Background Information

A user in the Microsoft Project user forum recently asked a question about problems he was experiencing with using Expense Cost resources in his project. The user stated that when he marked a task 100% complete, the Expense Cost resource assigned to the task was not marked as complete as well.

What’s going on with this situation? Is this a bug, or is this somehow the default behavior of Microsoft Project? The answer may surprise you.

Solution

There are two scenarios involving the use of Expense Cost resources:

  1. You assign an Expense Cost resource to a task that also has Work resources assigned.
  2. You assign only an Expense Cost resource to a task.

When you enter progress in your Microsoft Project schedule, the software behaves differently in each of the two previous scenarios. For example, Figure 1 shows the Task Usage view for a project containing two tasks. Notice that Task A has both a Work resource (Mickey Cobb) and a Cost resource (Travel Expense) assigned to it. Notice that Task B has ONLY a Cost resource (Travel Expense) assigned to it.

Figure 1 – Tasks with Work and Cost resources assigned

 

When I mark Task A as 100% complete, notice the default behavior of Microsoft Project shown in Figure 2. For the Work resource, Mickey Cobb, the assignment is marked as 100% complete as well.  You can confirm this by the 40h value in the Actual Work column for her assignment. However, look at the Travel Expense resource. Microsoft Project DID NOT mark its assignment as 100% complete. You can confirm this by the $0.00 value in the Actual Cost column for the Travel Expense assignment. This is the behavior the user was asking about in the Microsoft Project user forum.  To fully complete this task, I must enter a value in the Actual Cost column for the Travel Expense cost resource.

Figure 2 – Task with Work and Cost resources marked complete

 

When I mark Task B as 100% complete, notice the default behavior of Microsoft Project shown in Figure 3. For the Cost resource, Travel Expense, this marks its assignment as 100% complete as well.  You can confirm this by the $1,850 value in the Actual Cost column for the Travel Expense assignment.

Figure 3 – Task with only a Cost resource assigned

 

In both of the preceding situations, you are seeing the default behavior of Microsoft Project and not a bug. This is simply how the software works with Expense Cost resources. Our job is to understand this behavior and then know how to respond when we are updating progress in our project schedules.