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Help, % complete doesn't reflect reality

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James Morrison
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Hi all, i have Project 2003, I'm not an expert and I generally get by (it isn't that important for my job however from time to time it is necessary).

I have a problem that i have one project which has lots of installations, in the beginning requiring more man hours and getting easier toward the end. Currently we are 50% through the projecttimewise but we have installed more than estimated but the % complete column shows much less being based on duration, however the duration really isn't accurate since it might have 10 days for a certain task but that task takes 15 men. Whereas later tasks have 10 days but they are for 1 man. So you see, it doesn't balance out accurately using this method. How the hell can I do it to more accurately reflect the actual completion as opposed to the duration.

As a clear example; if I were to decrease the duration of a task to say 2 days each instead of 16 days the ‘percentage complete’ column of the project would reduce - however completing tasks in a faster time than the duration estimated obviously does not mean that the project is less complete, but rather the opposite. So you see; this column is not a true reflection of the progress so far. Likewise if I were to increase the time it takes to do a task to 20 days each it would increase the ‘% complete’ column.

I'm going nuts here and can't find anything on the web to help. And please keep the jargon for a numpty like me :) 


Patrick Weaver
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The telling question to ask the person responsible for each activity is ‘How long do you need to finish this work?’

The answer is the information you need for managing forward. For more on this see - Managing for Success - The power of regular updates:

Christopher Amores
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You have to make a custom formula for the % complete you wish, in your case manhours. You won't be using anymore the Duration % Complete. Apply this formula in the custom field and add it as a column.

Hope this helps.



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Hoping not telling obviousness, it seems to me that your problem is the classical one in MSP: there is a difference from completion percentage and physical completion percentage (which is a simple number you must insert) .

In detail: completion percentage, as you have seen, is a "timely" completion percentage which is rolled up to the summary task only for time completed and moreover you have physycal  completion percentage which doesn't roll up to the summary task.

For example:

You have 2 tasks: 1st which is 5 days duration and 10 men assigned and the 2nd which is 10d duration and 1 man assigned, linked by a simple Finish to start.

Let's suppose you have finished just the 1st task so you will have this situation:

1st task: Duration:5d; Work Effort: (10*5) 50 ==> %complete 100%, Physical complete: 100%;

2st task: Duration:10d; Work Effort: (10*1) 10 ==> %complete 0%, Physical complete: 0%;


Then you will have a Summary task as: %complete 30% (5/15 days) even if really your wok effort completed is about the 50/60 man*day.

It is not necessarily wrong or not accurate, it could be the 1 man of the 2nd task is the only who can do that work so he will be the "neck of the bottle" for many reasons (material non available, time needing for trials...), only you can know that.

I don't know any trick to avoid the % summary completed effect as I described above, I'm sorry.

So try to reason in this way:

  • do you think you will end soon than stimated or not, regardless the physical advancement?
  • If you think so then it seems to me that you have to update your schedule with effective start and finish date, probably you will see  automatically when the schedule will probably end.

I know I could not solve your problem, just hope let you help to stop heading on the wall 

Anoon Iimos
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yes of course there are differences in calculating % progress;

if you want to use duration as your factor, then you have to tailor your plan to be adaptable to duration;

otherwise, you can either use resource units and/or cost;

or maybe your own weighting factor;

the software will never tell you what is the right weight factor to use;

you need to find it out yourself,

by the way, I've never seen yet if MSP calculates planned % progress (or based on what factor?).

James Morrison
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No, that doesn't work, i can't get anymore detailed than I have. I have more than 1000 lines. Unless I break it down into what they do every hour which isn't feasible.

I'll give you a simplified example of the problem:

It takes 10 men 10 days to perform the first task.

It takes 1 man 10 days to perform the second task.

The first task is 100% complete, the second task is 0%. The completion should be 91%, however MS Project says it is 50% (impossible) - it is just calculating from duration (10 days and 10 days) and not taking into account the hours it takes to do it.

Shareef Abdul Azeez
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There must be other pecentage complete types in MS Poject 2003. I have not used MSP as such can not be specific.

It looks you are using Duration percentage complete (OD-RD)/OD.

In P6 this situation can be handled by performace, units or physical pecentage complete.



Shareef A Azeez


Anoon Iimos
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that's what I'm trying to say,

if you are able to decompose your tasks into a daily duration, then you will get rid of longer duration for a single resource;

then I guess that you will get what you need.

James Morrison
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I have very detailed tasks and the majority are 100% complete. But I have several tasks lasting many days (for 1 man) which make the duration seem longer in total than the tasks that have been completed. Perhaps there is some settings that need to be altered?

Anoon Iimos
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I suggest you decompose your task (or activities) to as much details as you can;

the more you got details the more it will become accurate;

if you got details to the minute, then you can allocate your resources (or man-hours) accurately (or maybe nearly).