Your Project Status Date isn’t Percent Complete

Microsoft Project gives users the ability to mark that their projects are complete through a certain date:

This is a useful feature in some circumstances, but It’s debatable how appropriate this practice is in general. While it’s nice to be able to set your project as current through a certain date, many project managers agree that you can’t simply declare things as finished, just because you’ve gotten to a certain point on the calendar. Real life projects just tend to be a little more complicated than that.

Right or wrong, Microsoft Project lets you do this, so what’s behind the percent complete values that it calculates? In my sample plan, Project re-calculates my percent complete values as follows:

Those percent complete values look ok, but when you go over to the native Microsoft Project Gantt chart, there is a problem.

At first glance, it looks pretty good. All five tasks are precisely lined up so that their progress bars hit the red line that represents the status date.

But as you look closer, there’s a problem. The percent complete values in Project don’t match the progress bars on the Gantt chart. For example, the percent complete value for Task A is 70%, but if you measure the width of the progress bar in Project’s Gantt chart, pixel-by-pixel it’s 74.7%.

When you build a report in OnePager, we use the percent complete values from Project:

Compare Task A between Project and OnePager. In Project, the progress bar is right up against the status line. In OnePager, the task appears as if it’s almost a day behind schedule. Tasks B and C have the opposite problem: Project shows them as on track, while OnePager shows them as ahead of schedule.

It’s not a question of right or wrong. It’s a question of apples and oranges. The date through which your project is complete is not the same as percent complete.

If you want your progress bars in Project to match OnePager, then you need to use percent complete across the board, since it’s a more precise calculation. To do this, right click on the Project Gantt chart and choose Bar Styles:

Now, in the Bar Styles form, change your all of your progress bars to use “% Complete” instead of using “CompleteThrough”. This will create a three-way match between the numeric percent complete values in your Project file, the progress bars in the Project Gantt chart, and the progress bars in OnePager:

After clicking OK, Project will change its Gantt chart progress bars to reflect the percent complete values that you see on the left, and will match what OnePager shows as well:

So while it’s sometimes tempting to use MS Project’s ability to quickly status your plan to a certain date, it’s important to recognize that the resulting percent complete values are going to have a degree of imprecision, due to working and non-working time in your project calendar.

When is a Summary Task on the Critical Path?

Short answer: Never.

Long answer: Summary tasks are a collection of one or more child tasks. By definition, a summary task doesn’t represent any real work, resources, or deliverables, so summary tasks are neither on nor off the critical path of a project. Children of summary tasks can be on the critical path, assuming those children are not summary tasks themselves.

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Copying old Microsoft Project files instead of making a new one? Read this first.

We get it: you’re lazy (or really efficient, depending on your point of view).

You’ve just kicked off a new project and have been tasked with building a new Microsoft Project schedule from the ground up. The thing is, your new project is so similar to the last project that you managed, that you’re tempted to copy your old project plan over, change a few dates and tasks, and call it done.

Everybody does it. Continue reading

Critical Path: It’s not “the most important stuff”

Critical Path comes up frequently in our interactions with our customers. Most executives we speak with still use the term Critical Path to describe “the most important stuff.” But those of us who are trained project managers and schedulers know that’s not exactly right.

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Why do Summary Tasks Always Appear Behind Schedule?

Have you ever walked into a project status meeting, proud of how all of your deliverables are on track, only to have someone ask you why the phase or project-level summary task shows that you are behind schedule? Everything you’ve been tasked with doing is on time, but for some reason, the summary shows that you are weeks or months behind.

Here’s why:

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Display Certainty In Your Plan by Using Conditional Formatting

I often have users ask me how I would display a level of certainty around a particular milestone or task.

The need exists because the initiative spans many years, and therefore, items in the plan set to begin, or complete, in the near future are fairly certain in terms of their target dates.  However, items further out on the timeline need to be interpreted as loose estimates.

This is actually very easily accomplished in OnePager, as long as you have a column with a value that indicates the various levels of certainty you want to communicate.

backgammon-precision-dice-dark-red_primary

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Progress and On-time Status are two very different things

We often receive this question within our support interactions:  “Why doesn’t my % Complete bar match today’s date?”

progress behindThe answer is simple.

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If You Use Microsoft Project Server or Project Online, You May Be in Trouble. Here’s What to Do.

OnePager has been a proud Microsoft Partner for many years. We both build and integrate with Microsoft technology. So we are generally pretty pro-Microsoft. But in this case, we think Microsoft has messed up big time, and it will negatively impact thousands of our customers. That’s why we’re asking you to get involved.

To make a long story short, starting this year, it may no longer be possible to use OnePager to make graphics from Project Server 2016 without also doing a desktop installation of Microsoft Project Professional. That means our customers who want to pull project data directly into OnePager from Project Server or Project Online, without using Microsoft Project on the desktop, will be out of luck. If that bothers you, good — we discuss at the bottom of this post what to do about it. First, a little detail.

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Displaying Variance in OnePager

I get asked a lot about how to display variance in OnePager.  This post will hopefully get your creative juices flowing about how to meet your specific needs. You might be interested in a project summary chart that looks something like this:

Variance PV
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