Your project management office (PMO) will be involved in supporting the project planning process. Having a strong understanding of internal dependencies and what they are will help you better work with this process.

We’ve already explored mandatory dependencies and discretionary dependencies and how you can help projects plan for them. There are two other dependencies you need to help work with – we’ll look at external dependencies in the next article.

Here, you’ll learn about:

  • What an internal dependency in a project is
  • Some examples in different industries of internal dependencies
  • Planning a project schedule with internal dependencies

So you can work with your project teams effectively.

What is an internal project dependency?

In internal dependency in a project is one that the project team has full control over. There is nothing that needs to happen outside of the team or business before one task can lead to another.

A dependency is when two or more tasks rely on each other to start or finish. When that dependency is internal, everything is reliant on the team.

An internal dependency can be mandatory or discretionary. If a dependency is internal-mandatory, it means there are legal or physical constraints on an activity starting.

Meanwhile, an internal-discretionary dependency is one where the dependency is chosen by the project team or your PMO. This means you have some leeway because the dependency is by choice.

Knowing a project’s internal dependencies should help the project manager understand the volume of work needed – many tasks will be internal in a lot of projects.

What are examples of internal project dependencies?

Many tasks in a project will be internally dependent. There won’t be anything outside the project or business holding back a task but there’s work to wait for nonetheless.

With so many tasks falling into the category of “internal dependency” we’re going to give some examples based on industries that tend to be project based.


An internal dependency when building a house would be putting up plasterboard before plastering the walls, which would be an internal-mandatory dependency.

Laying the flooring after the windows have been installed is also an internal dependency – it’s up to the project manager to allocate resources to get these tasks done. However, this is an internal-discretionary dependency since, at least in theory, the flooring could go down before the windows go in.

Software development

A simple internal dependency in software development would be to complete a piece of code then test the piece of code. This is a mandatory dependency – code can’t be tested before it’s created!

Deciding to wait for every element of code to be completed and tested before being deployed would be a discretionary dependency since deployment can be continuous if the team wanted to follow that procedure.


Wating for a design to be completed before creating a prototype is an example of an internal dependency that is also mandatory, whereas waiting for a full report from beta testers before starting a second iteration is an internal dependency that the project team will choose themselves.

How do I schedule internal dependencies?

Internal dependencies can be flexible since your project teams have a lot of control of them. It is important to be aware of the priorities so that internal dependencies don’t get forgotten about or pushed back for tasks that can feel more important.

As with discretionary dependencies, you should encourage project teams to note the logic they use when allocating a schedule for internal dependencies. If there are any changes to the project schedule, being aware of why tasks are in a certain order will help with reorganising.

For internal dependencies, along with the other types of project dependencies, you can also run a dependencies workshop to ensure your projects are fully aware of how to identify and work with them.

Working with internal dependencies

It’s vital that your PMO understands what internal dependencies are and have examples specific to its industry. You will need to support projects as they work through planning dependencies and may need to offer help when a project scope changes and dependencies need to be reassessed.