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Inactivate Tasks: The Best Way to Make Temporary Changes in Your Schedule

The Inactivate Task command works very much like “strike-out” or “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word. It allows you to remove segments of your project schedule to do “what-if analysis” or temporarily remove tasks not currently required while still preserving them for easy re-introduction to the schedule.

As an example, my project was originally planned to produce a deployment plan, but on review, it now appears that it won’t be required. The upgrade will be implemented as part of a larger financial system deployment. Therefore, I need to remove the deployment plan work from my plan.

Kenneth Steiness scheduling figure 3

However, I have a concern that this larger implementation may not be viable, and I would prefer to keep the details of the deployment plan available should it need to be re-introduced into my schedule later. Therefore, I select the Deployment Plan group, and from the right-mouse short-cut menu, I select Inactivate Task.

Kenneth Steiness scheduling figure 4

This action strikes out all the tasks associated with the deployment plan, changes the task dependencies to remove the predecessor and successors for the deployment plan, and removes the resource requirements for all the inactivated tasks — effectively removing the WBS element from the schedule. As a result, the schedule is recalculated to reflect the updated dependency network and resource availability. Change highlighting shows the impact of inactivating these tasks.

Kenneth Steiness scheduling figure 5

Reviewing the two screen shots above will reveal the power of the “Inactivate Task” command: Not only is the entire WBS group for the deployment plan struck out, but also the project is rescheduled so that all subsequent tasks are moved forward based on the “removal” of these tasks. For example, the planning start date changed from Aug 5 to July 16. But the deployment plan remains visible and can be easily reactivated if the project situation changes; the system preserves the original dependency network and resource requirements.

Another instance where I make use of the Inactivate Task command is when I’m processing change requests and want to be able to see the overall impact of a given change request. Because Change Highlighting shows only the last change made and most change requests impact several tasks, I’ll make all required changes to my project schedule to address the change request. Then, using multiple select, I select all the changed tasks and “inactivate” them then immediately reactivate them. When I reactivate all the changed tasks in this single action, Change Highlighting will show the total impact of all the changes resulting from my change request.

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Written by Kenneth Steiness

Kenneth Steiness, PMP, PMI-SP, MCP, MCT, is an industry expert on Microsoft Project and Project Online. Kenneth has worked in the project management and scheduling field for over 20 years. He has managed customer engagements in 13 countries and throughout the United States and presented at conferences world-wide for Microsoft, PMI and MPUG. Kenneth is the CEO of Sensei Project Solutions, a certified Microsoft partner specializing in project and portfolio management deployments. Sensei offers a complete set of services to help organizations succeed with their Microsoft PPM deployments. Services include full implementation and training as well as pre-configured solutions and report packs. Visit senseiprojectsolutions.com or contact info@senseiprojectsolutions.com for more information.

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  1. I do not have MSP 2010 Pro in front of me at the moment, but I seem to remember that if a task that was a predecessor to another task was inactivated, the original successor now defaults to the original start date of the overall project, is that the case? If so, this would seem to give a false indication of completion dates. For instance in a predecessor sequence (with FS) like A->B->C->D, if C is inactivated, does the start date for D change to B as the predecessor for D or does it act like there is no predecessor at all?

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    Hi Mark C. If you inactivate a task that is the only predecessor to another task, then it uses your options (Schedule options > Auto scheduled tasks scheduled on) to determine whether to move the task back to the Project Start Date or Current Date. When inactivating tasks, it’s important to review the dependency network to ensure that it is still complete.

    Interestingly, if there’s a network of predecessors, then the behavior is a bit different. In that case, it uses the previous task in the network to determine the date. Try it out, it’s pretty cool, actually.

  3. Inactive tasks are great and we use them alot. However, we have several documented instances of inconsistent behavior in Project Server 2013. For example, we have seen Inactive tasks still driving a sucessor eventhough the successor has other active predecessors. In addition, if a task is inactivated with resources assigned, and then one of the resources becomes inactive, the informational dialog box still appears upon opening the schedule indicating that remaining work is assigned to an inactive resource. Inactive should be inactive period. But we have seen several places where inactive tasks still “act” like active tasks. We have several tickets open with Microsoft on this. It’s a great feature but BEWARE of inconsistent behavior in 2013.

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    Hi Lisa, would you be willing to share a write-up (with screenshots) of the behavior you’re seeing? I’d love to be able to bring this to the MS Engineering team and get resolution because this is such an important feature. I’m using 2016 now and have not been able to replicate the behavior you’re describing but would like to try to in 2013 if I had some more detailed information. Thanks.

  5. Is there a way to inactivate tasks in Project 2010 Standard? The option does not appear in the right-click menu. Thanks.

  6. Hi Mark

    if you make task C inactive it will brake the dependency chain.
    I have a simple VBA that adds a ribbon with a button make task inactive.
    This button as as an extra will make sure that the dependencies are copied from C to D , so D will become dependent on C.


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