Creating and managing tasks

A 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 projects.

Generally your project 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.

This article refers to the process of creating and assigning tasks in AbtracOnLine follow this link for the Abtrac 5 version

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

About Tasks, Sub Tasks

Where to enter 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 projects

Configuring the layout of the Tasks screen

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Making Tasks Mandatory in Timesheets

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Renaming Tasks to Stages – Phases – or something else

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Task Threshold Warnings

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

Entering Progress Assesments

For project management and billing estimates

Managing Variations

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

Click on the links above, or read on for details

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Actual vs Budget Reports

Once you’ve started using Tasks for your projects and timesheets you can learn from them over time.

Tasks(also known as Stages, Phases or Matters) can be used to see how good staff are in getting through work allotted to them, as well as how good you are in your estimates.

You can analyse data entered against tasks either as hours worked or a budget amount.

Even if you don’t have a budget or estimate for a 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 project. You can leave the hours and fee value equal to zero.

Later on you can look at the actual time and cost assigned to the task and get a better idea of budgeting for the next job of the same type. 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).

After using Abtrac for about 18 months, one of our clients, told us “I work out the budget very scientifically and then I add on 30%”.

He’d learnt after using Abtrac for that period of time that he was under-quoting and thus writing off to that extent on nearly every project.

We’d recommend reading this article about Actual vs Budget reports in conjunction with our Creating and Managing Tasks article, and also this one here which includes a glossary of the data within the Actual vs Budget reports.

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Tasks or Activities, Which should I use?

One Frequently asked question from new Abtrac users is whether to use Tasks or Activities in their timesheets.

Here’s the difference between the two: Tasks are Quantitative, Activities are not.

Tasks are where you enter the budget for the job.

2016_TasksTasks are also sometimes called Stages or Phases.

They should be exactly the same as budget items on the fee agreement you document to the client.

You give each task an estimate of both time and fees, and then analyse them later using reports such as Actual vs Budget by Task, or Invoice Preparation Information Report. These reports compare your proposed amounts, time spent, and amount invoiced.

You can learn from them over time to see how good staff are in getting through work allotted to them as well as how good you are in your estimates. If necessary you can modify your thinking and estimating to more correctly budget the next job based on what you’ve learnt from previous jobs.

Examples of Tasks (depending on your line of work): Concept Design, Feasibility Study, Developed Design, Media Monitoring

Activities are not Quantitative.

2016_Activities.pngIf Tasks are the bits of the job you’re working on, Activities are what you’re doing on each bit.

Really activities are to save you typing the same comments over and over again.

There are limited reports based on activities other than those used when reviewing timesheet entries and preparing descriptions for invoice lines.

Activities are generic across all jobs whereas tasks and the values associated with them are very much specific to a particular job, especially when there are variations and extras on a job by job basis.

Examples of Activities (again depending on your line of work): Office Work, Travel, Research, Meetings, Site Visit

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