Home > Sample chapters

Track progress: Detailed techniques

Track timephased actual work for tasks and assignments

In Chapter 8, “Track progress: Basic techniques,” you were introduced to simpler ways of tracking actuals in a plan. These include recording the percentage of a task that has been completed, in addition to its actual start and finish dates. These methods of tracking progress are fine for many projects, but Project 2016 also supports more detailed ways of tracking.

This topic introduces techniques to track work per time period, such as actual work completed per week or per day. Information distributed over time is commonly referred to as being timephased, so tracking work by time period is sometimes referred to as tracking timephased actuals. This is the most detailed level of tracking progress available in Project.

As with the simpler tracking methods, tracking timephased actuals helps you address the most basic questions of managing a project:

  • Are tasks starting and finishing as planned? If not, what will be the impact on the project’s finish date?

  • Are resources spending more or less time than planned to complete tasks?

  • Is it taking more or less money than planned to complete tasks?

Entering timephased actuals requires more work on the project manager’s part and might require more work from resources, if they have to inform the project manager of their daily or weekly actuals. However, using timephased actuals gives you far more detail about the plan’s task and resource status than the other methods used for tracking progress. Entering timephased values might be the best approach to take if you have a group of tasks or an entire plan that includes the following:

  • High-risk tasks

  • Tasks of relatively short duration, for which a variance of even one day could put the overall project at risk

  • Tasks for which you’d like to develop or validate throughput metrics, or rates at which a specified quantity of a deliverable can be completed over a specified time period, such as Copyedit 3000 words per day

  • Tasks in which sponsors or other stakeholders have an especially strong interest

  • Tasks that require hourly billing for labor

When you need to track actual work at the most detailed level possible, use the Work table and the timephased grid in the Task Usage or Resource Usage view.

In the Task Usage view, you can enter timephased actual work at the task or assignment level. In the Resource Usage view, you enter actuals at the assignment level. In both views, entering actual work in the left side of the view will cause Project to update work values distributed over time in the right side of the view. In this topic, we’ll look at the reverse: entering actual work in the timephased side of the view and seeing the results per task or assignment on the left side of the view.

The previous topic’s example featured the Task Usage view; in this topic, we’ll begin with the Resource Usage view.

14fig06.jpg

The Resource Usage view shows assignments per resource

Click to view larger image

In both views, you can enter actual work values for individual assignments daily, weekly, or at whatever time period you want (by adjusting the timescale). For example, if a task has three resources assigned to it and you know that two resources worked on the task for eight hours one day and the third resource worked for six hours, you can enter these as three separate values on a timephased grid.

A key to working effectively in a usage view is setting the timescale correctly. You can change the zoom level of the timescale to control the time period in which you enter actual values in the timephased grid. For example, you can change the timescale to show weeks rather than days; when you enter an actual value at the weekly level, that value is distributed over the week.

Here’s an example of entering timephased actuals in a usage view. As you saw in the previous topic, the scheduled work per task, resource, or assignment is equal on the two sides of a usage view. The difference is that the scheduled work is shown as a single total value on the left side but distributed over time on the right side.

We’ll begin in the timephased grid of the Task Usage view with the Work table displayed. We’ll record actual work for task 19, Author review of content edit.

14fig07.jpg

Here we’ve entered 8 hours of actual work for Thursday (which is what was scheduled) and 10 hours of actual work for Friday (when 16 hours was originally scheduled) on task 19

Click to view larger image

As you saw in the previous topic, the actual work recorded on the task is distributed to its assignments. In the timephased grid, you can see per time period how the actual work gets distributed.

Next we’ll enter actual work on the assignment in the timephased grid.

14fig08.jpg

Here we’ve entered 6 hours of actual work for the Copyeditors and 8 hours for Tad Orman for Monday on the same task

Click to view larger image

In this example, the actual work values entered for the assignments differed from the scheduled work. Project accounted for the difference by adjusting the scheduled work at the end of the assignments.

14fig09.jpg

Project adjusted the scheduled work to account for the actual work values that were recorded that varied from scheduled work

Click to view larger image

When you record actual work in the table on the left side of the view, Project records the actual work to match scheduled work in the timephased grid on the right side of the usage view. The main advantage of entering actual work in the timephased grid instead of in the table on the left side of the view is that you can precisely control the dates for which the actual work gets recorded.

To record timephased actual work in the Task Usage view

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

  2. On the Task Usage Tools Format tab, in the Details group, click Actual Work. The Actual Work detail row appears in the timephased portion of the view.

  3. If needed, adjust the timescale to match the time interval at which you want to enter actual work (for example, daily or weekly): On the View tab, in the Zoom group, click the Timescale arrow, and then click the timescale time unit you want.

  4. In the timephased grid, at the intersection of the task or assignment and the date you want, enter an actual work value.

To record timephased actual work in the Resource Usage view

  1. Display the Resource Usage view and Actual Work detail, and adjust the timescale as needed.

  2. In the timephased grid, at the intersection of an assignment and the date you want, enter an actual work value.