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Tutorial for Tracking Progress and Updating Project Plan in Microsoft Project

Microsoft project can be used to report on the status of a project. Watch Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne provide a tutorial.
What we’re going to do next is we’re going to see how to use Microsoft project to report on the status of a project. To report on any update on the tasks and the work that has been done. And to report on how we’re doing in terms of our spending, how much money have we spent so far. And to allow us to compare to our original plan. Are we behind schedule? Are we over budget? And when do we anticipate to complete our project? The first step is to open up your original plan. As we see in front of us, our starter project, our original plan is to complete it within 12 weeks and at a cost of $8,500.
What we do next is to save a baseline. This is the baseline from which we will be reporting our progress at any given time. To do this, we go to the Project ribbon, and we set a baseline. We choose the option Set Baseline > Set Baseline and press OK. I would also recommend that you resave the file to indicate when you’re reporting a status update. What is the current date that you’re reporting against? Let’s assume that our current example, we’re reporting in February 1st, two weeks after the beginning of the project. And so I’m going to save my file as a new file, and give it the February 1 date.
[SOUND] Now we can go ahead and change the current date, the status date, and start entering some information on how well we’re doing in our project. To update the dates in terms of the status when we’re reporting the progress done, I go into my Project ribbon and chose the Project Information. And simply change the date to the Current date and the Status date to, for instance, in this case, February 1st. My Gantt chart will show a, a green line indicating what is the current date that I’m reporting against.
I can use this table to also report how well we’re doing, how much progress have we made on the tasks. For instance, my start milestone. I’ve started the project already. So I’m 100% complete with it. I can use, I can go to the Task ribbon, and you might not see these small buttons. But these set of blue buttons allow me to report a certain percentage complete of the work. In this case my Start milestone is a 100% complete. My Creative task is 25% complete. My Strategy is 75% complete, and my IT is approximately 25% complete.
MS Project allows us to view this information in a Gantt chart here on the right, with the blue bars indicating the progress made so far. I can also enter information associated with the cost, the actual cost, what I’ve spent so far. To do this I’m going to insert the column. I prefer to view everything in, in this table, so I’m going to add a column called Actual Cost. And I’m going to use this column to report on the spending so far. I’ve spent $500 on the creative, I’ve spent $300 on strategy, and $1000 were spent related to the IT task. So far, we’ve entered information to representing what we’ve done in terms of work and in terms of spending.
Here’s another view that you might want to look at that summarizes some of this information. You can go into the View ribbon. And under the View ribbon, you have a whole set of predetermined tables that might be helpful for you as you look at your progress. One of these tables that I recommend looking at is your tracking table. The tracking table, let me move my divider here a little bit. The tracking table allows us to view our overall project, the start date of our tasks, the percentage that we entered in terms of work completed. The actual duration in terms of what we’ve done and what is remaining in terms of the work to be done.
And the spending so far in terms of the costs that we’ve entered into in Jana’s project. In some situations and in some environments, you might want to work with the earned value analysis. Earned value table and the measures that we’ve introduced allow us to use the financials and the costs of our tasks and what we anticipate spending. To track the progress in terms of our schedule and in terms of our cost. Let’s move to the earned value table and remind ourselves what the information is and how it gets calculated. So again, choosing from the View ribbon and the Tables option, I can actually choose More Tables.
And I can go down this list or up this list and choose the Earned Value option, Earned Value table. And clicking Apply changes the table that I’m viewing, still with my Gantt chart here on the right. So what information do I have? Well, the first column that I see is the Planned Value. Given that two weeks have passed from the project, what did I plan to do in terms of the work? How much of my original tasks should I have been done with? And this is, again, reported in terms of the dollars spent. My Creative task had a total budget, or anticipated cost of $1000.
If two weeks are gone out of the five weeks I allotted to this task, I should’ve spent approximately 40% of my budget. Or I should have been about 40% done in terms of the work, and so my Planned Value here is $400. My Earned Value is how much have I earned for the work I’ve completed? I’ve done 25% of the task. If the task is expected to cost $1,000, I’ve earned $250 worth of work. And my actual spent that I’ve entered into the system is $500. And so what this tells me in the next two columns, the SV and the CV, the schedule variance and the cost variance.
This tells me that I am behind on both dimensions, meaning I am behind on the schedule, $150 worth. Or I am, I completed 25%, as opposed to the 40% of the work that I should have been done with, and my cost is about $250 above my original plan. There’s a lot more information here as you tell from these extra columns that we didn’t spend time reviewing. And if you would like more information, you can use the MS Project help file by clicking F1, which I find very helpful explaining these equations and how they’re calculated for us.
What I will do here is I will actually add two measures that we care about, or that we’ve discussed together, which are the performance indices for both the cost and the schedule. To do this, I’m going to insert a new column, and I’m going to select from the list my SPI, my schedule performance index. And I’m also going to add another column which is my CPI, my cost performance index.
And these numbers, as a reminder, are benchmarked against one, indicating that everything is on track. An under one indicates that we are behind schedule or over budget. And above one indicates that we are ahead of schedule or under budget. In this case, the three individual tasks that we have made progress on, seem to all be slightly behind schedule. And only the strategy task seems to actually be costing us less than we anticipated. The two other tasks are actually running slightly over budget. So how are we doing overall? Are we behind? Is this a reason to be concerned? When do we think that we will finish our project? That information is available to us, and MS Project will help view that.
To do that, we’re going to go back to our entry table, choosing Tables > Entry and viewing our basic entry table that we started off with. As a reminder, we thought we would take 12 weeks. This delay that we occurred now. How bad are things? Are we behind? Is there a reason to be concerned? How should we reallocate our resources? Well, let’s try and visualize the delay. First we’re going to add a progress line to our view, by right-clicking on our Gantt chart, choosing Progress Lines and clicking Display at project status date. This gives us a visual representation on how we’re doing. We see a slight left indentation here that indicates that we’re slightly behind schedule.
But again, we haven’t recalculated our project, or we haven’t asked MS Project to give us a new forecast for our completion date. In order do that, we go to our Project ribbon, and we click on Update Project. And ask for rescheduling the uncompleted work for after the current date, and here we have it. MS Project will shift or drag out our tasks to represent the delay, indicating to us that we are approximately 0.75, or three-quarters of a week behind our original schedule. And that we are expecting the project to cost about $425 above the original plan. We can also visually see a new completion date of April 16th. There you have it. We’ve updated our progress against our plan.
We can report on this information to those stakeholders that might be affected by it, and we can then continue to move forward. Only to come back at a later date and report on further progress that has been made in our project.

As you watch this tutorial on how to use Microsoft Project to report on the status of a project, think about how you might use this as a tool for your next project.

If you have used this software tool before think about your experiences. What were some of the challenges? What were some of the benefits? Would you use this specific tool again?

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