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Infrastructure Update and Cost Resource Behavior

Infrastructure Update and Cost Resource Behavior

  • Comments 7

Hello, this is David Ducolon.  You may have noticed that we have just released the post-SP1 “Infrastructure Release” of our software – one of the areas where we’ve made some changes is with Cost Resources, a feature I helped design and continue to own and love the feature area.

History

Cost resources were originally designed to fulfill the frequent customer request for more than one task-level fixed-cost entry with additional scope to support cost entry across multiple cost categories and across time for better cost tracking and possible accounting integration..  .

In keeping with the way in which a Task's fixed cost works, we decided that the cost resource should also be as schedule agnostic as possible.  Meaning the dates from the cost resource assignment should never have an impact on the task dates or level of completeness.  By the time we released Project 2007, we had achieved much of that goal with a couple of known and avoidable things to watch for, more below.  

After a year of learning

We’ve been very pleased with the rate of adoption of this new functionality, and especially at some of the more innovative uses in some deployments. However a couple of deployments have had issues with some unexpected side-effects from the implementation which have encouraged us to make some changes, especially around controlling schedule impacts, leading to my new vision:

Costs displayed should always show the left hand side and right hand side of usage views to be equal.

This may seem obvious but in Project there are often times when we show a single data value in two places on one screen.  For example, cost of an assignment as a single value on the left and cost of an assignment time-phased on the right.  By making this change cost resources became stable, predictable and above all accurate.

Enter Project Server into the mix...

Now I have talked about Cost Resources and Project but noticeably absent was any discussion of Project Server.  Why?  Well resources are assigned in Project and not in Project Server. But we cannot forget Project Server since work is updated via Project Server and with the 2007 release we have enhanced the server to calculate real time schedule updates.

So why am I mentioning this now?  Because the scheduling and calculation engine of Project Server is unaware of cost resources and in spite of our most valiant efforts; the server may change the actual cost values for cost resources in ways that might seem to be corrupting the data when the feature is not used as designed.  This leads me to our "User Scenarios to Avoid" or "Best Practice Use Cases" rules, follow these and you’ll enjoy success with the Cost Resource feature!

Rule 1 : Project Managers should avoid assigning cost resources to the same tasks as work or material resources, especially when those work or material resources are going to update their progress in Project Server. <What happens?>

Rule 2 : Avoid setting your resource default calendar to the 24 hour elapsed calendar since this setting on a cost resource may have unintended results.  Again let me explain: costs do not have a capacity (8 hour or 24 hour work days) like work resources and to limit cost resources to only having a usage value would not allow cost resources to represent revenue.  Therefore; costs will get scheduled under a 24hour calendar with very little regard for individual days in which they were allocated.  And if this is done on a server without work resources on the task the start and end dates become hard to predict.

The remaining examples are much simpler so I will complete this post with a set of bullet points:

Rule 3: Do not disable cost calculation (tools\options\Calculation - Actual costs are always calculated by Microsoft Office Project).  This will zero out all costs even the ones you as the user entered for cost resources not just the ones that Project calculated on behalf of you.

Rule 4: Avoid using undo on the "remaining duration" field for tasks where cost resources are assigned.  Using the undo feature here will alter the cost values in the time-phased side of a usage screen and it does not always accurately restore a previous value of the cost.  So if you insist on using this pay close attention to the cost values before and after.

And finally here is a last word of caution.  Remember that Project knows what date today is and if you assign costs at a monthly level then be aware that costs for the current month will start on the date for today.  This also applies to assignments that do not start on the first of the month or end on the last day of the month.  Always think of costs at the day level regardless of the UI display scale.  I mention this since at initial release the costs would have been distributed across the full period shown in the UI time scale.

Well that is all for now. Please reply to this post with any feedback – I’m always looking for suggestions on making this feature as useful as possible!

  • PingBack from http://blog.a-foton.ru/2008/07/infrastructure-update-and-cost-resource-behavior/

  • David - I read your blog above with great interest. I am interested in the consequences of breaking Rule 1 above and the <what happens?> link is inop. What does happen?

    We are getting ready to launch a very large implementation of MSP 2007 Pro and PS 2007 and do have cost resources assigned to task with the named resource's work.

  • Hi David,

    were there / are there any plans to allow the cost resources to be included in the Earned Value capabilities of MS Project?

    For example - you have a resource assigned for 10 days to a task at $10/hour, the task is baselined, and then tracked with status date and actual work progress.  From this information you can then track performance etc and get timephased values for EV (BCWP, ACWP etc etc)

    However if you wish to track things such as "procurement" where you for example have a service that you are purchasing into your project - you may still want to spread out the costs over time, baseline it and then track actual costs.  From this you 'could' add this into your EV reporting.  As far as I can see, MS Project only takes into account Work values in EV calculation.

    Any comments? (or advice)

  • I am new to MPP. currently i am working on a project having team spread across onsite-offshore. So challenege i am facing is with respect to entering cost information for air fare and perdiem.

    Is there any way to enetr this information in MPP?

    Thanks,

    Pushkar

  • Hi,

    After deciding to take the plunge and use Cost Resources, we've encountered a problem. In our test plan, everything is stable. In our pilot test, assigning our 2 new cost resources to a task in a live project, every morning the Cost for the resources has doubled and the task duration has increased accordingly. The Actual Cost stays the same, but the PM has to tweak this every day.

    Any idea what we might be doing wrong? I don't see any way to set the calendar for Cost Resources. Do I need to set a specific task calendar?

    We could really use this feature to capture non-EV related items, such as travel, but will stick with using material resources if Cost Resources are too buggy.

    Thanks for your help.

  • MS Project 2007 Standard SP2

    Issue: Cost Resources Behavior

    In the Task Form (scroll to bottom to see data), when I change the duration to move Finish from 12/30/2010 to 7/28/2010, the $50,000 for Service (cost resource) changes to $20,656.27 no matter if I set it to Prorated or End.  I do not want it to change. The costs and hours for Engineer1 and Engineer 2 do not change. Why does the $50,000 amount for Service (cost resource) change to $20,656.27?   I want it to behave the same way as Engineer1 (work) and Engineer2 (work) and remain the same while I am developing the schedule prior to baseline. Otherwise, a lot of extra work is required to manually change the monetary value of cost resources assigned to each task when changing duration as a result of multiple in-house collaborative meetings.  If the hours assigned to Engineer1 and Engineer2 changed every time I changed Start, Duration, or Finish, I would not be a happy camper due to the extra labor on my part.  Does my description of cost resource behavior align with the MS Project 2007 algorithm? What am I doing wrong? What do you suggest?  Alternative solution?

    Task: Design subsea equipment

        Start: 1/4/2010

        Finish: 12/30/2010

        Assigned resources:

            Engineer1 (work): $102,824 - 800 hours

            Engineer2 (work):  $22,550 - 200 hours

            Service(cost resource): $50,000

    Thanks for the help.

  • November 9, 2009

    MS Project 2007 Standard SP2

    Issue: Cost Resources Behavior

    In the Task Form (scroll to bottom to see data), when I change the Duration to move the Finish date from 12/30/2010 to 7/28/2010, the $50,000 for Cost Resource changes to $28,571.43 no matter if I set it to Prorated or End.  

    I do not want it to change. The costs and hours for Engineer1 and Engineer 2 do not change. Why does the $50,000 amount for Cost Resource change to $28,571.43?   I want it to behave the same way as Engineer1 (work) and Engineer2 (work) and remain the same while I am developing the schedule prior to baseline. Otherwise, a lot of extra work is required to manually change the monetary value of cost resources assigned to each task whenever I must change duration as a result of multiple in-house collaborative meetings.  

    If the hours assigned to Engineer1 and Engineer2 changed every time I changed Start, Duration, or Finish, I would not be a happy camper due to the extra labor on my part.  Does my description of cost resource behavior align with the MS Project team algorithm? What do you suggest?

    Task1 (Fixed Work) $175,374 1,000 hours

    Start:  1/4/2010

    Duration: 259 days

    Finish: 12/30/2010

    Engineer1    $102,824   800 hours

    Engineer2     $22,550   200 hours

    Cost Resource $50,000

    If I change Duration to 148 days, then the cost of Task 1 drops from $175,000 to $153,945.43 because the Project 2007 algorithm changes Cost Resource from $50,000 to $28,571.43.  This is not the behavior I expect.  The cost should not change just because I change the duration for a fixed work task.

    Task1 (Fixed Work)$153,945.43 1,000 hours

    Start:  1/4/2010

    Duration: 148 days

    Finish: 7/28/2010

    Engineer1    $102,824   800 hours

    Engineer2     $22,550   200 hours

    Cost Resource $28,571.43

    Next, I changed the duration back to 259 days; the cost of Task 1 did not change back to $175,000 but remained at the incorrect value of $153,945.43.  The Cost Resource did not change back to $50,000 but remained at the incorrect value of $28,571.43.

    Task1 (Fixed Work)$153,945.43 1,000 hours

    Start:  1/4/2010

    Duration: 259 days

    Finish: 12/30/2010

    Engineer1    $102,824   800 hours

    Engineer2     $22,550   200 hours

    Cost Resource $28,571.43

    I changed the Cost Resource from "Accrue at Prorated" to "Accrue at End" and the same unwanted behavior occurred again.

    Please confirm that this is the current behavior of MS Project 2007 or instruct me in the errors of my ways.  I sure have expended many, many hours on this high priority $54 million schedule chasing down the reasons as to why the project summary costs keep changing every time the schedule is tweaked.  When scheduling a project with only fixed costs tasks, the project summary task costs and man-hours should not change.  

    Regards,

    Scott Binegar MSME, MBA, P.E., PMP

    Project Manager

    Email: scott.binegar@fmcti.com

    Telephone: 281-260-2808

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