Project Schedule Quality 102: Finding Invalid Summary Tasks

microsoft project tutorial custom filter

The following tutorial is part of our project schedule quality series that provides over 14 different ways to improve your project schedule.

In this Microsoft Project tutorial, you’ll learn how to identify invalid summary tasks in a project schedule by building custom filters.  We want to identify any summary tasks that have a predecessor and any summary tasks that have resources assigned.

Remember linking summary tasks is a bad idea

Ideally, only the tasks at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure should be linked.  Project summary tasks shouldn’t linked together for several reasons including:

  • The schedule “flow” or logic can be difficult to follow
  • Incorrectly extends the plan
  • Creates gap between resource assignments
  • Sub tasks appear as “orphans” without predecessors assigned

The best practice is to avoid linking summary tasks and establish predecessors at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure.

(By the way, my friends at PMConnection have another good article on why linking summary tasks is a bad idea)

Assigning Resources to Summary tasks is another bad idea

Assigning resources isn’t advised since it:

  • Incorrectly calculates work when the same resource is assigned to a summary task and individual sub tasks
  • When individual tasks are filtered, it creates the perception that tasks are missing resources
  • Work is not accurately assigned when summary tasks and individual sub tasks have different resources

The best practice is to assign resources to the lowest level of the schedule.  Even if one person is responsible for a series of tasks, the person should be assigned to each task in the schedule.

Microsoft Project Tutorial: Invalid Summary Logic Custom Filter

Follow these steps to build the Invalid Summary Logic filter:

  1. Go to View – Filters – New Filter.
  2. Rename the filter to “Invalid Summary Logic”
  3. Add the “Summary field equals Yes”.
  4. Add “And Predecessors does not equal” leaving the value blank.
  5. Click Save

microsoft project tutorial schedule quality custom filter

When you apply the filter, you will quickly see all the summary tasks that are linked.

ms project tutorial invalid summary task custom filter

To fix this problem, make change the Filter to No Filter and remove the predecessors from the summary tasks.  Look into each work package and create predecessors at the lowest level of that work package.

Invalid Summary Task Resource Filter

The Invalid Summary Task Resource filter actually already exists in MS-Project 2013.  It is called the “Summary Tasks with Assigned Resources” filter.  In case you don’t have it in earlier versions of Microsoft Project, here is how to build it:

  1. Go to View – Filters – New Filter.
  2. Rename the filter to “Summary Tasks with Assigned Resources”
  3. Add the “Summary field equals Yes”.
  4. Add “And Resource Names does not equal” leaving the value blank.
  5. Click the checkbox “Show related summary rows”
  6. Click Save

Summary Tasks Assigned With Resources

By applying this filter, you will identify all the summary tasks with resource names.  You can see how adding resources to a summary task can cause resource overallocation as well as leave subtasks without an assigned resource.

Summarty Tasks with Assigned Resources Results

Go ahead and remove the resource names from these tasks and check the sub-tasks so you can reassign these resources.

In this Microsoft Project tutorial, we looked at two useful filters to help improve your project’s schedule quality.  In the next project schedule quality tutorial, we will identify invalid milestones.

Next: Project Schedule Quality 103 Finding Invalid Milestones

Photo Credit: Daniel Oines  

Opt In Image
Get the Job You Deserve In 7 Easy Steps
Learn a simple 7 step process for finding, preparing and passing your next PM interview

About Andrew Makar

My official bio is I'm an "IT Director with delivery experience across projects, programs and portfolios in Automotive, Financial and Marketing industries". I've enjoy putting project management theory into real-world practice and over the years I've published and taught my approaches to Tactical Project Management.When I'm not working, writing, or teaching, I'm hanging out with my kids and learning the occasional card trick or two.
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply