How to manage support work in a set time frame in Project 2013
It is not always possible to plan for and estimate every task in a portfolio or program of projects. Unplanned activities that add up during execution can be meetings, smaller logistical actions, general maintenance, general support and other miscellaneous activities. Depending on the estimated work of unplanned activities the Project Manager can come up with a rough calculated workload for these non-specific actions, i.e. 10%. Because of the irregularity and uncertainty when the work is factually done, it should not matter to the schedule if a resource did not work on this task for a couple of days or worked for, i.e. 30% on various activities that fall into the tasks’ scope.
In the light of continuous improvement this number should be adjusted for each year or type of project in the future. With accurate tracking in place, improvements can be accomplished. Therefore, it may be desirable to have a task that accrues support work.
The issue with regular tasks
Usually, when creating a task and rescheduling it after the work progress is updated, the task expands beyond the end date to resolve conflicts and keep the schedule consistent. Other tasks can be affected and alter the schedule further. Also, if a resource does not update the work progress on the start date of the task (but later), Project will try to resolve the conflict by recalculating the end date. In our case we don’t want these effects to take place.
We can model this behavior in Project 2013.
The goal is to create a task that stays fixed between two dates and satisfies the requirement of not behaving differently if planned work was not performed in the past.
Taking the approach described below, we still have to be aware to avoid rescheduling the project with the support task as it would lead to a break of the exceptions that are set. Also, planned but not performed work will be added to the remaining days.
Setting up the support task
Sometimes a support task will run throughout a full year. In the following example we cover the time frame from 7/6/2015 through 12/31/2015 with an allocation of 10% of every resource:
Step 1. Add a task and double-click it in the outline to open the Task Information Dialogue:
a. In the General tab, set the Task Mode to Auto Scheduled if not set by default.
Task Information Dialog: Auto Scheduled mode
b. In the Advanced tab, set the Task Type to Fixed Duration and uncheck the Effort driven checkbox and click OK.
Task Information Dialog: Set Fixed Duration, not effort driven
c. Back in the Gantt Chart, set the Start Date and the Duration, so that Project will calculate the proper end date. In this example, we use 7/6/2015 as the Start Date and 129d as the duration. The calculated end date here is 12/31/2015.
Outline: Task dates
d. Double-click on the task again and navigate to the advanced tab. Set the Constraint type to Finish No Later Than to the Constraint date of 12/31/2015.
Task Information Dialog: Finish No Later Than
Optionally: To add a warning indicator you can set the Deadline to the tasks’ end date “12/31/2015”.
e. Click OK.
Step 2. Click on Assign Resources to open the Assign Resources Dialog Box.
Assign Resources with 10%
Depending on different factors, resources may be assigned to work on this task to a different degree. In this example, enter 10% in Units for each resource and click Close.
Step 3. If the actual work didn’t start on the date it was planned, the Project 2013 scheduling engine will try to push out the end date to account for the planned work that was not performed. In our case, this is not desired as we want to have a fixed start and end date. By setting an actual start date, we account for the set time frame for this task. The end date will not move.
If you don’t see the “Actual Start” column, click on Add New Column in the outline and select Actual Start.
Add Column: Actual Start Date
Step 4. Then set the Actual Start date to the Start date, here: 7/6/2015.
Set Actual Start date
Now we are ready to track the work during execution. The support task is set up, so that only very few adjustments as possible should be necessary as the actual work hours are entered.
Tracking progress on the support task
Depending on the Project environment we can track updates on the task in the web interface or in Project Standard or Professional.
Project Server / Project Online
Team members can now provide progress on this task in the Project Web App of Project Server or Project Online.
Step 1. Log into Office 365.
Step 2. Navigate to Projects and click on Timesheet.
Project Online: Select Timesheet
Step 3. Enter some work for a date later than the start date, here: 7/9.
Project Online: Enter Actual Work
Step 4. Click on Submit and Turn in Final Timesheet.
Project Online: Turn in Final Timesheet
Step 5. Once the time is approved you see the progress in the project schedule and the start and end date did not change.
Project Online: Approved Timesheet
Project Standard or Professional 2013
Step 1. Click on the View ribbon and change the Details view to Task Usage.
View tab: Details Task Usage
Step 2. In the Task Usage window (lower right-hand corner) right-click anywhere and select Actual Work.
Task Usage: View Actual Work
Step 3. Enter some work hours for a resource later than the start date and press Enter.
Task Usage: Enter Actual Work
The planned work adjusts to the actual work entered without rescheduling. Depending on how the actual work is performed, the remaining work will be adjusted going forward.
Condensed version (Clickthrough):
Note: If you didn’t set the actual start date the scheduling engine will try to push out the end date to account for the planned work that was not performed.
Common mistake: If Actual Start not set