Managing tasks
Task percent complete does not translate into hours consumed most of the time.

Task and Project percent complete can be very subjective and rarely provide an accurate picture of how much work is actually remaining if you ask the question “what percent complete is this task”?  It’s like asking my teenager “how much homework do you have left”? 

Take the case where I am assigned a project task that has an estimate of 20 hours effort and 4 days long in duration. I have already posted 16 hours and when asked; how far along am I (aka % complete)? I think of it in a way of how much effort have I consumed vs how many hours do I have left to complete the task? This is how one comes up with their interpretation of percent complete.  If I answered the question as 50% complete then in my mind I actually have another 16 hours remaining. In this case, the task should be estimated to take 32 hours, not 20. However, the system calculates it at 10 hours remaining (20hr x 50% = 10 hours remaining). Let’s face it. This method does not take into account the reality of actual effort remaining.

If you want to get a more realistic estimate to effort remaining in order to calculate the most accurate percent complete then every time your resource updates a project task ask them one simple question. How many hours are remaining? When you add this answer to the actual hours already posted you will get a very accurate percent complete calculation that you can rely on. More importantly, you also get an accurate revised total effort required.% complete formula: [(hour remaining) ÷ (hours remaining + hours recorded)] x 100 = % effort remaining.

Example: In this case, the resource indicated they had 24 hours remaining on a task and they had already posted 16 hours to the task that was originally estimated by the project manager to take 20 hrs.  Formula: [(24hrs) ÷ (24hrs+16hrs)] x 100 = 60% effort remaining or 40% complete. This calculation tells me you have 60% effort remaining on the task and it is running 20 hours over budget hours. Therefore new estimated for the total effort is 40hrs. 

When rolling up these calculations across the entire project, you should be able to understand how you are tracking to time budget. But don’t be fooled by timeline completion dates. Due to task slack, you will not be able to accurately predict calendar completion dates solely relying on this calculation. This topic will be discussed on my next blog.

Project Manager Takeaway

  1. Ask your project resources hour many hours are left to complete the tasks and calculate the % complete versus asking “what % complete are you”?
  2. Ask your teenager ”what material have you not reviewed for the test tomorrow” versus are you ready for your exam?