Learn how to use Inactive Tasks with MS Project
As project managers, we know the project schedule will change throughout the course of a project. Dates adjust, resources are swapped, and tasks are added, modified and deleted. Adding and updating task information is straightforward however deleting a task in MS Project raises some theoretical questions about if you should even delete a task from a baselined plan. Once a project baseline is established, cost, timing and scope are committed. If the schedule is modified, dates, cost and scope may adjust. As the project executes, project managers may want to compare the current project against the original baseline or conduct what-if analysis.
If you delete a task, you lose all the baseline information and any work or costs associated with the task. The alternative to deleting a baselined task involved reducing the project duration to zero. Having applied this approach on past projects, it wasn’t ideal as creating a zero duration task also converted the task into a milestone. This would cause some problems in milestone reporting and if the task was added back, it would cause further confusion. Fortunately, MS Project 2010 fixed a lot of these issues by adding inactive tasks to the Microsoft Project 2010 release.
The inactive tasks feature allows project managers to remove tasks from the schedule while recognizing the task existed in the original plan. The figure below depicts 5 tasks with 2 tasks in an inactive status.
To set a task to an inactive status
1. Click on the task
2. In the Task ribbon, in the Schedule section, click on the Inactivate icon (Figure 2)
3. The task will appear grayed out with a strike-through line (Figure 1 above)
When a task is inactivated, the task and its associated budget, work and assigned resources are not included in the schedule calculations. This feature also allows you to do some what-if analysis when assessing a potential change to your project schedule without losing the original schedule data. Inactivating a task is easy however there are several considerations when inactivating a task.
Considerations when using inactive tasks
Creating an inactive task will impact the project schedule and project managers need to reassess the resource leveling and its impact to the critical path. In Figure 3 below, the original project schedule is display with properly leveled resources and the critical path identified.
After inactivating tasks, the project schedule has over allocated resources that need to be rescheduled (Figure 4). Reallocating the resources manually or automatically, will change the start and finish dates.
Figure 5 depicts the revised schedule with inactive tasks, a new critical path and adjusted resource allocations. Project managers can also hide the inactive tasks by changing the filter to Active tasks in the View ribbon bar.
I’ve found this new feature useful when reassessing the critical path and considering changes to a project schedule. Instead of saving different versions as I examine what-if scenarios, I can inactivate and back out the changes as necessary. The project schedule is a model of future events and with MS Project 2010 inactive task feature, I can model changes faster without destroying my project schedule.
For more tutorials on how to use Microsoft Project, check out our list of Microsoft Project tutorials.