Understanding the order that tasks need to run in a project is a key step in the project planning stage for your project management office (PMO). There are different types of project dependencies, and we’re going to explore mandatory project dependencies and how your PMO needs to work with them.

Knowing project dependencies make your project scheduling much more realistic and will reduce the chances of project failure. The responsibility of mapping out dependencies will usually fall with the project manager and their team, but your PMO will need to support the process.

To that end, we’re going to go through with you:

  • What a mandatory dependency is
  • Examples of mandatory dependencies in projects
  • How to plan for and schedule mandatory project dependencies

So you can ensure projects in your PMO aren’t constrained by actions that are waiting on others to finish.

What is a mandatory dependency?

In project management, a mandatory dependency is one that’s a non-negotiable requirement. Sometimes referred to as hard logic, this type of dependency means that the next task can’t be started until the previous one has been completed.

The opposite would be a discretionary dependency, which we’ll be exploring in the next article in this series.

There are a range of constraints that will dictate the order of mandatory dependencies. Usually, a mandatory dependency is forced by:

  • Contracts that have been signed with the client
  • Certain laws and regulations
  • Non-negotiable company procedures
  • Physical limitations of resources

Some of the project dependencies you work with will be familiar and repeat every project, such as your company procedures and the legal demands. However, mandatory dependencies that come from contracts can change with each project, and physical limitations can change over time.

Examples of mandatory dependencies

There are various mandatory dependencies, and the ones that are relevant to the projects your PMO works with will depend heavily on the industry you operate in. Here are some examples of mandatory dependencies to help prompt dependency planning.

Contractual dependencies

Even if your company has a standard contract for projects, there will be opportunities for amendments, and some clients will have more demands than others. An example of a contractual dependency could be where the client needs to sign off the project at different milestones, meaning the rest of the project can’t progress without the client agreeing to the work so far.

Legal dependencies

There are times when laws will dictate certain elements of projects. An example in an IT project could be needing to have a privacy policy in place before processing personal data, while a construction-related example could be needing to have toilets delivered to the site before work can begin.

Company procedure dependencies

While you may want to lobby to change some policy-level dependencies if they cause bottlenecks, there are some eminently sensible ones. An example of a company procedure dependency would be the need for the accounting team to sign off on project accounts on a regular basis.

Physical limitation dependencies

No matter what your PMO does or how good your project managers are, there are some things that just can’t be more efficient and these fall under mandatory dependencies due to physical limitations. An example of this would be the time it takes for a machine to produce a prototype.

How do I create a project schedule with mandatory dependencies?

It can feel like mandatory dependencies can constrict projects and set restrictions that could cause delays or have resources not being used well.

When creating a project schedule, it’s important that all the mandatory dependencies are plugged into the process first. This will allow you to see how much time is available between the dependencies to complete subordinate tasks and other elements of the project to hit the requirements.

If you’re working on a Kanban board, for example, you can connect your activity cards to denote dependencies. It will be useful to have different coloured link lines for your mandatory and discretionary dependencies so your project managers and teams can see what can be altered if the project changes.

Working with mandatory dependencies in your PMO

It can be challenging to work with mandatory dependencies; knowing what they are and how to work with them can help keep the planning stages of a project smooth and keep the project on track throughout the lifecycle.