You’re at the point where you are ready to track progress on your schedule. But what method do you use to measure activity and/or project progress? Primavera P6 has three different ways to track schedule progress. Let’s explore the best applications for each type.
Your percent complete type determines how schedule progress is measured in Primavera P6. As mentioned above, Primavera P6 has three percent complete types or ways to measure progress: Duration, Physical and Units. It is possible in Primavera P6 to assign a unique percent complete type to each activity; percent complete types are assigned at the activity level. What percent complete type you use depends on the nature of work the activity describes and/or your entire project.
This article defines and discusses the application of each percent complete type available in Primavera P6.
Duration Percent Complete
The Duration percent complete type in Primavera P6 requires the least amount of input. What is unique to this percent complete type is that it assumes that the percentage of worked achieved relates directly to the remaining duration – hence Duration % Complete. For example a 10-day duration activity that is (duration) 50% complete computes 5-days remaining duration. Great! All you need is your Duration % complete value and the remaining duration is automatically computed.
Because of its simplicity it would appear that the duration percent complete type would be most popular. However, one should be aware of a negative fact relating to Duration % compete type; it does not account for non-uniform production rates or learning curves. Yes, perhaps, the crew is projected to work at a faster pace for the second half of the activity progressed above, and their estimate to complete the activity is 2-days instead of 5-days.
There is no way in Primavera P6 to update the remaining duration without affecting the % complete value; they are linked. In other words, P6 assumes that if you’re 50% done, then there must only be five days of remaining duration. If there were less or more days and you adjust the remaining duration accordingly, you will change the percent complete.
Physical Percent Complete
Like its name implies, the Physical percent complete type is based on the work ‘physically’ achieved on an activity. This is a huge advantage over the Duration % complete type. Now you can account for non-uniform production rates. The Physical % complete value and remaining duration are not linked. Physical % complete does not compute a remaining duration when a % complete value is entered on an activity. This is, however, a double edged sword. On the one hand you can better describe the remaining physical work required on an activity, and on the other you have to input more data.
Applying the Physical % complete type to our example above, a 10-day long activity that is (physical) 50% complete will have 10-days remaining duration. Wait! That does not make sense; it should be 5-days remaining duration. No, remember! The Physical % complete value is not linked to the remaining duration. The remaining duration equals original duration until a remaining duration is manually input. Yes, in Physical % complete type you have to input the remaining duration or an expected calendar finish date. Physical % complete is, therefore, more laborious for data entry, but it frees up the estimator to describe the actual remaining physical work required to compete the activity.
Units Percent Complete
The Units % complete type drives activity % complete values based upon actual labor units entered. It is particularly helpful in describing work effort when an activity has both multiple resources assigned and differing burn rates among the resources. It is often used in combination with a timesheet software module, e.g. Primavera Progress Reporter or in P6 16.1, the timesheets in the Team Member application.
Units % complete type links work achieved (Units % complete value) and not remaining duration, but work achieved and remaining labor units. Like Physical % complete type it requires more manual input. In our example not only is duration specified (10-days), but 100-hours of planned work is expected. When 50-hours of planned work is complete Primavera P6 computes the activity is (units) 50% complete. The remaining duration, however, stays at 10-days. Similar to Physical % complete the Units % complete requires the manual input of either remaining duration or an expected calendar finish date.
Application of Percent Complete Types
Now that we are familiar with the differing % complete types, the question becomes which one to use for our particular activity and/or project?
The Primavera P6 help guide recommends using Duration % complete type when activities are duration driven, e.g. administrative work or training. Neither administrative work nor training directly produce a tangible product. Progress is not based on progress in the creation of a product, such as a wall construction, but on time spent. Progress of these activities, again, are duration driven. Though it is considered the simplest % complete type it is typically used for projects that are more esoteric, such as research projects, where progress is more difficult to define.
If it is possible to measure physical work achieved or remaining, as in the case of a wall construction, Physical % complete type is recommended. These activities are work-product driven, e.g. document creation. The Physical % complete type is particularly advantageous in construction where a ‘physical’ tangible object is the end goal.
Units % complete type is recommended for consulting work or other activities that are work-effort driven. Here the individual effort of resources on an activity is important to quantify. Again, this percent complete type is typically used in conjunction with a resource time reporting module. Time reporting software is important, otherwise, entering the actual a labor hours for multiple resources on numerous activities may quickly become a laborious data entry effort.
The Duration, Physical, or Units % compete types may be defined at the activity level. However, it is generally best to stay in one single “swim lane” or % complete type for the entire project. This results in less confusion or complexity when your schedule requires progress updates from multiple team members.
For research projects where progress is not always tangible and difficult to measure Duration % complete type is typically recommended. Duration % complete type projects also require the least amount of input. These projects are considered duration driven.
Though Physical % complete type necessitates more manual data input, it is the most accurate, as it measures work physically achieved. Construction projects, in particular, are well suited to a Physical % complete type. The ability to enter an anticipated calendar finish date also makes the Physical % complete type preferable.
I worked on one consulting project where team members or responsible managers were asked to report (physical) percent complete and an expected calendar finish date on all their activities. Responsible managers had to report not only on work progress, but also the future completion date of that work. Their focus was not only on their present situation or location, but also on their final destination. Physical % complete type projects are work product-driven. For these reasons, it’s common for the Physical % complete type to be used instead of Duration % complete type.
The Units % complete type computes remaining labor units from actual labor units on an activity. And Units % complete is linked to remaining labor units. Further, you enter either an activity remaining duration or an expected calendar finish date. So if your activity is constrained by both an original duration and a planned resource work effort, then Units % complete is most appropriate. Units % complete type projects are work effort-driven.
Again, percent complete type assignments are at the activity level. And though not an absolute, it is preferable, to try and stay in one’s “swim lane”. This helps for streamlining project activity updating procedures. At the project level, Percent complete types can be set to a default in both Primavera P6 Professional and P6 EPPM, which can help with keeping a consistent method throughout the development and change management of your schedule.