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  4. Creating and Managing Tasks (How to build project stage budgets)

Creating and Managing Tasks (How to build project stage budgets)

A job task is the bit of the job you are working on – and can budget against.

(Sometimes they are called Stages or Phases)

Abtrac tasks are the most efficient and effective way to measure and manage your jobs. You can also use tasks to generate invoices, by itemising work completed against a certain project stages.

Generally, your job tasks will match those items detailed on your original fee proposal letter. Don’t use Abtrac activities for these budget items.

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.

About Tasks (also known as Stages, or Phases)

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

Once a project is created, choose the tasks tab from the jobs menu, and enter the task name for each budgeted item.

Only a description is required for entering a task.

The current complete list of fields available to log task information can be found from Administration> Settings > User Control Settings > Tasks.

How to enter a budget for your project

You can enter values for a job as a fee estimates.

You can enter an single estimated fee value directly in the ‘Job Billing Details’ screen, or you can build the total value with estimated components from the tasks screen.

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

If the fee you charge is calculated based on a percentage of the total cost of the job, then your project may also have a work value.

The Work Value is the total cost of the job and the ‘Fee’ is what you’re charging the client.

How to break your project budget into stages with Abtrac tasks

Instead of a single fee for a project, you can break down jobs in Abtrac into tasks or stages.

Each task budget can be a fixed amount, be a percentages of the total fee for the project, or you can build the scope with detailed estimates of hours by employee.

You can include sub consultant details or other disbursements in your fee estimates for tasks also.

To enter a fixed amount for a task, use the Fee Est. cell.

You can calculate an hourly rate for a task using the Est hours and Rate options.

To set a task budget amount as a percentage of the total project cost use work value and %ge fee (enter the percentage as a whole number).

%ge fee amounts override any other budget estimates for the same task, you’ll be prompted to confirm this when you enter a percentage based task budget.

Using sub tasks to assign budgets to employees

Also known as Sub Stages, or Sub Phases these are the time and cost budgets for each person assigned to this task.

To enable the different rates, first make sure that you tick the ‘Use Employee Sub Task Rates in Timesheets’ box indicated in the below screenshot.

If many people at different rates will be working on each task, then you can right click on the Task and create Sub Tasks to build a more detailed estimate.

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.

Using tasks without budget amounts

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.

You an also use these tasks when generating invoices, to group items you are billing.

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 additional tasks for variations to approximate how much time add-ons to jobs typically take (and how they can affect staffing and scheduling of other jobs).

Using tasks with task groups

For larger multistage projects, tasks can be further broken down into groups.

We don’t recommend grouping for the majority of projects, in most cases tasks are sufficient.

Task groups do not include any metrics in Abtrac reports. So they can be used to group information on invoices and in data entry screens, but to measure time spent against budgets use tasks.

Copy changes to task budgets back to the total fee estimate for the job

Abtrac will copy the Fee estimate from your tasks back to the ‘Job Billing Details’ screen automatically each time if you enable this option from Administration >> Settings >> System Settings >> Clients and Jobs

Or, if you leave this system setting un-checked – then you will be prompted to make a choice each time you change the estimates for a project.

When changes are made to your task budgets the prompt above appears, asking whether or not to update some, all, or none of the amended costs back to the project ‘Fee’ field.

Administration Settings for using tasks

Setting up what users can see for tasks and timesheets

Before you start using tasks it’s a good idea to check the both the tasks table and timesheet data entry tables contain all the fields you require. You can do this at an administrative level from User Control Settings.

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 layout of Tasks.

Go to Administration >> Settings >> User Control Settings and select the Task page 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 make any additional tasks fields visible.

Task options for Jobs

Task options for timesheets

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

Making tasks required when logging time – for all projects

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 change 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. Talk to the support team for help with this.

Making tasks required when logging time – for selected projects

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

Setting the name you use for tasks (changing to stages, phases, or something else)

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.

Tips for Using Tasks

What if I use the same tasks all the time?

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.

There are no default tasks in AbtracOnLine, but you can clone tasks from other jobs.

How 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.

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.

Making tasks restricted – for selected projects and selected employees

You can also restrict employees from entering time against specific tasks. Or more accurately you can enable tasks for a project to be available only for certain users.

Employees with admin rights in Abtrac will always be able to enter time against a task.

Only tasks that are assigned with at least one person will follow the rules of restriction.

All other tasks, that have never been assigned with any employee will be considered as ‘open tasks’ and are available for everyone to assign their time.

See How to Restrict Employees from Entering Time for a Task.

Setting budget notifications (threshold warnings for jobs and tasks)

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.

Even with threshold warnings a user can still enter time against the task and job.

Because threshold warnings don’t lock users from logging time 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.

See How to set up and manage budget notifications for projects (threshold warnings).

How to track and manage variations to original fee estimates

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 choosing one of the methods in the article below.

See How to track and manage variations to projects

Estimating progress during a task

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”

etc…

This percentage is not related to any estimates or actual amounts. But it can be used to create invoices or manage staff allocations.

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

Restricting the activities associated with a task (for timesheets)

By right clicking on any task line you can choose to limit the options available for timesheet entries.

Choose Associate Activities > and then pick one or more activity options. Once this option is enabled only the activities selected from the Jobs > Tasks screen will be available when entering timesheets.

Reporting on tasks

There are a number of reports in Abtrac that analyse tasks and project budgets information.

If you are new to using tasks we recommend you start with including tasks details in your timesheet entries reports, checking the project progress modules in the dashboard, and looking through the options in our actual vs budget reports.

Abtrac KB# 2066

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