I have a project plan for a project that we already started and I want the plan to reflect the schedule moving forward, say as of tomorrow. I have a handful of dependencies and resources assigned.

I want to make the start and end dates reflect/auto-schedule based on the remaining work column.

The current columns I have that may be confusing me here are:

  • Duration - appears to match work in hours but bubbles up to days on super tasks; may be redundant for me
  • Work - defined in hours, see above
  • Remaining Work - auto calculated into hours based on % complete column
  • % Complete - a % that I'm updating on many tasks. This is my main area where I keep updating it daily
  • Start - all tasks are set to auto-schedule and this seems to be tied to the resource and predecessor as well as either the Work column or Duration but I want to to be based on Remaining Work
  • Finish - all tasks are set to auto-schedule and this seems to be tied to the resource and predecessor as well as either the Work column or Duration but I want to to be based on Remaining Work

3 Answers 3


Duration is measured in days or weeks. It differs from work in that it includes time not associated with work. For example, the work to pour concrete might be four hours. The duration of the concrete would be a few days to allow it to dry and cure. There is no "work" during that time. Typically, it is best to set your work packages as "fixed duration".

Work is hours and is actual effort performed by the resource(s) assigned against the package.

Do not use % complete. It is meaningless. Use physical % complete and based it on tangible intermediate products. % complete is based on time and does nothing for you to assess the health of your schedule.

Start and Finish should be constraint free and established by the horizontal and vertical logic you have in your schedule. Do not hard code dates in the schedule but allow it create the start and finish date based on predecessor and successor logic. As you update physical % complete, and enter actual finish dates, your schedule will push or pull the downstream packages based on the variances your are accruing.

This said, there is a ton of technical knowledge you need to have to build and maintain a credible schedule. From your writing, it is clear you have a cursory knowledge of scheduling. You would do well to employ a trained scheduler as there are many nuances that cannot be covered here very well.

  • 1
    Where was this information when I was first beating my head against Project?
    – MCW
    Jun 18, 2013 at 14:56

It seems to me that you are looking for a way to reschedule your remaining work and find the new Finish date. MsProject has a way to do that. In version 2010, go to Project tab and then find Update Project button. You can reschedule uncomplete work to start on a specific date, for all or selected tasks. It will move the remaining effort to start on the selected date and you can see the actual estimated finish date.

Personally I don't like very much to update the % complete column. I prefer to use Actual Work and Remaining Work columns. Actual Work gives you the information of how many hours you really needed to do the task. You can update actual work with the effort you have done so far, and you can change remaining work to reflect the real status of your task. At the end of the project you will know exactly how many hours you have worked on each task, it will give you better information to estimate your next project.


Read "The Mythical Man-Month" sometime. Basically, project planning and management are very difficult since you trying to predict the future.

The further you plan into the future, the less accurate your estimates will be.

This is because software development is unique from other fields, since the products being created are rarely identical to what someone has created before. I've personally made 3 calendar systems, before Google Calendar came out, and each was radically different. A good starting point is to sit down with the dev team and do the following:

  • identify project stakeholders
  • gather a thorough list of requirements
  • prioritize requirements
  • figure out the rough system architecture (database schema, code layout, etc.)
  • assign a sub-system to each developer
  • have them mentally work through what they would need to to do build that piece
  • track all of the unknowns in each subsystem, possible road-blocks, external dependencies
  • setup milestones and release dates
  • have weekly, preferably daily, status update meetings
  • anticipate that the initial schedule WILL NOT be followed, and will often increase by 100%+, since unexpected bugs pop up, priorities change, scope changes, etc.

Focus on the high priority features first, so that as the deadline starts to close in, the less important features can be put off to version 2. Work hours spent will expand to fill the available time, since often developers and designers love to add new things and perfect other pieces. Conversely, a 1 lbs. steak cannot be cooked in 1 min. on HIGH, ie. some features will take a minimum amount of time to build regardless of how badly a manager or customer want them done.

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