Project Management Series: Effort vs Duration vs Elapsed Time

Project Management Learning Series: Effort vs Duration vs Elapsed Time
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Avantika Monnappa

Last updated July 31, 2017


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Time. It's all any of us ever want. More time. We are never happy with the time we have. It isn't enough. It is one unique non-renewable resource that is irreplaceable. But we make do with what we have. We learn to manage time. In the words of Peter F. Drucker "Until we manage time, we can manage nothing else".

Time estimation and management can make or break a project, and is thus critically important in the discipline of Project Management.

Time estimated must always be right for two main reasons:

1. Deadlines for the planning and delivery of the projects are drawn from the estimated duration. Poor estimation results in drawn-out, lengthy delivery and turnaround times, casting aspersions on your competence and reliability as a project manager.

2. They also regulate the pricing of contracts and thus, in commercial terms, the profitability of the project or contract.

As a project manager, you should be trained in Project Time Management because of deadlines and other time constraints. Without this skill, the project you are running will head straight down the hill, accumulating increased overheads.

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Scheduled activities in the "Estimate Activity Duration" are prioritized using these three factors:

  • Effort
  • Duration
  • Time Elapsed

What is Effort?

As the name suggests, ‘effort’ is the number of work units that is vital to complete an activity. If you want to determine any of the other two, you will need to determine the effort in a project first.

In simpler terms, it is the number of hours we put in, focused on a particular task, to get a certain job done.
Stakeholders often want to know how much a project will cost. This chiefly depends on the measure of time members of the project spend on the project.

Effort is most often expressed in Staff - hours, days or weeks.

A simple example to explain this concept is, say you begin to paint your house. You work 6 hours a day for 9 days. Your effort would then be the amount of time you take in a day multiplied by the number of days you work, which would be 54 hours. The effort you put in is 54 hours.

What is Duration?

Duration, however, is the entire time taken to complete the activity that you are assigned, which is based on the resources allocated to the project. It stretches from when the task first began to the day it ended and does not include the holidays or the non-working days. 

Duration can be expressed in Work Hours, Work Days and Work Weeks.
It is also referred to as calendar time.

Take the same example given for effort. You begin to paint your room. You work 6 hours a day for 9 days. The duration of your work is 9 days.

What is Elapsed Time?

Elapsed time is the time between designating a resource to a task to the completion of the task. In simple terms, it is the passage of calendar days. This time can be traced by milestones that have been set on the schedule of the project.

Elapsed Time includes holidays and weekends.

Consider the same example, you begin to paint your room. You work 6 hours a day for 9 days. The elapsed time for a normal day’s work may be 4 hours, which includes 4 hours of real time work plus breaks and lunch time. Your Elapsed time is 11 days, and that includes a Saturday and a Sunday, including the breaks you take in between.

Another example- you work on a construction project for eight days. You work from Monday to the next Wednesday. There is a Saturday and Sunday in between. Your elapsed time is ten days since the holidays are also counted.

In the Project Management exams....

Effort, Duration and Elapsed Time constitute a small part of the Time Management/ Scheduling Module and questions may or may not be asked on them but for future use, it is recommended that you study them well since they will be very important and useful in managing projects.
 

Table:

  Effort Duration Elapsed Time
What it is The number of work units that is vital to complete an activity The entire time taken to complete the activity that you are assigned which is based on the resources allocated to the project Time between designating a resource to a task to the completion of the task
What it is measured in Staff - hours, days or weeks Work Hours, Work Days and Work Weeks
(does not cover weekends or holidays)
Work Hours, Work Days and Work Weeks
(covers weekends and holidays)
Example House Painting :
You work 6 hours a day for 9 days
Effort is 54 hours.
House Painting :
You work 6 hours a day for 9 days
Duration is 9 days
House Painting :
You work 6 hours a day for 9 days
Time Elapsed is 11 days.

 

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About the Author

A project management and digital marketing knowledge manager, Avantika’s area of interest is project design and analysis for digital marketing, data science, and analytics companies. With a degree in journalism, she also covers the latest trends in the industry, and is a passionate writer.


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