Though Microsoft Project makes monitoring and tracking the progress of your schedule easy, there are several steps to take before you can begin monitoring project progress. There are problems, and you should start looking for them now rather than later.

Monitoring your project can generally be broken down into reviewing and tracking project progress. Example One: The accidental project manager : You’ve created your schedule, everybody is busy working on the tasks that you’ve assigned them to, and you assume everything is going as planned. The longer you wait to find problems, the worse the problems get.

An interim plan is a set of current project data that you save after the project begins and that you can compare against the baseline to assess project progress.

An interim plan saves only two kinds of information: the current start dates and finish dates for tasks. If you need to keep records of extensive project data during the planning phase, it is a good idea to set multiple baselines instead of using interim plans.

For more information about permission settings, contact your server administrator.

A baseline is a group of nearly 20 primary reference points (in five categories: start dates, finish dates, durations, work, and cost estimates) that you can set to record the original project plan when that plan is completed and refined.

One way to do this is to require this step in the statement of work (or other contract documents) before bringing the vendor on-board. For example, an engineering team may decide that enhanced functionality would be better for a product without checking with the project manager to determine if the cost of the enhancements is warranted given the larger objectives of market conditions.

Create or update a baseline or interim plan so that later you can compare this information to your up-to-date schedule or baseline later in the project.

A Project MVP (Most Valued Professional) might be able to help.

Make sure that if you’re using contracted vendors to work on task in your project that they are reporting work on a weekly basis. If you’ve set a project baseline (which you should have if you’re a seasoned professional) and you’ve entering costs in your schedule, then earned value is what you need to monitor your schedule. It happens when the requirements of a project deliverable are not fully understood by all team members.

Because the baseline provides the reference points against which you compare actual project progress, the baseline should include your best estimates for task duration, start and finish dates, costs, and other project variables that you want to monitor.

The baseline may also represent a contractual obligation for the project.

Saving a baseline plan enables you to identify and solve discrepancies and plan more accurately for similar future projects.