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2008 November 25

Tip #1 for Task Management in Project Server

Do you find yourself having to clarify project tasks assignments sent out to resources when you published your Project schedules? Do you spend unnecessary time clearing up confusion or even conflict around task assignments to teams?

Here is the first in a series of best practices tips for project managers working in the Microsoft Office Project Server EPM environment.

Task Management Tip #1: Assign as few resources as possible to each task.

Ask yourself, “If I assign a task to two people, who is responsible for it?”

Consider this common scenario:

Suppose you assign a task to two resources, Peter and John. Monday rolls around and it appears from the updates waiting for you from Friday that neither Peter nor John have updated the shared task. You will likely call or e-mail both of them to remind them to update the shared task. John responds Monday afternoon, stating that he is waiting for Peter to do his part first, to let him know that he can do his. You hear from Peter on Tuesday morning that he thought John was going to do his part first.  By Tuesday afternoon you finally get Peter and John on a call and work out the division of labor, but not without some refereeing and defensiveness about the confusion.  By late Tuesday of the week after the task was to scheduled to start, you have Peter working on the task, while John is waiting, more tension on your project team, and having wasted your time and Peter and Johns time on at least six e-mail exchanges, a few phone calls, and frustration, and perhaps some interpersonal conflict, on your team because of poor communications.

In reality, assigning multiple resources to a single task can lead to confusion and delays, and can make accountability more difficult to manage.

In addition to these universal issues of delegation, assigning a task to multiple people has further risks in the Project Server environment:

  1. Task updating is more complex.
  2. Resource leveling is also more complex.
  3. Tracking can be more complex, too. One slacking resource can negatively impact the Earned Value metrics for other on-time resources assigned to the same task.

When two or more resources update a task in Microsoft Office Project Server (through Project Web Access), a number of potential issues come into play. Each resource is supposed to enter the time they worked on the task. If the task is complete, but they have not worked as many hours as were estimated, they will need to enter either 0 hours remaining or mark the task complete.

Issue 1: Share tasks usually take more time to manage: If the multiple resources do not confer (spend additional time on communications to manage a task), how will they know if the task is complete?

Issue 2: Updating shared tasks is more complex: If the multiple resources do not confer, but one of the resources marks the task complete, the other resources will not be able to log their time against that task.

Issue 3: Undoing done tasks requires extra steps: If resources enter as many hours as were estimated for a task, but the task is not really complete, PWA will automatically mark that task complete, because they have worked the estimated amount of hours. (This is great if the task was complete; but an extra, sometimes overlooked step if the task is still incomplete.) Resources need to enter the estimated hours of work remaining at the time of their updates or PWA will automatically calculate and status the task based on the original estimate. If this happens and someone detects it, it will require more (wasted) time and steps to change the task back to an incomplete state.

Assigning each task to just one resource, you make your life and job as a project manager much easier.

  • Updating tasks will be more efficient for you and your project team members.
  • You avoid wasting time resolving confusion and conflicts.
  • You are able to hold resources accountable for their work and updates without unnecessary cycles of discussion, defensiveness, and conflict.
  • You protect responsive resources from getting dinged for laggards irresponsibility.

By breaking tasks down to the work package level, to the point that you can assign them to a single resource you will keep things simpler for resources updating their tasks in PWA.  Your reporting will likely reflect reality more closely, and you will not have to chase down resources to qualify or confirm their updates. (Well, not as much anyhow.)

Do yourself and your project teams a favor, and make your life and projects easier to manage. Learn to apply . . .

Task Management Tip #1: Assign as few resources as possible to each task.

Posted By: Kevin Williamson

One Response leave one →
  1. November 22, 2009

    What a facinating blog. I’ve bookmarked it and added your feed to my RSS Reader

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