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Track progress: Detailed techniques

In this chapter from Microsoft Project 2016 Step by Step, learn how to properly track actual work against the original plan to identify variance—and adjust plan when necessary.

Building, verifying, and communicating a sound 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 exactly as planned, but this is seldom the case. In general, the more complex the plan and the longer its duration, the more opportunity there is for variance to appear. Variance is the difference between what you intended to happen (as recorded in the plan’s baseline) and what actually happened (as recorded by your tracking efforts).

Properly tracking actual work and comparing it against the original plan enables you to identify variance early and adjust the remaining portion of the plan when necessary.

This chapter guides you through procedures related to updating a baseline, tracking actual and remaining work for tasks and assignments, tracking timephased actual work for tasks and assignments, and rescheduling incomplete work.

Update a baseline

In Chapter 8, “Track progress: Basic techniques,” you learned how to save a baseline for a plan. Recall that a baseline is a collection of important values in a plan, such as the planned start dates, finish dates, and costs of tasks, resources, and assignments. When you save (or set) a baseline, Project takes a “snapshot” of the existing values and saves it in the plan for future comparison. If you’ve previously saved a baseline, you might need to update it before recording actual work.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the baseline is to record what you expected the 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 plan by adding or removing tasks or assignments or making other adjustments. 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 task or resource baseline values in the 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.

A great view for comparing a baseline with the plan as it is currently scheduled is the Tracking Gantt view.

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The Tracking Gantt view shows how tasks in the plan as it is currently scheduled compare to its baseline schedule

Click to view larger image

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 tasks). Below them, the baseline values of each task appear as gray bars.

To compare a plan as it is currently scheduled with its previously saved baseline

  1. On the View tab, in the Task Views group, click the Gantt Chart arrow, and then click Tracking Gantt.

  2. If necessary, adjust the zoom level: on the View tab, in the Zoom group, in the Timescale box, select the timescale setting you want. Project compares the plan with the baseline.

  3. To compare the plan with another baseline (Baseline 1 through Baseline 10), on the Gantt Chart Tools Format tab, in the Bar Styles group, click Baseline, and then click the baseline you want to see compared.

To update a previously saved baseline or add an additional baseline

  1. On the Project tab, in the Schedule group, click Set Baseline, and then click Set Baseline to open the Set Baseline dialog box.

  2. Do either of the following:

    • To update a previously saved baseline, click Set Baseline, and then select the specific baseline you want to update.

    • To save a new baseline, click Set Baseline, and then select the additional baseline you want to save.

  3. Then do either of the following:

    • To update or add the selected baseline for the plan, under For, click Entire Project, and then click OK.

    • To update or add the selected baseline just for the selected tasks, under For, click Selected Tasks. 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 want.

  4. Click OK.

To remove a baseline

  1. On the Project tab, in the Schedule group, click the Set Baseline button, and then click Clear Baseline.

To save an interim plan

  1. On the Project tab, in the Schedule group, click the Set Baseline button, and then click Set Baseline.

  2. In the Set Baseline dialog box, select Set Interim Plan.

  3. In the Copy field, select the date values you want to copy.

  4. In the Into field, select the date values into which you want to copy the fields you selected in the Copy field.

  5. Click OK.