Explore project tracking options and methods

Applies to
Microsoft Office Project 2003

If you use Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003 and you plan to track progress on tasks, you have two options for incorporating that progress in your project. You can enter actual information (actual: Information that shows what has actually occurred. For example, the actual start date for a task is the day that the task actually started.) manually, or you can use Microsoft Office Project Server 2003 to obtain actual information from team members that you then incorporate into your project. Because Microsoft Office Project Standard 2003 doesn't have the collaboration features of Project Professional 2003, you can only track progress on tasks manually.

There are also several tracking methods you can choose from. This article can help you determine the best solution for tracking your project.

What option should I use to track progress?

At what level of detail should I track?

What tracking methods can I use?

What's the best method for tracking my project?

Can tracking be integrated with Microsoft Outlook?

What option should I use to track progress?

When you use Project Professional 2003, you can determine how you are going to track progress for your project by considering the following:

  • The size of your project    If your project has more than 25 to 30 tasks, you may want to use Project Server 2003 and Microsoft Office Project Web Access 2003 to help you track progress. If your project is small and consists of only a dozen or so tasks, you can probably track progress manually with ease.
  • The features you include    If you track tasks that are assigned to resources (resources: The people, equipment, and material that are used to complete tasks in a project.), and especially if you also track costs, you can benefit from using Project Server and Project Web Access 2003 to request and receive progress reports from the resources assigned to the tasks. If you don't assign resources to the tasks in your project, you must track progress manually.

Regardless of the tracking option you choose, you can control what information is updated in your project. Using Project Server, you can easily accept or reject the updates you receive from team members, and incorporate them into your project. Updating a project by using Project Server is generally less time-consuming than updating manually.

Project Standard 2003 does not provide collaboration with Project Server, so your only option is manual tracking. To track manually, you must enter progress directly in your project.

At what level of detail should I track?

Typically, the needs of the project determine the level of detail at which you need to track progress. You can track progress at the following levels:

What tracking methods can I use?

Depending on the details you decide to track, you can use one of the following tracking methods:

  • Task-total method    Use this method to track total task durations, work, or costs up to the current date or status date. In Project, use the Task Sheet view with the Tracking table displayed. To display the Tracking table, point to Table on the View menu, and then click Tracking.
  • Task-timephased method    Use this method to track task work or costs per time period. In Project, use the Task Usage view with the Actual Work details attached. To display actual work details, right-click the timephased portion of the Task Usage view, and then click Actual Work.
  • Assignment-total method    Use this method to track the total work or costs per resource assignment up to the current date. In Project, use the Task Usage view with the Tracking table displayed.
  • Assignment-timephased method    Use this method to track each resource assignment's work or costs per time period. In Project, use the Task Usage view with the Actual Work details attached.

What's the best method for tracking my project?

The following table might be helpful for you to decide which tracking method you should use. After you select a tracking method, it's strongly recommended that you use only that method for the rest of the project.

If you... And use... And your level of detail for tracking is... Use this tracking method:
Assign resources to tasks Project Server Low Assignment-total
Assign resources to tasks Project Server High Assignment-timephased
Assign resources to tasks Manual updates Low Task-total
Assign resources to tasks Manual updates High Task-timephased
Don't assign resources to tasks Manual updates Low Task-total or task-timephased
Don't assign resources to tasks Manual updates High Assignment-total or assignment-timephased

Can tracking be integrated with Microsoft Outlook?

When you use Project Server to collaborate with your team, your team members typically use Project Web Access to view and work with project data that you publish to Project Server, such as their task assignments. However, if your team members have Microsoft Outlook installed, they may prefer to work with their project tasks in Outlook instead, where they already keep track of other tasks and appointments.

From Project Web Access, team members can download and install the add-in for Outlook, after which they can view and report on their Project tasks in the Outlook calendar, as well as in Project Web Access.

After installing the add-in, the Outlook calendar displays the Project Web Access toolbar, and Project Web Access commands will be available on the Tools menu in Outlook. With these integration tools, team members can import Project task assignments from their timesheet in Project Web Access and display those assignments in their Outlook calendar, alongside their existing appointments. They can also enter the progress on their task assignments directly in Outlook and send you updated information via Project Web Access.