Mandatory vs. Discretionary Project Management Dependencies | PMP

Mandatory vs. Discretionary Project Management Dependencies

Yad Senapathy, PMP December 22, 2022

The dependencies in project management are the relationship between two or more activities or tasks in which the completion of one activity is dependent on the completion of another. Managing and understanding these dependencies is important in delivering the project efficiently and effectively. There are two types of dependencies in project management: mandatory and discretionary.

Mandatory Dependencies

They are also known as hard logic or hard dependencies. They are a fundamental aspect of the work and cannot be changed. These dependencies are based on the physical or logical relationship between tasks and the order in which they must be completed. For example, the installation of a foundation must be completed before building construction can begin. Mandatory dependencies are usually easy to identify because they are based on the nature of the work and the inherent dependencies between tasks.

Discretionary Dependencies

They are also known as preferential dependencies or soft logic. They are based on the preferences or best practices of the project team. These dependencies are not inherent in the nature of the work and can be changed if necessary. For example, a project team may choose to complete the design of a product before beginning the prototyping process, but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Discretionary dependencies are often more flexible than mandatory dependencies and can be adjusted based on the needs and priorities of the project. However, project managers must be careful while considering the potential consequences of changing discretionary dependencies.

Difference Between Mandatory Dependencies and Discretionary

Following is the list of the main differences between mandatory dependencies and discretionary dependencies:

Sequence

Mandatory dependencies must be completed in a specific order or sequence, while discretionary dependencies can be completed in any order as long as the overall project schedule is not impacted.

Flexibility

Mandatory dependencies are inflexible and must be followed, while discretionary dependencies are more flexible and can be adjusted as needed.

Impact on Project Schedule

Mandatory dependencies can significantly impact the project schedule, as they must be completed in a specific order. On the other hand, discretionary dependencies can be completed at any time as long as they do not impact the overall project schedule.

Importance

Mandatory dependencies are typically considered more critical to the project, as they must be completed in a specific order to ensure the project's overall success. Discretionary dependencies are less critical, as they can be completed at any time as long as the overall project schedule is not impacted.

Changes

Changes to mandatory dependencies can be more complex and require more careful planning and coordination, as they can significantly impact the project schedule. Changes to discretionary dependencies are generally easier to manage as they have less impact on the overall project schedule.

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Example for Mandatory Vs. Discretionary Dependencies

Here is another example to illustrate the difference between mandatory and discretionary dependencies:

Imagine you are managing a software development project to create a new application. One of the tasks on the project plan is to design the user interface (UI). Before the UI can be designed, you must complete the requirements gathering and analysis task. In this case, the requirements gathering and analysis task is a mandatory dependency for the UI design task, as the UI cannot be designed until the requirements have been gathered and analyzed.

Now, let's say you have also included a task on the project plan to conduct user testing on the application. The user testing task can be completed at any time. However, it should not impact the overall project time and schedule. In this case, the user testing task is a discretionary dependency, as it can be completed at any time, but it should not interfere with the other tasks on the project plan.

Conclusion

In short, mandatory dependencies are inherent in the nature of the work and cannot be changed. In contrast, discretionary dependencies are based on the preferences or best practices of the project team and can be changed if necessary. Once the project manager understands these dependencies between tasks and the potential consequences of changing them, they can develop a plan that is efficient, effective, and aligned with the project's goals.

Article by

yad senapathy
Yad Senapathy, PMP

Yad is not just the leader of the Project Management Training Institute (PMTI). He helped to write significant portions of the project management standards worldwide. He is helping PMI right now in reviewing, directing, and leading the development of the 7th edition of the PMBOK® Guide to incorporate the most monumental changes to project management standards in 35 years. He shares his wisdom with readers via the PMTI blog.


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