Defining Terms in the Duke Effort Management Tools

Date last modified: 3/29/24

We want to ensure everyone is working from a shared understanding of key effort management terms.

Key effort management terms include the following:

  1. Current Commitment
  2. Projected Effort Allocation
  3. Current Effort Allocation
  4. Effort Minimum
  5. Minimum Required Average Effort
  6. Future Commitment

The Effort Management Tools will now calculate all the values for each term. In advance of the release of these tools, review the scenario below and familiarize yourself with the definitions. Complete a short quiz at the end to test your understanding!


Scenario – Project beginning 7/1/23 (and being reviewed by you on 11/15/23)

Dr. Smith is the Principal Investigator (PI) and is designated as key personnel on her recently awarded sponsored project. Currently, Dr. Smith has a 12-calendar-month appointment. The project period, project dates, and committed effort at the time of issuing the award are outlined in this table.

Effort Commitment from the NOA:

PeriodPeriod Dates

Committed Effort at Time of Award

(in person months)

17/1/23 to 6/30/241.8
27/1/24 to 6/30/251.8
37/1/25 to 6/30/261.8
47/1/26 to 6/30/271.8
57/1/27 to 6/30/281.2


The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) requires a minimum of 1.2 person-months effort (10%) from the PI.  The project is experiencing a bit of a delay in the initial months, so Dr. Smith’s actual effort has been 1.6 person months from July 2023 through September 2023. In October 2023 Dr. Smith's effort was adjusted for the remainder of period 1 to account for this temporary reduction.

Given this scenario and assuming today is November 15, 2023, let us explore the definition for key terms, their calculation, and how they apply to this scenario.

  1. Current Commitment - The level of approved effort currently in effect for the person on the project. Current Commitment reflects the effort commitment made to the sponsor for the current project period.

Pre-award offices enter the initial Current Commitment when the award is issued. It may be changed, with appropriate approval, during the life of the award.  

Dr. Smith’s current commitment: 1.8 person months (or 15%) as there have been no changes to commitment since the beginning of the project period July 1.


  1. Projected Effort Allocation – The average rate of effort, in person months, at the end of the commitment period if current effort allocation remains the same.

Projected Effort Allocation is a combination of 1) the average monthly SAP cost distribution from the start of the effort commitment period through the latest closed Duke fiscal period, and 2) the projected average based on the current iForms effort allocation through the commitment period.

Dr. Smith’s projected effort allocation: 1.8 person months (or 15%). This is the combination of the following factors:

  • Average To-Date effort based on the SAP effort allocation for the months July, August, September and October, since October is the most recently closed Duke fiscal period. (Remember, you are viewing this as of 11/15/23).
  • Projected effort based on the current iForms effort allocation through the end of the commitment period.

Settlement Period

Effort Percentage

July 2023


August 2023


September 2023


October 2023




November 2023 (Future)


December 2023 (Future)


January 2024 (Future)


February 2024 (Future)


March 2024 (Future)


April 2024 (Future)


May 2024 (Future)


June 2024 (Future)




  1. Current Effort Allocation - The level of effort the individual is currently devoting and charging to the project.

This information is based on the base salary cost distribution in SAP and influenced by the person’s appointment. The tools convert the percentages in the SAP cost distribution to person months to assist users in understanding how effort devoted to the project relates to sponsor expectations. Current Effort Allocation updates nightly and can change based on the most recent cost distribution iForm. While Current Effort Allocation is helpful, it is important to note that it reflects effort devoted to a project at a specific point in time and may not reflect the effort of an individual over a period of time. 

Dr. Smith’s current effort allocation: 1.8 person months on November 15, 2023

  • Appointment: 12 Month 100% Calendar Appointment
  • Base Pay Cost Distribution in iForms: 15% effective 10/1/23 – 6/30/24
  • Calculation: 1.9 / 12 = 15.8% or 12 x 15.8% = 1.9
  • Current Effort Allocation: 1.9 Person Months Per Year


  1. Effort Minimum – Per sponsor guidance (typically in the funding opportunity announcement or notice of award), the minimum amount of effort the individual must devote to the project. 

This number is entered into SPS by Pre-award Offices (either the Office of Research Administration for Schools of Medicine/Nursing or the Office of Research Support for all other Campus Schools) either during the proposal phase or at the time of award.  This number can be separate from or in addition to Current Committed Effort.  Appropriate approval is required for Senior/Key Personnel to go below this level.  It is important to note that not all sponsors or funding announcements have a minimum effort requirement.

Dr. Smith’s effort minimum: 1.2 person months (10%) per the FOA and given the fact that Dr. Smith has not requested approval to reduce this amount.


  1. Minimum Required Average Effort – The minimum average level of effort that can be devoted to the project to meet the current project period commitment without obtaining additional approval.

This calculated number provides a minimum level of effort to indicate if action is necessary based on sponsor or Duke guidelines, considering Committed Effort, Approval Threshold, and Minimum Effort (if applicable).   Average Effort Allocation in relation to the Minimum Required Average Effort helps to determine if current effort levels are appropriate. It assists in determining if effort on the project should increase to meet the sponsor commitment, or if it is necessary to request approval to reduce the effort commitment on the project.

Dr. Smith’s minimum required average effort: 1.9 person months (15.8%) which accounts for lower effort levels in July through October of period 1


  1. Future Commitment - Displays the amount of effort committed to the sponsor in future periods of the project.

These commitment values are entered by the Pre-Award Office (either the Office of Research Administration for Schools of Medicine/Nursing or the Office of Research Support for all other Campus Schools) when the award is issued. The effort commitments may change during the life of the award if appropriate approval is obtained.

Dr. Smith’s future commitments: 1.8 person months (15%) in periods 2-4 and 1.2 person months (10%) in period 5

If you are interested in testing your understanding of these key terms, click here to take this brief, 5-question, anonymous quiz!