Work Contours in Microsoft Project

Work Contours in Microsoft Project. Sometimes people do not work at a constant rate on a project task.

Just because there is 10 hours of work (effort) spread through a week (duration) does not mean that the resource will work 2 hours every day.

Although by default tasks have this ‘Flat’ work profile, it is possible to change it to be more realistic.

Here is a short video clip on the subject.

Work Contours are Applied to Assignments, not Tasks or Resources

Work contours have to be added to assignments. This previous blog explained assignments in Microsoft Project.

To find the ‘assignments’ use either the ‘Task Usage’ or ‘Resource Usage’ views.

Resource Usage View

Resource Usage View

Work Contour Types in Microsoft Project

Double clicking an assignment reveals the assignment information dialog box.

Assignment Information

Assignment Information

It is here that the work contours can be changed.

Work Contours Explained

In the following image, a fixed work task (40 hours) is scheduled to take place over 5 days.

The ‘Flat’ default profile shows 8 hours per day.

However, the ‘Early Peak’ shows a quick ramp up to 8 hours a day on days 3 and 4. It then shows a slow tail off of work through to 10 days. Note how adding the profile has changed the duration of the task to maintain the ‘Fixed Work’ of 40 hours.

Work Contour Graphs

Work Contour Graphs

I have a spreadsheet of data and graphs demonstrating the effects on both a ‘Fixed work’ and a ‘Fixed Duration’ task. You can download the spreadsheet here.

Work contours reflect the reality of how people work. Very often people will slowly start a task, and aim to finish it just before the deadline date. (A good example of this would be students submitting their assignments at the last possible moment, working around the clock in the final few hours!).

Work Contours allow you to represent the reality of how resources spread work through a duration. This is essential if the resource capacities are to be modeled accurately.


Posted On: 11th November 2017

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