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“Which one?! Task, action, risk or issue?”

Our clients often ask us “What is the difference between a task and an action?” or “When does a risk become an issue and why is an issue not just a task or action?”

In order to provide some clarity this article will define each of these project items and elaborate on the similarities and differences. You will also get an idea of how PPO manages these items.

Task

A task in project management is an activity / work item that needs to be completed in a set time frame. There is generally a set start and end date. This is a planned event, typically included as part of the project plan / schedule. The roll-up of the individual task time frames will give you the beginning and end date of a project.

Tasks are an out-the-box, standard entity in PPO. Tasks can be captured in PPO or imported from Microsoft Project or Excel. PPO supports 4 types of tasks (Project, Summary, Task and Milestone) which enables Gantt views. Variances are displayed in the Project list page and in reports and dashboards.

For more information on Tasks in PPO click here. 

Action

An action is an ad-hoc activity that is not part of a scheduled plan / task list because often the work item is too small or it was an activity identified after the schedule was baselined. Actions generally have a short life span - a week or two at most and tend to be items from meeting minutes or “to do” items identified by the team or project manager. Typically an action has a follow up date which could move without affecting subsequent actions and the baseline of a project.

PPO does not have an Action entity but it is possible to create one using a custom entity. Email notifications can also be set up by the PPO Administrator.

For more information on creating a Custom Entity for Actions in PPO, click here.

Risk

Risks are uncertain events or conditions that, if they occur will have a positive or negative effect on a project's objective. Risks have to be identified and managed from the start of the project. A risk should have an assigned owner who would manage the risk. Although there is no start and end date necessarily, there should be a set follow-up date on a risk so that it is not left unmanaged. Should the risks be realised, they tend to become issues that must be dealt with.

Risks are an out-the-box, standard entity in PPO. Risks can be captured on PPO. Every risk is awarded a probability factor (a chance that the risk may happen) and an impact factor (impact on the success of the project, should the risk occur). The probability and impact risks are used to calculate the risk rating and risk RAG.

For more information on Risks in PPO click here.

Issue

Like an action, an issue is an ad hoc activity. This is a problem that needs to be solved or monitored and often, but not always, comes about as a result of a risk that has realised.

It is also assigned to an individual and there is generally a deadline by which it should be resolved although no “start date” like a task. If not resolved it could prevent a project moving forward. Issues can lead to changes in the project plan and baseline.

Like tasks and risks, PPO has a standard issue entity with associated email notifications and reports for managing these blocks to realising the projects objectives.

For more information on Issues in PPO click here

Additional notes 

Email notifications can be sent when tasks, actions, issues or risks are updated, keeping the team and project manager informed of progress. Report mailers can be set-up to notify the responsible person when items are overdue.  For more information on E-mail events click here.

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