So what are dependencies in project management?
For starters, they’re inevitable.
Kind of like how you depend on your accountant for finances.
Or your boss for approvals.
To put it simply, project management is impossible without dependencies.
In this article, we’ll discuss what dependencies are, the different kinds of dependencies, and how to manage them easily.
What Are Dependencies in Project Management?
Dependencies are any task, occurrence, or condition:
- That depends on the completion of a former task
- Or, on which a successor task is dependent
They help you understand the relationship between tasks, giving you a clear idea about the order in which you should carry them out.
Do you feel you could understand this better if you had an example?
Luckily, there are tons of project dependencies examples.
Here’s a simple one:
Let’s say you have to discuss this month’s targets with your project team in a meeting.
This depends on you first having the meeting, right?
And that depends on your meeting preparation.
Right there is a dependency.
4 key dependency-related terms
We get that dependencies can seem a little daunting at first.
But don’t worry, here’s a breakdown of some specific terms related to dependencies in project management:
- Constraint: a restriction, delay, barrier, or bottleneck in a workflow
- Critical path: is the collection or chain of essential tasks you must complete in a project to touch the finish line
- Lag: the duration by which you delay a succeeding task with respect to the preceding task
For example, task B is supposed to start in five days, when task A completes. However, task A got deleted, so task B began in seven days. As a result, task B is considered to have a lag of two days (5+2)
- Lead: the duration by which a successor activity can be quickened or advanced with respect to the previous task
For example, activity B must start when activity A completes, and that’s in eight days. However, if activity A is completed early, and activity B begins in just five days, then activity B is considered to have a lead of three days (8-5).
Types of Dependencies in Project Management
You now know what dependencies are… But how many different kinds of dependencies are there?
Note: This is a detailed look at the different kinds of dependencies you may encounter when managing projects. However, if you want to just skip ahead to learning how to manage your dependencies, click here.
Types of dependencies based on conditions
Here are some of the common dependencies you may face.
1. Logical dependencies
Logical dependencies, also known as casual dependencies, are the ones that occur naturally in a workflow, and you can’t dodge them.
You can’t carry out tasks with logical dependencies simultaneously.
For example, when you’re making a dress, the design comes first, and then you can begin stitching. Or, when you’re making a social media video, the script and storyboard need to be planned before you shoot.
2. Resource dependencies
This kind of dependency is spotted when two or more tasks need the same resource for completion. The resource can be a team member, an imported component of a machine, funds, etc.
For example, you need the hard drive that contains this month’s reports. Unfortunately, so does the finance team. So one of you is going to have to wait!
3. Cross-team dependencies
This is when different teams or departments depend on one another to complete a complex project or project activity.
For example, the sales and marketing team depend on each other to work on a lead generating campaign.
4. External dependencies
There are always some things that you can’t account for in your project plan because they’re out of your control.
An external dependency can be outsourcing to expecting a supply delivery, waiting on client approvals…basically anything you don’t really have a say in.
5. Internal dependencies
An internal dependency is the opposite of an external dependency. The control is in the hands of the project teams without any dependence on external parties.
6. Preferential dependencies
Simply put, this is a dependency that you prefer to have.
A preferential dependency isn’t mandatory for completing the project. However, you want it because it improves the quality of the project deliverables.
Let’s take an example.
A blogger can edit their work right after completing the writeup. But they may prefer a gap of a few hours before editing to spot more errors. This is a preferential dependency that boosts the blog quality.
But we’re not done!
Some other common dependencies include:
- Direct dependency: when task A depends on task B entirely
- Transitive dependency: dependencies that your task needs just because another dependency needs them
- Optional dependency: dependencies that exist only if a specific condition or item is used in a project
- Upstream dependency: a condition where something must occur before the project can begin work on something else
- Mandatory dependency: also known as hard logic. They’re dependent tasks that are essential in the nature of the work and are legally required
Types of dependencies based on task relationships
Based on this classification, there are four kinds of logical relationships.
1. Finish to start
The simplest of all is finish to start (FS).
Here task B (second task) can’t start unless task A (first task) is complete.
For example, if you’re catering at a wedding, you can’t begin food preparation (task B) unless you’ve decided on a menu (task A).
2. Start to finish
This logical relationship isn’t so simple.
In start to finish (SF) dependencies, you can’t complete the successor task unless the preceding tasks have started.
For example, the catering staff can’t refill the food trays unless the people have started dining.
3. Finish to finish
In finish to finish (FF) kind of dependency in project management, the successor task can’t complete unless the predecessor task is complete too.
For example, you can’t pay the catering staff unless the wedding event is complete.
4. Start to start
And finally, we have the start to start (SS) dependency. Here, the successor task can only begin after the predecessor activity has started. After that, both the tasks can run simultaneously as well.
For example, you can start plating the dessert as soon as the mains have started going out. The waiting team can serve the mains while the kitchen team plates the desserts.
How to Manage Dependencies in Project Management?
Okay, now that we’ve got the “what are project dependencies” question out of the way, let’s find out how to manage them.
Managing dependencies is no joke.
Whether it’s a resource, time, quality, or cost, a project manager must handle everything to ensure that your project activities stay on track.
If not, your project will crash.
However, you can always make things easier with proper planning and the right tools.
So let’s get managing!
1. Identify dependencies and constraints
The first thing to do is identify the dependencies that can have an impact on your project.
You’ll have to brainstorm a ton.
So it’s best if you note every project constraint and dependency you identify.
You’ll see some of the tasks:
- Depend on the completion of another
- Are related to one another
- Need completing to ensure the workflow doesn’t come to a stop
But what’s the point of just noting these project management dependencies?
Put them to work with a project management software like ClickUp.
Here, you can set three kinds of Task Dependencies:
- Waiting on: tasks that need to be completed before this task
- Blocking: tasks that can’t begin unless this task is complete
- Link to: tasks that are related but not dependent on each other
All you have to do is click on the ‘…’ menu to open the action menu for the Task and then add one or more tasks as a dependency type of your choice.
Additionally, it might just make managing project dependencies easier if you can create a timeline of your project’s tasks.
Well, you can always hit the old marker board to create your network diagram. Or use complex software repository tools like Python to create a dependency graph.
Or… you could ClickUp’s Timeline or Gantt view to identify Dependencies.
This way, you can easily identify which tasks are dependent on each other:
2. Add the dependencies to your project charter
The next thing to do is add the dependencies to your project charter.
If the list of dependencies is short, that’s well and good.
However, if it’s long, only add the essential dependencies to your project charter.
Use ClickUp’s Docs to draft a project charter and document your dependencies.
The rich text editing possibilities in Docs are endless.
Add headings, banners, numeric lists, fonts, tables, etc.
You can even Template the outline of your draft in Docs to save time when creating charters for future projects.
Unfortunately, creating a good project charter can be a time-consuming process.
Here’s the solution. ClickUp’s Gantt chart is designed to quickly set Dependencies.
You just draw lines between tasks, and it automatically sets the Dependencies.
Want to reschedule?
Enable ‘Reschedule Dependencies,’ then simply drag and drop a task with Dependencies.
Don’t worry about the other chain of tasks.
They won’t get messed up. Instead, the tasks will automatically reschedule.
Don’t forget to add the Milestones to keep track of your awesome achievements.
And most importantly, to grab a drink and celebrate it with your colleagues after work!
3. Calculate the critical path
Did you identify too many dependencies?
Then it’s a good time to find the critical path.
Finding the critical path helps you prioritize your tasks and dependencies to ensure your entire project doesn’t fail.
Now, we won’t stop you from going back to that marker board of yours to determine your critical path.
But here’s an idea.
You can use ClickUp’s Gantt view to calculate the critical path too!
And all you’ll have to do is click a few times.
- Open Gantt view
- Click on the path calculations icon
- Toggle on ‘Critical Path’
And boom! There’s your critical path.
4. Share with stakeholders
You must always keep your stakeholders in the loop.
When they’re aware of the dependencies and constraints, they have a better understanding of your functioning.
The project charter can communicate these details to your shareholders.
However, if you’re using ClickUp, you don’t have to send your stakeholders any documents.
You’re probably worried about privacy, right?
5. Track dependencies
Lastly, as a project manager, you must constantly track and visualize your dependencies to deliver a successful project.
To do so, you must track the completed tasks and progress made by different teams.
So basically hours and hours of emails, meetings, and calls? Nope.
You need a project management tool to track dependencies easily and accurately.
Remember the different Dependencies ClickUp offers?
Well, tracking them is also super convenient because of the task dependency notifications and warnings.
So if you’re trying to close a task with Dependencies, there won’t be a mess.
The Incomplete Warning will notify you if it’s a dependent task and is unfinished. So the entire project schedule and tasks are undisturbed.
And you’ll always receive Notifications when:
- A new project dependency is added or removed
- A task or work item is unblocked and can begin
This way, nothing slips through the cracks!
All of these views keep workflow and Task Statuses clear as day, so you don’t have to go around asking for updates.
Depend on ClickUp for Dependencies
Look, dependencies are here to stay.
There’s no project without them.
The good news is dependencies aren’t all bad.
You just need to manage them the right way for successful project execution.
And the easiest way to do that is through ClickUp.
Forget documents and software like Python Package Index because ClickUp is the only tool you’ll ever need.
From task management and Gantt charts to Time Estimates and dependency management, ClickUp can do it all.
It’s the ultimate package and an expert at handling multiple projects at a time.
So get ClickUp for free and manage expected (and unexpected) dependencies like a pro.
Evan is a Content Coordinator at ClickUp, where he’s usually absorbed in composing copy making efficiencies more efficient. When weather permits, he can be found jogging around Cleveland. When it doesn’t, he can be found somewhere warm painting, cooking, and consuming all things horror- and fantasy-related.