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Entering Actual Progress in MS Project: Alternative Methods

Our last post covered the most common method for tracking progress information: the Update Tasks function. While that is the quickest and easiest way to track progress if you cannot use Project Web App, there are several other ways, many of which can be more accurate.  Choose the one that works best for you, keeping in mind that Update Tasks has limitations when it comes to work and cost variances.

Entering an Actual Finish Date for Tasks in the Tracking Table

Microsoft Project enables you to enter task finish dates directly into your work plan. Paying attention to the finish dates of project tasks will help to:

  • Better forecast the scheduling of future tasks
  • Coordinate the work of resources who may have to adjust their schedules to match the changing project schedule

1    Make sure you are in the Tracking Gantt view.

2    From View:Data click the Tables dropdown and select Tracking.

3    Select a task.

4    In the Act. Finish field, select or type “11/7”

5    Select a successor task. Enter an Act. Finish of “11/17.” Note that Microsoft Project automatically set the actual start date by copying the value in the current planned start date and sets the task to be complete (100%). In other words, it adds another day to the task duration. Your screen will resemble the following:

Figure 1.


Tracking actual finish (Tracking Table)

Other Tracking Options

Scroll through the Tracking Table (or switch to the Task Sheet view and Tracking table) to see what you can enter into the Tracking Table. You can enter actual and remaining duration, as well as actual work.

If you know the amount of time that a task has been in progress, and the task is progressing as planned, you may want to enter the actual duration for the task in the Tracking Table. When you specify the actual duration for a task, Microsoft Project calculates the percentage of completion and remaining duration. It does so according to the following formulas:

Percent Complete = Actual Duration / Duration


Remaining Duration = Duration – Actual Duration

While you can enter actual work in the Tracking Table, it’s not the ideal place to see remaining work. For that, we recommend the Work Table, since it contains the most common work-related fields.

When you specify the actual work for a task, Microsoft Project calculates the % complete and remaining work according to the following formulas:

Percent Complete = Actual Work ÷ Work


Remaining Work = Work – Actual Work

Entering Actual Work in a Form and Usage View

Forms enable you to enter and display detailed information about one task or resource at a time. This makes it unique from other views where you can enter and display information on multiple tasks or resources. Seeing information in a form view can make it easier to track progress details about a task or resource.

You can use the form by itself, but it is most useful when displayed in the bottom pane of a combination view. This way, the form provides additional information about the task or resource selected in the top pane.

We’ll use an example project to demonstrate some of these features.

1    Apply the Tracking Gantt view with the Tracking Table applied. To do so, from Task:View select Tracking Gantt. Then, from View:Tables select Tracking).

2    From View:Split View select Details.

3    Right-click anywhere in the Task Form (bottom pane) and select Work.

4    In the Tracking Gantt view, select a task. Your screen will resemble the following:

Figure 2.


Task Form with Work details in a combination view

5    Let’s say Mary has reported that she has performed 8 hours of work on the task so far. Enter the actual work for her assignment in the bottom pane. The recalculated values for remaining work will appear in the Rem. Work (i.e. remaining work) field. Remember to click OK when you make changes in the bottom pane. The result looks like the following in the example project:

Figure 3.


Actual and remaining Work in a form view

The Task Usage view displays project tasks with their assigned resources grouped below them.The Resource Usage view displays project resources with their task assignments underneath them. You can use these usage views to enter actual work information.

6     Remove the split from your view (double-click the split line or uncheck the Details box. Then, switch to the Task Usage view. Right-click inside the calendar grid on the right side and add Actual Work to it.

7     Select an example resource assignment. In the example, we assign Mike Goren to the task Conduct Session (ID 14).

8     From View:Zoom click the Selected Tasks icon [ ]. Microsoft Project will take you to the week during which work on the task is scheduled to begin. Your screen will resemble the following:

Figure 4.


Task Usage view (showing planned work)

9    In the Act. Work. field, enter the actual work for the task. Assume Mike worked according to schedule and did 8 hours’ work each day. Your screen will resemble the figure below.

Note: Your timescale may look different.  The look of your timeline can be adjusted by right-clicking in the top part of the calendar and changing settings with the Timescale command.

Figure 5.


Task Usage view (actual work)

Notice that the actual hours for Mike’s assignment “rollup” to the task and the summary task as well. If other resources were assigned to this task, you would expect to see the total hours worked, not just Mike’s hours. Similarly, the summary task has other tasks beside this one, and you would want to see the grand total for all those tasks as well.

Our Microsoft Project training guide is available to the public here.