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Track progress: Detailed techniques

Track actual and remaining work for tasks and assignments

In Chapter 8, “Track progress: Basic techniques,” you learned how to work with actual start, finish, and duration values for individual tasks. For tasks that have resources assigned to them, you can enter actual and remaining work values for the task as a whole or for specific assignments to that task. To help you understand how Project handles the actual values you enter, consider the following:

  • If a task has a single resource assigned to it, the actual work values you enter for the task or assignment apply equally to both the task and the resource assignment. For example, if you record that the assignment has five hours of actual work, those values apply to the task and to the assigned resource.

  • If a task has multiple resources assigned to it, the actual work values you enter for the task are distributed among or rolled down to the assignments according to their assignment units. This level of detail is appropriate if you aren’t concerned about the details at the individual assignment level.

  • If a task has multiple resources assigned to it, the actual work values you enter for one assignment are rolled up to the task. However, the new actual work values do not affect the other assignments’ work values on the task. This level of detail is appropriate if details at the individual assignment level are important to you.

  • If the actual work value you enter is greater than the planned work, Project sets Remaining Work to zero. If actual work is less than planned work, Project recalculates Remaining Work accordingly. You can also directly edit the Remaining Work value if you want.

A great view for recording actual and remaining work is the Task Usage view with the Work table displayed.

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The Task Usage view has two parts: a table on the left and timephased data (that is, data organized under a timescale) on the right

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As you might recall from Chapter 9, “Fine-tune task scheduling,” the two sides of the usage view are split by a vertical divider bar. This view lists resources under the tasks to which they’re assigned. This information appears in the table on the left side. On the right side are rows organized under a timescale. The rows show you the scheduled work values for each task and assigned resource. The Task Usage view color-codes the rows on the right side: task rows have a shaded background, and assignment rows have a white background.

Let’s walk through some examples of entering actual work. We’ll start in the Task Usage view with the Work table displayed.

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In this example, task 18 initially has 164 hours of scheduled work, which is evenly split between the two assigned resources

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The Work table includes the Actual Work and Remaining Work columns. The values in the Work column are the task-level and assignment-level totals for scheduled work. Note that each task’s work value is the sum of its assignment work values.

In a usage view, you see work values at two different levels of detail: the total value for a task or assignment on the left and the more detailed timephased level on the right. These two sets of values are directly related. Consider, for example, a task named Original art review, which is task 18 in the plan. The 164 hours of total work for task 18 is the sum of Hany Morcos’s 82 hours of work on the task plus Jane Dow’s 82 hours.

In the timephased grid, the scheduled work values per time period are displayed—daily, in this example. If you add up the daily work values for a specific task or assignment, the total equals the value in the Work column for that task or assignment.

Let’s look more closely at the results of entering an actual work value. In this example, when we enter 92 hours of actual work on task 18, Project distributes the actual work among the assigned resources and adjusts their remaining work.

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This is what the view looks like after 92 hours of actual work are recorded on task 18

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Several important things occurred when we entered the actual work on task 18:

  • Project applied change highlighting to the updated values in the table.

  • The amount of actual work we entered was subtracted from the Remaining Work column (labeled Remaining in the Work table).

  • The actual work was distributed to the two assignments on the task, resulting in 46 hours of actual work being recorded for Hany Morcos and 46 hours for Jane Dow. Likewise, the remaining work values were recalculated for each assignment.

  • The updated actual and remaining work values were rolled up to the Acquisition summary task and to the Project summary task.

Now that you’ve seen the effect of recording actual work at the task level, let’s look at entering actual work at the assignment level. Again, we’ll focus on task 18. When we assigned 92 hours of work to the task, Hany Morcos was assigned 46 hours of that work. Now, after we record actual work of 62 hours for Hany, we see that her actual and remaining work values are updated, and those updates also roll up to the task and its summary task. (Project highlights the changed values.) However, the actual and remaining work values for Jane Dow, the other resource assigned to the task, are not affected.

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After 62 hours of actual work are recorded on Hany Morcos’s assignment to task 18, Hany’s work values are updated, but Jane Dow’s assignment is not affected

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Tracking a task’s actual work-complete value is more detailed than entering a simple percentage-complete value on a task. However, neither method is as detailed as entering timephased actual work for tasks or assignments (as you will see in the next topic). There’s nothing wrong with tracking actual work at the task or assignment level (or simply entering a percentage-complete value, for that matter), if that level of detail meets your needs. In fact, whether you see the timephased details or not, Project always distributes any percentage-complete or task-level or assignment-level actual work value you enter into corresponding timephased values.

To record actual and remaining work per task

  1. On the View tab, in the Task Views group, click Task Usage to display the Task Usage view.

  2. On the View tab, in the Data group, click Tables, and then click Work to display the Work table.

  3. In the Actual column for the task for which you want to record actual work, enter an actual work value.

  4. If you want, enter a new Remaining Work value for the task.

To record actual and remaining work per assignment

  1. Display the Task Usage view and the Work table.

  2. In the Actual column for the assigned resource for which you want to record actual work, enter an actual work value.

  3. If you want, enter a new Remaining Work value for the assignment.