Subtasks: Because you can, should you?

In November we published a blog titled “5 Reasons to Stop Using Excel for Project Management Right Now!” that highlighted the reasons why you should not use excel for project management. This blog did not highlight proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to Excel or any piece of software and that is: features or functions that are available, but ultimately they don’t help you be productive.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. Take for example a spreadsheet, just because you can add 100,000 rows to a spreadsheet doesn’t mean that you should.

Teamwork Projects: Sub-Tasks

The same occurs within Teamwork Projects and their recently updated feature of subtasks. When we first started using Teamwork Projects subtasks were limited to one level under the initial top-level task. While the ability to add a second or a third level sub-task may seem appealing it can cause significant confusion on what is part of the task, what has been done, or when it will be done.

Now, we won’t tell you straight out not to use this feature or that is bad, we simply are stating you should use it with caution. The best practices we teach look at subtasks as a means of a modification of the original task such as feedback from a client or an additional task that was not considered as part of the original task. From a metrics perspective, it is very hard to gauge the progress of a task when you have multiple sub-tasks upon sub-tasks upon sub-tasks on one task.

How are they useful?

Sub-tasks were useful for dependent tasks in which one cannot be completed without first completing the sub-task below. However, dependencies for tasks are no longer are required to be a sub-tasks. This change within Teamwork Projects, allows you to select multiple tasks or subtasks that not related to the task at all. But where does this feature fall in terms of usefulness and should it be used in this way?

The answer is up to you and what you decide is best for your organization. In terms of task pairing, it makes more sense to pair common tasks as a sub-task such as Website Domain and Hosting and their associated sub-tasks, but pairing website related tasks with buying paper clips may seem confusing. While that example is an extreme and unrealistic, it does highlight how quickly as task list can get out of hand when best practices are not followed.

Task list Management

Task list management is a large topic and we could go on for pages upon pages upon pages. Now, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. But, task list management should be something that is discussed with one of our Teamwork Experts who can help you determine the best way to manage your list and keep your tasks clear, concise and manageable.

Stay tuned for our next Teamwork Tip of the Month.