Task Updates Using Different Task Types in MS Project

A common cause of frustration when assigning resources in MS Project is how the work is scheduled. You just assigned a few people to a task, and the task duration got longer, not shorter as you expected. Or maybe the reverse happened. Either way, you’re stumped. Let’s look into how to do task updates using different task types.

Task Types

In Microsoft Project Professional there are three task types that can be used to manage tasks assigned to resources.

  • Fixed Duration
  • Fixed Work
  • Fixed Unit

Each of these types controls a different factor of how tasks are auto-scheduled. A task considers the following equation when automatically adjusting the schedule:

Duration x Work = Units

When a type such as Fixed Duration is assigned to a task, any update ensures that the duration is not changed. Only the work assigned, or percent of resource units will be adjusted by Microsoft Project. If the task has the type Fixed work, then when an update is applied, Microsoft Project will work to update the duration or the percent of resource units of the resource instead of the work.

Task updates can be applied directly by the project manager or the resources assigned to the tasks. When a resource is updating the tasks, they would enter the details in the Tasks Page in the Project Web App.

Below is a schedule with four separate tasks, assigned to each of them are three resources that have the hours divided equally among them. Three of the tasks has a different task type. There are two tasks that have a type of Fixed Duration. Fixed durations tasks have two different settings, Effort Driven and Not Effort Driven. Effort driven tasks determine how to work is divided out among the resource. If a task is effort driven and a new resource is added, the work assigned to the task is split evenly between the resources. If a task is not effort driven, additional work is added to the task when another resource is added. This document will demonstrate the varying responses to three task types and updates applied to the tasks.

Each resource will apply an update to the four tasks assigned to them in the Tasks Page.

To access the Tasks Page, open the Project Web App and select Tasks in the left Navigation:

Updating a Task Later than Scheduled

In the tasks page, the Planned and Actual Hours are lined out on the right side of the slider on the time-phased data.

Resource 1, Maria Fenn, in the Actual row for each task will enter the planned hours for her first day a day later than originally planned.

When a resource enters the actual hours, they spent on a task, the remaining time auto-calculates. The Planned time for November 23rd automatically changes to zero.

The last two tasks have task types of Fixed Units and Fixed Work the end date is extended.

Updating a Task Early

For the second resource, Bryan Hughes, the tasks will be updated to start a day early. In the tasks below, they are scheduled to start on the 23rd of November.

Each task will be updated to an Actual 8 hours on the 20th of November.

Returning to the scheduled period, the fixed duration tasks auto-calculate to start two days earlier.

The fixed work and fixed units task adjust to start one day earlier for the resource.

Updating a Task with More Hours than Planned

The last resource, Steve Sclimenti, will update his tasks logging more hours than planned for the 23rd of November. In the initial assignments, approximately 8 hours per task are assigned to the resource.

Steve will enter 10 actual hours on the 23rd of November.

Project for the Web auto-calculates the number of hours that are assigned to him for the remainder of the week.

Even when these updates have been saved, they are not yet considered part of the project schedule. Each resource sends a status update of the tasks to the owner of the project for review.

The Project Owner will then receive all the status updates in their Approval Que. This queue can be located on the top of the Project Web App Navigation Pane.

In the Approval Que, they can review the details of each update before they are added to the schedule.

If everything is as the Project Manager expected, then they can approve each of the status updates. For this scenario, all updates are approved.

If the updates were unexpected or potentially incorrect, the Project Manager would then reject the update and communicate with the resource directly to correct it.

In this scenario, all the updates are approved. These updates can be viewed in the project schedule.

To access the project schedule, the Project Manager navigates to the Project Center and select the schedule icon on the far left of the View.

In the schedule, the Project Manager will see the same details that the resource viewed in the Tasks page after the tasks were automatically updated.

Notice the start and finish for each task are summarized at the top of the task but the varying details can be broken out per resource. These start and finish dates reflect the updated dates submitted by the resources.

For further comparison, the Project Manager can view the time-phased break out for each task and resource. Each line reflects the updates the resources submitted that were approved to be added to the schedule.

For this specific view, a user can navigate to the bottom right of Project Professional and select the Task Usage Icon.

Any updates that a resource applies to a task will cause Project for the Web to auto-calculate the remaining factors within the parameters that the Project Manager sets within their schedule. If the task is Fixed Duration, the Duration will remain unchanged. If the type is Fixed Work the hours allocated to the task will not be altered. If the task is Fixed Units, the percent of the Resource’s time allocated to the task will stay the same. These fixed values can be updated by the Project Manager and by the Actuals Entered by the Resource, but Project will work to stay within those confines as much as possible.

If you have further questions, feel free to reach out and one of our experts would be happy to walk you through your query.

-Happy Planning