Task Types Demystified.

There are a lot of people who stop using MS Project before they even get very far into a project. The main reasons for quitting Project are:

  1. When they make a project plan and then change it, they get strange results.
  2. When they assign resources with their own calendars, they do not get tasks scheduled as they want to see them.
  3. When working with a dancing Gantt, it looks like Project changes the date by itself, which caused confusion.

Before anyone starts with MS Project, he/she should be aware of what they want to accomplish, and how it can be done with this powerful tool. I believe that the heart of MS Project is a “magic” formula. That is, Work = Duration * Units. According to that formula, when you change one value, the other is changed, as well. On the other hand, different tasks in MS Project need different Task Types. Something has to be fixed! It can be Work (e.g. you know exactly how much effort should be done before Task is finished), Duration (e.g. you know that no matter how much effort you will make, duration is fixed and should not be extended), or Units (e.g. no matter how much effort or duration you want, you have limited resource capacity). As you can see, that could become complicated. On the other hand, no matter if you have fixed Duration or Units, you can decide if your task is effort or non-effort driven. Effort driven translates as more hands, light work. There are lot of situations, though, when you cannot decrease Duration or Units no matter how you assign additional resources.

Consider the following when you are deciding which Task Type to use:

  • Fixed Units – effort driven
  • Fixed Units – non effort driven
  • Fixed Duration – effort driven
  • Fixed Duration – non effort driven
  • Fixed Work – always effort driven

Whether you are a beginner or more advance user of MS Project, this topic is one that any PM should dive into more fully. You’ll have the opportunity to get answers to these questions on Task Types, as well as many other tips, by viewing my on-demand webinar.

Note: it is eligible for 1 PMI® PDUs in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle.


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Written by Nenad Trajkovski
MVP - Project Nenad Trajkovski was born in Zagreb in 1963. year. After completion of Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Nenad has started on the development and implementation of enterprise systems (ERP) in companies of various areas (banks, card houses, production companies, auto industry, wholesale businesses, oil companies, and others). He has extensive experience in working with business processes, people and knowledge in information technology and financial accounting activities. Currently, Nenad works as a consultant for the implementation of business systems, and as Project Manager. He is trainer for Project Management and Risk Management in Microsoft Innovation Center in Varaždin. At WinDays08 conference he has been declared as the best speaker, and his session as the best one. He was among TOP 10 speakers in the Microsoft Sinergija 2009 and at the Microsoft Vzija 2009. Shared first place as the best lecturer at KulenDays 2009 and the PMI Forum 2009 in Zagreb. Regular speaker at the Microsoft Community. On WinDays10 conference Nenad was among the top three speakers; at the conference Microsoft Vision 9 in Skopje between the top 5 speakers as well as on Microsoft Synergy 11 which was held in Belgrade. Certified Accountant, PMP (Project Manager Professional), PMI – RMP (Risk Manager Professional), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), MCTS – Microsoft Project 2010 (Microsoft Certified Technical Professional).  and MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).
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1 Comment
  1. Great article, I would love to see a second one with use cases.

    your proof reader left off “Not” effort on two of your task types :).

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