When reviewing a Microsoft Project schedule, it is common to find many activities that have been split. For those who appreciate visuals, the split bar is represented by several dotted lines and not a fully rendered bar, making it confusing to review and interrogate a schedule. 

The split bar feature of MS Project represents an interruption to the work being performed. Typically, it is associated with performing work Out of Sequence.

Here we can note a typical scenario where task 4 shows as a dotted line rather than a 'filled' and fully rendered bar.

This can be quite confusing to people reading the schedule and in some cases can be misconstrued as an error.

 

 

 

 

This is in fact not an error but the consequence of how MS Project treats activities that are progressed out-of-sequence. To examine the problem, we must start by looking at the predecessors of Task 4. We can note that task 4 has two predecessors (tasks 2 and 3) both of which are Finish-to-Start in nature. However, if we examine the actual progress applied to task 4, we note that the Actual Start is less than the Finish date of it's predecessors, thereby breaking the intent of the original logic applied to it.

Microsoft Project has two fields that are not commonly known by most users. They are the Stop and Resume fields.

The Stop and Resume fields are used to 'interrupt' an activity, thus splitting it. In Primavera P6 terminology, a user would refer to these as the Suspend / Resume fields.

In this example, our actual progress has broken the intent of the logic previously applied. MS Project therefore assumes that we've commenced "some" of the work ahead of schedule, have stopped work and will resume the rest of the work as planned.

 

So knowing now that MS Project is making assumptions on our behalf, how do we rectify the program and show a neatly formatted schedule of work?

Within the Schedule Options, users can un-check the "Split in-progress tasks" option which actually will not prevent MS Project from automatically calculating the Stop & Resume dates. It will however prevent the display of those ugly dotted lines.

But simply doing this is considered poor planning practice because we are not adressing the root cause of the issue - incorrect logic.

Because we have progressed Task 4 ahead of schedule and broken the original logic, we also need to amend the relationships to reflect how the work is currently being performed. 

This then helps to ensure that the software will correctly model remaining work.

Note that in our example (left) we adjust the logic to bring the activity back to where it should be,

However we do not stop there! There is one more step!

Finally, we must amend the Actual and Remaining Duration values to ensure that the forecast Start date is correct. Also, by doing so, the progress line is correctly drawn up to the status date

 

 

 

 

 

It is crucial that progress is correctly entered into your schedules. If not done correctly, the repercussions could be drastic. Remember that the schedule is a modelling tool designed to forecast the remaining scope of work for your project. If the information is not accurate, the model can be near useless to your project team.

Many people argue that this is a time-consuming process and therefore the default functionality of Microsoft Project will suffice for their project needs. However, we offer the following counter arguement: spending a little time up front getting the schedule 'technically correct' can inevitably save millions of dollars in court fees disputing the delay claims caused by poor project scheduling of the work.

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