount of work accomplished. For example, a task might require relatively little effort initially, but require more work as time passes. (This is referred to as a back-loaded task.) When 50 percent of its duration has elapsed, far less than 50 percent of its total work will have been completed.

  • The resources assigned to a task might have different criteria for what constitutes the task’s completion than the criteria determined by the project manager or the resources assigned to successor tasks.

Good project planning and communication can avoid or mitigate these and other problems that arise in project execution. For example, developing proper task durations and status-reporting periods should help you identify tasks that have varied substantially from the baseline early enough to make adjustments. Having well-documented and well-communicated task completion criteria should help prevent “downstream” surprises. Nevertheless, large, complex projects will almost always vary from the baseline.

Clean Up

Close the Simple Tracking file.

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