Develop a Scope for my Project! Should I choose Manually or Auto scheduled Tasks?



After three posts about Risk we are back again with our “Wedding Project”.  I have started with adding Task (directly or with exporting from Excel). We are still in a Planning phase of my Project.

You should always start with entering task first. You should ask me: “But what if I know all, or almost all my resources or costs? Why not to put them in my Resource sheet first, and then put the Tasks?”.  Go on! Put them if you know them. But to determine how long will your Project take, and how much money do you have to spend you must know all of your tasks. So, even if you have you resources in your resource sheet in MS PROJECT 2010, you should enter your tasks “first” and then you can assign the Resources to them. You see, with “Enter your tasks first” I didn’t mean physically, but logically FIRST.

In every Project you should have an answer to the three questions: “WHAT? WHEN? WITH WHOM?”

First you have to know WHAT you have to do, it means Scope of your Project. After that you can have two different approaches: to develop the Schedule first (WHEN?), and then develop your human and material resource plan (WITH WHOM?), or vice versa. Which approach is better? It depends of your Project, and with that I mean what is the constraint of your Project! If you have limited resources, you should first develop the human and material resource plan, and then develop the Schedule. And you will see how much time do you need to finish your Project with that limited Resources. On the other hand, if you have limited time, you should first develop the Schedule, and after that develop the human and material resource plan. And you will see how many people (and how experience they should be, and how expensive), and material do you need on your Project to hit the deadline!

If you are limited with budget, than after you answer the magic three questions, you will see if your Project is over the Budget. And if it is, you should cut the scope, or cut the resources (and the Project will need additional time to finish), or you should cut the quality, or something else. Remember this: IF YOU HAVE TO CUT SOMETHING OUT FROM YOUR PROJECT AND YOU ARE THE PROJECT MANAGER, OR TEAM MEMBER, DO NOT MAKE THAT DECISION BY YOUR OWN! You should prepare the solutions (cutting the scope, cutting the resource, quality etc.), and then you should let your customer, or sponsor, or upper management to make a DECISION! GOT IT? If you will make decision by your own, that is called: BAD PROJECT MANAGEMENT! Why? Because you do not know what is allowed to cut, and what is not. For example, in our Wedding Project, if you are short with money, who can decide if you will buy less expensive drinks, or you will buy more expensive drinks but not 100 bottles, as was planned, but only 20 instead? Project Manager? NO WAY!

What if you do not have the answers for the three magic questions? What will it mean. IT means:

  • I do not have an answer on WHAT! It means: I can do ENYTHING I WANT and I have UNLIMITED BUDGET
  • I do not have an answer on WHEN! It means: I have UNLIMITED TIME, so it means my Project can last forever
  • I do not have an answer on WITH WHOM! It means: I can take any person in the world for my Project, and I can take as many People and Material as I need.

And this is fairy-tale!

Scope, Time and Resource in a Project are known as a “Triple Constraint”, and they make a Triangle:


You can change maximum two edges of a triangle, and the third one is out of your control. For example, if you change Scope and Resources your Time will increase or decrease!

O.K. When you are adding a new task in your project it is by default in Manually Scheduled mode. An this is brand-new feature in MS PROJECT 2010.

When you enter the task name, without any other information, on the Gantt chart you will see nothing.


Manually scheduled Tasks are marked with a pushpin icon. To determine duration, start and end date you should enter two of these three fields, and MS PROJECT 2010 will calculate the third one. Until manually scheduled Task does not have all those fields (duration, start and end date) filled, this Task is called as: “PLACEHOLEDR TASK”, and it has a question mark behind the pushpin icon. When you fill those fields (two of them) the question mark will disappear.

You can put in duration, start and end date whatever you want! For example, in Duration of Visit the Wine-cellar Task you can put: “I have to check with my Wife”

If you want a further information about manually scheduled task read my post:

The main question here is when to use manually or auto scheduled Tasks, and why.

The answer is simple! When you do not have a reliable information about your task, then use Manually Scheduled Task. You can mix manually and auto scheduled task in a schedule (see my post:

But, FROM MY POINT OF VIEW, as soon as you have a reliable information about duration, and you link these task with some other task, change the mode from Manually to Automatic! In my Projects, when I am done with planning (meaning I know all the tasks, Resource and Schedule), I have NO MANUALLY SCHEDULED TASKS! Why? Because I want MS PROJECT 2010 to make all the calculations for me. If you still want to keep some (or all) task in manually scheduled mode, you will have to keep your eye on each and every task, and if you are in a Project with hundreds or even thousands of task you will most probably forget something, and you will get in the trouble.

If you have a Project which will last 27 months for example, and you will do it in the phases, then of course, phases that will come later in your Project (in a few months, for example) can be in manually scheduled mode until, for example, 20 days before it will begin!

You can change the task mode for multiple task in this way:

Select the tasks:


then click on:




Finally if you want this MS PROJECT file with the wedding project you can download it from:

Best Regards!


About Nenad Trajkovski

Location: Zagreb, Croatia Occupation: Project Manager Interests: Project Management and MS PROJECT He was born in Zagreb, Croatia at 1963. After completing his college he started working on projects in different business areas (banking, manufacturing, automotive industry, distribution, oil companies, etc.) developing and implementing ERP systems into different companies. He has got a lot of experience working with people in different business processes and also possesses great knowledge in information technologies and financial services. Today he works as a business consultant, adn Project Manager in PERPETUUM MOBILE d.o.o. Zagreb. He is a regular lecturer for Project Management in MS Innovation Center in Varaždin, Logosoft Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina and SEAVUS GROUP in Skopje Macedonia. He was named the best lecturer of WINDAYS 2008 while his lecture was also voted as the best. In addition, he was in TOP 10 lecturers at the MS SINERGY 2009 and MS VISIA 2009, 2010. Shares first place as the best lecturer of KulenDays 2009 and 2010 and PMI Conference 2009 in Zagreb. He is also a regular lecturer in the MS Community. He is a Certified Accountant and a PMP (Project Manager Professional) and a PMI-RMP (Risk Manager Professional), MCP, MCT, and Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist - Microsoft Project 2010. From 01.01.2012 awarded with MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Proffesional - Microsoft Project)!
This entry was posted in MICROSOFT PROJECT, MS PROJECT 2010, PMI, PRoject Management and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Develop a Scope for my Project! Should I choose Manually or Auto scheduled Tasks?

  1. Tom Cattell says:

    You are providing a tremendous service here. Thank you. I am reading my way through your posts as a new user of MS Project and am most thankful that I found you.
    As an example of a simple guidance rule which will save me a huge amount of time in the future, you suggested leaving all tasks set to Manual Scheduling without having all the information required for a task. This is backwards from what I intuitively thought would be best when designing a project. You further explained that when you have completed the setup of the project, most if not all of the tasks will be set to Automatically Scheduled. Thanks to your writings here, I can see where this will save a huge amount of time and accuracy in setting up my project.
    Thank you.

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