Project Task Structure in OpenAir: Task vs. Time

The team here at Top Step is constantly asked the question about project task structure in OpenAir and what we recommend. While we have seen examples of what works well, and what doesn’t, across many clients there isn’t a one size fits all solution. The best solution will ultimately be dependent on your business operation and reporting needs.

The first place to reference when determining how to set up your project task structure in OpenAir is your contract or statement of work. Often times a breakdown of activities, along with a plan of hours, is outlined in the agreement. Regardless of whether this is a detailed or summary list, this is an ideal place to begin as it provides a foundation from which to base your decisions.

Structuring your project tasks based on Time entry can be as few as one task, or a handful of tasks, which reflect the work being completed. These tasks may encompass the phases or milestones of your work and could include items such as requirements gathering, data migration, and go live support. Having a simple task structure allows for minimal maintenance to the items such as task assignments and updating dates and predecessors. For time entry, we typically recommend keeping the structure simple as it makes the process streamlined for end users when selecting tasks on their timesheet and ensures that the data will not be watered down. This option of having up to a handful of tasks works well for both Time and Materials (hourly) billing contracts as well as Fixed Fee contracts, especially where you may be looking to hone in on planned vs. actuals and determine appropriate pricing for your projects. Often times for Fixed Fee projects, when the bit more detail is not necessary, a single task will be used.

Having a more detailed Task structure and having it mimic a more complex project plan provides details for project managers and allows them to manage their project against these tasks. It is possible that some or all of your contracts may stipulate that users must to log time to detailed tasks in the project, and report that back via the invoice, and cannot be avoided. Allowing this option otherwise, especially for time entry, generally causes more confusion to end users in determining to which tasks their time entries should go. Complex task structure may also not allow for as precise reporting when looking at hours spent against the project. The length of the project plan should also be considered against the page loading times in OpenAir; complex task structures with hundreds of lines may take longer for pages to load than users are expecting. Combining a simple task, or few tasks for time entry, such as in a phase, and perhaps more detailed tasks in their own phase for mid-level project management or project/billing milestone tracking, is a great combination and option.

For more PS Best Practices information and considerations for Professional Services or OpenAir, check out the recorded webinars in our resource library. Learn more about Top Step process workshops and business efficiency assessments here.

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