Chapter 6: Tracking Progress on Tasks

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In this chapter you will learn to:

  • Save current values in a schedule as a baseline.

  • Record progress on tasks through a specific date.

  • Record a task’s percentage of completion.

  • Enter actual start, finish, work, and duration values for tasks.

    See Also

    Do you need a quick refresher on the topics in this chapter? See the quick reference entries on pages xxiv–xxv.

Until now, you have focused on project planning—developing and communicating the details of a project before actual work begins. When work begins, so does the next phase of project management: tracking progress. Tracking means recording project details such as who did what work, when the work was done, and at what cost. These details are often called actuals.

Tracking actuals is essential to properly managing, as opposed to just planning, a project. The project manager must know how well the project team is performing and when to take corrective action. Properly tracking project performance and comparing it to the original plan lets you answer such questions as these:

  • Are tasks starting and finishing as planned, and, if not, what will be the impact on the project’s finish date?

  • Are resources spending more or less time than planned to complete tasks?

  • Are higher-than-anticipated task costs driving up the overall cost of the project?

Microsoft Office Project 2003 supports several ways to track progress. Your choice of a tracking method should depend on the level of detail or control required by you, your project sponsor, and other stakeholders. Tracking the fine details of a project requires more work from you and possibly from the resources working on the project. So before you begin tracking progress, you should determine the level of detail you need. The different levels of tracking detail include the following:

  • Record project work as scheduled. This works best if everything in the project occurs exactly as planned. Hey, it could happen!

  • Record each task’s percentage of completion, either at precise values or at increments such as 25, 50, 75, or 100 percent.

  • Record the actual start, actual finish, actual work, and actual and remaining duration for each task or assignment.

  • Track assignment-level work by time period. This is the most detailed level of tracking. Here you record actual work values per day, week, or another interval.

Because different portions of a project might have different tracking needs, you might need to apply a combination of these approaches within a single project. For example, you might want to track high-risk tasks more closely than low-risk ones. In this chapter, you will perform the first three actions in the preceding list; the fourth (tracking assignment-level work by time period) is addressed in Part 2, “Advanced Project Scheduling.” For users of Project Professional and Project Server, enterprise-level tracking is addressed in Part 4, “Introducing Project Server.”


On the CD Before you can use the practice files in this chapter, be sure you install them from the book’s companion CD to their default location. See “Using the Book’s CD-ROM,” on page xiii, for more information.

Saving a Project Baseline

One of a project manager’s most important activities, after developing a project plan, is to record actuals and evaluate project performance. To judge project performance properly, you will need to compare it to your original plan. This original plan is called the baseline plan, or just the baseline. A baseline is a collection of important values in a project plan, such as the planned start dates, finish dates, and the costs of the tasks, resources, and assignments. When you save a baseline, Project takes a “snapshot” of the existing values and saves it in your Project plan for future comparison.

The specific values saved in a baseline include the task, resource, and assignment fields, and timephased fields in the following list.

Task fields

Resource fields

Assignment fields


Work and timephased work



Cost and timephased cost



Work and timephased work

Work and timephased work

Cost and timephased cost

Cost and timephased cost


Timephased fields show task, resource, and assignment values distributed over time. For example, you can look at a task with five days of work planned at the weekly, daily, or hourly level and see the specific baseline work values per time increment. In Part 2 you will work with timephased values.

You should save the baseline when

  • You have developed the project plan as fully as possible. (However, this does not mean you cannot add tasks, resources, or assignments to the project after work has started. Usually this is unavoidable.)

  • You have not yet started entering actual values, such as a task’s percentage of completion.

The TV commercial project plan is now fully developed, and actual work on the project will soon begin. In this exercise, you save the baseline for the TV commercial project and then view the baseline task values.


If you are running Project Professional, you may need to make a one-time adjustment to use the My Computer account and to work offline. This helps ensure that the practice files you work with in this chapter don’t affect your Project Server data. For more information, see “Starting Project Professional,” on page 10.

OPEN: Wingtip Toys Commercial 6a from the \My Documents\Microsoft Press\Project 2003 Step by Step\ Chapter 6 Simple Tracking folder. You can also access the practice files for this book by clicking Start, All Programs, Microsoft Press, Project 2003 Step by Step, and then selecting the chapter folder of the file you want to open.

  1. On the File menu, click Save As.

    The Save As dialog box appears.

  2. In the File name box, type Wingtip Toys Commercial 6, and then click the Save button.

  3. On the Project Guide toolbar, click the Track button.

    The Track pane appears.

  4. In the Track pane, click the Save a baseline plan to compare with later versions link.

    The Save Baseline pane appears.

  5. Click the Save Baseline button.

    Project saves the baseline, even though there’s no indication in the Gantt Chart view that anything has changed. You will now see some of the changes caused by saving the baseline.


    To save a baseline, you can also click the Save Baseline command. (On the Tools menu, point to Tracking and click Save Baseline.)

  6. Click the Show/Hide Project Guide button on the Project Guide toolbar.

    The Project Guide closes.


    You can save up to 11 baselines in a single plan. (The first one is called Baseline, and the rest are Baseline 1 through Baseline 10.) Saving multiple baselines can be useful for projects with exceptionally long planning phases, where you might want to compare different sets of baseline values. For example, you might want to save and compare the baseline plans every month as the planning details change. To learn more about baselines in Project’s online Help, type About baselines into the Search box in the upper right corner of the Project window. The Search box initially contains the text Type a question for help.

  7. On the View menu, click More Views.

    The More Views dialog box appears.

  8. In the Views box, click Task Sheet, and then click the Apply button.

    Because the Task Sheet view does not include the Gantt chart, you have more room to see the fields in the table. Now you’ll switch to a different table in the Task Sheet view.

  9. On the View menu, point to Table: Summary, and click Variance.

    The Variance table appears. This table includes both the scheduled and baseline starts and finish columns, shown side by side for easy comparison.


    If any column contains pound signs (###), double-click between the column titles to widen that column.

    Your screen should look similar to the following illustration:

    click to expand

    At this point, because no actual work has occurred yet and no changes to the scheduled work have been made, the values in the Start and Baseline Start fields are identical, as are the values in the Finish and Baseline Finish fields. After actual work is recorded or later schedule adjustments are made, the scheduled start and finish values might differ from the baseline values. You would then see the differences displayed in the variance columns.

Now that you have had a look at some baseline fields, it is time to enter some actuals!

Microsoft Office Project 2003 Step by Step
MicrosoftВ® Office Project 2003 Step by Step (Step by Step (Microsoft))
ISBN: 0735619557
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 199

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