Discrete Effort, Apportioned Effort and Level of Effort (PMP/CAPM)

Discrete Effort Apportioned Effort and Level of Effort

Work Package

The planned work is contained within the lowest level of WBS components, which are called work packages.

A work package can be used to group the activities where work is scheduled and estimated, monitored, and controlled.

In the context of the WBS, work refers to work products or deliverables that are the result of activity and not to the activity itself

The activities to deliver work packages are defined as;

  1. Discrete Efforts
  2. Apportioned Efforts
  3. Level of Efforts

Discrete Effort

An activity that can be planned and measured and that yields a specific output, PMBOK 6

Discrete Effort refers to the work that is directly linked with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). It’s a tangible product or service that can be reliably measured and therefore it’s also known as Measurable Effort. The perception of discrete effort is applicable to the particular work efforts that are directly traced. It is related to the completion of the project work breakdown structure components along with the deliverables.

To further elaborate on this, there are certain elements and work components that provide significant assistance to the progressing project but they might not be connected to the ultimate completion of the project. These components irrespective of their measurability are not discrete efforts. On contrary, if these components that are measurable and serve dual purposes of providing assistance along with directly linking to the final project completion are referred as discrete effort. Some prominent examples of discrete effort include building a specific piece of software, creating a product guidebook or designing a structure.

Apportioned Effort

An activity that does not produce definitive end products and is measured by the passage of time. PMBOK 6

Apportioned Effort is a specific work that cannot be directly related to a WBS component or a project deliverable but through the related discrete activity. The term apportion refers to division or share. Apportioned Effort has a direct and associated affiliation to the discrete effort while it is proportional to a particular percentage or the discrete effort that it supports. It’s a technique of planning and measuring the earned value for the effort that is directly proportional to measured effort.

This method is frequently used in inspection. The required amount of time for inspection is directly dependent on the number of components that are produced. For that reason, inspection is assessed and planned as a percentage of the production effort. Deliberate and actual performance is measured as a percent of the prearranged and definite performance made by the prime work packages. There are other capacities where apportioned effort may be applicable including ultimate assembly, testing and subcontract liaison. For instance, control account managers can figure out those percentages of apportioned effort directly associated with the discrete work that it supports. The apportioned effort is also used in earned value technique when applicable since it minimizes the time required to evaluate earned value. It automatically calculates the pre-established proportion to the discrete effort.

The assessment of any variance attributable to the discrete work becomes the breakdown for the apportioned effort as well. If more scrutiny were required for the added items to be created in the prime work package, it acts as the variance rationale for inspection. The key element to the apportioned effort is finding those areas in proposals that are supposed to be assessed and projected accordingly. Apart from quality assurance and inspection activities, there are commercially available software packages that may not have sufficient capacity to support the use of apportioned effort. Though a convenient solution is to record a percent complete for the apportioned work package that is consistent with the parent work package.

Level of Effort (LOE)

An activity that does not produce definitive end products and is measured by the passage of time. PMBOK 6

Level of Effort is an important project activity which does not produce any perceptible or tangible outcomes that are objectively measured. In project management, the level of effort supports other work practices or the complete project effort. Typically, it comprises of small proportions of work that need to be recurring periodically. Level of effort often comes with a reference to specific activities that usually lend themselves to the final establishment through the sum total of discrete accomplishment.

It is mostly denoted through a uniform set of work performance rate over a period of time that is often predefined along with the activities occurring in the certain time framework. Level of effort is a measurable component primarily through independent observations or members of the project group. Some common examples of LOE include administration, seller or client liaison, project cost accounting, upkeep of equipment, and managerial work to support projects. LOE tasks comprise of management or sustaining activities that don’t have any perceptible end products or an established association to another measurable effort. The usually have Start-to-Start relationship with their predecessors and Finish-to-Finish relationship with their successors.

The justification for the use of LOE is mostly the responsibility of the Control Account Manager (CAM) that must be approved by the project manager. In an ideal situation, LOE is planned in separate control accounts. Though when necessary, control account comprises a mix of LOE and Discrete Effort. Under these circumstances, principles concerning the maximum allowable LOE are followed to prevent the status from obscuring the prominence of the discrete effort in the control account. It is important to note these activities cannot be part of the Critical path as they don’t add time to project delivery but are included in the EVM calculations to maintain the consistency in the cost of the project


Discrete efforts directly result in product or service or both.

Apportioned Efforts as the name suggest are not distinct individual activities, are directly related to a discrete activity and is measured in direct proportionate to a discrete effort. They are allocated or distributed to the discrete efforts

LOE are activities which are mainly needed to support the discrete and associated apportioned activities. Apportioned and LOE can be termed as non-discrete activities.


Discrete Effort and Apportioned Effort are measured by physical progress (% complete) whereas LOE is measured by duration. Earned Value of a Discrete Effort Activity is calculated using the planned quantity of the activity, whereas for an Apportioned Effort Activity it is calculated based upon the % work complete of the related discrete activity.

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