Beginner Question on start & finish dates verses actual start and finish RRS feed

  • Question

  • I am new to MS Project and scheduling and really enjoy the benefits of the tool. I have many questions, but this one is primary right now.

    As I build my schedules I include start and finish dates, what I will call these the "planned" start and finish. I also include "actual" start and finish date columns. When I status my project and update with the "actual" start or "actual" finish it changes my planned start or finish. Why? Is there a way to stop it from doing this so one can see the planned vs actual and determine delays or the rare early start and finish? Do I need to do something in the setup to help me better track the "planned" Vs "actual" start and finish? Any suggestions?

    Thank you in advance for your help. 

    Friday, October 30, 2015 2:16 PM

All replies

  • Hi,

    This is indeed a commun concern while starting scheduling with Project. Indeed the actual dates will overwrite the standard dates (what you call "planned dates"). In order to compare the actual situation of your project versus what was initially planned, you need to create a baseline (you have up to 11 baselines). From the "project" tab, you can set a baseline, meaning that your dates, work, duration... Then you'll be able to compare your schedule with this reference/picture.

    Here is how to use the baselines. Note that you can select the entire project or some tasks. You can also update a baseline or clear it. Be also aware of the concepts of slack, critical path.. It is worth following a course or buying a book about scheduling with Project.

    Hope this helps,

    Guillaume Rouyre, MBA, MVP, MCC |

    Friday, October 30, 2015 2:33 PM
  • Tebbe,

    Yes, this is how MS Project Works, because it is a schedule modeling tool. If your actual start or finish are later or earlier than planned, you would want to see how that impacts your project finish, correct?

    If you want to retain your original start or finish dates, you need to set a baseline at the beginning of the project, once planning is done. Baseline dates remain static and do not change wutgh actuals.

    here is a tutorial on this:

    Here is an article:


    Prasanna Adavi, Project MVP

    Blog:   Podcast:    Twitter:    LinkedIn:   

    Friday, October 30, 2015 2:36 PM
  • Thank you very much for your prompt response. This does help.

    In your projects, when do you set the baseline? One would think that once you plan it, load all the details, achieve agreement with project team members then you set the baseline - the starting point. Does that make sense?

    Thanks again,

    Friday, October 30, 2015 8:34 PM
  • Thank you Mr. Adavi for your time and advise. I will review the video and link a little later today.
    Friday, October 30, 2015 8:36 PM
  • I would say that usually, you have a committed budget given by your executive board based on an early estimating phase and you schedule your project accordingly. Once done, you save your Baseline 0 which will be your reference. In case of any change request, either you use the others Baseline, or you copy to Baseline 0 into another one (1 to 10) and then you overwrite it.

    Hope this helps,

    Guillaume Rouyre, MBA, MVP, MCC |

    Friday, October 30, 2015 9:37 PM
  • I can add to Guillaume's suggestions that we usually use a method where we have one copy of baseline that is the initial plan and another one that we override in repeating periods.

    For example, if we have monthly/weekly meetings to review the changes in the plan. we can go over the schedule with the managers and others, then we can see where we have delays and once the plan is adjusted to the new state and we approve it, then we override the baseline (not the initial plan copy) and start tracking the progress vs. the new baseline over the next month.

    It helps to track the project's progress for smaller periods and not the whole plan, since a lot is being changed in the schedule, some delays can be because of tasks taking to long and delaying others, some can be because deliverable was not received on time or due to other management level decisions and changes.  

    Ofir Marco , MCTS P.Z. Projects

    Sunday, November 1, 2015 9:19 AM
  • Ofir Marco , MCTS P.Z. Projects;

    Thank you for the suggest of a saved baseline and updating in a new version. For clarification, when you do your comparison of the current progress vs the saved baseline - is this done manually line by line or is there an automated function within Project?

    Another somewhat related question; when you are relaying on information from your customer and they delay their response how do you track the costs for this? Perhaps I should mention too that while we are waiting for them often we do other tasks, but there are times when specific to the project we are at a standstill and I want to be able to show them what their delay has caused us in time, lost resources (re-assigned), costs, etc...

    Thank you again for your time and help on these questions.

    Monday, November 2, 2015 8:48 PM
  • You are welcome.

    I am using some automated customization, some are built in and some i implement using custom fields and Gantt formatting.

    For example:

    Of course the formula can compare either Scheduled finish (planned) vs. Baseline, Actual Vs. Baseline, Actual vs. Planned, etc.
    Whatever that fits your needs.

    I guess there are more ways to customize some solutions, depends on Your Project version.

    (You can use visual reports, or in 2013 you have other Project reports)

    Regarding the costs, i am not sure if there is one best practice, if you want to reflect the costs without having it affect your real schedule, you have a Baseline cost field that if you have added costs to resources will show the original planned costs for each assignment, when you delay the start of some tasks due to customer delays, you can see the diff on dates between Start and Finish date to BL Start and BL Finish dates, but if you have 10d duration task, and the baseline duration will remain 10 days and the baseline cost will remain the same.

    Task Name Duration Start Finish Baseline Duration Baseline Start Baseline Finish Cost Baseline Cost Resource Names
    Task 10 days 11/23/15 12/6/15 10 days 11/16/15 11/22/15 $4,000.00 $4,000.00 Res1

    I am not sure what do you want to reflect, but if you use Task usage view or Resource usage view, you can add cost and baseline cost to the right side and that way reflect the costs in each day/week that will start from Baseline cost until the end of regular Cost.

    I hope this can help, you can give me more details about what you want to show the customer and i can think further.

    $0.00 $0.00 $400.00 $400.00 $400.00 $400.00 $400.00 $0.00 $0.00 $400.00

    Ofir Marco , MCTS P.Z. Projects

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015 6:59 AM
  • Hi

    Further to the excellent advice you have already been given, there is a very good export to Excel funtion which alows you to use excel's more powerful and flexible facilities for reporting purposes

    In the example you have given it would be posible to export Planned and Baseline start and finish dates manipluate them as you see fit and then produce graphics, charts and stats from them as required.

    in 2013 and later Use  File > Export > Save Project as a file > Microsoft Excel Workbook

    in all versions (including 2013) you can also use File > Save As > File type = Excel Workbook, which does the same thing.

    You can use your existing tables and filters to determine what you get as output, and can save your choices to a "map" which means that you can re-use them and record (or write) a Macro to produce the download automatically

    That is the way that the reporting works on most of the major projects I have worked on (including from MSPs with tens of thousands of lines.)

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015 12:51 PM