I'm trying to understand the update function in MS Project 2010 and I hope you can help.

Let's say I have a road-project where I have divided a task in to several activities based on where the task is performed. To simplify my example I will call the task "Build Road". Here are the example activities:

enter image description here

Originally, all activities are planned to be built in sequence (top to bottom).

After production start we begin having production problems on different stretches. To try and keep the schedule we decide to start working on several fronts.

So as a planner in this project I start to follow up the production.

enter image description here

To keep track of project finish date and to help manage the project i choose to Update the project and move unfinished work to report date.

enter image description here

I keep doing this continuously in the project and after a while my schedule looks like this:

enter image description here

Now my questions:

  1. Is this a smart way to keep track of project progress? what are the risks? is there a better way?

  2. Where can I find the new startdates for the remaining work on the different partial activities? MS Project 2010 gives me the new end dates (and project finish date) but I cant't find the start dates for the different partials.

  3. What starts happening if I, mid-way, start to update the durations of some tasks because I have recalculated the project with new capacities? what do I have to keep in mind? For example to increase production to minimise delays.

I appreciate any input you can give on this! Thanks!

In this project there is not enough time to keep track of resources and work within MS Project so we are only working with durations (no resources or work in the .mpp).

(For those who know what flowline/line-of-balance is, this is an attempt to use flowline in an Gantt-environment when no flowline schedule application is avaliable.)

Best regards

2 Answers 2


This is an absolutely classic example of misuse of constraints- The problem is that you have scheduled tasks to appear in a fixed order, nose to tail, by chaining them together since that, presumably is the broad-brush way things are scheduled for this delivery. But in the real world downstream tasks are often started before previous tasks are completed. This fundamentally breaks the scheduling rules you have applied, i.e. only start a later task when the previous one is 100% complete. Trying to then force MS-P to somehow deliver a sensible schedule results in more and more bludgeoning of the plan to try and make it fit.

The short answer is: Don't constrain tasks unless there is a real technical dependency, let them float freely until the point a task actually starts and then fix its start date and start logging "Work Completed" against it. Let MS-P resolve resource allocations using levelling, which will keep the end date realistic based on the work remaining in the project, and instead of using Percentage Complete, use Work, Work Completed and Work Remaining to manage effort on the tasks as the situation changes.

This is a long subject that I have previously documented for the benefit of my colleagues and others in this document: http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/practical-project-management-and-tracking-using-microsoft-project.html - Please feel free to use it at your leisure if it works for you. It is a bit out of date on some aspects of MS-P since they changed the working time screens in 2010 and I haven't got around to updating it, but the sections on predecessors and constraints, plus tracking and monitoring against a plan are very relevant to your question. Good luck!

  • There is nothing else I would rather do than plan with work and resource based activities in which duration is calculated and resources are leveled. Unfortunately that is not possible in this case. I've been forced to make a compromise in which I am using only duration for the schedule. Thus leveling resources will not be possible at this time.
    – Pargus
    Jan 12, 2014 at 12:22
  • And if I had the possibility I would also use location based scheduling with line of balance/flowline to make sure that activities do not inhabit the same geographical space at the same time or lie too close to eachother.
    – Pargus
    Jan 12, 2014 at 12:23
  • In construction it is important to create a buffer in time as well as in geographical space. This is the actual reason why I'm testing out the constraints as shown above. I too, have been taught to use finish-to-start constraints only when the subsequent activity cannot start until the previous is completed. And I have experienced the incorrect use of constraints aswell. A reminder is always good though :)
    – Pargus
    Jan 12, 2014 at 12:24
  • Thank you for the document. I have only started reading it but from what I've gathered so far you explain the process really well. It will be valuable both for myself and for some of my colleagues. I think most of us will be able to figure out the differences between MS-P 2003 and 2010. Thank you! [Sorry for the quadruple post but there are restrictions keeping me from posting the whole thing]
    – Pargus
    Jan 12, 2014 at 12:25
  • Thanks Marvey, I found your guide very useful and well made. Still relevant after almost 5 years.
    – vinaut
    Nov 18, 2014 at 10:30

To add to Marv's comments:

Use the Tracking table to record the Actual Start date of the task. If it has started before its predecessor, remove the link before tracking progress. This will allow the work to start on the Actual Start date as required. If you are not using Resources, you cannot use Work Complete, only Actual and Remaining duration. The Tracking table nicely shows those fields.

The start date for the remaining work (after the split) can be viewed by adding the Resume field to a task view

  • I will look further into the tracking-table and actual/remining duration. Thank you. Is it possible to show intermittent work similarly to the last picture in my original question? I would like to find a way to show that work is done intermittently on different parts of the project, instead of just stretching the activities.
    – Pargus
    Jan 12, 2014 at 12:28
  • You can record actual work in the Task Usage or Resource usage view to show when work actually happened. Record 0 actual work on days when the resource didn't work on that task.
    – JulieS
    Jan 30, 2014 at 19:14

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