Understanding Calculation Options in Microsoft Project

//Understanding Calculation Options in Microsoft Project

Understanding Calculation Options in Microsoft Project

Background Information

In the realm of little-used features in Microsoft Project, there are a couple of Project Options settings worth noting. These are the calculation options found on the Advanced page of the Project Options dialog.

To view these options, click the File tab and then click the Options tab in the Backstage. In the Project Options dialog, click the Advanced tab. Scroll down to the bottom of the Advanced page and examine the first four options in the Calculation options for this project section of the page, such as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Options in the Calculation options section

Figure 1: Options in the Calculation options section

The four options I want to discuss in this article are:

  • Move end of completed parts after status date back to status date
  • And move start of remaining parts back to status date
  • Move start of remaining parts before status date forward to status date
  • And move end of completed parts forward to status date

By default, the second and fourth options are disabled. When you select the checkbox for the first option in each pair, Microsoft Project activates the second option of the pair so that you can select it, if desired. Before you can use any of these four options, there are a couple of requirements that you must meet:

  • You must stet the Status date for your project. Generally speaking, the Status date represents the last working day of last week’s reporting period. In many organizations, the Status date would be Friday of last week. To set the Status date, click the Project tab to display the Project ribbon. In the Status section of the Project ribbon, click the Status Date button. In the Status Date dialog, select the Status date for your project, such as shown in Figure 2, and then click the OK button.
Figure 2: Status Date dialog

Figure 2: Status Date dialog

  • You must enter task progress in one of the tracking columns found in the Tracking table. You can enter task progress in any of the following columns: % Complete, Actual Work, or Actual Duration. Though not displayed by default in the Tracking table, you can insert the % Work Complete column and enter task progress in this column as well. To view and use these columns, first apply any task view, such as the Gantt Chart view. Right-click on the Select All button (blank button in the upper left corner of the task sheet) and select the Tracking table on the shortcut menu. Figure 3 shows the columns in the default Tracking table.
Figure 3: Tracking table

Figure 3: Tracking table

After setting the Status date for your project, and before you begin entering task progress, you are now ready to select one or more of the options in the Calculation options for this project section of the Advanced page in the Project Options dialog.

Understanding and Using the Calculation Options

The first two options apply to a task in which the progress is ahead of schedule, as of the Status date for the project. For example, if a task is 75% complete, but the expected percent complete would be 50% as of the Status date, then the task is ahead of schedule. Figure 4 shows a task that is ahead of schedule. The red dashed line, by the way, is the Status date for the project. You can easily tell that this task is ahead of schedule because the Gantt bar’s dark blue progress line extends to the right of the Status date line.

Figure 4: Task progress ahead of schedule

Figure 4: Task progress ahead of schedule

The last two options apply to a task that is behind schedule, as of the Status date for the project. For example, if a task is 25% complete, but the expected percent complete would be 50% as of the Status date, then the task is behind schedule. Figure 5 shows a task that is behind schedule. You can easily tell that this task is behind schedule because the Gantt bar’s dark blue progress line does not extend to the Status date line.

Figure 5: Task progress behind schedule

Figure 5: Task progress behind schedule

You can use these four options to enforce two scheduling best practices, which are:

  • There shall be no actual progress in the future (to the right of the Status date).
  • There shall be no incomplete work in the past (to the left of the Status date).

In Figure 4 shown previously, the portion of the progress line that extends to the right of the Status date line is considered actual work in the future. In Figure 5 shown previously, the light blue Gantt bar portion between the end of the progress line and the Status date line represents incomplete work in the past.

To eliminate actual work in the future, select one or both of the first two options. Again, these options are:

  • Move end of completed parts after status date back to status date
  • And move start of remaining parts back to status date

Figure 6 shows the result when I selected only the first of these two options and then I entered a % Complete value of 75%. Notice that Microsoft Project moved the Gantt bar to the left so that the right edge of the progress line meets the Status date line. Notice also that the software created a task split and left the incomplete work scheduled in the future on its original dates.

Figure 6: Gantt bar moved to the left, creating a task split

Figure 6: Gantt bar moved to the left, creating a task split

Figure 7 shows the result when I also selected the second of these two options and then I entered a % Complete value of 75%. Notice that Microsoft Project moved the entire Gantt bar to the left so that the right edge of the progress line meets the Status date line and so that the incomplete work begins on the Status date.

Figure 7: Entire Gantt bar moved to the left

Figure 7: Entire Gantt bar moved to the left

The last two options apply to a task in which the progress is behind schedule so that there is incomplete work in the past. Another scheduling best practice states that here shall be no incomplete work in the past (to the left of the Status date). To eliminate incomplete work in the past, select one or both of the following options:

  • Move start of remaining parts before status date forward to status date
  • And move end of completed parts forward to status date

Figure 6 shows the result when I selected only the first of these two options and then I entered a % Complete value of 25%. Notice that Microsoft Project created a task split and rescheduled the incomplete work from the past to start on Monday, September 21 (to the right of the Status date line).

Figure 8: Incomplete work rescheduled after the Status date

Figure 8: Incomplete work rescheduled after the Status date

Figure 9 shows the result when I also selected the second of these two options and then I entered a % Complete value of 25%. Notice that Microsoft Project moved the entire Gantt bar to the right so that the right end of the progress line meets the Status date line.

Figure 9: Entire task moved to the right

Figure 9: Entire task moved to the right

If you re-examine Figure 6 through Figure 9, you will probably notice that Microsoft Project automatically adjusted the Start date and/or Finish date of the task, as needed. This is the consequence of selecting one or more of the options in the Calculation options for this project section of the Advanced page in the Project Options dialog. The benefit you gain from selecting these options is that your project schedule is now more accurate.

By |2021-04-06T15:44:08+00:00April 6th, 2021|Microsoft Project Tips|
Dale Howard, Microsoft Project MVP
Dale Howard is the Director of Education for PROJILITY. He has used Microsoft Project since version 4.0 for Windows 95 and he has used the Microsoft PPM tool since the first version of released as Project Central in the year 2000. He is the co-author of 23 books on Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He is currently one of only 26 Microsoft Project MVPs in the entire world and one of only 4 in the United States.

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