When the percentage is not enough

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Working with projects has many benefits, but at the same time, you have to accept that you have to change from time to time. Not all the projects are the same; accordingly, not all the tasks are the same.

Imagine for a moment that you have to manage an IT project. You have two tasks in this project:

  1. Upgrade 100 computers from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
  2. Document the problems and solutions during the upgrade.

In the traditional way of seeing things, youll assign a resource to those tasks. Lets assume its the same resource. Obviously he/she wont complete the first tasks in 1 day (unless youre using SMS and you are just watching for the server to do the job). Lets assume now that you estimated that the documentation will take 5 days to be completed.

If the resource has to report the completion of the tasks, the first one is easy enough: the % is the most easy number to come around. If he/she has upgraded 45 computers, the progress will be of course 45% right?

What about the document?

Is it easy to know what % of completion the resource has achieved? Every resource that has a “documentation task” will do the same mental process in order to obtain a % of completion?

Probably not and heres where Project Server answers this 911 call.

Many project managers dont know that you can choose between 3 different ways to ask resources for the progress of their assignments:

  1. Percent of Work Complete
  2. Actual Work Done and Work Remaining
  3. Hours of work done per period

The first is the most commonly used method. The other two are probably the most accurate method. What do they mean?

If you use % complete, youre asking the resource: “Tell me what % of completion you have achieved.” Easy enough to understand.

The second means: “Tell me how much work you have done so far and how much still remains to be done.” In other words, when you create a task and assign resources to it, you are (among many other things) calculating the work (the effort) that those resources are required to do for the task to be completed.

Lets say that for our first task, the resource will take 3 hours in the upgrade for each computer. This means that the resource needs 300 hours of work (or effort) in order to complete that task. If we choose the second method for measure the progress of the task, we are asking the resource “how many hours have you done so far and how many hours do you still have to go?” With this information, Project is able to calculate the % of progress for that task.

The third method should be used when you have already understood the second method and now, you need to know WHEN the work has been done. In this case, you are asking the resources “Tell me how many hours you worked on your task on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… and so on.”

What do you get by using the second or third method? An accurate method for tracking your project and comparing it to your baseline.

Now, how can we tell our resources which method we will use for our project?

Thats easy. Open Project Professional (with connection to your project server) and click on Collaborate -> Collaboration options.

Notice that you probably cannot change the tracking method:

Tracking Method

If this is the case, ask your Project Server administrator to disable the forced default method.

In the Server Configuration link, click on Task Settings and Display and youll see this:

Task Settings and Display

By default, the option to “Force project managers to use the progress reporting method specified above for all projects” is enabled, which means, the project managers cannot choose which method to use. Clear it and save those options.

Close and reopen Project professional and check the same settings again:

Project Tracking Method


Now you can choose which method to use.

Just remember one thing. The method applies to the entire project, so every task will follow that method.

Posted By: Rene Alvarez

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