Task Types Demystified.

There are a lot of people who stop using MS Project before they even get very far into a project. The main reasons for quitting Project are:

  1. When they make a project plan and then change it, they get strange results.
  2. When they assign resources with their own calendars, they do not get tasks scheduled as they want to see them.
  3. When working with a dancing Gantt, it looks like Project changes the date by itself, which caused confusion.

Before anyone starts with MS Project, he/she should be aware of what they want to accomplish, and how it can be done with this powerful tool. I believe that the heart of MS Project is a “magic” formula. That is, Work = Duration * Units. According to that formula, when you change one value, the other is changed, as well. On the other hand, different tasks in MS Project need different Task Types. Something has to be fixed! It can be Work (e.g. you know exactly how much effort should be done before Task is finished), Duration (e.g. you know that no matter how much effort you will make, duration is fixed and should not be extended), or Units (e.g. no matter how much effort or duration you want, you have limited resource capacity). As you can see, that could become complicated. On the other hand, no matter if you have fixed Duration or Units, you can decide if your task is effort or non-effort driven. Effort driven translates as more hands, light work. There are lot of situations, though, when you cannot decrease Duration or Units no matter how you assign additional resources.

Consider the following when you are deciding which Task Type to use:

  • Fixed Units – effort driven
  • Fixed Units – non effort driven
  • Fixed Duration – effort driven
  • Fixed Duration – non effort driven
  • Fixed Work – always effort driven

Whether you are a beginner or more advance user of MS Project, this topic is one that any PM should dive into more fully. You’ll have the opportunity to get answers to these questions on Task Types, as well as many other tips, by viewing my on-demand webinar.

Note: it is eligible for 1 PMI® PDUs in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle.


Written by Nenad Trajkovski
Nenad Trajkovski, born in Zagreb in 1963, is an accomplished professional with a background in Electrical Engineering. With expertise in enterprise systems (ERP) development and implementation, he has served diverse sectors including banking, casinos, automotive, wholesale, and oil industries. Nenad excels in business process management, IT, and financial accounting. Currently, Nenad is a seasoned consultant and Project Manager, specializing in business systems implementation. He is also a respected trainer for Project Management and Risk Management at the Microsoft Innovation Center in Varaždin. Nenad's speaking engagements have earned him recognition, including being named the best speaker at WinDays08 and ranking among the top speakers at various Microsoft conferences. Nenad holds multiple certifications including Certified Accountant, PMP, PMI – RMP, MCP, MCTS – Microsoft Project 2010, and MCT.
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1 Comment
  1. Great article, I would love to see a second one with use cases.

    your proof reader left off “Not” effort on two of your task types :).

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