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  • Question

  • If the PMI’s standard for schedule development (PMI-Practice Standard for Scheduling - page 40) says that the activity duration percent complete (in MS-Project: % Complete) is a CALCULATED field, WHY MS-Project allows this field to be EDITED?

    Thus, the user can give any value to this field and what the Project does is adjust the actual duration of the activity. But in my understanding, if the activity has begun, the actual duration of activity should be determined as a function of their actual start date and date of status (of course, not forgetting the calendar).


    That is, in my opinion, the only correct possibility to update the% complete field should be use the button "Update as Scheduled" available on the tracking toolbar.

    Could anyone explain me these things, mainly focusing on two aspects:

    a. What I said is considered the best practice?
    b. 
    If so, why Microsoft allows, and even in a sense, encourages bad practice (for example, incorrectly using the name % Complete rather than % Duration; allowing the user edit this field; placing the following buttons: 25%, 50% 75% available to users, etc.).?

    Sorry for any mistakes in my English.


    Thanks in advance.

    Abilio.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 7:05 PM

Answers

  • Hi,

    Let me give the example I give in my courses.

    A person has to make 50 drawings, and the time estimated is 10 days. Thus his estimated work is 80 hours.

    After one week the PM goes to see him and he says "I've been on this for the whole week". OK, says the PM, nice, but when will it be ready? "O, I still need 7 days to finish it"

    At this point intime, entering those data in MS Project, all Project can calculate is % Complete,be it 5 days/ 5+7 = 41%.

    Being curious about the delay, the PM questions the person further. Did you work full time on it lthis week? "In all honesty, no,Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning I went to the dentist". This tells the PM Actual Work is 32 hours, not 40. And do you think you will work full time on it the next 7 days? "Yes"

    Entering these in Project, it will calculate %Work complete as 32/(32+56)= 36%.

    Then the PM looks at the pile of drawings finished and starts counting them - there are only 16.

    So in Project he enters Physical % Complete as 32%.

    So much for the difference.

    What is best practice? It depends on your objective, and on the data available.

    If (as is the case for the majority of PMs in Europe) you don't care about cost - PMs have to deliver, cost is for the accountants - % Complete is relevant, or rather, all you have to care about is Remaining Duration, percentages are a waste of energy. Remaining Work is relevant only in terms of resource leveling.

    If you have to care about Work and Cost, you will try to get data on them, and then % Work Complete is more relevant - or should I say remaining work is more relevant, I still consider percentages a waste of energy.

    And if you use EV as a tracking method, if applicable (what is the Physical % complete of a research activity?) I recommend Physical % complete.

    Hope this helps,

     

    Friday, August 27, 2010 9:02 AM
  • You're welcome, Max Smile emoticon
     
    Mike Glen
    MS Project MVP
    See  http://tinyurl.com/2xbhc for my free Project Tutorials
    • Marked as answer by MikeGlen Monday, August 30, 2010 1:57 PM
    Monday, August 30, 2010 1:57 PM

All replies

  • Hi Abilio,

    Welcome to this Microsoft Project forum:)

    I don't know what was in the mind of the original project developers, but in the days of Project 4, it was a quick and easy way to indicate progress for the simple projects that it could handle.  This %Complete process had simply been carried through the different versions until now.  That's why % Work Complete was later added to give more information. 

    It is now thought to be best practice to work with Actuals like Actual Work and Actual Start, or better still, Remaining Work, and leave Project to calculate the percentages. 

    FAQs, companion products and other useful Project information can be seen at this web address:  http://project.mvps.org/faqs.htm

    Hope this helps - please let us know how you get on :)

    Mike Glen
    MS Project MVP
    See http://tinyurl.com/2xbhc for my free Project Tutorials


     

    • Proposed as answer by MikeGlen Wednesday, August 25, 2010 7:33 PM
    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 7:31 PM
  • It works both ways, as a user input field and as a calculated field, and both are appropriate in different situations.

    Where you say that "actual duration of activity should be determined as a function of..", I don't agree. Actual Duration is a fact, it is what it is, and is not at all a function of anything. A task may have started 8 days before the status date and have, say, only 2 days of actual duration. In this case you can't use the Update as scheduled button.

    I don't think that you can say that the software encourages bad practice merely because it allows it.

    MSP allows lots of things which might have some legitimate use in some contexts or situations, such as date constraints, negative lag, weird predecessor links (other than FS0). That doesn't mean that they are a good idea to splash around on any whim.

    People encourage and perpetuate bad practice by being too lazy to think about what they are doing and whether it makes any sense.

    Ok, perhaps some of the MSP specific nomenclature could be a bit more precise.

    "% Complete" should be called "% Duration Complete" because that is what it is and also it would be more consistent with "% Work Complete".

    Similarly, so also should the "Reschedule Work" button on the tracking toolbar be called "Reschedule Duration" or "Reschedule Task".

    But the very first sentence in the definition of the % Complete field says that it is about duration. It is just that almost no one reads it.

    It is also obvious from usage that that is what it is.

     

    Friday, August 27, 2010 2:17 AM
  • Hi,

     I have been following this chain; on the same lines can you just explain to me when to use %complete and % work complete

    What is the difference and how can i explain to users while i train them the diff between the two

    thanks

    mp

    Friday, August 27, 2010 4:37 AM
  • Glad to.

    There are three things MSP knows about for any task and they are:

    Duration - measured in days (usually) which is the span from start to finish

    Work - measured in hours, but this is shorthand for "man-hours", sometimes called "effort" but shouldn't be.

    Cost - measured in $

    They are only loosely connected or not at all.

    Each one has an actual part and a remaining part, and actual + remaining = total

    Each one has a %, which is actual/total.

    In MSP there are built-in fields for % Complete (=actual duration/total duration) and % Work Complete (=actual work/total work).

    There is no built-in field for % Cost complete but the quantity exists anyway and = actual cost/total cost.

    None of these three is a measure of the task itself or the progress of the task. The task might be something like "lay some bricks" or "write a report" of "drive from town A to Town B" or "shoot 3000 pigeons". If a task has some progress, such as "so many bricks laid" or "report is half written" or "we are 1/4 of the distance from town A to town B" then the person doing the updating and planning must look at the task and convert what has happened and what remains to be made to happen into duration, work and cost.

    That's just my simple interpretation. Hope this helps

     

    Friday, August 27, 2010 7:15 AM
  • Hi,

    Let me give the example I give in my courses.

    A person has to make 50 drawings, and the time estimated is 10 days. Thus his estimated work is 80 hours.

    After one week the PM goes to see him and he says "I've been on this for the whole week". OK, says the PM, nice, but when will it be ready? "O, I still need 7 days to finish it"

    At this point intime, entering those data in MS Project, all Project can calculate is % Complete,be it 5 days/ 5+7 = 41%.

    Being curious about the delay, the PM questions the person further. Did you work full time on it lthis week? "In all honesty, no,Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning I went to the dentist". This tells the PM Actual Work is 32 hours, not 40. And do you think you will work full time on it the next 7 days? "Yes"

    Entering these in Project, it will calculate %Work complete as 32/(32+56)= 36%.

    Then the PM looks at the pile of drawings finished and starts counting them - there are only 16.

    So in Project he enters Physical % Complete as 32%.

    So much for the difference.

    What is best practice? It depends on your objective, and on the data available.

    If (as is the case for the majority of PMs in Europe) you don't care about cost - PMs have to deliver, cost is for the accountants - % Complete is relevant, or rather, all you have to care about is Remaining Duration, percentages are a waste of energy. Remaining Work is relevant only in terms of resource leveling.

    If you have to care about Work and Cost, you will try to get data on them, and then % Work Complete is more relevant - or should I say remaining work is more relevant, I still consider percentages a waste of energy.

    And if you use EV as a tracking method, if applicable (what is the Physical % complete of a research activity?) I recommend Physical % complete.

    Hope this helps,

     

    Friday, August 27, 2010 9:02 AM
  • Thanks a lot for your time; you guys are really wonderful in explaining and making things understandable.

    mp

    Monday, August 30, 2010 10:45 AM
  • You're welcome, Max Smile emoticon
     
    Mike Glen
    MS Project MVP
    See  http://tinyurl.com/2xbhc for my free Project Tutorials
    • Marked as answer by MikeGlen Monday, August 30, 2010 1:57 PM
    Monday, August 30, 2010 1:57 PM
  • Hi Trevor

    Sorry but I am with Abilio on this one.

    MS Project blatantly permits situations that contravene universal laws, like actual work in the future. Why not hard code these laws to prevent nonsense schedules? Microsoft is drifting further and further away from what is generally accepted as good practice and provides no alignment to the standards.

    Microsoft create a product with a easy interface which is great. People pick it up and run with it. But Microsoft fails to put adequate rules in place.

    Finally, I take on board your argument that a task could have started 8 working days ago but only have 2 days actual duration. But I think it would be more accurate to state the task started 8 days ago, has an actual duration of 8 days but a resource assignment actual duration of on 2 days. Ie the task has started, the clock is running but the resource only works on it 2 out of the 8 days.

    When you drive home tonight you don’t say it only took 15 minutes because that s the time the car was actually moving. You say it took an hour because you left at 5 and arrived home at 6. The fact the car was stuck in traffic for 45 minutes is irrelevant. The Actual duration of that journey was 1 hour. 

    Hope this provides an alternative perspective.  

    Regards

    Chris

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 3:45 AM
  • Chris,

    MSP squawks a lot, with various warnings about W=ExD, and deadlines and over-allocation etc, but not many people read them.

    You could wish that the definition of actual duration included the days on which nothing happened, but it doesn't, and it is defined as it is defined.

    Since I have to work with MSP every day, I find it more useful to figure out how it does work, rather than how I might like it to work if I was designing it (which would be a pretty good job).

    Similarly, we could wish that it was impossible to show planned task duration (and planned work and planned cost, if any) in the past and we could wish that it was impossible to show actual duration (and actual work and actual cost, if any) in the future, but MSP just allows it and that's that.

    But this is, in a way, a good thing. It forces the user to think about what he is doing (maybe). Besides, if it's wrong, it's obvious when you look at the Gantt Chart.

    When I drive home I might be interested in the driving time, not the standing still time. That's "time out". It's only the driving time that chews up the kilometres.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 7:59 AM