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Topics: Estimating
Actuals vs. Estimates in MS Project
I have a MSP file where I have fixed units, and have estimated the work values, allowing duration to be calculated by MSP. As time has gone by, tasks have been completed, providing me a completion date and the actual number of hours required to perform the task. What's the proper way to enter actual values?

When I say a task is 100% complete, I want to then enter the hours required to perform the task. I then want to give the actual completion date. These actions tend to conflict with one another and it sometimes resets the bar to a milestone, sometimes resets the completion dates, etc. I'm trying to generate two pictures: what I estimated (from the baseline) and what actually occurred - but MSP is being really difficult.

Thank you in advance for providing some insight.
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MSP does not handle well planned vs. actual data, unless you baseline the project and compare the “as of today” with the baseline. This will give you delays, actual duration vs. planned duration etc. However, if you need to re-baseline due to major project changes you will loose the initial plan (so better save a copy of the file before re-baselining).

Hope it helps,

George Jucan
In MSP, select the Table - Work from View menu. In this view, the actual work, remaining work, % work completed can be entered. MSP automatically updates the planned work. The baselined work does not change, if the schedule has been baselined. You can compare the actual effort with baselined effort.

Select the Table - Tracking from View menu, Actual start and actual finish dates can be entered.

However, once you re-baseline the plan, the baseline effort shall be replaced with actuals for 100% completed tasks.

Hope this helps!!!
MSP can do some clever things with actuals, as long as you are prepared to use a bit of your time. The Gantt view is as always a good place to start scheduling, but for tracking I would recommend taking a look at the 'Task Usage' view. From there, simply select the time scale you want to play with (days/weeks...) right-clicking on the top of the view. Then right click in its center, and choose what are the figures you want to see, or to update. To achieve what was described in the initial post I would recommend choosing 'Work', 'Actual Work' and 'Baseline Work'. It might be a bit confusing at first, but you get in a single view, by task and resource, the baselined work and the current planned work for each selected time-unit. And you're even able to input the actuals from that same view. Once you get used to it, it really does the job. Hope this helps.
This has helped to take a big step forward. Still a bit foggy however. Let's say the estimated work for a task is 4 hours. Actual work is 1 hour which completes the task. How do you tell it that the task is complete without resetting the 4 hours?
Whenever you enter some actual work, MSP might use it to recalculate the work to be done over the following days (the way it does it depends on the actual settings). But you can always manually overwrite the Work for the following days if the Estimate to Complete has changed. And if the task is simply finished, you can overwrite it with zeroes for the remaining days. If (and only if!) you initially saved a baseline, you can still check how much work had been originally estimated (and even when was it supposed to happen). One of the great advantages of tracking this way is that you can keep track of the individual resources assignments and pending work. If you simply update the '% completed' of a task, MSP will assume that all the assigned resources have been working according to that percentage. If you work on 'Task Usage', you can determine situations where one assigned resource is done, while another one has still some remaining work. Can be extremely useful. Hope this helps!
To summarize the discussed methods for preserving the estimated timeline and entering actual values into MS Project:
(1) Make sure a baseline is created prior to work being done.
(2) Show the resource usage screen.
(3) Display the Actual Work field as a task row in the Usage Screen.
(4) Enter the actual work values for each resource/task.
(5) If task is complete, verify that the %Complete value is 100% in the Gantt chart's left pane.
(6) If the sum of actual hours < estimated hours and the task is complete, clear the Actual Work values (in the future) beyond the finish date.
--- This procedure will retain estimated start & end dates, and will record the completed date and actual hours required by resource. -- Is this correct?

I would use the 'Task usage' view. I most often track work done following the tasks schedule. If what I'm doing is recording work done from a specific resource, I might go to 'Resource Usage', but I most often follow-up tasks. And I would use the three relevant usage details: Work, Actual Work and Baseline Work. We can think of 'Work' as the 'Work according to the latest and updated schedule', while 'Actual Work' is the work that has already been executed. Use 'Actual Work' in the past to record actuals, and use 'Work' in the future to plan for the estimate to complete. MSP usuallty recalculates this ETC automatically, based on the previous plan. But if the ETC needs to be changed (because you're ahead or behind schedule), just overwrite the corresponding 'Work'. It's lots easier to do than it is to explain!
Hi There
Due to contract signage problems, some of my project start dates didn't commence when originally anticipated. I am wishing to have a Plan start and finish date (original) and an Actual start and finish date to identify where the lag was, so we can go back to the company if the time difference cannot be absorbed.

My question is; Can I do this without baselining the original schedule?

If I add other columns in, naming them as Plan start/finish and Actual start/finish, once I add the Actual start date it changes the Plan start date to the same date, overwriting the original Plan start date.

Hope this makes sense.

The only way I can think of achieving this is baselining. But you don't need to use THE baseline. Microsoft Project offers a number of different baselines. When you select the option to Baseline, you can choose to save it as an 'interim plan', and save all data in the 'Baseline1', 'Baseline2'... sets of columns. It will keep there safely all the relevant data about your current status.

You can always go back and use the same options to copy or overwrite these interim plans to the 'Baseline' (the one without any number), so you can use the 'Tracking Gantt' view to compare them visually. But be careful, Be sure you practice it beforehand with some dummy project, because it's pretty easy to go wrong and overwrite you latest plans.


Thanks for your quick reply. I was fairly certain that baselining was the only was to go but was hoping for an alternative as the schedule is quite complex and one false move on my part could destroy it all.

Lots of "save as" will be the way to go.

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