I am trying to understand how Microsoft Project 2007 manages the various date fields so that I can better track and assess my project status. Here's what I'm doing:
When we initiate a new project, I create a new Project Plan (.mpp file) and add the known tasks. I set the Work property for each based on the initial estimates then setup the predecessors and assign resources. None of the date values are actually set except the Project Start Date established when I created the file. Next, I set a baseline so that I can have a basis for comparison.
As the project progresses, the status of each task is updated by our Team Foundation Server. As such, the Actual Work is set based on the hours indicated by our developers for each task. The Actual Start and Actual Finish dates are also set by TFS.
In my view, I am displaying the "BaseLine Work", "Work" and "Actual Work" fields. Likewise, I show the "Baseline Start", "Start" and "Actual Start" as well as the "Baseline Finish", "Finish" and "Actual Finish" columns. My intent is derive a comparison between the initial estimated work, task start and finish dates versus the actual/current values. Using work as an example, I would expect to see the Work value change if we changed the estimated value. I could see that this is different when compared to the baseline to see how much it has changed from our original estimate. Then, I could use the Actual Work value to see how accurate our estimates were. However...
What I am seeing is that the Work column does what is expected until the Actual Work value exceeds it - at which point the Work value always increases to match the Actual Work.
Furthermore, when the Actual Work value increases beyond the original estimate, I would expect to see the Finish date move forward as well. But this brings up a question about percent complete because it looks like Project always uses a strict mathmatical equation for % complete and ignores the fact that Actual Finish is NA meaning the task isn't actually complete!
Finally, and what is really causing me heartburn, is that I would like the Start date of all tasks with no Actual Start date (i.e. = NA) to shift based on today's date. For example, if I had a task that was initially scheduled to start yesterday but no Actual Start value was set, then that task clearly hasn't been started yet so I'd like its Start date to change to today - thereby causing its Finish date to change and all successor's dates to change.
Am I asking for too much?
What I have now is a situation where my first task is still in-progress but it has passed the original start date of its successor. Because of the Finish-to-Start relationship, I would expect the second task to alter its Start date to the current Finish date of its predecessor. That is not happening so I have tasks that are setup to start after a previous tasks with start dates prior to their predecessor's end dates. I didn't think this was supposed to happen when you setup predecessors like this. Oh, and I have never explicitly set any of the dates - I want them all to be dynamic.
To that same end, if I have a task that is in-progress (no Actual Finish value), then the Finish date should slide to the current date rather than remain in the past. So in the same situation as above, if my task was originally scheduled to be completed yesterday but no Actual Finish was set, then the Finish value should be incremented to today. This would cause all successors to shift as well giving me a more accurate projection of the project timeline.
Help, help help!!!