Scheduling Series Blog No. 10 – How to Update Progress with a Microsoft Project Schedule


A major benefit of schedule software over spreadsheet techniques is the update function. This is the only way you can find out whether you are ahead and behind schedule. It also allows determination of Earned Value, which is knowing your cost and schedule performance anytime in a project.

There are two reasons to read this. One is to use the procedures for guidance. The other is to assess whether you want your firm to embark upon self-performing Microsoft Project schedules. Employees come and go; the one who you rely upon for their scheduling competence may be the one who leaves.

The extensive nature of these procedures is why I think project managers give up on scheduling software from leading suppliers. Unfamiliarity with proper procedure and practice produces wrong dates.

Here are recommended update procedures for Microsoft Project 2013. Other versions will be similar.

updating microsoft project

You can do it, if you are willing to dedicate resources.


1. Set the baseline if not done so already: Project > Set Baseline (icon) > Set Baseline > For Entire Project; Roll up baselines to all summary tasks. Don’t do this a second time.

2. Save, then save as a new file with “Update [date] in the name. Why? Updating cannot be undone!

3. Go to View > Filter and select [no filter].

4. All your activities need to be setup to schedule automatically. This property is controlled by Task > Information > General. It can be set to a default in File > Options > Schedule > Scheduling Options for this project.

5. Set File > Options > Advanced > Calculation options for this project, as follows. Check “Move start of remaining parts before status date forward to status date.” Check “Edits to total task % complete will be spread to the status date.”

6. Microsoft Project has two percent complete fields. “% Comp” is Work percent complete. This is the field that should be used for updating. “% Complete” is a different animal.

Update Procedure

1. When you gather status data from resources, ask them to state it on a Status Date that you specify. For monthly updating, choose the last day of the month or the first of the month as your status date preference.

2. Go to View > Filter and select [no filter].

3. Insert the Finish Variance column. Note the value for task 1.

4. Set the Status Date in Project > Status Date:

5. Set Filter to Incomplete Tasks – All. Find this filter in View > Filter: . This restricts viewing to incomplete tasks.

6. Go to Task menu. Enter Actual Start, Percent Complete or Actual Finish dates. Activities that started and finished on the planned dates can be updated by simply clicking the 100% icon.

7. Check the behavior of the Gantt bar. Then check whether the Work value has changed. MS Project can sometimes update in unexpected ways. Updating and fixing unwanted behavior is in the realm of good practices. These can’t be put into a procedure. (That’s why I offer an updating service).

8. Update the schedule by clicking Project > Update Project > Reschedule uncompleted work to start after: (the status date) for: Entire project.

9. If you had filled in work values for resources, go to Resource > Level All. Handle any error messages that arise. Caution: Resource Leveling may schedule activities way too early when they don’t have predecessors. You should also check resource loading for each resource in View > Resource Usage. Right click on the lower left-hand word written sideways, and select Resource Graph. Click in the graph pane and right click on Peak Units or Work. Now, click on each Resource Name in the upper pane. Their work or peak levels will show in the graph.

10. When done updating, scroll through all activities and check for two things. Check that all progress happens before the status date. (You can’t have actual performance in the future). Check for activities that hadn’t started before the status update. Have they not really begun?

11. Go to View > Filter and select [no filter].

12. Note the Finish Variance. Compare it to the one gotten in step 3. This tells you if you are getting behind or ahead of schedule.

13. Save your file. For the next update do a Save As to a new file.



Realize that just being smart isn’t enough to master Microsoft Project? Do you want to be aware of all these procedures or do you want to do the smart thing and farm your scheduling work out? As my previous blogs illustrate, I hope, is that I have a lot of experience at this. Formally being an engineer, an industrial project manager, being certified in Microsoft Project, and having a Masters in Technical Management are credentials that few possess. You’ll get great results from me. Contact me at .

I am offering free assessments of your Microsoft Project Schedules for the month of November. Read my critique of your schedule and then decide. There’s no risk to you; only upside benefit.

Now, my Program Leader software is infinitely easier to update. It will tell you when your data doesn’t support accurate reporting, unlike Microsoft Project. The next blog will compare the two softwares.

program leader gantt