Keep Duration the same when entering Actual work time for resources


   Does anyone know how I can get the duration in project to not change when entering time on resources?  I have the task set to a task type of fixed duration with effort driven disabled but when I put the time in for the resources and set the remaining work to zero (to have the task completed) the system insists on lowering the duration down to a smaller number.  

  Some background:
  -  In our environment the resources are not dedicated to projects, they also do operations so their project time is limited. What that means is that a 4 hour job can take days to complete. Therefore in a project I will set a duration to, for example, 10 days as I know it will take the team about that long to do the work. When they actually report their time back to me (they do it at the end of the task) it may be eactly 5 hours of work but it still took them the 10 days to get the entire task done. Therefore I want project to reflect that the duration was 10 days but the users worked 5 hours each. What I do now is to enter the 5 hours in the Actual Work field for each of the resources. The Remaining Work field will then show 72 hours (since the system initially shows a total of 75 hours of work which is 10 days x 7.5 hrs per day).  I then change that remaining work to be 0 (zero). Now I have an accurate time worked for each of the resources. The problem I get is that as soon as I complete the task by changing the last person's remaining work hours to zero it lowers the duration to something less than 10 days, often a lot less than 10 (1.2 days).
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Hello gevgar,

It is always a pleasure to see a query from someone who is clearly on the right track.  You are addressing all of the right pieces and all you really need to do is refine the way you do assignment just a bit.

The problem you are seeing is the result of your assigning 10 days of Work rather than 5 hours of Work.

The fundamental formula in play here is Duration * Units = Work.  If you create a task (with Fixed Duration), set the duration for ten days and then simply assign a resource to the task, Project will use the default max units for this resource (100%) and automatically set the Work for this assignment to 40 hours.  Then when you enter 5 hours of actual work AND set the remaining work to zero, Project correctly display an adjusted duration of 5 hours.  In this case D*U=W is transposed to W/U=D or 5/100%=5 hours.

So try this instead.  Create your task (with Fixed Duration) and set the duration for ten days.  Now instead of just typing Bob into the Resource column, pull up the task form, enter Bob and set Work to 5 hours.  You will note that this results in the Units for this assignment being set to 6% or Bob[6%].  See the attached screen shot...

Now enter 5 hours of actual work and set the remaining work to zero.  This time when Project applies the all important formula we end up with 5/6%=80 hours as shown in the second screen shot.  Keep in mind that project calculates everything in very file detail and 6% is a very rounded number.

Does this answer your question?  If not elaborate...

Bob Segrest, PMP
MCITP, Microsoft Project Blackbelt


Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
gevgarAuthor Commented:
Hi Bob,

    Thank You for your help and the nice comments.

    I have tried what you suggested and it works great. But only If I know the resulting # of hours or close to it. Unfortunately my environment is slightly more complicated than above and it is that extra part that (when I test it) keeps even your suggestion from working properly. I had kept my above question/background simple in the hopes it would give the reader an easy to understand scenario but it looks now like I need to give the complete picture.

   The additional part I failed to mention is that Senior Admin requires bi-weekly updates to the project (they review the tracking gantt) and that requires the project team members to give me updates biweekly with their time spent. (we use a task tracking system where they do collaboration/discussions and then put their time in as they do the work - it then totals it automatically for me per task per person). What this does then is that, for example, a 40 day task, could get 4 updates. When the team members indicate the task (in the task tracking system) is completed then I get the final totals from that task and apply them to the project.

   What I would do then bi-weekly is to take the total hours worked sofar from the task tracking system and update the Actual work with that new total. I have to make sure that the remaining hrs worked is not zero to ensure that the task is not marked complete.  (so if a person worked more than I estimated I have to set, first, the remaining hrs to a larger number than the total actual hours worked before I put the new actual hours worked total in).  I make sure that the remaining hrs is always non-zero until the task is closed and I can apply the final total hrs worked. (I may even have to add a resource in the middle if the team required it for a task).

  I ran some experiments using your suggestion to see how different possible scenarios would behave (ex. estimated work is too high, too low, just right, etc) and, in the end, it appears that if the actual hrs worked is not the same as the work (estimate) then the system will adjust the duration. Which goes back to what you told me in the first place.

  So, I still have the same problem.

  Ok, I did some more experiments and I think I finally figured out a system on getting this to work - it requires a little more work but the various scenarios I throw at it seem to be working.

   The key is the Actual work detail pane in the lower right hand side of my attached picture 1. If it doesn't have something in every column for the entire 40 days (and no more) then it doesn't work. That matches exactly with what you said about how the formula affects the way project works. So how to go about ensuring that every columns has information - well, that requires manipulating the Unit % so that the work is split across all the columns.

  So what I did was to add 2 fields to our custom task usage pane, work and assignment units (besides actual and remaining work). When I receive the time submissions I manipulate the units,  work and actual work to make sure that 1) the task is not yet done and 2) the percentage complete looks reasonable. At this point it doesn't matter that every column is filled out in the bottom right hand side. Every resource will also always have a number in the remaining work column as I am not told they are done. (see pic 2). When the final totals come in and the task is complete then I have to again manipulate the assignment units, work and actual work columns to have it fill in every slot in the right bottom pane (see pic 3). I may have to go as far as to zero out all the actual work column and then adjust the work and then enter the final actual work #'s. This will then cause project to re-balance the correct amount for every column in the task usage detail.

  I think that will do it. A bit more work and manipulating of the data (and somewhat difficult to keep the percentage complete of a task looking reasonable - but that is minor as the main concern is whether it is done or not) but all in all, not bad.

Tell me what you think and Thank You again for steering me in the correct direction.


Hi Gary,

I think you have covered all of the bases and the bottom line is that if it works, it works...  I hope your manager has you well insured.  Few project managers will manage resources to this level of detail.

It does seem like a lot of the tweaking that you are have to do is because the people who do the work are not also reporting their remaining work.  Very few organizations have or are capable of implementing this discipline and it is a fairly common reality.  It's a tough nut to crack and I personally feel that it can help almost any organization improve efficiency and quality.  But then, you know what they say about opinions...

Bob Segrest, PMP
MCITP, Microsoft Project Blackbelt
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Project Management Software

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.

Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.