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Preventing Project Pro 2007 auto-calculation of Duration (and % Complete) based off Work values?

    Question

  • Hello everyone,

    Is there a way to turn off Project Professional’s (2007 SP2) function to automatically link Work with Duration, as well as % Complete with Work (or Actual Work) for tasks? But at the same time retain the ability to use the date calculations of the Duration and Start/Finish fields?

    At this location, the PMs use fixed-unit, effort-driven tasks, with no Work values stated or resources assigned to tasks. The PMs use the % Complete column to subjectively show how far along the project is, and otherwise they just manipulate the Duration and Start fields to show how long a task will take. When a task’s schedule changes, it is manually updated by the PM using Start and/or Duration, not using Project auto-rescheduling.

    The crux seems to be that the PMs’ project schedule planning does not equate Work with duration, such that an eight-hour task may span five business days because of other project commitments and such. Working toward resource leveling could probably help alleviate this, but for now that is how they build their schedules and it will take time to change this.

    Since the new PMO goal is to show resource utilization and availability, we need to specify estimated Work values for tasks and assign resources (all resources in the Enterprise Resource Pool have been set to 75% Max Units to reflect 2 hours of each day used for non-project work). My thought was to make all tasks fixed-duration and effort-driven, then designate Work values to the tasks and assign enterprise resources. This seemed to work well in testing.

    However, the problem is that Project apparently considers the Work value to indicate the current amount DONE (not estimated) of the value it has auto-calculated using task Duration and the 8-hour-a-day calendar. It would be preferable in this environment to segregate Duration from Work, such that they could be independent estimates. Actual Work would be preferable to capture the, well, actual work performed on the task, relative to the Work value (not the artificial Work value that Project calculates based on Duration and 8-hour days).

    To add another wrinkle, they’d like to also have the % Complete value also independent of other values so it can be manually entered, not calculated based on Work or Actual Work.

    I realize that some if not much of this goes against the way Project is designed to ostensibly make the PM’s life easier, but I imagine there is a way to turn off some of the linkages and calculations without disabling the ability to use the Duration and/or Start fields to automatically count days when the schedule changes. Seems like the Calculation-mode options don’t really allow what we’re looking to do.

    One other thought would be to use fixed-duration tasks as planned with Work values and resource assignments, but not to worry about or use the % Complete field; if they want their PMs to use an arbitrary value to show how far along the project is, they could use some other percentage field to represent that. Also use baselines to compare estimated versus actual Work values. I know it’s gaming the way Project is designed to work, but till they can revamp their approach to using Project that may be a palatable intermediary step. What do you think?

    Thanks!

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 7:57 PM

Answers

  • I think you need a serious review of schedule processes and business needs from your schedules and project governance. You seem to be operating at a very low level of schedule maturity and managin resource bottlenecks across an organization requires a high level of maturity! Search help for Physical % COmplete as this does not update Actual Duration etc. Fixed Duration tasks lead to a world of grief due to numerous scheduling error messafges when assigned Resources cannot get the work allocated to them done in time due to Calendar exceptions. I recommend staying with Fixed units. Units are always Work / Duration so I don't understand why you say(the artificial Work value that Project calculates based on Duration and 8-hour days). Work calculations are not affected by calendar, but teh calendar does affect when an assignment finishes. Yes Baselines are important once you have finished scheduling a phase, iteration or the whole project. Try not to limit your process just because team members don't do something. Evolve the process so reporting is automated from schedules so PMs only have to create and update schedules to get a lot of other work done autmatically (gets good buy-in!)

    Rod Gill

    The one and only Project VBA Book Rod Gill Project Management
    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:26 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • I think you need a serious review of schedule processes and business needs from your schedules and project governance. You seem to be operating at a very low level of schedule maturity and managin resource bottlenecks across an organization requires a high level of maturity! Search help for Physical % COmplete as this does not update Actual Duration etc. Fixed Duration tasks lead to a world of grief due to numerous scheduling error messafges when assigned Resources cannot get the work allocated to them done in time due to Calendar exceptions. I recommend staying with Fixed units. Units are always Work / Duration so I don't understand why you say(the artificial Work value that Project calculates based on Duration and 8-hour days). Work calculations are not affected by calendar, but teh calendar does affect when an assignment finishes. Yes Baselines are important once you have finished scheduling a phase, iteration or the whole project. Try not to limit your process just because team members don't do something. Evolve the process so reporting is automated from schedules so PMs only have to create and update schedules to get a lot of other work done autmatically (gets good buy-in!)

    Rod Gill

    The one and only Project VBA Book Rod Gill Project Management
    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:26 PM
    Moderator
  • In the last paragraph I mention using "some other percentage field" to allow the PMs to specify subjective percent-complete values, but it looks like neither of the other 2 built-in percentage views (% Work Complete and Physical % Complete) will behave the way I want: manual entry and roll up to summary level without using Cost values since EVM not in play here.

    So trying to determine how to have a manually entered percent field that rolls up to the summary level, without any other calculations coming into play. Have found a bunch of articles that start off promising but ultimately are not as basic as what we need for now.

    Thanks!

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:29 PM
  • Just create a custom number field and have it rollup based on any of the
    default choices?  The issue is figuring out how to weight one task vs. another
    to get a decent summary rollup....
     
     

    Andrew Lavinsky [MVP] Twitter: @alavinsky Blog: http://blogs.catapultsystems.com/epm
    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 9:02 PM
    Moderator
  • Rod and Andrew,

    Thank you very much for your replies.

    Rod: I completely agree with your comments on maturity and process evolution. The immediate requirement is the resource views but I am working with management on process overhaul as well; the fixed-duration approach (and I appreciate your insight with those) appeared to be a means of achieving the short-term goal within the less-mature use of Project here. My apologies for my statement regarding Project's calculations - you are correct with your formula, I should not have used "calendar" when "units" is the proper term.

    Andrew: I took a look at custom number fields but could not get it to do a percent without invoking some sort of formula, and agree that there does not appear to be an elegant way to have it roll up and properly weight tasks of differing durations.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 9:50 PM
  • TresL,

    You'll want to notice that the built-in progress fields work as designed and do the rollup in an elegant way.  As Rod suggests, best to use Project as designed and intended.  Bending it to your team's will independent of that usually results in trouble.


    --rms www.rmschneider.com
    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 7:26 AM
  • I think that you are conjuring up a lot of fuzzy logic and turning a relatively simple problem into ghastly nightmare, and it won't go away just by wishing and hoping that the bad practices and habits will somehow just disappear.
    I think that there is a limit to how tolerant you can afford to be. Everyday that the situation you describe continues is costing cold, hard cash, and making the taking the bull by the horns just that much harder.

    I think that there are about 99 wrong ways to use MSP (although it seems that every day someone thinks up a new one), and about 1 right way.

    If you do it the right way it's simple, easy and it makes sense. If you do it the wrong way it is complicated, real hard and just gets harder, and the nonsense that it produces is on display.

    The % Complete is NOT a subjective measurement of anything. It is a simple arithmetic ratio of the Actual Duration divided by the Total Duration, nothing more, nothing less.

    I would like to help you more but it is time consuming and difficult to address the myriad mis-conceptions in this forum, especially without some example of what you are dealing with.

    Try searching the Google group microsoft.public.project for an extensive archive of similar discussions.

    Try Mike Glen's Techtrax archive.

    Where do you live? Feel free to drop in for coffee and a chat. I live in Perth Western Australia. Or phone or email me.

     

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 8:05 AM
  • Hi Tresi,

     

    In addition to the responses you have already received, create a custom field for % complete figures arrived at based on the system of weightages. This should roll up to the summary level.

    In planning stage assign a weightage to each summary and to each activity in each summary. Then accordingly evaluate percentage complete for each activity and accordingly for the summary. This shall have no link with work and other % completes.

    I hope it works

    Vanita Ahuja

     

     

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 8:11 AM
  • Thank you to all who responded - I concur with your points and the overall notion that without the fundamental scheduling/Project-use issues being resolved, anything else is an attempt to put lipstick on a pig, so to speak. Happily enough, I was able to convince the PMO manager today that trying to use % Complete as a subjective measure is not only valueless but in fact works directly against the way Project is designed, so it's a start toward overhauling the scheduling process and using Project the way it should be used...I appreciate your feedback, and I've found some other articles which are useful in showing how all the pieces (there are many!) fit together.

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 6:54 PM
  • Best news all day!
    --rms www.rmschneider.com
    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 6:56 PM