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.
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 (toolsoptionsCalculation – 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!