Last updated on March 10, 2016
Project Effort and Duration
I recently posted a series of articles on Project Network Diagrams. I wrote an article on Start to Start Relationship. I described the relationship using a small example. While explaining the example I wrote a statement – “The Project Team will need a total of 3 days to complete these activities”. A very senior Project Management Author & Trainer commented on my article. He said that this statement could be confusing. He said that the Days can be understood to mean either Project Effort or Duration.
I completely agree with his comment. During my training the students always ask me “what is the difference between Project Effort and Duration”. I have noticed that many people are not able to distinguish between these terms. They include senior industry professionals, Project Management practitioners and subject matter experts. In fact, I have observed that many Project Management authors have used these terms interchangeably.
In my opinion, you should first understand a Project Management term as a plain English term. Later on, you should delve deeper and understand the Project Management behind the term. In plain English:
Duration refers to the length of time or the time taken to complete a task.
Effort refers to the amount of exertion or the amount of work done to complete a task.
The terms Project Effort and Duration have completely different meaning. One term should not be used in place of the other. Let us understand Project Effort and Duration through definitions and example.
Duration is the total number of work periods required to complete a Task.
The Task could mean an entire Project or a WBS Component or an Activity. Duration does not include holidays and non-working periods. Duration is usually measured & expressed in Hours, Days, and Weeks etc. But you can express Duration in Work Hours, Work Days or Work Weeks in order to avoid any confusion.
You can also look at Max Wideman’s Glossary for some other definitions of Duration.
Note: Duration is different from Elapsed Time.
Effort is the number of labor units required to complete a Task.
Again, the Task could mean an entire Project or a WBS Component or an Activity. Effort is sometimes expressed in Hours, Days, and Weeks etc. But you should use Person Hours, Person Days or Person Weeks to express Effort in order to avoid any confusion. Some Project Management authors prefer to use ‘Man’ or ‘Staff’ as prefix to express Effort e.g. Man Hours, Staff Days, Staff Weeks etc.
You can also look at Max Wideman’s Glossary for some other definitions of Effort.
Example of Project Effort and Duration
Let us consider a small task that involves Painting Walls.
Assumptions & Estimates
Relationship between Project Effort and Duration
Let us continue from the above example. The relationship between Project Effort and Duration can be best expressed by following formula:
(Effort) = (Duration) * (Number of Resources)
This formula will not work in many cases. But, it gives a fair idea of the relationship between Project Effort and Duration. This formula will work only if:
For example, the formula would not work while developing a piece of software code.
What units do you use to connote Project effort and Duration? Please leave a comment.