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Fixed Duration Tasks in Project 2007

posted April 11th, 2008 by Stephen Sanderlin
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Earlier today in the EPMFAQ Forums, there was a discussion concerning an issue in Project 2007 whereby the Duration on a Fixed Duration task is set to 0d if the Work on that task either rolled up or was set to 0h.

This is divergent behavior from Project 2003, and one that appears to be causing issues for a rapidly increasing number of users. Many of us within the community have been aware of this issue for quite some time, but there appear to be many people that are unfamiliar with this little conundrum, be they users, administrators, or consultants.

Here’s my response to the question:

The issue you are referring to manifests when the Work for the task is set to 0h, whether by rollup or entry. This results in the task’s Duration being set to 0d. This is true for all Task Types, including Fixed Duration.

You are partially correct when you say that Project 2003 did not behave this way; Project 2003 did not behave this way only for tasks with a Task Type of Fixed Duration, regardless of whether they were Effort Driven or not. Any other Task Type would zero out the Duration when Work was set to zero.

This change in behavior was made in Project 2007. As you’ve obviously noticed, this altered behavior is inconsistent with Project 2003 as it results in tasks with a Task Type of Fixed Duration having their Duration set to 0d when all the assignments under them have 0h of Work (or if the task’s Work is set to 0h).

Please understand that there is a logical reason for this change. For example, consider a Fixed Work task in Project 2003 where Work and Duration are 8h and 1d, respectively. If you set the Duration of this task to 0d, the Work changes to 0h. The change in Project 2007 appears to simply align the behavior of the Fixed Duration and Fixed Work Task Types. However, this change has been a source of great confusion for users and was not really well communicated. Based upon information that I have, Microsoft is considering several courses of action that may result in a change to this behavior. In the mean time, I would suggest that you integrate this new behavior into your processes and practices surrounding Project 2007.

Whether or not this is an issue for you really depends on how you construct your Projects. It doesn’t really make sense for there to be tasks that have Duration but no Work — doing so essentially breaks the logic of the Triple Constraint.

I’d really be interested in your feedback on this change. I’ve started a thread in the EPMFAQ Blog Posts forum for discussion. Please contribute your thoughts so that we can share experiences and discuss how to better structure projects.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Stephen Sanderlin is Vice President of Technology for MSProjectExperts and a Microsoft Project MVP. His earlier writings on Project Management and Microsoft Project can be read at EPMFAQ.
He is actively posting new content at ProjectServerHelp.

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