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Separate effort and schedule for project planning

Stan Ward
Stan Ward ✭✭
edited 12/09/19 in Archived 2015 Posts

Hi folks,


I am wondering people's experiences creating project plans that include separate estimating and tracking of effort versus schedule.  A simple case has a task done full time, with full resourcing, with no delays or wait times.  In this case, the Smartsheet "duration" works fine for both effort, duration, and schedule.


Where this does not work well is when you have a task that has delays or lag times involved with them.  Not the sort of lag times that Smartsheet has between tasks, but lag times as a part of the task.  For example, you create a survey and send it out.  It takes three weeks for people to complete the survey, with say an hour of survey administration per day.  Assuming a 5 day work week, the total effort over those three weeks is 15 hours.  For the Gantt chart view, I woud like to show the survey as taking three weeks, but for resource effort, it is only 15 hours. 


I could create separate one hour tasks for each day of work, with lag times between each task, but I would prefer not to have to do this sort of tedious work because it tasks a while to set it all up and then I need to ripple any changes through all of these little tasks.


My solution has been to have separate effort and duration columns.  Duration affects the schedule, task start and end dates and viewing it all on the Gantt chart, and an effort column is used for my own project hours estimating and bookkeeping purposes.  (I actually keep track of hours originally estimated, hours remaining for each task as I continue work on each task, and total hours worked, but that is a story for another day).  The problem with this is that I have to manually enter effort (for cost estimation) and duration (for schedule estimation) for each task, and I am not being able to leverage some of the dynamic features of Smartsheet that work for the duration column.  It also means that I need to maintain both the effort and duration columns as the project progresses to update the overall schedule for the project.  It's works and its fine, but I thought I would reach out to the Smartsheet community to see what other people are doing.


This effort versus schedule is a classic challenge that was previously faced with MS-Project and other sorts of project planning tools.


Thank you for sharing your solutions!




  • In my opinion, keeping effort and duration as separate columns is a good practice. Duration is about scheduling and effort is about budgets and actual costs.  While there are situations where duration and effort are the same, in reality they are loosely tied to each other (calendar duration is always >= effort).  For example: you have a resource that only works 4 hours per days. Or someone takes an unplanned day off - the effort doesn't change but the calendar duration of the task may be extended and there may be a ripple effect on the rest of the schedule.


    One possible solution is to use a formula where the effort column = duration in days * 8 hrs.  So by default, effort is tied to the duration.  In specific cases where you want to change the effort, you can simple type in the number of hours.


    You can also add some condition formatting to visually alert you when duration < effort to make sure you don't increase effort beyond what can be done in the calendar time allotted. 


    For your example I suggest created a 15 day duration task for scheduling the survey and explicitly putting 15h in your effort column for budgeting.  If you want to track actual cost you can have an addition column for actual effort.

  • Thanks  Ajay.  What you are propopsing is pretty much what I am doing.  I would suggest that schedule and effort are more than losely related, as there is a direct relationship between them, however, to your point, it is hard to relate them with a formula for reasons that you mention, like someone being sick for a day.  


    I am trying to do the holy grail of both doing the overall (pre-project) project planning schedule and budget and as well as making that same project plan smartsheet work as a daily/weekly task list, with the project plan dynamically adjusting its schedule as the reality of the project unfolds.  And having this happen across projects which are combined into weekly and daily planning views (reports) for a given resource (i.e., me).



  • Yes Stan, this is what I'm struggling with now.  I'm managing 5 projects/5 programmers each of my projects can and do have multiple projects within them.  

    Project A

    New module 1  (50 hours developer time) start date 1/1/15 end date 3/1/15

    New module 2  (250 hours developer time) start date 1/1/15 end date 4/1/15

    It is routine that I'd have the same programmer doing both projects.  The way Gnatt is set up it basically shows my programmer blocked out 40 hours a week for 12 weeks = 480 hours.  Obviously that's not correct.  

    We keep track of hours and money on separate sheets for these efforts and it can get confusing making sure they're all updated.  I've recently started delving into Project Portfolio Rollup smartsheet.com/pm-solutions/project-portfolio-rollup and I really like what I see so far.   Here's the link to the Webinar I attended about it recently :  https://www.smartsheet.com/videos/Coordinate-Project-Management?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRogv6TNZKXonjHpfsX56OwkXaGwhIkz2EFye+LIHETpodcMTcNiMLDYDBceEJhqyQJxPr3BKtQN1dtwRhDmAQ==


  • Cool.  Thanks Kat!

  • JBird
    JBird ✭✭

    Hmm...this link doesn't take me to a webinar.

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