Task Management

What is task management, why it is important
and other things project managers should know about tasks.

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Task management forms the foundation for the project management discipline. It provides organization’s an efficient workflow process that is the core vehicle for delivering all of their projects.

What is a Task

Tasks are all of the work items and assignments that need to be accomplished within a defined amount of time, for a project to be completed. Project management teams are chartered with effectively managing these tasks throughout the duration of a project. This often requires coordination with other teams and people, and orchestration of all preceding and upcoming tasks.

Definition of Task Management

Task management is the practice and activity of managing a series of tasks to completion, as defined by a project schedule. It is the process of progressing each task through its full life cycle, from the creation phase, all the way through to closing and reporting.

Project managers follow systematic task management processes to manage all aspects of tasks. These processes include task assignments, timelines, prioritization, budgeting and status communications.

Task Elements

Project managers create Gantt charts to help manage tasks. Each task has a start date and end date and they are placed in order on a Gantt chart based on which task needs to be completed before others can begin.

task management gantt chart
  • 1Start date
  • 4% complete
  • 2Finish date
  • 5Task description
  • 3Task duration
  • 6Task owner
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Task Life Cycle

As part of a project management workflow, the task management process will move each task through a life cycle. Depending on the size of the task they can be classified in one of these 7 different states.

Task Life Cycle

  • Planning
  • Creation
  • Execution
  • Monitoring
  • Controlling
  • Closing
  • Reporting

Task Terminology

  • Task Assignment The direction of an individual or team of people to execute and complete a task within a specific time period.
  • Task Board A visualization tool that helps project managers and teams track the progress of their tasks toward completion.
  • Task Creation A result of the Work Break Down Process (WBS) where the activities required to deliver a project are defined.
  • Task Dependency A relationship between tasks where one task is dependent upon the completion of a preceding task before it can begin.
  • Task Estimation A project planner’s estimation of the time and budget required to complete a task.
  • Task Notifications Messages from task management applications, that inform project participants of task status changes and deadlines.
  • Task Prioritization Ranking which tasks to do first based on constraints such as time, resources and other dependencies.
  • Task Reporting The recurring communication of a task’s status to a project manager.
  • Task Scheduling The chronological listing of all tasks by start date, which is visually represented on a timeline or Gantt chart.
  • Task Sequencing Tasks that are dependent on completion of a preceding task, are scheduled with a connection to that preceding task.
  • Task Visualization The graphical presentation of a project’s tasks, most often prepared using task management software.

Task Management Software

The variety of task management software in the market today ranges from simple list based tools to robust applications for handling large projects delivered by dispersed teams. It includes online task management tools, collaboration and notification based tools, visualization tools and a number of simpler free task manager apps.

Although each may be specialized by industry verticals, feature set or other niches, all are designed to help manage tasks and projects to successful completion.

In evaluating task management tools users should first assess the size and complexity of their project. Smaller projects with small teams may find enterprise project management software complicated and complex, whilst teams working on massive projects will obviously find simple software unusable.

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Supported Activities of Task Management

The task management discipline uses a range of skills and concepts including:

  • Creative activities - brainstorming, creation, clarification, organization and prioritization are important during the task planning phase.
  • Functional activities - reporting, tracking, delegating and managing of tasks are required to ensure the successful execution of each task.
  • Project management skills - project breakdown, task assignment, inventorying resources across other projects and having familiarity with task management software.
  • Measuring activities - monitoring the performance of each task. These include tracking and providing status updates, generating exportable reports, making deadline adjustments and logging activity.
  • Knowledge management activities - these functions include document management, access rights management, orders and calls management and annotating tasks.
  • Communication activities - the presentation of information, including creating client and executive reports.
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