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Understanding Effort-Driven Scheduling

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/24/2013

What exactly is effort-driven scheduling? This article explains this often misunderstood project management topic.

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    Just What Is It?

    picture Effort-driven scheduling is often misunderstood. In this article, I hope to shed some light on this method of project scheduling. The idea is, that based upon the resources available for a given project, each task can be scheduled and estimated according to the number of work hours available.

    Imagine that the project you are working on is moving from one house to another. You have four family members – two adults and two teenagers – who are available to work, and two adult friends who have said that they can drop by to assist as well. This project takes a finite amount of time. Say that you have estimated that this project will take about eight weeks for one person to pack everything, move it, and then unpack it in the new location if the person works for four hours, five days a week on the moving project. Now, with six people working at this task, at the same rate of effort, it will take less time for the moving project to be completed.The total number of hours for the project is 120. With six people working on the task, performing with an equal amount of effort, the project will only take about five days to complete (This, naturally, assumes that the teenagers are not whining during their packing and unpacking experience).

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    Steps to Take

    The first step in effort-driven scheduling is determining whether a given task is, in fact, effort-driven. After all, there are tasks within projects that are not effort-driven. For example, while packing is effort-driven, driving the moving truck is not. No matter how many people are working on the move, the moving truck can only go so fast. A good way to determine whether a task is effort-driven is to ask yourself “If one person can complete this task in x amount of days, can two people complete it in 1/2x amount of days, and three people complete it in 1/3x amount of days?" So if one person can paint a room in 12 hours, two people could paint a room in 6 hours, and three people could paint a room in 4 hours; this is an example of an effort-driven task.

    Once it has been determined that the assigned task is, in fact, effort-driven, then the project manager must add a resource (person assigned) to the task. Perhaps the task will take one month to complete with one person working on it, but only ½ a month to complete with two people working on it. Once a second resource has been added to the task, if you are using Microsoft Project, it will automatically calculate the schedule each time a new resource is added.

    The important thing to remember is that when you schedule this way, you do not take into account the fact that you might have individuals who are less efficient or more efficient than other resources working on the task. Because of this, you may need to adjust – does Tony work at half the rate as Amy – and if so, you need to consider this when assigning and scheduling the tasks. For additional information on effort-driven scheduling in Microsoft Project, click here to see Linda Richter's Bright Hub PM article.