Are hammock tasks in MS Project useful?

Posted By Posted by: EPM Partners on October 3, 2012

A common requirement in project scheduling and project server is to have a task that will automatically extend or shorten its duration based on the start/finish dates of other tasks. This could be over the length of a phase or over an entire project.

This is particularly useful for the following scenario:

A project manager works on various Project Management activities in a project. They can obviously assign themselves to all of the individual tasks that they are working on e.g. Business Case, Project Plan etc, however what about general project management activities that may be too small for a specific task?

They could create a task called ‘Project Management’ and assign themselves at 10% allocation to account for the day to day work they would spend on that project, but they would need to manually adjust the task duration constantly in order to align with the project start and finish dates.

Alternatively, the project manager can create a ‘Hammock Task’ that will automatically shorten and extend in duration to align to project start and finish dates. The hammock task start date would be linked to the first project task start date and the finish date linked to the latest project task finish date. They then assign themselves at 10% (or any allocation) and can see and use this task in their timesheets for effort management. As the project task that has the project finish date shifts, so will the hammock task.

Other ideas for using hammock tasks include:

–          Simplifying timesheets

  • Some users do not enjoy thousands of tasks in their timesheet (OK, maybe MANY users). Using hammock tasks allows the ability to create higher level tasks to track the actual work from timesheets rather than many smaller tasks. E.g. Service desk tickets and incident management, Business As Usual activities, administration and general management activities

–          Managing external contract work

  • When hiring external suppliers/contractors you may be unaware of the smaller, individual activities they are performing throughout the length of the project, however you need to track their work in terms of effort and/or cost.

Without taking credit, the following MS article outlines how to create hammock tasks in MS Project 2007 and 2010:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/141733

Important: Hammock tasks only work when the task mode is ‘Manually Scheduled’ and hence Project Server 2010 cannot be in compatibility mode.

To build a hammock task between two other tasks in Microsoft Project 2010, follow these steps:

  1. Create or determine three tasks that correspond to A, B, and C in the example above.
  2. Highlight the cell that contains date A (the date that will determine when task B starts).
  3. On the Task tab, click copy.
  4. Highlight the cell that contains the Start date for task B (the hammock task).
  5. On the Task tab, select the Paste drop-down, and then click Paste Special. Select Paste Link and then click OK.
  6. Highlight the cell that contains Date C (the date that will determine when task B finishes).
  7. On the Task tab, click Copy.
  8. Click the cell that contains the finish date for task B (the hammock task).
  9. On the Task tab, select the Paste drop-down, and then click Paste Special. Select Paste Link and then click OK.


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