Posted by: Craig Harding | October 6, 2009

Progress Tracking Methods in MS Project

Progress Tracking Methods in MS Project

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had several people ask me “what was the best way to track progress with MS Project or on projects in general?” There are a couple of methods of tracking progress that is normally followed; the method you choose will depend on the level of rigor or accuracy you have decided on for your project. These are:

  1. Percent of work complete
  2. Hours of work done per period on each task
  3. Actual work done and work remaining

Percent of Work Complete

For this progress tracking method, you would ask the resources to report the percent of work complete on each task. It is extremely important that everyone is clear on how you measure percent complete. Often the team will agree upon levels of completeness depending on the types of tasks. For example, development tasks could be 50% complete after coding, 75% complete after unit testing, and 100% complete after moved to user testing environment. Whichever way you measure percent complete, be sure to be consistent and that all team members understand and agree to the metrics.

The drawback to this method is that it does not completely represent the progress of the tasks. You do not get an accurate measurement of time spent on specific tasks. You are also not able to account for an early or late finish as you don’t have a real good picture of the work remaining on the task.

Hours of Work done per Period

Another method of tracking progress is by collecting hours of work done per period on each task. Here the resources will report the hours worked on each task over the period and you record hours directly into MS Project against each task. This method will allow you to track actual hours against a task compared to the relative planned (baseline) hours. This will give you a sense of whether or not tasks on schedule. However, as with the percent complete method, you really don’t get an accurate picture of early or late finish times on tasks as you do not know how much work is remaining on any one task.

Actual Work and Work Remaining

The most accurate method of tracking progress is using actual work done and work remaining. With this method, each resource reports the actual work done and the work remaining on each task. Now you are able to track the number of hours worked relative to the planned hours, plus you know the number of hours needed to complete the task. This work remaining is then used to calculate the new finish date of the task which can be earlier or later than the baseline finish date. Now your plan is more accurate and you are able to deal with scheduling questions on a plan that more closely reflects reality.

The level of rigor you apply to tracking your project’s progress will often depend on the several factors such as project length, project priority, project budget/time/resource constraints. So choose the method that best suits your project guidelines and stakeholders expectations, keeping in mind the accuracy of each method.




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