How To Effectively Track Effort Hours in TFS

In TFS effort is tracked at the task level. The three fields used to track effort are Original Estimate, Remaining Work and Completed Work. Typically these fields are representative of hours of work. However, if your organization has a different standard unit of work you may substitute that. For simplicity sake I will operate under the assumption that these fields will represent hours for the example here.

Beginning Work on a Task
When someone begins work on a task they should make sure all three fields are filled in.

The original estimate field should be filled in with the estimate of how many hours of effort it will take to complete the task. Once this estimate is filled in it should not be altered. It will serve as a baseline to show how close to the estimate the actual effort came.

At the outset the Remaining Work field should contain the same value as the Original Estimate field. This just shows that, for now, it is assumed that the amount of work that will be required to complete the task is consistent with the estimate to complete the work.

The Completed Work field should be set to zero. This shows that no work has been performed on the task.

Recording Work Performed for a Task
As work proceeds on a task the Remaining Work and Completed Work fields should be updated for the task. The best time to capture the updates is when the person working on the task reaches a point where they will be working on something else.

Before moving on to something else they should record the time spent on the task in the Completed Work field by adding it to the current value. For example, if the Completed Work field has a value of two and someone spends three hours working on it the value should be updated to five.

The Remaining Work field should also be updated to reflect the current estimate of the effort remaining to complete the task. Ideally this field will decrease by the amount of work added to the Completed Work field. However, this is not always the case.

It may be the case that after working on the task it is determined to be more or less complex than currently estimated. In either case the Remaining Work field should be updated with the amount of hours the person assigned to the task estimates it will take to complete the task from this point.

Completing a Task
Once the Remaining Work for a task reaches zero the task is considered complete. The person who completed the work on the task should update the Remaining Work field to zero. They should also change the state of the task from Active to Closed.

That’s the entire cycle. Following these steps insures accurate reporting of effort against a task and integrates with the management reporting in TFS.

Question: What do you use the effort fields in your tasks for?

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