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About Actual Progress

30 July 2007

This is a Free Tutorial about Microsoft Project 2007 and you find more free tutorials here written by Johan Beijar and more tutorials about Microsoft Project 2007 are frequently added. These tutorials will not guarantee that you will run a successful project or be a great manager but it will increase you possibilities of understanding and work more efficiant with the project management software.  As soon as you start executing the project (Execution-phase) you also need report progress and measure that against the defined baseline(s) you have in the project. There are three main challenges with reporting actual progress in a project;

1. Level of detail. You need to decide on which level of details you should report on. If you decide to report on a very detailed level you risk of spending valuable time on just reporting. If you, on the other hand, define a too high reporting level you will loose the accuracy of the progress-reporting. Which level You should choose depends on a number of things, such as complexity, size of the project, requirements from stakeholders and experience in the team. A general rule of thumb is to report on the second lowest level in the WBS but this is up to You as Project Manager to decide.

2. Understanding WHY. You need to get the team to understand WHY it is so important that all report progress and also estimate time to completion for the tasks. One of the “secrets” is to get the team to understand by them selves that all resources in the project will have better work-environment if the project is under controll. It usually takes time before all the project understands this and also accepts the fact that they need to report progress. All projects have different and specific reasons but it all comes down to that You as a Project Manager needs to stay in controll.  

3. Quality of input. You will most likely use the progress-report in different reports to stakeholders and also internal the project and it is therefor very important that the reported progress is as correct as possible. Dependent on what you decide regarding the level of details and how well the team understand why reporting is important you will have better or…not so good correctness in the progress-reports.

4. Define the process. As stated in previous tutorials it is important that you always have updated information in Microsoft Project which enables you to take correct decisions. One of the main challenges (in my oppinion) with Microsoft Project 2007 is to have a smooth process of updating Actual Progress for each task. As the Project Manager you need to get reports from the resources in your project about their actual progress and estimated time to completion for each of their tasks. The question is how and who that should update the task-information in Microsoft Project 2007? In small projects it is feasable to let all resources have access to the MS Project-file and update their tasks but in mid-size and larger projects this is not a good way. This is where Microsoft Project 2007 Server and Web Access do a major difference but what do you do if you only have the stand a lone version of MS Project? Then you need to be careful when defining the level of detail that you should report on and you could also set up a excel-sheet that the resources report detail progress into and you transfer the information into MS Project on a mid level of details. There are no great solutions to this (except MS Project 2007 server and web-access) and you need to find the solutions that fits your project.

Learn from the Past and plan for the Future!

It is of course important to track how much resources you have spend so far but it is even more important for you as the project manager to always know how much you have left of the project, both in times of time and money. Project managers should manage the project and not estimate time to completion for the resources, this should be done by the resources them self. Estimate Time to Completion (ETC) is one the most powerful techniques that you as Project Manager has, if you do it correct you will have a comprehensive picture of if you will meet the deadlines of not. At the same time as the resources reports the actual progress they should also report the ETC for the specific tasks, the ETC can than be aggregated for the total project and you will then have solid and valid information to report to the team and to the stake holders.

To be able to measure progress and plan for the future you need to at least record three basic types of information:

If you record these three values you will be able to report the amount of work that you have spend per task or summary task and also how much remains per task and summary task. This information is very important for you as Project Manager and you will be able to stay in controll if you use the values mentioned above.

Good Luck!

//Johan Beijar

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