Pin Me

How to Calculate Actual Work in Microsoft Project

written by: Linda Richter • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 2/14/2011

When you’re calculating work in Project 2010, you have to decide just what you want to measure. Here you can read about the ways that Project tracks your work and figure out exactly how to proceed for your specific project.

  • slide 1 of 13

    What Are the Methods for Tracking Work?

    When you calculate work in Project 2010, you can choose from two basic methods. You can look at how much of your allotted project timeline has elapsed. You can also calculate how much work your resources (the people on your team) have accomplished.

    What you choose depends on just how deep you want to take your tracking. Some people use Project to make a simple list of events and check each one off as it’s completed. Others want a detailed report showing the cost of every resource used. A report like that requires you to enter the costs of all the materials purchased for the project as well as the money earned by the people accomplishing the work.

    Deciding which way to calculate work is not always so cut and dried. Let’s look at the Golf Benefit I’ve been working on. The timeline for that runs from December 31 through May 14—96 days. Now consider the types of tasks we must do: In the early weeks of the project, my team spends a great deal of time putting together a list of potential sponsors and contacting those sponsors. The program must be designed and delivered to the printer. Then it has to be mailed to potential registrants. There are multiple tasks that occur in January and February. Then, in March, there are no tasks at all.

    calculate work view of Golf project 

  • slide 2 of 13

    So how should I calculate my work? Midway between December 31 and May 14 is February 14--but are we half done? Despite the lull in March, three weeks before the event we’ll be bustling again.

    On the other hand, look at the Accreditation Site Visit task list. This project extends from February 26 to April 22—56 days. A look at the task list shows you a steady, even work pace throughout the duration of the project. The CEO inspects one department after another. Maintenance moves constantly and relentlessly from one area to another over a period of 34 days. If you want to calculate how much work is done, you will use a different method.

    calculate work Accreditation project 

  • slide 3 of 13

    Keep It Updated!

    No matter how you calculate actual work in Microsoft Project, it’s wise to dedicate an administrative staffer to update projects as they move along. There are a couple settings you can utilize in Project that will help you (i.e., your helper) to track what’s going on.

    You can update the amount of work done through either the Task Information box or the Resource Assignment box.

  • slide 4 of 13

    The Task Information Box

    For the remainder of screenshots I'll use the Golf project—it’s partially finished while the accreditation project is just beginning, and I can show you more views with changes. Look at the initial task, Call Golf Clubs. Because it was never marked as completed, it shows as a red bar in the Tracking Gantt view. By clicking on the assignment, the Task Information box opens. I can adjust the Percent Complete anywhere from zero to 100% complete. Because this is 100% complete, I'll click on OK, and the red bar will turn blue.

    Calculate work Task Information view 1 

  • slide 5 of 13

    Mark On Track

    In the next view, I want you to notice two things. First, the bar in the Gantt chart for Call Golf Clubs is blue as promised. The second thing is that I am going to update the next task, Visit Possible Venues, in a different way. On the ribbon, in the Task tab in the Schedule group, you will see Mark on Track. Right next to it you will see buttons indicating 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Since we finished visiting venues, I can click Mark on Track which automatically updates it as complete. If I had visited only half of the potential venues, I could click on 50%, and Project would mark this task only 50% complete. But it is finished, so I will mark it as on track.

    Calculate work Mark On Track 

  • slide 6 of 13

    You can see not only that the bar has turned blue, but also notice the beige bar running along the top of the chart. On its underside is a slightly lighter bar that is creeping toward the right as I complete tasks. Project marks them with the percentage of work completed—100%. And on the left side of the task list, you will see checkmarks indicating a task well done.

    Calculate work Gantt bars updated 

    Please continue on page 2 for more on how to calculate actual work in Microsoft Project.

  • slide 7 of 13
    You have a variety of options if you aren't certain how to calculate actual work in Microsoft Project. This remarkable project management software offers you a network event diagram, a task usage view, task sheet view, resource assignment tracking, and Gantt chart tools that effectively illustrate your progress. It's possible to enter actual hours worked and costs spent if your end goal is a deeply detailed report.
  • slide 8 of 13

    The Task Sheet View

    Another way to calculate actual work in Microsoft Project is to select the Task Sheet view. Do this from the Task tab; select it from the choices beneath the Gantt Chart icon. In this view you can see your tasks listed along with start and end dates and assigned resources. Notice that task #7, Hole Sponsor Solicit Interest, has 4 dependent tasks. Joanne has completed making the list of band night advertisers; when I mark that one task complete, the summary task is automatically updated to 6% complete.

    calculate work Task Sheet view 

  • slide 9 of 13

    Along the top you can see Task #0, which is the only task set on Auto Schedule. I created it when I began the project. Go to your file’s Backstage view and, on the right, fill in the Advanced Information box. Then move back to the left, choose Options, and then Advanced Options. When the dialogue box opens up, go down to Display Options for This Project and then Show Project Summary Tasks. It remains as Task #0 throughout the duration of your project, and as you complete various tasks it updates your work completed. You can see right now my project sits at 49% complete.

  • slide 10 of 13

    Add an Actual Work Column

    You can also calculate your work by updating your resources’ progress. To get a look at the work estimated by Project, when you’re in the Tracking Gantt view, go to Add a Column and choose Actual Work. Project will show you how much work your people have done. One caveat in looking at my chart is that when I said it would take Linda (me) a day to confirm the date at our chosen venue, Project assumed I meant 8 hours. In the next view, I go back into the Task Information task, change the task duration to .12 (one-eighth of a workday, meaning it took me an hour), and now Project adjusts my hours worked accordingly.

    Calculate work Actual Work column Calculate work Actual work column updated 

  • slide 11 of 13

    The Track Usage View

    Project also tracks your resources’ exact hours worked. If you go to the Track Usage view, you will see each task listed, the resources working on it, and—off to the right—the hours dedicated. (In a related article about the advantages of using a resource pool, you can learn how to enter your employee’s salaries so that it’s possible to get accurate cost reports.

    calculate work Task Usage 

  • slide 12 of 13

    The Network Diagram View

    One last view I have to show you here is the Network Diagram view. When you look at the diagram below, you can see how it illustrates your tasks using a flowchart. At the far left is a blue quadrilateral representing the entire project, marked at 43% complete, slashed with just one diagonal line because it's not done yet. Rectangles for specific tasks are diagrammed according to task dependencies and dates, with lines crossing them off or not. Note Project has painted the Hole Sponsor quadrilateral pink, at the bottom left--Project is fretting because it sees me as behind schedule on this summary task.

    calculate work network diagram 

  • slide 13 of 13

    Keep Exploring the Possibilities...

    The more you explore Project’s views and reports, the more amazed you will be by all the information it can return to you in exchange for a basic task and resource list.

    Source: Writer's own experiments with the product.

    Screenshots by the writer