Understanding Schedule Statusing

  • Are you on schedule?
  • How do you know?
  • What are you doing about it?

These three questions are the essence of schedule analysis, and their recurring inquiry begins with statusing. Schedule statusing identifies what has been accomplished in the past week, so that actual progress can be compared against what was planned to complete.

Figure 1: Schedule Analysis’s statusing vertex.

Identifying material schedule slip, analyzing the consequences of a delay, and recovering the project schedule baseline are essential schedule management functions that will be covered elsewhere. This article will overview the basics components of useful status updates, some common schedule statusing methods, and how schedules are updated after they have been statused. 

GAO Schedule Assessment Guide, December 2015. (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-89G)

Basic Components

Statusing a project schedule has the following general steps: 

  • Solicit statuses from relevant team members
  • Add status results to the project schedule
  • Update the project schedule
  • Identify variances against planned progress and their impacts

A status update does not require much information. Every task that has been worked on should be updated with either the change in percent complete, or number of hours worked and, as needed, the remaining hours required to complete the task. Recording date or duration changes are usually not necessary. Most date changes are identified after the project schedule has been statused and incomplete work has been identified. Statusing the schedule can be done through meetings, weekly status sheets (i.e. time cards) or any other communication mechanism that suits the project’s needs. 

Figure 2: A time sheet with schedule statuses for four tasks. It can be assumed that the two tasks with no data recorded were not worked on.

A schedule status consists predominantly of progress reported in terms of hours worked, or change in percent complete for each task. Occasionally, date changes may be reported. However, it is more common to record progress made before determining how that progress, or lack of progress, effects finish dates and expected resource loads. 

Schedule Statusing Methods

Any schedule statusing method is effective if the process is straight forward, minimizes the schedule managers’ and team members’ effort, and returns reliable estimates of progress completed. Depending on the size and complexity of a project, status updates can be taken in a variety of ways. The key to successful schedule statusing over the life of the project is a consistent and repeatable process. Figure 3 lists four common statusing mechanisms with some of their advantages and disadvantages. 

Figure 3: Schedule statusing mechanisms.

A strategy for regular schedule statusing should be identified before the start of a project or program. Factors to consider when choosing a schedule statusing strategy include the complexity if the project, the number of team members expected to provide status updates and the regularity with which status updates will be required. 

In general, statusing methods that are simpler for team members to complete will result in more reliable and more accurate results. 

Updating After Statusing

Once schedule statuses have been provided, the schedule manager identifies whether work is progressing ahead of schedule or behind schedule. There are several techniques for updating a project schedule, however all mechanisms chart progress in one of two fundamental ways, as depicted in Figure 4. The first approach, tracking progress variance, compares how far ahead or behind tasks are relative to the baseline. The second approach sweeps all incomplete work from the status week (or current week), into the week ahead, pushing task finish dates and their dependencies to the right. Regardless of schedule updating approach, the statused project will identify what work is not progressing as planned. Those tasks and activities will be reviewed to determine the impact of any progress and schedule variances, and identify recovery plans.

Figure 4: Recognizing schedule variance by identifying progress gained or lost (A) versus tracking slipping finish dates (B).

For example, Figure 5 shows a project schedule that is tracking progress variance to identify tasks behind schedule. The Develop User Interface task was expected to complete on 4/12. However as of the 4/15 Status Date, this task is not complete, and therefore behind. Later analysis would determine that Develop User Interfaceis not a driving task which (for now) does not affect the critical path.  

Figure 5: The status date for the above activity is 4/15, however Develop User Interface is not yet complete. This indicates a progress variance.

Next Steps

This article has covered the basic objectives and mechanics of schedule statusing. Understanding clearly where the schedule stands today is first step in predicting future progress and impacts to the schedule. Schedule Statusing Principles discusses the characteristic traits of an effective schedule statusing mechanism, and how to distinguish between credible and immaterial status updates. Schedule Statusing Techniques will cover specific tools and steps for effective schedule statusing.