Friday, September 21, 2007

Tracking Physical Percent Complete with MS Project

We have been addressing the question of how to tell how much work is getting done on a project, concluding that "percent complete" really only measures how much schedule and budget we have burned through, and does not give a true indication of actual progress. The remedy is to measure progress against physical evidence. We agree up front with stakeholders what physical evidence will define task complete, and the percent complete is not achieved until actual receipt of the physical evidence. I used the production of a requirements document and test cases to illustrate this approach.

Sadly, the default behavior of MS Project is to calculate a task's percent complete based on the difference between planned work and actual work. Although it gives the illusion that it's measuring technical performance (task percent complete), it really only measures hours worked. This discussion demonstrates how to use MS Project 2003 to track physical percent complete.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an MS Project expert so there may be better ways to do this.


You can set this up at the project level, or at the task level. If you have already entered tasks you must set it up in each individual task.

At the Project level:

1. Select Tools --> Options --> Calculation Tab --> Earned Value button
2. Set Default Task Earned Value Method to Physical % Complete

At the Task level:

1. Select Project --> Task Information --> Advanced tab
2. Set Earned Value Method to Physical % Complete


1. In the Gantt Chart view, insert the following columns: Work, Percent Complete, Actual Work, and Physical % Complete. NOTE: we will not use Percent Complete, but I included it for demonstration purposes.

2. Enter a resource in the Resource Sheet view. Use $100/hour for both the standard and overtime rates.

3. Add the "Write draft requirements document" task, assign it to the same resource you just created, along with "40h" in the *Work* column (not duration). Duration automatically goes to 5 days.

3. Enter "40h" in the Actual Work column. Percent Complete automatically goes to 100%, while the Physical % Complete column stays at 0%.

To experiment, put "80h" in the Work column, and watch Duration go to 10 days. Actual Work stays at 40h, causing Percent Complete go to 50%. The Physical % Complete column still stays at 0%.


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