Chapter 14: Tracking Progress on Tasks and Assignments

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In this chapter you will learn to:

  • Update a previously saved baseline plan.

  • Record actual work for tasks and assignments.

  • Record daily actual work values.

  • Interrupt work on a task and specify the date on which the task should start again.

See Also

Do you need a quick refresher on the topics in this chapter? See the quick reference entries on page xxxv.

Building, verifying, and communicating a sound project plan might take much or even most of your time as a project manager. However, planning is only the first phase of managing your projects. After the planning is completed, the implementation of the project starts—carrying out the plan that was previously developed. Ideally, projects are implemented just as planned, but this is seldom the case. In general, the more complex the project plan and the longer its planned duration, the more opportunity there is for variance to appear. Variance is the difference between what you thought would happen (as recorded in the project plan) and what really happened (as recorded by your tracking method).

Properly tracking actual work and comparing it against the plan enables you to identify variance early and adjust the incomplete portion of the plan when necessary. If you completed Chapter 6, “Tracking Progress on Tasks,” you were introduced to the simpler ways of tracking actuals in a project plan. These include recording the percentage of a task that has been completed as well as its actual start and finish dates. These methods of tracking progress are fine for many projects, but Microsoft Office Project 2003 also supports more detailed ways of tracking.

In this chapter, you track task-level and assignment-level work totals and work per time period, such as work completed per week or per day. Information distributed over time is commonly known as timephased, so tracking work by time period is sometimes referred to as tracking timephased actuals. This is the most detailed level of tracking progress available in Project.

As with simpler tracking methods, tracking timephased actuals is a way to address the most basic questions of managing a project:

  • Are tasks starting and finishing as planned? 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?

  • Is it taking more or less money than planned to complete tasks?

As a project manager, you must determine what level of tracking best meets the needs of your project plan and your stakeholders. As you might expect, the more detailed the tracking level, the more effort required from you and the resources assigned to tasks. This chapter exposes you to the most detailed tracking methods available in Project.

In this chapter, you work with different means of tracking work and handling incomplete work. You begin, however, by updating the project baseline.


This tip describes enterprise project management (EPM) functionality. This chapter describes entering actual values directly in Project. Project Professional, when used with Project Server, offers much more sophisticated ways of collecting information (such as actual work) from resources and other stakeholders. To learn more about the enterprise collaboration tools available with Project Server, see 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.

Updating a Baseline

If you completed Chapter 6, “Tracking Progress on Tasks,” you saved a baseline plan for a project plan. Recall that a baseline is a collection of important values in a project plan, such as the planned start dates, finish dates, and costs of tasks, resources, and assignments. When you save a baseline, Project takes a “snapshot” of the existing values and saves it in the Project plan for future comparison.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the baseline is to record what you expected the project plan to look like at one point in time. As time passes, however, you might need to change your expectations. After saving an initial baseline plan, you might need to fine-tune the project plan by adding or removing tasks or assignments, and so on. To keep an accurate baseline for later comparison, you have several options:

  • Update the baseline for the entire project. This simply replaces the original baseline values with the currently scheduled values.

  • Update the baseline for selected tasks. This does not affect the baseline values for other tasks or resource baseline values in the project plan.

  • Save a second or subsequent baseline. 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.


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.

Since you completed the initial planning for the short film project and saved an initial baseline, the project plan has undergone some additional fine-tuning. This included some adjustments to assignments and task durations and a new task in the pre- production phase of the project. Because of these changes, the initial baseline does not quite match the project plan as it is currently scheduled. In this exercise, you compare the project plan as it is currently scheduled with the baseline plan and update the baseline for the project plan.


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: Short Film Project 14a from the \My Documents\Microsoft Press\Project 2003 Step by Step\ Chapter 14 Advanced 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 Short Film Project 14 Baseline, and then click the Save button.

    Next you will switch to a different view to see baseline and scheduled values arranged for easy comparison.

  3. On the View menu, click Tracking Gantt.

    The Tracking Gantt view appears. Your screen should look similar to the following illustration:

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    In the chart portion of this view, the tasks as they are currently scheduled appear as blue bars (if they are not critical tasks) or red bars (if they are critical). Below them, the baseline values of each task appear as gray bars.


    In Gantt Chart views, the colors, patterns, and shapes of the bars represent specific things. To see what any item on the Gantt chart represents, just point your mouse pointer at it and a description will appear in a ScreenTip. To see a complete legend of Gantt chart items and their formatting, on the Format menu, click Bar Styles.

  4. On the Edit menu, click Go To, enter 5 in the ID box, and then click OK.


    Remember that [Ctrl] + [G] is a shortcut for displaying the Go To dialog box.

    The Tracking Gantt view scrolls to display the Gantt bars for task 5, Review production boards. This task was added to the plan after the initial baseline was saved. Your screen should look similar to the following illustration:

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    As you can see in the Tracking Gantt view, this task has no baseline values.

    To conclude this exercise, you will resave the baseline for the project plan.

  5. On the Tools menu, point to Tracking, and then click Save Baseline.

    The Save Baseline dialog box appears.

  6. Make sure that the Save baseline option is selected. In the For area, make sure that the Entire project option is selected.


    To update a baseline just for selected tasks, click Selected tasks in the For area. When you do this, the options under Roll up baselines become available. You can control how baseline updates should affect the baseline values for summary tasks. For example, you could resave a baseline for a subtask and update its related summary task baseline values if you wanted.

  7. Click OK to update the baseline.

    Project alerts you that you are about to overwrite the previously saved baseline values.

  8. Click the Yes button.

    Project updates the baseline values for the project plan.

    Your screen should look similar to the following illustration:

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    Task 5 now has a baseline, and all of the other tasks’ baseline values now match their scheduled values.

  9. On the Standard toolbar, click the Save button.

  10. On the File menu, click Close to close the project plan.

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Saving Interim Plans

After you’ve started tracking actual values, or any time you’ve adjusted your schedule, you might want to take another snapshot of the current start and finish dates. You can do this with an interim plan. Like a baseline, an interim plan is a set of current values from the project plan that Project saves with the file. Unlike the baseline, however, an interim plan saves only the start and finish dates of tasks, not resource or assignment values. You can save up to 10 different interim plans during a project. (If you find that you need multiple snapshots of scheduled values in addition to start and finish dates, you should instead save additional baselines.)

Depending on the scope and duration of your projects, you might want to save an interim plan at any of the following junctures:

  • At the conclusion of a major phase of work

  • At preset time intervals, such as weekly or monthly

  • Just before or after entering a large number of actual values

To save an interim plan, on the Tools menu, point to Tracking, and then click Save Baseline. In the Save Baseline dialog box, select the Save interim plan option. To learn more about interim plans, type Save an interim plan into the Search box in the upper right corner of the Project window.

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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 © 2008-2017.
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