Estimates versus actuals

The plan that you've been building is an estimate of what can occur. It's your best guess (an educated one, hopefully) about how long tasks may take, how one task affects another, how many resources you need to complete the work, and what costs you expect your project to incur. Good project managers keep good records of their estimates and actuals to become better project managers. By comparing these two sets of data, you can see where your estimates were off and then use this information to make your next plan more realistic. You can also use data on actual costs and timing to make the changes in your strategy that are necessary to keep you on track and meet your current project's goals.

Tracking in Project consists of entering information about actuals, such as the actual start date, the actual finish date, and the actual duration of a task. You enter actual time that is worked by resources and actual costs that are incurred. When you enter information about actuals, Project shows you a revised schedule with projections of how the rest of the schedule is likely to play out, based on your actual activity.

How much have you accomplished?

As I describe in Chapter 12, you record activity on a task by entering an estimate of the percentage of the task that's complete, actual resource time spent on the task, or actual costs incurred (such as fees or equipment rentals paid), or by entering the hours of work done per time period. Estimating "the completeness" of a task is not an exact science, and different people use different methods.

With something concrete, such as a building under construction, you can look at the actual building and estimate fairly accurately how far along the project has progressed. Most projects aren't so straightforward, however. How do you estimate how far along you are in more creative tasks, such as coming up with an advertising concept? You can sit in meetings for five weeks and still not find the right concept. Is your project 50 percent complete? Completion is hard to gauge from other, similar projects on which you've worked — perhaps on the last project, you came up with the perfect concept in your very first meeting.

Don't fall into the trap of using money or time spent as a gauge. It's (unfortunately) easy to spend $10,000 on a task that is estimated to cost $8,000 and still be only 25 percent to completion. You probably have to use the same gut instincts that put you in charge of this project to estimate the progress of individual tasks. Hint: If your project has individual deliverables that you can track, document them and use them consistently when you make your estimate.

Project managers usually track activity on a regular basis, such as once a week or every two weeks. This tracking includes information about tasks in progress as well as about tasks that have been completed.

This tracking activity also enables you to generate reports that show management where your efforts stand at any given point in time. By showing managers the hard data on your project's status — rather than your best guess — you can make persuasive bids for more time, more resources, or a shift in strategy if things aren't going as you expected. Figure 11-1 shows a Tracking Gantt view using its default table, the Tracking table.

Cross- Chapter 12 explains the specific steps for updating a project to reflect actual

Reference progress.

Figure 11-1: Use the Tracking Gantt view to display the progress of your project.
Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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  • eija-riitt
    Can you do actuals s estimates in MS Project?
    4 months ago

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