Managing Projects Part I: Tasks

Your project schedule should tell the story of how you’re going to deliver the project. It’s part of the contract between the Project Manager and the Sponsor, as well as the Project Manager and the Project Team.

The first thing you need to do with your project schedule is to figure out the Tasks you need to have in the schedule to model how the project will be delivered. You’ll then need to figure out the hierarchy into which the Tasks will need to be placed, including (if necessary) breaking the schedule up into gated “stages”.

Now, there are any number of Views you can use in Open Workbench to do this, but for the purpose of this demonstration I’m going to use the WBS Definition View, found within the Planning Group. The screen shots will show the WBS Definition View as it comes installed with Open Workbench; I won’t configure it at all.

I’m also only going to use the standard 4 Task Types (Phase, Activity, Task, Milestone). Note, your project schedule can go as many levels deep as you want it to, using Task Types WBSLevel3 – WBSLevel15 (which you can re-name in the WBS Tab of the Preferences dialog box), but I won’t be using those here.

The fields in the (default) WBS Definition View are:

  • Type – This field records the Task Type. It will determine the hierarchy of the project schedule.
  • ID – This field provides the opportunity to enter an ID for the Task. It is optional, but note the Task ID must be unique throughout the project (there cannot be duplicate Task IDs).
  • Name – The Task Name (self-explanatory).
  • Category – Tasks can be grouped into Categories for filtering and sorting purposes. The Category field is free-text, meaning you can have just about any Category you like.
  • Deliverables – This field is sadly no longer available in Open Workbench. It was used in previous versions, but has been removed from the data model. ITDesign, please reinstate this field in a future version!
  • Key Task? – This field can be used to denote those tasks which are ‘Key’, or important. You can use the Key Task field for filtering or sorting purposes.

Once you have your Task List created using the WBS Definition View, it should look something like this:

WBS Definition screen shot

The next step is to determine how long, or how much work, each task is going to take. You need to decide one of two things:

  • the length of time (duration) required to complete each task (i.e. the task will be ‘time-boxed’), or
  • the amount of work effort required to complete each task (i.e. the task will be effort-driven).

If the task will be time-boxed, for example, you’re going to allow a standard 5 days to review and revise a document), you will need to Fix the task Duration. To fix the duration of a task, go into the Task Properties dialog box either by right-clicking on the Task and selecting Modify, or double-clicking on the Row Header. In the Task Properties dialog box, enter a Duration (in days) and tick the Fixed tick-box. This will ensure the duration of the task remains at the number you set, during the AutoSchedule process (see below).

If your task will be effort-driven, you do not need to set any options or settings; this is the default Open Workbench behaviour. See our tutorial on Assigning Resources for more information.

Next up is Part II of our Managing Projects series: Managing Dependencies.

Be sure also to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Open Workbench, which provides information on the features and functions of Open Workbench to get you started.

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