Last month we made a start at Tracking, or the act of progressing or tracking the progress of the project as time goes by. We saved a Baseline and, using the Tracking Gantt view and the Tracking Toolbar, we entered progress information for the first week of our Aircraft A project. Load the updated Aircraft A from http://www.mousetrax.com/pub/Aircraft A 26.zip.
We set the project Start Date as 1 Jan 06 and the Current Date to Monday 9 Jan 06 via Project/Project Information… in the Project Information dialog. You will need to reset this date as your computer will pick up the Current Date from its own clock (false – I know! But we have to cheat to set up the exercise by assuming we are now at the 9 Jan 06).
We also set the Status Date (as the date/time when the data was valid) to Friday 6 Jan 06 via Project/Project Information… dialog.
It might help if we could see gridlines showing these 2 dates. So try Format/Gridlines…
…and in the Gridlines dialog select Current Date, and while we’re there, select a solid line from the Type: pick list…
…and give it a good strong colour like Blue.
Repeat this process again, selecting Status Date with a solid Red colour.
Now look at the Tracking Gantt chart and we can see the two vertical lines. Note that the Status Date defaults to 1700 (the end of Friday) whilst the Current Date defaults to 0800 (the beginning of Monday).
One other refinement, try Tools/Tracking/Progress Lines…
…and in the Progress Lines dialog, from the Dates and Intervals tab, choose Always display current progress line/At project status date/actual plan.
Whilst we are there, note that you can select for the lines to show at the current date, at recurring intervals, and which lines to show, for the Actual Plan or the Baseline Plan.
Now select the Line Styles tab, and then a Progress line type (I’ve used the top left default). I’ve also chosen a strong green colour. You might like to try the drop-down pick lists to see the variety of line, colours and point shapes that are on offer. Note that if we choose to show more than one progress line, we can also select to see them in a different style.
Click OK and we can see a green progress line drawn vertically on the 1700 Status line, with points on in-progress tasks to show where they’re at. We have one task running late: Task 3. (Task 7 is a bit of an anomaly as the status point is not at the end of the solid red bar. This is because the status is at 1700, whilst the task bar is showing through to the next working moment: ie the following Monday 0800.) Think of the progress line as a piece of string, if you pulled it tight, it would drag late tasks forward by the amount indicating their lateness. However, Project will never drag tasks back if they are ahead if time.
So, we can now see what’s going on, but what can we do about it? The obvious thing is to get Project to reschedule our plan so that the progress is corrected up to the Status date. We can do that through Tools/Tracking/Update Project…
In the Update Project dialog, select to Reschedule uncompleted work to start after: and note that it defaults to our Status Date of 6 Jan 05. We will accept the Entire Project default, and OK.
We should see a Planning Wizard warning about constraints. If you remember, we delayed Task 4 and thus it has a constraint of Start No Earlier Than. The wizard is commenting on this in case you need to change the constraints before re-scheduling. In our case, we want to leave the constraint as it is.
So click OK and note that the uncompleted portion of the part-completed tasks has been “dragged” up to the next working moment after the Status Date/time – 0800 on 9 Jan 05. It is as if the Progress line was a piece of string which is then tightened, thus dragging the late tasks forward.
To better see the effect of progressing, let’s update again. Mark 75% Complete for both Tasks 3 and 7 (see how in last month’s article - we used the Tracking toolbar). Then change the Current Date to Tues 17 Jan 05 and the Status Date to 12 Jan 05, as we did at the beginning of this article. In other words, we called for information on the status of the project as at 1700 on Friday and are sitting at the PC at 0800 on Tuesday and have entered the progress information.
Notice how the Progress Points are updated on the Progress Line. Now let’s re-schedule the project as before.
Note how the unfinished portions of the bars are brought forward to the next working hour after the 1700 status Date ie 0800 on Friday. Try zooming in to show hours of the day to see this.
Finally, note how the precedence links have caused the end date to go out further to 9 Feb 05. You might like to experiment with further progression and re-scheduling to observe the effect.
We’ve seen how to enter the Status Date and to show it on the Gantt Chart. We’ve added progress data and seen how to show a Progress Line based on that Status Date. Then we re-scheduled uncompleted work to re-start from the Status Date. So, we have seen one way to use Project to view progress.
Next month we’ll have a philosophical look at collecting data and then some of the procedures we might be able use to recover schedule creep – the moving end date!