One challenge in reviewing project schedules on a weekly basis is quickly identifying late tasks. In previous tutorials, I showed how to build the Behind Schedule filter and how to use the Slipping Tasks filter. Here’s another approach to identifying late tasks: using a graphical indicator. This is a useful way to review all the project tasks in one view and use a graphical indicator to show if a task is on or behind schedule. (This tutorial is specific to Microsoft Project 2007.)

Late Indicator

The Late Indicator (Figure A) is based on a simple calculation that looks at all incomplete tasks and compares the Baseline Finish Date to the Project Status Date. Like the Behind Schedule filter, the tool compares the project baseline against the weekly project status date. Note: If you don’t manage the project schedule using a Baseline Plan, this graphical indicator will not work. (If you don’t use a Baseline Plan to manage your projects, I hope this tutorial inspires you to do so.)
Figure A

Late Indicator (Click the image to enlarge.)

Once a project baseline is set and you record your weekly project status date in Microsoft Project, the graphical indicator will quickly identify all the late tasks in your schedule as well as the tasks that are not behind schedule.

To build the Late Indicator, follow these steps:

1. Select Tools | Customize | Fields.

2. In the Type combo box, select the Number value.

3. Select an unused Number field (i.e., Number1, Number2, Number3).

4. Click the Rename button.

5. Enter Late Indicator in the Rename Field (Figure B).
Figure B

Rename Field

6. Click the Formula button.

7. Enter this formula:

IIf([% Complete]<>100,DateDiff(“d”,[Baseline Finish],[Status Date]))

The formula (Figure C) examines all incomplete tasks and compares the Baseline Finish Date to the Project Status Date field. If a task is incomplete, the difference between the two dates will be reported.
Figure C

Late Indicator Formula

8. Click OK.

9. In the Values to Display section, click the Graphical Indicators radio button.

10. Enter the following tests, values, and images from the drop-down boxes (Figure D).
Figure D

Graphical Indicators

11. Click OK twice.

At this point, a custom field has been modified with a formula that displays a graphical indicator. The next step is to insert the Number field into your Gantt Chart view and set the Project Status date. In my example, I modified the Number2 field and, to add it to my current view, I selected Insert | Column and selected the Number2 (Late Indicator) field from the Field Name drop-down menu. The last step is to update the project status date.

12. Select Project | Project Information (Figure E).

13. Select the Project Status date from the drop-down calendar.

Figure E

Project Information

Once the Status Date is set, the graphical indicator will “light up” and identify the late tasks with the red bulb indicator. Remember that you’ll need to update your project progress weekly and change the status date accordingly. As the project progresses, the indicators will change. When a task is completed, the indicator will disappear as the indicator looks only at incomplete tasks.


Microsoft Project can present an overwhelming amount of data with its different views and underlying data tables. I find it useful to include graphical indicators in a project schedule so anyone viewing it can quickly determine if there are tasks running behind schedule. It can also be used in your status reporting by applying the Milestones filter.

Go ahead and experiment with the different formulas and graphical indicators available in Microsoft Project. In a future tutorial, I’ll share a few more useful formulas and graphical indicators that help improve status reporting.

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