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MS Project Tutorial: Lesson 5

-- Anjana Srikanth

Once your Project is underway, it may be necessary to revise and change information about tasks and resources due to sudden and unforeseen changes in plans and deadlines. Tracking progress in an orderly manner will help keep your plan up to date and in this lesson you will learn to use these tracking tools.

This lesson will also show you how to consolidate many projects into one and communicate with team members (workgroup) and exchange information such as team member assignments and task updates and other project data between various other applications.

  1. Tracking Work on MS Project
  2. Working with multiple projects
  3. Workgroups
  4. Exchanging project data with other applications


Download PDF Version here.

Tracking Work on MS Project

Apart from being able to manage a project well, an effective project manager needs to ensure that the project goals are met on time and are within the budget.  Anticipating the implications of a task that is slipping behind schedule, revising project plans, reassigning resources and finding ways to minimize the impact on time and costs require an orderly approach to tracking project progress.

As already mentioned in Lesson 3, it is important to save your project as a baseline and then later compare it with the actual schedules.  The date, duration, work and cost fields are in the current schedule.  The actual fields are where you enter actual dates and costs to show what actually happens.

There are baseline and actual fields for both tasks and assignments.  The variance fields show the difference between the current value and the baseline value for each task.  A positive variance means that your task will take longer to complete than originally scheduled.

Project calculates variances to the baseline for start and finish dates, duration, work and costs.  You can display this variance by switching to tracking Gantt Chart View and selecting the Variance Table.

The Tracking Gantt Chart shows a baseline task bar in gray and blue or red bars for actual or scheduled tasks (dates).  The Variance table contains fields that show the baseline date and variances and you can add additional fields to compare actual and scheduled dates and interim plans.

After capturing and saving the Baseline, you can make subsequent changes and update it using the Save Baseline command on the menu.

Tracking information like Start and Finish dates, percentage of scheduled task duration completed, updating and rescheduling tasks will afford greater accuracy in finishing your project on time.

Entering Task Update Data

You can update most project data by using the Tracking table in the Task Sheet View.  This view contains the Actual Start and Finish, Percent Complete, Actual Duration, Remaining Duration, Actual Cost and Actual Work Fields.

To switch to the Task Sheet/Tracking Table View:

  1. Choose View, More Views – Task Sheet and click OK.
  2. Choose Views, Table – Tracking.
To enter data into a table:
  1. Click the cell you want to enter data into, for example: Act. Start
  2. Click the down arrow to select a date from the drop-down calendar.

To enter numeric values in the % completed and Actual Duration fields, use the up and down arrows on the spin box controls to change the values or type a number in the cell.

Tracking Toolbar

Description of the Tracking toolbar buttons:

Project Statistics

Opens a message box that displays current, baseline, actual and variance for Start, Finish, Duration, Work and Costs

Update as Scheduled

Changes the actual dates of all or selected tasks to match the schedule

Reschedule work

Reschedules the remaining duration on all or selected tasks to continue from the Status Date

Add Progress Lines

Add progress lines to a Gantt Chart View to view whether the project is ahead or behind schedule

% Complete

Sets the % complete on a task

Update Tasks

Opens the Update Tasks dialog box

Workgroup Toolbar

Opens the Workgroup toolbar

Using the Update tasks Dialog Box

Click the Update Tasks button from the Tracking toolbar and type a date.  Click Set % or 100% complete only.  Select Entire project/Selected Tasks and click OK.

To update Percent Complete

Select the tasks you want to update and click the appropriate % complete button on the toolbar

Adding progress lines to the Gantt Chart

Project draws a line that connects in-progress tasks and tasks that should have started.  Peaks pointing to the left represent work behind schedule and those pointing to the right represent work ahead of schedule.

To define progress lines

  1. Choose Tools, Tracking – Progress lines to open the Progress Lines Dialog box.

  2. Select the Always Display Current Progress line checkbox.

  3. Click At Project Status Date or At Current Date to indicate where you want the project lines to appear.

  4. Select Display Project Lines at Recurring Intervals Checkbox; then check Daily, Weekly, Monthly to specify a time that you want to display the progress lines

  5. Turn on Display Selected Progress lines and select dates.

  6. Check the Line styles tab and select line type, color, and progress point shape, point color for the current and all progress lines.

  7. Click OK to close the dialog box and apply the project lines.

Earned Value Analysis

Earned Value Analysis is a set of simple calculations that separate budget performance from work performance so you can manage costs and work in the midst of chaos.

Three task-related values used to calculate variances and ratios that drive performance and management are –

  1. Budgeted cost of work schedules –BCWS or base line budget (baseline cost * baseline hours)

  2. Budgeted cost of work performed - (BCWP) or actual hours budget (baseline cost * actual hours)

  3. Actual cost of work performed – (ACWP) or actual cost incurred for tasks ( actual cost * actual hours)

The three values are used to calculate two variances and two ratios that are:

  1. Schedule Performance Index = Actual work performed/scheduled work
  2. Cost Performance Index = Baseline budget costs/actual costs

These ratios that can be positive or negative numbers and are important values.  The larger the number the greater the variance between performance and schedule.

The Earned Value Table, applied to a task view like the Gantt Chart, lists all the relevant Earned value data.   For more precise definitions and help on this analysis, refer to Project’s online help.


Project allows you to manage smaller files individually and then combine and link subprojects when necessary.  With Project, you can have multiple projects open at once and switch back and forth between them with ease.

Projects come in various sizes, but regardless of the size of the overall project, it may be more convenient to work with smaller subprojects and then link them together through one master project.

To divide a project into smaller pieces:

  1. Open the large project that you want to subdivide.

  2. Create a view that puts all the tasks you want to move in consecutive order.

  3. Select these tasks and click the Cut button.

  4. Click the New button and create a new project.

  5. Click in the first cell of the Gantt Chart and click the Paste button.

  6. Save the new project.

  7. Repeat steps 3 – 6 for all the task groups that you want to move.

A master project is one that contains other projects.  You can consolidate a number of projects into a master project that can be linked to subprojects in these ways –

  • Consolidate multiple projects into a new project file
  • Insert projects into an existing project file
  • Open a resource pool and add it to a master project

You can create a master project that handles all projects within an organization and divide it into subprojects and then create reports, apply views and analyze data across each project.

To create a link between tasks that cross projects

  1. Open both the projects and choose Window, Arrange All to see the two projects in the same window.

  2. Double – click the task that you want to name as the successor and this will open the Task ID Dialog box.

  3. Click the predecessors’ tab to establish the task as the predecessor.

  4. Select the ID field and type the project name and ID # of the predecessor task using this format: Project Name/Task ID #.

  5. Press Enter. Project automatically adds External Project to the Type and Lag fields.

  6. Click OK.


Communication between the project manager and team members is vital to tracking and managing any project.  Regular update of a project’s status within a workgroup is the ideal way to keep a project on track.

A workgroup comprises people who are directly involved in the project - the manager and team in a project and external contractors and customers.

You can communicate project information electronically vie email or Intranet or Internet and set up various efficient methods of messaging between a workgroup.  When using the Intranet, all workgroup members need access to a network and to the network’s Web server.  Team members do not require to have Project 2000 installed on their systems, only the workgroup manager must have it installed.

To configure Workgroup settings:

  1. Select Tools, Options to open the Options Dialog box.

  2. Select the Workgroup tab to choose an option from the Default Workgroup Messaging for Resources drop-down list.

  3. Select Email/Web (Type the URL for the Web)

  4. Identification of Web Client Server prompt appears.  Select the Create Account Button and following the directions on the General tab or as given by the system administrator.

  5. Click OK.

Both email and the Web can be used to send messages.  On the web-based system, team members use Microsoft Project Central to read and reply to messages.

Microsoft Project Central is a database of Project 2000 files and fields with detailed security control regarding who can assess the database and what they see when they do.  It is a Web site on the Intranet and is devoted to tracking a company’s active projects.


If you want to use a resource list from your Human Resources Department and a task from a workgroup leader in Project 2000, instead of manually typing in the information, you can import the data.

Importing moves data from another application into Project while exporting saves Project data so that it can be used in other applications.  Importing data directly prevents typing errors and saves time.  The copy and paste facilities of the Windows Clipboard help link files from Project to Excel or Access.

Using the Save as Menu commands, entire projects or selected data can be transferred in formats other than Project 2000’s native MPP format. 

Files Formats supported by Project are:

  • Project Database (*.mpd)
  • Microsoft Project 98 (*.mpp)
  • Microsoft Access 8.0 Database (*.mdb)
  • Microsoft Excel Workbook (*.xls)
  • Microsoft Excel Pivot table (*.xls)
  • Hypertext Markup Language (*.htm)
  • Text files

To import a file:

  1. Select the data to be imported.
  2. Map the data’s relationship to project data files (data exchange map).
  3. Import the data. 

Select the file you want to import and click open.  After clicking the Open button in the Open Dialog box, the Import Mapping Dialog box is opened.  In the Import File text box, is the name of the file you want to import.  The Import Dialog box gives you the options of importing the entire project or importing Selective Data.

We have encountered the Define Import/Export Map Dialog box that was used to create an Export map in an HTML document in Lesson 4.  It allows you to customize the Import Settings.

In addition to exporting or importing data using the File, Open or the File, Save as Command, you can also use the Edit, Copy and Edit, Paste commands to copy selected data from one document to another.

If you use the Edit, Paste Special command, you can choose the Paste Link option to create a link between the copy data you paste in the Project document and the external data.

If you select the Link check box when pasting an object into a project, the object is linked to its original application and will change if the original object is modified.

This is the end of the Microsoft Project Tutorial and you will find that you can now create reports and review your work and communicate your project successfully with others.

When you finish a project, it would help identify those things that may be useable in future projects.  Keep a summary of each project you manage and use your experience to guide your decision-making about new ventures.

Here’s wishing you success on every project you undertake!



Download PDF Version here.

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Lesson 1
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