Using Physical Percent Complete with Microsoft Project

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Microsoft Project


A properly updated Microsoft Project schedule should have:

  • The Status Date is set on the date that progress was measured,
  • All Actual Durations are in the past and
  • All Remaining Durations are in the future,

When updating a Microsoft Project schedule users quickly find the % Complete field is linked with the Duration, Actual Duration and Remaining Duration. Then when a user edits the % Complete to represent actual progress this will either put Actual Durations in the future or Remaining Durations in the past, which are both illogical.

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To enter a progress with a value that is different to the % Complete value, to represent progress that is different to the Duration % Complete then the user may use the Physical % Complete field. This will allow them to update a schedule in a similar way to updating a P6 schedule when all activities are marked with a Percent Complete Type of Physical %.

To ensure the Physical % Complete field will be displayed correctly the user must make two changes in all Gantt Chart Views:

  • The Progress bar should be made thick at the top and the colour changed, to say to green and moved to below the Critical bar, it must not be full height otherwise the Baseline bar will be hidden:

MSP Using Physical Percent Complete

  • Add a Physical % Complete bar at the bottom of all the bars, say as a thin yellow bar:
    MSP Using Physical Percent Complete

Then updating the schedule you must use a process similar to the process below:

  • Collect accurate and complete status information relative to the Status Date.
  • Apply a suitable layout and table such as the Tracking
  • Set the Baseline by selecting Project, Schedule group, Set Baseline, Set Baseline….
  • Display the Baseline bars by selecting Gantt Chart Format, Bar Styles group and selecting Baseline.
  • Display the Variance columns; the Finish Variance is always a popular column to display.
  • Display the Status Date Gridline and hide the Current Date gridlines by selecting Gant Chart Format, Format group, Gridlines, Gridlines….
  • Set the Status Date in the Project Information form to the date that progress data has been collected on.
  • Now enter the task status for each task one at a time by entering the information in the appropriate column.
  • The order in which the data entry take place is important as different results will be obtained when data is entered in a different order:
  • Complete tasks should have the Actual Start and then the Actual Finish dates adjusted, in this order, to the date that the task actually started and actually finished. If you adjust the Finish date first, then the Start date, you will have to readjust the Finish date again. They should be in the past in relation to the Status Date.
  • Completed Milestones will be changed to a Task if an Actual Finish date is entered, so only enter an Actual Start and 100% when a Milestone is complete,
  • In-progress tasks should have the Actual Start entered first, then there are two options for updating the task durations:
    • The task bar may be dragged or Duration adjusted so the Finish date is where it is estimated to finish and the Actual Duration may be adjusted manually or using the Mark on Track
    • When you have been provided with tasks’ Remaining Durations or Expected finish dates. The Actual Duration should be entered so that progress is up to the Status Date and then the Remaining Duration may then be entered and the Actual Duration will not change.
    • The Physical % Complete is then entered but DO NOT enter a % Complete value.
  • Un-started tasks should be in the future and have their logic and durations revised.
  • Add new tasks to reflect scope changes or adding further detail to the schedule.
  • Save the project with a new file name and save for future reference.

I suggest that you consider using the Eastwood Harris Microsoft Project 2021, 2019, 2016 and 2013 Physical % Complete Template that may be downloaded from and selecting the Software and Downloads menu item.

An update schedule with this template would look like this:

MSP Using Physical Percent Complete

  • The Status Date is represented by the solid black vertical line,
  • The Baseline bar is the grey bar,
  • The Actual bar is represented by the edited % Complete bar is the green bar that ends at the Status Date and
  • The Physical % Complete is the yellow bar,

Eastwood Harris Resources

Accelerate your understanding of scheduling software to advance your scheduling career and be able to prepare better schedules with Eastwood Harris books, training courses and online videos on the following software packages:

  • Microsoft Project,
  • Oracle Primavera P6 and
  • Elecosoft (Asta) Powerproject

Online video training is available through Udemy through following these links:

Please follow these links:

  • Eastwood Harris books and training materials are available here
  • Eastwood Harris inhouse, one-to-one and public training courses are offered through Primaskills Pty Ltd, more details here>>>>.
  • Resources for Oracle Primavera P6 users such as third party software that works with P6 and technical papers on Primavera P6 at

Paul E Harris
Director Eastwood Harris Pty Ltd
17 October 2023