Enabling Dependencies & Using Predecessors

You can use the Dependencies functionality in Smartsheet for automatic calculation and adjustment of dates for tasks as values for Duration (how long a task will take) and Predecessors (which tasks must happen first) change. Once dependencies are enabled, your sheet will have the following functionality:

  • Altering the start or end date on the defined predecessor task will immediately adjust the dates of any dependent tasks.
  • Entering any two values for the start date, end date, and duration columns for a task will automatically calculate the third value.
  • Start and end dates, duration, and % complete will roll up to parent rows as summary calculations.
  • When you enter a Duration and Predecessor value for a task, start and end dates will populate automatically based on the Working Days schedule established in the sheet’s Project Settings.
  • Parent row values are read-only, as they’re calculated automatically based on values in the child rows (sub-tasks). Learn more in our article on Parent Rollup Functionality.
  • You can highlight the Critical Path in the Gantt chart to visualize tasks that drive the overall project duration. Check out our Help Center article on Critical Path for details.

Enabling or Disabling Dependencies on a Project Sheet

To enable dependencies in your sheet:

  1. Click the dropdown arrow down-arrow under any column header and select Edit Project Settings.

    The Project Settings form will appear.
     
  2. In the project settings form, under Dependencies, select the Dependencies Enabled checkbox.

    dependencies-enabled

    New options will appear in the Project Settings form.
     
  3. Select which columns in your sheet should be used as the Predecessor column and the Duration column. (If you don't have columns set up for this, Smartsheet will insert columns named “Predecessors” and “Duration” for you when you enable dependencies.)

To stop using dependencies and remove the automation from the sheet:

  1. Click the drop-down arrow down-arrow under any column's header and select Edit Project Settings.
  2. Uncheck the Dependencies Enabled box and then click OK to apply the changes.

Working with Duration and Predecessors

When you enter a Duration or Predecessor value for a task, the Start and End Dates will populate automatically based on the Working Days schedule established in the Project Settings.

Duration

Duration is the amount of working time between the start and end dates of a task. A task’s duration can be calculated automatically based on a task’s start and end date or you can manually enter it in the task’s Duration column.

The following table includes examples of how to format values in the duration column.

DurationFormat
Weeks2w
Whole working days4d
Partial working days3.5d
Hours7h
Minutes60m
Seconds500s
Combination4h 30m

TIP: Elapsed time can be used in the Duration column to ignore non-working time. Lead with an “e” to indicate duration in elapsed time (e.g. e3d, e5h). The task will start in the amount of time specified regardless of working day length and non-working days in the sheet.

Predecessors

Predecessors are used to create dependencies between tasks. 

Create a Dependency by Specifying a Predecessor

  1. Find the task for which you want to create a predecessor.
  2. In the Predecessor column, type the row number for the task that must occur before the task you’re working with.

NOTE: You can make a task dependent on multiple predecessors by entering the row numbers into the cell, separated by a commas (as in row 7 in the image below). Smartsheet will take all preceding tasks into account when determining the dates of the dependent task. (For example: on Finish-to-Start relationships, Smartsheet will schedule the dependent task’s start date after the latest occurring end date of all predecessor tasks.)

sheet-grid

Change the Attributes for a Predecessor Relationship

By default, when you specify a predecessor, a Finish-to-Start relationship is established between the tasks. 

To make changes to the relationships between dependent tasks and their predecessors, click edit-predecessors Edit Predecessors (hover the mouse in any cell in the Predecessors column). From the Edit Predecessors form, you can change the relationship type or add lag time.


predecessors-window

You can choose from the following dependency types:

  • Finish-to-Start (FS) - start the task after the predecessor finishes.
  • Finish-to-Finish (FF) - finish the task at the same time the predecessor finishes.
  • Start-to-Start (SS) - start the task at the same time the predecessor starts.
  • Start-to-Finish (SF) - finish the task before the predecessor starts.

Lag Time and Lead Time

To represent a period of inactivity or overlap between the predecessor and dependent task, you can use lag time. For instance, entering 1d into the “Lag (days)” field for a Finish-to-Start dependency causes the dependent task to start an additional working day after its predecessor task finishes. To schedule the dependent task to start before the preceding task finishes, use a negative number (for example, -1d) to create lead time.

NOTE: Lag and lead time can be entered in increments of weeks, whole working days, partial working days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds, or a combination (in similar fashion to the duration examples above).

Video Demo

For an instructional demonstration on creating a Gantt chart with dependencies, please review the following video walk-through:

If you don't have access to YouTube, click here to watch the video.