Project Management

Identify late tasks with this custom Microsoft Project filter

If Microsoft Project's built-in filters don't meet your needs for identifying incomplete, late, or slipped tasks, try this custom Behind Schedule filter.

When managing a project schedule of even a moderate size, it's valuable to be able to quickly identify late tasks without scrolling through a large hierarchy of tasks. In Microsoft Project, you can identify incomplete, late, or slipped tasks by using one of these options:

  • Tracking Gantt view
  • Incomplete Tasks filter
  • Late Tasks Assigned to Resource filter
  • Slipped/Late Progress filter

These built-in filters are nice, but I usually need to filter on a different set of criteria to view the data I like to see. So I decided to create a custom filter in Microsoft Project that would identify late tasks.

Rethinking my first approach

My original approach was to identify a late task by filtering on the % Complete field, the Baseline Finish, date, and the Resource name column. I followed these steps:

1. Select the Tracking Gantt View using the Entry Table.

2. Insert Baseline Start and Baseline Finish.

3. Confirm the % Complete column is in the view.

4. Filter on the % Complete column (Figure A). Figure A

% Complete filter
5. Filter on the Baseline Finish date where the Baseline Finish Is Less Than Or Equal To a given status date (Figure B). Figure B

Baseline Finish filter
The resulting schedule identifies all the tasks that haven't finished and can be filtered by resource (Figure C). Figure C

Late tasks using Auto Filter (Click the image to enlarge.)

This approach worked to generate a list of late tasks for project status reviews; however, once I switched views or needed additional information, I had to remove the filter and then rebuild it a few minutes later. This process quickly became tiresome to simply view late tasks. The need for a quick and reusable filter to identify tasks that were behind schedule led me to create a custom filter that I named Behind Schedule.

Creating the Behind Schedule filter

You can create your own custom Behind Schedule filter by following these steps:

1. Select Project | Filter For | More Filters and click New.

2. Enter "Behind Schedule" in the Name field.

3. Click the first row in the Field Name and select the Baseline Finish field.

4. Enter "is less than or equal to" as the test condition.

5. Enter "Status Date:"? into the Value field (Figure D). (It is important to enter the question mark after the quote value, as this represents a parameter. The text entered between the quotation marks is the actual text that will appear in the dialogue box.) Figure D

Behind Schedule filter

6. Click the second row and select the % Complete field.

7. Select the "does not equal" Test condition and enter 100% as the value in the Value column.

8. Click the OK button (Figure E). Figure E

Building a custom filter

Using the Behind Schedule filter

To use the filter, click the Behind Schedule filter in the Formatting toolbar and select the Project Status date. The filter will identify any incomplete tasks based on a selected date (Figure F). Figure F

Late tasks using the Behind Schedule filter (Click the image to enlarge.)

To clear the filter, click the All Tasks in the Filter combo box, and all the project tasks will display.

Three key points about using the filter

1: Remember to baseline.

In order for the filter to work, you need to baseline (gasp) the project schedule. If project teams are hesitant to baseline the entire schedule, you should apply a rolling planning approach and baseline the tasks for the next phase or major milestone.

2: Look at Slipping Tasks.

The Behind Schedule filter identifies only tasks that are incomplete and have exceeded the baseline finish date. I encourage you to also look at the Slipping Tasks and Slipped Tasks\Late Progress to identify tasks with impacted start dates.

3: Add the filter to your Global.mpt file for future projects. The Behind Schedule filter that you created is a local filter that is available only in the current .mpp file. If you want this filter to be available for all your projects, you need to add the filter to your Global.mpt file, which contains all the custom objects for your Microsoft Project files. To add a custom filter to your Global.mpt file, select Tools | Organizer | Filters, select the Behind Schedule filter, and click the Copy button (Figure G). Figure G

Adding the Behind Schedule filter to Global.mpt

Conclusion

You can create additional filters based on your criteria by following the steps outlined in this tutorial. If you have trouble building the filter or if you just want to add the Behind Schedule filter to your project, you can download this sample .mpp file with the filter from my Tactical Project Management site.

Do you have a specific filter or Microsoft Project customization that you frequently use? If so, tell us about it in the discussion.

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About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

1 comments
emily01
emily01

Hey Andrew, this was really helpful, have created the Behind schedule filter as mentioned above. It works pretty well.. and yeah, it makes project tracking much easier. You have just shown how project scheduling software should be used in efficient manner. By the way i'd like to share that, one can find MS project tips and tricks and many other PM training videos online at http://www.microsoft.com/project/en/us/train-learn.aspx Thanks again for the informative post.