One of the prime reasons for using Microsoft Project is to track the start and end times of each task as they are completed to maintain control of the completion date. Management Control in Microsoft Project is about tracking the tasks on the Critical Path. Delays can accumulate because of the interdependence of the tasks.
The software application Microsoft Project used during the planning stage of projects now becomes a management and tracking tool used during the in progress stage.
Display progress data
An actual start date for each task can be entered into the project plus the amount of work done. This data can then be displayed in the Charts and Tables.
When should the project be updated?
The Project Manager must decide this depending on the complexity of the project and the consequences of out-dated information.
If Project is to be used effectively as a tracking tool then the data must be updated regularly in a disciplined manner, either as data becomes available or at a fixed time interval.
What happens when a task deviates from the Plan?
Where the actual start date and/or the actual finish date have been entered for a task, and these dates are different from the planned information, Project will recalculate the remaining tasks and display the revised schedule.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the method used by Microsoft Project when working with dates.
When the Design stage is completed the Save Baseline command is used to set the plan into the system.
This process sets up a planned start and finish date for every task. These dates will not normally change. This becomes the base against which progress is measured.
When tasks are added to a project, the baseline should be reset. A baseline can also be set for selected tasks and interim plans can be saved.
These are used to record when the tasks actually start or finish, they are entered as the project progresses.
These dates do not change once entered.
These are dynamic dates which are controlled and updated by the system.
Every time an element of the project is changed, Project will recalculate the complete project. This will include scheduled dates, resource utilisation, costs, etc.
This in turn will cause tables and reports to be updated with the new information.
This makes it possible to see the effect of any variation from the plan on the remainder of the tasks, the completion date and any other important criteria.
What information is available?
Project can display Start and Finish variances which show the time by which planned dates have been pushed back or brought forward for individual tasks, as well as the completion date.
The Project Information command from the Project menu, using the Statistics section will show the scheduled, planned and actual dates for the project together with the variance. It also will show the total duration, work and cost for the project.
Individual task variances can be displayed on the Gantt Chart which can show a historical record of where the differences began.
The Variance table will also show details of the lateness.
Errors in estimating durations
One cause of differences between planned task and actual task durations will be the miscalculation of the estimated time during the planning stage.
Extra Resources against extra time
The Project Manager must decide how to overcome any unacceptable delays. Basic options available are the addition of extra resources or the acceptance of the extra time required.
Additional methods for controlling variances are the overlapping of tasks where practical which should be considered at the planning stage as should the addition of contingency time to provide flexibility.
Examine an Existing Project
- Open the project mpp.
- Open the Project Information box (Project Tab, Properties Group) and check that the Schedule from option is set to Project Start Date. Do not change the start date.
- In the Schedule group, choose Move Project.
- Choose a New Start Date about 8 weeks ago and keep the Move Deadlines check box checked.
- Set a baseline. (Project tab, Schedule Group, Set Baseline, Set Baseline, For: Entire Project).
- View the Tracking Gantt.