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Understanding the Impact of Progress on Expense Cost Resources

By Dale Howard, Project MVP

Background Information

A user in the Microsoft Project user forum recently asked a question about problems he was experiencing with using Expense Cost resources in his project. The user stated that when he marked a task 100% complete, the Expense Cost resource assigned to the task was not marked as complete as well.

What’s going on with this situation? Is this a bug, or is this somehow the default behavior of Microsoft Project? The answer may surprise you.

Solution

There are two scenarios involving the use of Expense Cost resources:

  1. You assign an Expense Cost resource to a task that also has Work resources assigned.
  2. You assign only an Expense Cost resource to a task.

When you enter progress in your Microsoft Project schedule, the software behaves differently in each of the two previous scenarios. For example, Figure 1 shows the Task Usage view for a project containing two tasks. Notice that Task A has both a Work resource (Mickey Cobb) and a Cost resource (Travel Expense) assigned to it. Notice that Task B has ONLY a Cost resource (Travel Expense) assigned to it.

Figure 1 – Tasks with Work and Cost resources assigned

When I mark Task A as 100% complete, notice the default behavior of Microsoft Project shown in Figure 2. For the Work resource, Mickey Cobb, the assignment is marked as 100% complete as well. You can confirm this by the 40h value in the Actual Work column for her assignment. However, look at the Travel Expense resource. Microsoft Project DID NOT mark its assignment as 100% complete. You can confirm this by the $0.00 value in the Actual Cost column for the Travel Expense assignment. This is the behavior the user was asking about in the Microsoft Project user forum. To fully complete this task, I must enter a value in the Actual Cost column for the Travel Expense cost resource.

Figure 2 – Task with Work and Cost resources marked complete

When I mark Task B as 100% complete, notice the default behavior of Microsoft Project shown in Figure 3. For the Cost resource, Travel Expense, this marks its assignment as 100% complete as well. You can confirm this by the $1,850 value in the Actual Cost column for the Travel Expense assignment.

Figure 3 – Task with only a Cost resource assigned

In both of the preceding situations, you are seeing the default behavior of Microsoft Project and not a bug. This is simply how the software works with Expense Cost resources. Our job is to understand this behavior and then know how to respond when we are updating progress in our project schedules.

 

 

About Dale Howard, Director of Education, Sensei Project Solutions

Dale Howard is a seasoned training professional who is approaching 30 years of technical training experience. He has taught students how to effectively use every version of Microsoft Project beginning with version 4.0 for Windows 95, and every version of the Microsoft EPM tool beginning with Project Central in the year 2000. Dale possesses the coveted Project MVP title and is one of only 64 Project MVPs in the entire world. He is the co-author of 20 books on Microsoft Project and Project Server. Dale is known for high-energy, highly interactive style of presenting and teaching. He was voted the “Best Presenter” by conference participants at the Project Conference in 2012.

About Sensei Project Solutions

Sensei Project Solutions, a Finalist for the 2017 Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Partner of the Year, focuses on bringing Instant Productivity to your team. Our mission is to help individuals and organizations be more productive so that they can achieve their greatest potential. As a Gold certified Microsoft Partner and Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) with the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Sensei offers a complete set of services and products for a successful Microsoft PPM deployment. Our guiding principles for Proactive PPM follow best practices and industry standards aligned with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and Gartner, enabling organizations to manage resource demand, obtain business intelligence that facilitates better decision making, increase business effectiveness by easily connecting people, and become self-sufficient with PPM processes and solutions. In short, Sensei helps organizations achieve Instant Productivity.

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