Binary approach

One big issues with people and tasks is the 95% done problem. The tasks that gets to 95% and seem to stay there week on week. Despite what you have in MS project, do not use % complete. Go binary. A task is either done or not done.

To use this approach, tasks need to be assigned to a single individual or team and are broken down into chunks that take no more than the reporting period. So, if you have a weekly status review, tasks should be no more than 1 week in length. At each review meeting, tasks can be reported as either done or not done. Simple.

Earned value approach

Here you define, for a given type of task, how you will allocate earned value depending on its status. An example is to allocate 25% when started, 50% when first draft issued, and 100% when signed off. Another may be 50% started 100% complete. You need to clearly define the rules for how you allocate percentage based on status for a given type of task (requirements, development etc.).

It is best to err on the pessimistic side, in that the larger jump in percentage is to the end (you want to go from 50 to 100 rather than 75 to 100) otherwise your earned value reporting may be too optimistic (you are not as advanced as reported).

Setting clear rules on allocated percentage avoids the 95% complete issue.

25 January 2009 (9)