On-going tasks vs. a project....

Posted on 2006-05-09
Last Modified: 2013-11-15
Hi all,
I have been asked to help one of our project managers better manage their resources.  Currently they put their tasks/people into an Excel spreadsheet in order to manage them.  Naturally I cringe at this, because a spreadsheet is nothing more then an electronic piece of paper.  So all they do is shuffle the pieces around manually via cut & paste.  Ugly to say the least.

What I would like to do is put into MS Project, for managing projects and schedules I cannot think of any better tool.  Years ago I used MS Project as a scheduler, and somehow I have been sucked back into again.  I guess you cannot escape your past.

The problem I am having is that this on going process, not a project with any particular end point.  The tasks are grouped by individual and the week they are slated to be done.  I know that the formatting/grouping is beside the point as you can apply filters, sorting different ways etc.  So I am not necessarily as concerned about the formatting of it.  But I am not sure how to lay it out because of the on-going nature of this as opposed to a project.

The tasks themselves come in several forms:
- The first is a ticket, to do a particular task and be done with it.
- The second is a project that may go on for a while but the
   resource works on it for x hours a week
- The third is a repetitive task such as support (15% of each resource’s
   time is devoted to a particular area of support)

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Question by:prgMan
    LVL 4

    Expert Comment

    A few thoughts to chew on....

    Project Server 2003 (if you're using it) includes the ability to have Administrative projects that allow you to capture non-project time.

    Ticket tasks can be added by the resource (if you're using project Server and Project Web Access) or by you.  I suggest you capture such tasks in a project that spans a defined time period eg 'Dept A Tickets Q1 2006'

    You can define a task as being fixed duration and NOT effort driven.  Make the task a 10 week duration and assign the resource to perform 30 hrs of work, they will be assigned to 3 hrs per week.

    You can assign a resource by % assignment; assigning a resource to a 1 week duration task for 10% of their time will result in them getting 4 hrs or work (as long as you switch off the effort driven setting after you've made the original asssignment.

    I'll stop there, ask more questions if you want...
    LVL 35

    Expert Comment

    Jepp, I would follow MSProjectGreek to have a look at administrative task in MS Project server in general.

    Without MSP Server, you can add a general task with a percentage of load to a single project to represent ongoing work or just to reduce the availability of the resource to a lower percentage (i.e. 85%, if 15 % is ongoing). The question is, if you want to have the work tracked, which is done for the ongoing task.


    Author Comment

    Hi all,
    thanks for the feedback, I'm trying to digest what you have suggested.  it has been a while since I've used MS Project and it has changed quite a bit.

    At this point I am checking to see if we have MS Project Server installed, I'm new to the business site and still 'finding' things.  If they do MS Project server sounds like a cool tool to use.

    Meanwhile I have a few questions on your suggestions:

    You can define a task as being fixed duration and NOT effort driven....
    I figured out how to set the duration on a task, but I'm not sure how to define the resource as a 30 hr resource.  The only option I see is a %.  Is there another place to assign resources with a set hours.  Also is this option better for a daily task, such as ops support (1hr a day) then using recurring tasks?

    What is the effort driven setting?  I did some help searchs (get some interesting results) but nothing that makes sense.

    As this is continuous 'project' and their is no true end point, is there a method I should use in organizing it?  There are day to day activities such as support (1hr/day) forever, and then their are mini-projects along the way.  

    I am tinkering with several ways of entering it, but wondering if their is a prescribed way or even an article or two on how to use it this way.

    Thanks again!!!!
    LVL 4

    Assisted Solution

    Under Tools-Options-Schedule(Tab) there is a setting to make new tasks Fixed Units, Fixed Duration, and Fixed Work and there's a check box to indicate whether the task is effort driven, the check box is checked and grayed out if you select Fixed Work because Fixed Work can ONLY be effort driven - think about it.  When you first create a task, it will take its settings from whetever you set up under the options box.  

    For existing tasks, you can double click on the task and bring up the Task Information dialogue box and under the Advanced Tab you'll find the ability to change any task under the Task Type setting from the default.

    The effort driven setting is simply an override that applies the principle that more workers will get the job done in less time.  Often, you add resources to a task to make sure it will get done in time and users often get confused when the task gets shorter because it's effort driven.

    The only way to really undersatnd this is as follows...
    Create a project with 5 tasks named as follows
    Fixed Units Effort Driven
    Fixed Units Not Effort Driven
    Fixed Duration Effort Driven
    Fixed Duration Not Effort Driven
    Fixed Work (Effort Driven by default)

    Display the Work Column and add 2 reosurces to the resource sheet, make all the durations 5 days
    Now add the first resource to each task and notice that every task sets up 40 hrs of work for the resource
    Next add the second resource to each task and notice the difference it makes.

    LVL 35

    Accepted Solution

    > but I'm not sure how to define the resource as a 30 hr resource...

    Usually, you setup a project calendar (which can be the default calendar) and an additionally resource calendar. The project calendar is mostly responsible for formatting and usual working time of the company, the resource calendar for the general availability of the resource. To have a better control, it makes sense to create a seperate resource calendar. Both canlendars include general holidays and other non working times for all.

    Assign the resource calendar to all resources. For 30h staff, create an additional 30h resource calendar or set the 30h within the calendar of the individual resources. Every resource have its own calendar, which contains the exceptions from the common resource calendar.

    The percentage is mor for resoruces, which have a restricted time, which is available fior projects.

    > As this is continuous 'project' ...
    you should put into the project paln, what you want to track. If you have ongoing task, i.e. 1h/day until end of the year, and the resource should report, that he has really worked for 1h, then you can setup a task until end of the year with a work value of the hours, which will be worked until end of the year.

    The real idea of project is not to sign "colored pictures", the sense if to manage projects and resources. Managing means, you have to track, what is happening. If you try to track hourly work, your resources will spend more time on reporting their "ten minutes" projects as working on the projects itself.

    With Project server, it is a little bit easier, as you can create something like "TO Do" lists and the resources can enter hours or work for the different tasks. This is a better change to get them into the work, to really report their times. My experience is, as more the resources have to report and as more they fel controlled or loaded with stupid reporting work, as lesser is the quality of the values, you get out of the plans. Your resources should not spend more than 5 minutes a day for such a job.  They should not have more than 5 tasks a day. So find a compromise between tracking interest and the importance of the thinks, you want to have tracked.

    If you simply want to block this time, so resources are not available for projects as they have to do support, and nobody is really tracking the real times, leave it out of your plan and lower the percentage of availability or the available working time in the calendars.
    LVL 10

    Expert Comment


    A project by definition has a definitive start and a definitive end.

    You will need to carefully segment your operational, production, maintenance or support work into projects.

    Once items can have definitive start and definitive end you can assign resources to them.

    If its not a project, then applying project management through MS Project might not be a good idea and it might more efficient to use MS Excel. MS Excel has good programming features that can be used for scheduling work. Microsoft templates site includes a template that you can use to schedule work and it includes good automation.



    Author Comment

    hi all,
    sorry i didn't reply earlier... unexpected time off.  I've found that the resource usage actually works (kinda of) for what I'm trying to do.  The only problem I then run across is feeding it back into the gantt, it looks pretty disjointed.  The other quandry is project 'helping' me.  Some of the auto features are really helpful but other times....  and the final problem, getting my PM to maintain it, she gets really frustrated with it when it corrects things for her.  And doing what-ifs seem to be a pain.  Does anyone by chance know of another tool that might be more in line with resource management on an on-going basis?

    thanks again for all the help!!!!
    LVL 30

    Expert Comment

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