Creating and Managing Tasks aka Stages/Phases

A Job/Project Task is the bit of the job you are working on – and can budget against. (Sometimes they are called Stages or Phases)

Tasks are the most efficient and effective way to measure and manage your jobs.

Generally, your job tasks will match those items detailed on your original fee proposal letter.

If you’re not sure whether you should be using tasks or activities, then this article is a good place to start.

There are quite a few key details to get your tasks set up and working the way you need them.
If you are new to tasks and budgeting in Abtrac, then it’s a good idea to read through this article from start to finish, but we have also summarised the key components below for quick reference:

About Tasks, Sub Tasks

Where to enter job/project budgets, as fee estimates, percentages or building the scope with detailed estimates by employee

Template Tasks

How to set up templates and clone frequently used tasks when creating new jobs/projects

Configuring the layout of the Tasks screen


Making Tasks Mandatory in Timesheets


Renaming Tasks to Stages – Phases – or something else


Task Threshold Warnings

Scope Creep Notifications. How to enable a warning on timesheets when task budgets are exceeded

Entering Progress Assessments

For job/project management and billing estimates

Managing Variations

And reporting on variations by using the Actual vs Budget by Job/Project, Task and Additional Values report

Click on the links above, or read on for details

Tasks (also known as Stages, or Phases)

Once a Job/Project is created, choose the Tasks tab from the Jobs menu, and enter the task description for each budgeted item.

Generally your job tasks will match those items detailed on your original scope or proposal.

Tasks are most useful if they also include a budget amount. You can enter an estimated fee value directly in the ‘Job Billing Details’ screen, or you can build the value with estimated completion hours and a rate from the ‘Tasks’ screen.

Abtrac will copy the Fee estimate from your tasks back to the ‘Job Billing Details’ screen by default.

In Abtrac reports this Fee is sometimes called job fee, proposed fee, fixed fee, etc.

This default can be changed from Administration >> Settings >> System Settings >> Clients and Jobs tab.

If the above default is left unticked, then the below prompt appears, asking whether or not to update total cost back to the ‘Fee’ field. This prompt appears once you enter/alter a task fee, save and click the ‘Back’ button to go to the Job Details page.

Sub Tasks (also known as Sub Stages, or Sub Phases)

If many people at different rates will be working on each task, then you can right click on the Task and create Sub Tasks (Sub Stages or Sub Phases)  – these are the time and cost budgets for each person assigned to this task. You can also click on the icon indicated on the left to enter the Job Sub Tasks page.

After creating a Task Description, you can go straight to SubTasks and build up the fee, there’s an option to copy back the SubTask total as the Task estimate.

Tasks without budgets.

Even if you don’t have a budget or estimate for a particular task (be it a variation, or something that you are charging at an hourly rate) it’s a good idea to assign the item of work as a task to your job. You can leave the hours and fee value blank.

Later on you can look at the actual time and cost assigned to the task and get a better idea of budgeting for next time. Or you can use the tasks to simply know approximately how much time these variations to jobs typically take (and how they can affect staffing and scheduling of other jobs).

What if I use the same tasks all the time?

(And why doesn’t AbtracOnLine have default tasks?)

To achieve maximum benefit, people usually add specific tasks to each job. These might be the same tasks you use for most jobs, perhaps with slight variations.

In AbtracOnLine, Tasks are managed slightly differently than in Abtrac5. There are no default tasks in AbtracOnLine, but you can clone tasks from other jobs.

This change was made after analysis of the use of tasks in Abtrac5 and by input from the Abtrac community.

In offices with Abtrac5 default tasks, it was found that job specific tasks would frequently supplement defaults, and that defaults would be revised and overwritten, but the old defaults associated with timesheets needed to be retained.

For system performance and the integrity of reports, tasks have been streamlined in the AbtracOnLine database.

You can still maintain a list of ‘default tasks’ but they need to be setup within a template job.

To set up template jobs/projects and template tasks:

When you set up Abtrac, we recommend you create a non-billable contact for your own company.
For this contact, enter all the administrative and leave jobs that your staff may use, and any jobs that you would like to track time against. Against the same contact (or perhaps for a new one) we recommend you create a series of template jobs.

It is a good idea to number these jobs 00 or similar so that they appear first in your drop down list for copying tasks.

In the consultancy services example below, different job types are required for land, property and infrastructure development. Each template job has been created with the typical associated tasks.

Once you have template jobs and tasks created, each time you create a new client job, you can choose to Copy Tasks.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020-09-22_job-tasks-clone-task.png

You can choose to copy from any current jobs that have tasks associated.

There are also options to copy any associated task related activities, and work items.

Once the tasks have been cloned, you can amend, delete and add items so the descriptions and budgets are specific to your current job.

Tips for Using Tasks

User Control Settings: Tasks and Timesheets

Before you start using tasks it’s a good idea to check the both the tasks and timesheet data entry tables contain all the fields you require.

The default Tasks screen includes Task Descriptions, Start and Est Finish Dates, Hours, Rates and Fee Estimates, Disbursements, whether it was Quoted initially, and Comments.

You can also build your task budgets using Task Groups, Percentages (of Fee total, or Margins), and SubConsultant details. But these fields are usually hidden in the standard/go live layout of Tasks.

Go to Administration >> Settings >> User Control Settings and select Task from the dropdown box. Now you can click on the pencil ‘edit’ button for the required field and enter a value – e.g. 40 – to the ‘Width’ to enable the required field.

When checking Tasks are displayed for timesheets, remember to enable them for Linear and Crosstab Time, and the Disbursement screens also.

Tasks Required 

When entering tasks in the system, it’s a good idea to set tasks as required for timesheet entries.

You can set jobs to include tasks required by default from Administration >> Settings >> System Settings >> Clients and Jobs. This only applies to new jobs created after tasks have been enabled. 

If you’re new to tasks but have been using Abtrac for a while, you will need to check that tasks are required for all your existing jobs. 

You can also set tasks as required at the job level from the ‘Job Details’ screen.

Tasks, Stages or Phases?


You can change the name you use for Abtrac Tasks to Phase, Stage or anything else from Administration >> Settings >> System Settings >> Clients and Jobs, the same way you set up the name for a Job.

You can also restrict employees from entering time against specific tasks. See How to Restrict Employees from Entering Time for a Task.

Threshold Warnings

If you’ve assigned a fee estimate to your job or task, then you can enable Timesheet Threshold Warnings.

Timesheet threshold warnings are budget notifications that pop up within the timesheet entries screen when the threshold value specified is reached or exceeded.

These warnings can be applied to the entire fee budget for the job, or at the task level.

At any stage, a user can still enter time against the task and job.

Because of this, when you enable timesheet warnings, it is a good idea to let the staff know about them, and ask them to contact you if they receive a warning when entering time.

Job budget warnings

The threshold is calculated as a percentage of the Job Billing Details >> Fee value (detailed at the start of this article), and a pop up message is displayed when the threshold value is reached or exceeded.

In the example below, when the total value of time and cost entered for the job is 75% of  $196,906, a warning will be activated.

There are two stages of warning when a threshold is set for a job.

When the threshold limit is reached, timesheet users will receive a message like the warning below. The warning details the percentage of time and cost already allocated and the percentage remaining.

And when the time and cost for a job has exceeded its expected fee value, the following message is displayed.

Task budget warnings

You can also enter a threshold percentage warning for individual tasks within a job.

To do so, you will need to enable the Threshold column from User Control Settings >> Tasks. Once enabled, you can enter a percentage of the task fee estimate as the threshold value.

A pop up message is displayed within a users timesheet when the threshold value is reached or exceeded.

In the example below when the total value of time and cost entered for the task is 60% of the expected fee value of $9,225, a warning will be activated.

The warning details the percentage of time and cost already allocated to the task and the percentage remaining.

Job and task threshold warnings also work together, so users may also see notifications like the one below: in this instance, both the task threshold and job threshold have been exceeded.

Percentage Progress Assessment

Usually entered by the job/project manager, the percentage progress assessment indicates how far through each stage the team feel they are…

“I think we’re nearly halfway”

“It should only take a few more hours to finish”


This percentage is not related to any estimates or actual amounts.

From the Job Tasks screen right click on any task line to enter or view ‘Progress Assessment’ for each task.


It’s not unusual for a client to come back with a variation to the original quote after work is underway. There are a few methods for tracking variations and their budgets.

You could simply overrun the original task estimate, but it will show up as large scope creep in your actual vs budget reports.

To clearly view and analyse any task variation, we recommend one of the two methods below.

Add new tasks to the job/project.

Add a new independent task (or tasks) for the current job. Your fixed fee for the job could remain the same by keying the original amount into Job Billing details directly, but the fee estimates total for all tasks will increase with the new addition.

Add a ‘Task Group’ Column.

From Administration >> Settings >> User Control Settings, click ‘Task’ on the dropdown box. Enable ‘Task Group’ column by entering a value for the width. Then click on ‘Task Groups’ button indicated in the below screen to enter the task group name.

Add additional values to the current tasks.

Another option is to enable the Additional Values estimate columns in the Task screen from Administration >> Settings >> User Control Settings. Click the edit button on the left, add a value to the width and save to enable each of the fields.

These allow you to add a second column of budgets to your original tasks. These are detailed in the Actual vs Budget by Job, Task and Additional Values reports.

Abtrac KB# 2066