Posted by: Craig Harding | September 16, 2009

Accounting for Administration Time in Project Schedules

Accounting for Administration Time in Project Schedules

 One of the most common mistakes I have seen in managing IT projects over the years is not adjusting resource availability to reflect reality. Many project managers simply set up their project plan and assign resources at full capacity. Even if a resource is only available on a project at 50%, I quite often see the resources assigned to hard project tasks at 50%. There are at least two areas that impact a resources productivity that are often not accounted for.

 Many studies have shown time and time again across all industries that no resource can dedicate 100% productive time to any project, even though they may be assigned 100% to that project. Two areas that impact this productive time are Project Administration and General Administration time.

 There are two types of task on a project; hard and soft tasks. Hard tasks would be those tasks that produce an actual deliverable. Good examples are a piece of code, a report, new screen, documentation, etc. Then there are soft tasks which describe tasks of administrative nature on a project that do not generate a specific deliverable. Such as project meetings, knowledge transfer, answering project related questions, status reporting, etc.  Research has shown that for most projects these soft tasks account for 20% of a resources time on a project. Therefore all resources that participate in these types of activities should only be assigned to hard deliverable tasks at 80% of their availability (6.4 hours of an 8 hour day if available 100%). If a resource is assigned to a project at 50% availability then 3.2 hours of an 8 hour day should be assigned to hard tasks. 

Far too often this 20% Project Administration time is not accounted for in the project plan and as a result hard tasks tend to slip as resources are not able to keep pace. The plan starts to fall apart and the team is left struggling to catch up from what was an unrealistic plan to begin with. 

There is another administration related time that can account for 5-10% time loss on a project as well. This is general work administration time that can take the form of bathroom breaks, personal phone calls, general staff meetings, etc. Depending on the environment you work in this time should also be accounted for. Some union environments also schedule regular breaks for employees, say ½ hour per day. This should also be reflected in your hard task schedule for each employee that is impacted. How you track and record this time differs from company to company and project to project. I will talk about tracking this time and recording the impacts on your project in my next blog.

As an example let’s take a project resource that works 8 hours a day, is allowed to take ½ hour per day in breaks, assigned to a significant number of soft tasks on the project, and needs to account for a work administration time. This resource should only be assigned to hard project tasks at 72% of their availability; that is 5.75 hours per day. (8 – .5 = 7.5 (actual working time) *.3 (Project & Work Admin Time) = 2.25) 

If you assume in your project schedule that this resource is working 8 hours every day against your hard tasks then your project is behind schedule before you start. Remember to account for reality and don’t omit Project and Work Administration time in your project schedules.

Cheers

Craig

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