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When setting up a project, what are the advantages and disadvantages to using Summary Tasks vs Detail tasks as predecessors?

If it matters, I am experimenting with MS Project 2010 as a tool.

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3 Answers

Personal preference, but for me, I only group them by like kind (summary to summary, detail to detail).

Summary tasks are seen as separate work packages, ie: they summarize all of the tasks necessary to complete that particular part of the project. So if I link a Summary task to anything, it will be to another summary task (work package).

This also helps in the rollup view, as I can see how the various summaries (work packages) link together, with no linkages lost in the view.

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I second Trevor's answer but would remove 'personal preference.' The schedule logic rests at your leaf level of the decomposition. Everything that matters to you as a PM occurs at this level; at the summary levels, things become hidden and your critical path becomes clugy. If you mix your predecessor-successor logic between levels, you will, not may, lose sight of accrued variances. They will not surface until later and you want to know these things earlier.

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Thanks David. I added personal pref only because, as you know, when it comes PM's, there are no 'rules'. :) –  Trevor K. Nelson May 8 '12 at 3:16
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I wouldn't recommend linking summary tasks in MS Project for the following reasons:

  • it can make the logic difficult to follow, and make it hard to identify the Critical Path
  • it can cause logic errors which artifically extend the plan
  • it can lead to unnecessary bench time.
  • it can cause circular logic warnings

See http://www.stakeholdermap.com/ms-project/link-summary-tasks-ms-project.html for more information.

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Welcome to PM:SE. +1 to the answer thank you for being informative, terse and providing a solid useful reference –  Mark C. Wallace Nov 9 '12 at 19:58
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