This article looks at a lesser-known and tricky to find feature of Microsoft Project that allows you to create a Level of Effort task. Level of Effort (LOE) tasks are often required in a critical path network to represent ongoing work that doesn’t typically represent a specific deliverable. For example, you may wish to plan the hours for a project manager over the life-cycle of a project. You could simply create a Management task that spans the entire duration of the project by setting its duration to that of the project. However, in all likelihood this duration will change during the execution of the project, requiring you to constantly change the duration of the management activity.
A better solution would be to create a task who’s duration is dependent on the start and finish dates of other activities. This is commonly referred to as a Level of Effort or Hammock task.
An LOE tasks can be created in Microsoft Project by using the Paste Link feature to link the start and finish dates of tasks over which the LOE task is to be stretched. With these dates linked, the LOE task’s duration will adjust if the linked dates change.
Here’s how to setup an LOE task in Microsoft Project.
In this example you can see a simple schedule that requires a Management task that spans the critical path of the project. Currently the management task is a one day task with a Project Manager assigned at 100% (8 hours).
1. Right-click in the Start date cell of task A
2. Select Copy Cell
3. Right-click on the Start date cell for the Management task and select Paste Special…
4. In the Paste Special dialog, click on the Paste Link radio button.
5. Click OK
6. Now right-click in the Finish date cell for task E
7. Select Copy Cell
8. Right-click in the Management task’s Finish date field
9. Select Paste Special | Paste Link as previously described.
Note how the Management task is now spanning all the tasks between the two linked dates. This is now functioning as an LOE. Also note how Microsoft Project has recalculated the hour for the Project Manager from 8 to 400 hours over 50 days duration.
Important Note – in order for this to work you should not have any constraint dates defined for the LOE task. The Task Type should also be Fixed Units and Effort Driven should not be checked. Use the Task Information dialog to verify these settings.
From now on, any changes to the linked tasks in the network will change the duration of the LOE task without the need to maintain it manually. This will help in predicting changes in the hours/cost values for the assigned resources in Microsoft Project.
2013-05-20: We’ve recieved some great feedback on this article and have added some useful information and ideas about using this feature in a follow-on blog: More About Level of Effort Tasks in Microsoft Project.