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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Should You Use Recurring Tasks in Microsoft Project?

I recently received an email regarding the use of recurring tasks in Microsoft Project.

The question was "What are the pros and cons of using a recurring task in Microsoft Project versus scheduling individual tasks for a weekly status meeting?"

My response was I don't use them. Here's why:

My preference is to avoid recurring tasks for a weekly status meeting in a project schedule. The main reason is these are support tasks that don't fall on a project's critical path. I've never missed a launch date or postponed a launch because I skipped a team status meeting during a project launch. Depending on the complexity of the launch, you likely have status meetings every day if not multiple times during a given day.

I prefer to setup my project management governance routines to include a weekly status meeting using Microsoft Outlook or corporate calendar system. Adding recurring activities for a status meeting only adds to the administrative burden and requires the project manager to track additional tasks that don't impact the project's critical path. If your organization has such a requirement then a recurring task will be helpful in your resource pool utilization.

If you still want to track these meetings, then I would create a separate section of the project plan that doesn't have any dependencies on the actual tasks required to complete the work. In this case, a reoccurring task which occurs weekly on a given date is fine. Some organizations try to tie every hour of every day to their project schedule.

From an administrative perspective, I prefer to estimate the available resource utilizations for each resource (i.e. 80%) and I apply that utilization to my schedule. Remember the project schedule is just a model of predicted tasks so I try to estimate time as best as possible. However, I don't want to track every administrative meeting in my schedule.

I do add the key meetings that are required to pass a milestone or tollgate to to the schedule as these do represent sign-off and approval. Obtaining customer sign-off prior to launch is a worthwhile meeting that should be on your critical path!

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