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I work on a subproject, the timelines of most work packages we are managing are non critical.

In most cases, we have a scenario like this: Team A needs to work 10 days, but can do this anytime during a 3 month timeframe.

How can I put that into MS Project in a sensible way?

If I create a task that lasts 3 months:

  • I am losing the information that they only need 10 days
  • If they dont start immediately, it will look like a delay

If I create a 10 day task:

  • I need to set it to start at a specific time. Although they are allowed to start working later, it would look like a delay.

It even gets more difficult when I consider that Team B has to work 5 days but can only start when Team A has completed their work but have to finish inside the same 3 month timeframe.

  • Would displaying the Start Slack column help you explain how much lag time is available to those looking at the schedule? It would show how long a task can wait before it will affect the finish date. Similarly, you could show the Late Start column to show when a task has to start by before affecting the finish date. Also, you can show slack in the Gantt chart view. – Polymath Feb 7 '17 at 15:56
  • thanks, I just started getting into MS Project and was not aware of the function to display slack. Will use this! – buddybubble Feb 22 '17 at 18:46
  • Ms project is just a tool, it's not a project manager in itself. So, you (the schedule responsible) must decide on when to start the tasks. If your estimate is accurate, you can postpone starting as much as necessary. Necessary in the sense that your team has to work on higher priority activities. And if I were you I would at least initiate and investigate in detail the task. This would make everyone more confident on the scope of the task. Best of luck. – Gürkan Çetin May 26 '17 at 21:59
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Displaying the slack for the task (as suggested by Polymath) is a great method. You can even display it on the Gantt chart, if that helps tell your story visually.

Your final sentence tells me that you either need to decompose your tasks a bit more, or you are missing a task definition. If there are task dependencies that cannot be modeled with Project, then you haven't broken them down far enough. If Team B's task is not modeled at all, then add it.

Your hypothetical project lasts 90 days. If there is truly a dependency that Team B cannot start until Team A finishes (Finish-to-Start dependency), and Team B needs five days, then the latest that you can start Team A's work is Day 76. This mean Team B's work would complete on Day 90.

In the screen capture below, please note how the slack has been displayed, and Team B's work has been modeled as a separate task that must complete at the same time as the Other Project Work task. If you modify the Start date for Team A Work, the bottom two tasks will simply slide to the right.

enter image description here

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When there is a latest date for a work to be finished defined (as I understand from your post), I would suggest you late start the activity (Start as Late as Possible constraint). On day to day basis, you then decide when to start the activity - based on resources' availability, priorities, risks,... . But you still see the latest date when you have to start. This approach also allows for dependecies to be tracked and honored.

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