Timesheets are important for projects as they are often the source-of-truth for effort consumed. They form the basis of many project cost reports.
This blog aims to explain the somewhat mysterious behaviour of Microsoft Project Online (and also Project Server 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019) timesheet module that timesheet users and managers interact with.
One of the top timesheet queries raised with our support team is why a certain task that was on my timesheet last week is now not showing on my current timesheet. When the underlying reason is not understood, it certainly creates concern for the whole project team. Confidence is lost in the tool.
A user is having difficulties with his timesheet. On the task that he is assigned to on a certain project, the project manager has confirmed the following:
- the start date is set to the beginning of the year, and
- the end date is set to later in the year, and
- there is remaining work.
However, when he generates his timesheet for this week, the task was nowhere to be found. Both the project manager and timesheet user are confused. The user can add the task manually but ideally timesheets should auto-populate with task assignments.
The typical but undesired workaround is to add the assigned task back to your own timesheet by following these steps:
- Log into your Project Online instance.
- Click on PWA Settings >> Manage Timesheets.
- Click on the timesheet in question
- Then click on “Timesheet” in the ribbon and click “Select From Existing Assignments”
The above steps certainly will put the task back on the timesheet but the real problem is being masked.
First up, auto population of tasks on users’ timesheet will only occur if the appropriate setting has been set by the administrator.
PWA Settings >> Timesheet Settings and Defaults >> Default Creation Mode >> Select current task assignments.
Before going into the possible scenarios as to why a task may disappear, it is important to explain the difference between assignment remaining work and task remaining work.
Assignment remaining work dictates how much work is left on a certain task for an assigned user.
For example, a task can be divided into different assignments. If the total work for a task that has not commenced is 20 hours and there are two resources assigned with 50% work each, the assignment remaining work for each resource is 10 hours.
If one of the resources completes 2 hours of the 10, this reduces the remaining work on this assignment to 8 hours.
Task remaining work is how much work is left on the task as a whole. So, in the above example, if one resource has completed 2 hours of the 10 assigned, while the other has done none, the task remaining work is 18 hours.
You might now start to realise, that it is possible for a task to have remaining work but some of the user assignments on that same task to have no remaining work. This is key to understanding the issue of “why has a task disappeared from my timesheet”. It is assignment remaining work, not task remaining work, that is the main driver as to when a task auto-populates a users’ timesheet.
The amount of remaining work for a task or an assignment can be found by:
- On a user’s timesheet, if you click on the task it will display the amount of assignment remaining work, total work and more.
- In Project Professional, show the “Remaining Work” column in both the Gantt chart view and the Resource Usage view. Refer to screenshots below.
Possible reasons to why tasks are missing from a user’s timesheet:
Let’s expand on our hypothetical scenario a little.
- There is a task that spans the whole calendar
year and the PM confirms there is remaining work on the task.
The planned work is 60 hours.
The remaining work is 30 hours
- User A has an assignment of 20 hours. Assignment remaining work is 20 hours as seen in MS Project resource usage view.
- User B has an assignment of 20 hours. Assignment remaining work is 10 hours as seen in MS Project resource usage view.
- User C has an assignment of 20 hours. Assignment remaining work is zero.
What are the different scenarios that might cause a task to not appear on a user’s timesheet? Let’s take a look shall we!
- The task has an end date that is set in the past.
Even if there is remaining work on the task or user assignment, the task won’t appear on the timesheet if the task finish date is in the past; i.e. finishes before the timesheet period.
However, this isn’t the case in our scenario.
- There is no task remaining work.
Yes, if the task is complete, don’t expect the task to be on your next timesheet. However, this isn’t the case in our scenario.
- There is no assignment remaining work left.
If there is no remaining work left on a user’s assignment, there is no reason why it would appear on a user’s timesheet. This is the case for User C in our scenario. For users A and B however, this is not the case.
NOTE: users sometimes unknowingly set the work remaining on a task to zero when submitting their timesheet. If approved, then the expected behaviour is for the task to not appear on the following week’s timesheet.
- The task is locked.
This means that a task is locked from all future updates. There is a “Locked” field that can be set on the project schedule. Setting this field to “Yes” prevents the task appearing on a timesheet and does not allow for further updates to the task.
In our scenario, this is not the case for users A and B.
NOTE: if this was the case though, it would not be possible for the timesheet user to add the task back into his timesheet manually.
- The project hasn’t been published and is checked out.
If you are referring to the project schedule to determine if there is assignment remaining work, ensure that the project has been published. Only published data will drive whether a task appears on users’ timesheets.
If in doubt, publish the project. Often PMs forget to publish their projects after task updates.
In our scenario, this is not the case for users A and B. That leaves just one idea left.
- There are task status updates that have been submitted but are still pending approval.
This is the most obscure reason of them all and difficult to explain! To be exact here, it is the task update sent to the Task Status manager (typically this is the project manager) that has not been approved.
As it turns out, users A and B entered zero into the remaining work column (or alternatively the task was marked as complete) in one of their previous timesheets. The task update that was sent is still not approved.
In this situation, the task will not auto-populate onto the following timesheet.
For user A, it was on his timesheet two weeks ago that he submitted his zero hours remaining. The task update went to “Dan” and he has not approved the update yet.
For user B, it was on his timesheet last week that he submitted his zero hours remaining. Unlike user A, since the task status manager changed recently, his update went to “Derek”. That is, Derek is the current Task Status Manager and it is not “Dan” anymore. Derek also has not approved the update.
NOTE: it is difficult to track who has task status updates pending when the Task Status Manager has recently change. The new Task Status Manager does not receive the notification for the previous Task Status manager.
So there you have it. If you have a “task is missing from my timesheet” query, try to go through the 6 possible scenarios above and you will eventually find out the reason.
P.S. do not expect a task assignment to appear on a timesheet initially, if the “Booking Type” on the schedule is set to proposed. However, once a task appears on a user’s timesheet if the “Booking Type” is changed from committed to proposed, it will not affect the user’s timesheet.