So you’ve finished creating the project schedule, congratulations! You’re done and don’t ever have to look at it again, right? Wrong!

(At the end of this article you’ll see how to register for a free webinar on this topic later in May!)

Your project schedule is a constantly changing document. Changes occur all the time throughout the duration of a project. Tasks are added, removed, and reordered. They finish and start earlier and later. The resource assignments change. Issues happen.. And our schedules need to reflect that.

The project baseline is the starting point – this is where your original plan and intentions are stored. Think of this as “this is what we planned to do.” After that, when the project has started and is in execution, changes to the project schedule need to be made. Think of this as “this is what we actually did.” The value of capturing the actual information is in the variance analysis. Now you can show the variance in your original plan from what actually occurred. Also, when a schedule is updated with actual information, MS Project automatically adjust the future start and finish dates of all linked tasks. This ensures your resources always have the most up to date task information.

There are two ways to keep the project schedule updated, the project manager can manually enter to the actuals or the resources can.

  • MS Project only: If you are using MS Project as a standalone installation (without Project Online) you’ll have to enter the actuals manually.  The best way to do this is to gather the actual information from your resources, using a variety of methods including one-on-one conversations and emails, or team status meetings. Once the actual information is gathered, the PM then enters that information into the project schedule.

  • Project Online/Project Server: If you are using Project Online or Project Server, resources can enter their actual information in the Tasks view. These updates are then submitted to the Project Manager for approval. If the PM approves the updates, the changes are automatically incorporated into the project schedule. If rejected, the schedule is not updated and notification of the rejection is sent to the resource.

Once your schedule is up to date, you’ll have great reports and view to show your variance information. One of my favorites is the Tracking Gantt. It shows the baseline and actual data in an easy to view Gantt Chart layout as shown below:

If you’re interested in learning more about keeping your schedule updated and analyzing the variance reports, please join us for the next PM Webinar on May 21st. We’ll take a deeper dive into each of the update methods and explore some of the views and report available.

  • When:  Thursday, May 21st from 2-2:30pm (Eastern)
  • Where:  Online
  • It’s free!
  • Click here to RSVP

(attend one of our webinars and you might win a copy of Windows 8.1 from our friends at Microsoft)