Creating Master Projects & Subprojects

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One of the key skills that we hear about in Project to Portfolio management is having a handle on multiple projects and viewing the integration between projects. Yet this can be a pain point for project managers who don’t have access to an enterprise system like Project Server or Project Online, but want to create views, reports, snapshots or to link project files together (essentially tying tasks from one project to another file).

 

I find that the best way to create integrated activities as well as a snapshot report of work over time is to leverage the Master Project in MS Project.

 

In this article, I’m going to give you a few best practices around creating a Master Project. And in case you were wondering, this will definitely scale if you need; my company and I have managed programs and portfolios of $500,000,000 and upwards using this technique.

 

Benefits of a Master Project:

So why use a Master Project?

  • Master projects give you the ability to create a permanent collection of projects that can be viewed at any time.
  • When viewing your project list, a Master Project will enable you to view the master project and subprojects all at one time in a list.
  • It allows you to create consolidated project reporting.
  • It is a way to link different project files together, meaning you can link different tasks between project through the Master Project
  • You can establish snapshots (non-linked schedules) so you can historically review progress over time vs. trying to have multiple columns of dates and times within a single file.

Getting Started:

Before you begin creating your master project you will need to determine if you want each subproject’s SharePoint site to be available in the master project SharePoint site. If yes, then do not publish the subproject until the master project is published. Once the subprojects have been saved, checked in and closed – but not published – you are ready to create your master project.

 

Step #1: Using Project Pro, create a new blank project and select the sub project tab

 

Step #2: Navigate to your first subproject and click on it one time only. Then click the circle next to the appropriate mode and select insert.

 

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To add additional subprojects, select a new blank row within the master project and repeat steps above.

 

Step #3:  Once you have selected all the subprojects you want to include in the master project, click the file tab to save your master project and any changes to the subprojects as needed.

 

Step #4: The dialogue box below will pop-up and you can name and save your master project.

 

Step #5: The dialogue box below will pop-up; Select “No to all” if you inserted your subprojects as read only.

 

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Now you are ready to publish or save your master project & create the SharePoint Site

 

 

Step #6: Select the File tab from Projects Ribbon

 

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Step #7: Click “Publish” if you are connected to Project Online or Project Server. If you are working on a local file, select Save As and save the master project file into a local directory. Note that your subproject files also need to be accessible from the file that you are using as a Master, meaning that you should save them in a directory where you also have access to them.

 

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If you are connected to an Enteprise version of Project, you will Publish the changes. NOTE that you may choose to not save any changes to local files that were inserted.

 

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Step #8: The dialogue box below will pop-up; Select “No to all” if you inserted your subprojects as read only, or Yes to all if you want to update your local files if you made changes.

 

One of the nice parts about saving and publishing files into an Enterprise version of Project is that you can have Project Server or Project Online automatically create an entire SharePoint site for you connected to your project.

 

That way if you decide to link files, documents, deliverables, issues and risks, you can have them connected and available for viewing or assigning them to the actual tasks in Project.

 

Step #9: The dialogue box below will pop-up; select “Publish” if you are connected to the Enterprise version of Project, or it will present a Save As dialog box for all local files seen in picture #2 all the files that you have inserted.

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Once publish is complete you can close and check master project in. Now you are ready to publish the subprojects (you will need the URL information from Step 8).

 

Step #10: Open subproject and then click check out → File & Publish (choose File Save As for saving local version of MS Project).

 

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Step #11: The dialogue box below will pop-up; select Publish.

Then close and check project in.  Repeat steps for all subprojects.

 

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Then close and check project in.  Repeat steps for all subprojects.

 

Creating Snapshots of Projects:

One way that you can create historical snapshots of single and multple projects is to use the Master Project, but instead of having linked files, choose not to link them.

 

This is an excellent way to not only take snapshots, but in Project 2007 or higher, you have the ability to compare project files against each other to see where there are differences.

 

Here is an example:

Step #1:  Click on the Project Tab and Select Subproject

 

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Step #2:  Once you have selected this, it will bring up the insert Project dialogue box, ensure that you turn off the check box for “link to project”

 

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With the Link to Project turned off, any and all projects will simply be inserted as regular tasks with a Summary task for the top level row of the project.

 

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Notice the standard Project file icon is not there.

 

Each of these files are embedded as if you had copied and pasted them and are not linked to the original file.

 

If you ever want to compare one version of a Project file to another, simply use the Compare Projects button found on the ribbon.

  • If you are in MS Project 2010, it will be found on the Projects Tab
  • If you are in MS Project 2013, you will find it on the Reports Tab

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This screenshot is of 2013.

 

And there you have it. The ability to connect and view multiple files, do resource assignments, link tasks and also to create snapshots all with the same function of a “Master Project”. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone at our office at www.Advisicon.com.

 

Happy Project Management!

 

~Tim Runcie, PMP, MCT, MCTS, P-TSP, MVP

 

Creating Graphical Indicators Based on Formulas with MS Project

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This topic is one of the more common requests I hear in regards to MS Project schedules needing dashboards or key metrics for reporting. In many cases, executives or senior stakeholders roll their eyes at the sea of text that comes with scheduling tools or the massive amounts of information presented in a Gantt chart.

 

What we want to do is to help anyone using a schedule to quickly find and present the issues through stop light reporting or some kind of graphical indicator.

 

In this article, I am going to leverage MS Project 2013 for my screenshots and steps, but you can do this with any version of Project from 2003 or higher.

 

Creating Graphical Indicators Based on Formulas

To create a graphical indicator based on a formula we’ll use the following scenario:

 

We have a Project Baseline for a sample project that we are tracking the progress of. If the Actual Task Costs are aligned with the Baseline Costs then we want to see a Green Light in the Gantt Chart View (Entry Table).

  • If the Actual Task Costs are exceeding the Baseline Costs up to $1,000, then we want to see a Yellow Light in the Gantt Chart View (Entry Table).
  • If the Actual Task Costs are exceeding the Baseline Costs by more than $1,000 then we want to see a Red Light in the Gantt Chart View (Entry Table)

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And the Resources:

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One of the key areas of mapping variances in a schedule is to set a baseline to track our planned activities and have a reference point to where your actuals are as you progress your schedule through its lifecycle.

 

Now on to saving a Baseline:

First select your project tab and then choose the set baseline from the ribbon.

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The following “Set Baseline” dialogue box opens

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Now let’s apply a cost table from the VIEW tab so we can see the new baseline values.

 

When we apply the Cost Table we get:

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From here we want to create a custom graphical indicator for showing when costs change (this can be applied to work or even the schedule slippage by following similar steps).

 

Let’s select the PROJECT tab and then select the CUSTOM FIELDS option from the ribbon.

 

Now, create Custom Field for Graphical indicator:

 

In the graphic below, we rename the field to make it easier to find and reference in future views, filters and formulas.

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After you click OK above you will see the Custom Fields dialogue box. Click on the Formula button and you will see a notice box open. Click OK.  (this is just warning you that you will lose any data that may have been typed into that field before).

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Now click the Formula button again, then Click the Field list pick; click Cost and then Actual Cost

 

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Now select the minus (-) sign, then click the Field list pick again; click Cost and then Baseline Cost, then Baseline Cost as shown below:

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The result should look like this. Click OK

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An alert message will populate, click OK:

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Now for the fun part, let’s create a graphical indicator to showcase the variances (both positive and negative).

 

Setup the Graphical Indicator:

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We need to make sure that we address the indicator at the Task or Row level, so select Non-summary Rows.  Later, if you want your summary tasks to also have graphical indicators, you can choose the summary rows as well.

 

Here you will put in the conditions that will give you the range of values for the indicators to change.

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From the drop down list choose the Green Light:

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Finish the remaining two rows, then select OK, then select OK again:

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Now we will put the Custom Field in the Entry table for easy reference and updating.

 

Right click on the ALL button to open up the Table View. Select More Tables

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Make the following selections as noted:

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For the new item, also set the Header Wrapping to “Yes” and the Text Wrapping to “No” then click OK, then Apply.

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Now look at the Gantt Chart View and you will see your updates.

 

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Since we did not enter any “Actuals” all tasks show a Green status.

 

Now set Task 1 as 100% Complete: Highlight the Row and selct the 100% icon on the Task Ribbon.

 

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Since everything went fine with Task 1 the Graphical Indicator remains Green!

 

Now input 18 hours for Task 2.  We can do this many ways, but here is a great way to do actuals editing from the TASK ribbon.  Click on the Mark on Track option and select Update Tasks.

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Enter the increased hours.

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The following is displayed

 

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Task 2 has a Baseline Cost: 2 days * 8 hours per day * $200 per hour = $3,200.

Actual cost = 18 hours * $200 per hour = $3,600.

 

Since Actual Cost – Baseline cost = $3,600 – $ 3,200 = $400, and it is less or equal to $1,000, the Yellow indicator appears!

 

For Task 3, update the task for a duration of 5 days:

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Task 3 has a

Baseline Cost: 3 days * 8 hours per day * $300 per hour = $7,200.

Actual cost = 5 days * 8 hours per day * $300 per hour = $12,600.

Since Actual Cost – Baseline cost = $12,000 – $ 7,200 = $4,800, and it is greater then $1,000, the Red indicator appears!

 

You can see costs (Baseline, Actual, and Variance) in Cost Table:

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Hopefully this gets you on your way to creating strong visuals to help with managing your schedules and communicating effectively to your stakeholders. As always, we are here to help! Comment below with questions, give us a call at: 866.362.3847 or visit us at www.advisicon.com.

Growing a Project Management Culture with Project Server & Team Foundation Server

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As many of you know I just recently had a baby girl.  With this bundle of joy, I not only get little to no sleep, but every day it is a new adventure.  Oh the highs and lows of parenthood.  One thing that I am thrilled about is the fact that each day she is learning new things and whether she wants to or not, she is in a constant flux of learning and changing.  Watching her start to see, visualize her curiosity and comprehend that an object is something that she can grasp, then grabbing (and of course putting them right in her mouth), is quite comical.

So how does this have anything to do with Project Management, Project Server or Team Foundation Server you might ask?  Well it struck me, as I was putting Rachel into her car seat for the first time, that not every new experience, tool, safety device or contraption she is coming across is met with excitement or eager anticipation. Read More

After the MBA: 3 Skills to Learn and Utilize Following Graduation (Including The Skill of Project Management)

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Manage Different Personalities Differently

In business and educational circles, an MBA is the pinnacle of college degrees and the first crucial step to financial, professional and societal success. Students invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend top level universities while earning an MBA and after the 2 to 4 year program has been completed, many students begin to feel inadequately prepared for the real world job market. While the content of MBA courses teaches future leaders of American business numerous core and essential skills there are three skills (Project management, networking, and leadership,) that an MBA must learn and utilize following graduation if they truly wish to succeed. Read More

Making Effective Business Decisions Using Microsoft Project

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A New Project Management Book on Unleashing the Full Potential of Microsoft Project:

In his latest book, Making Effective Business Decisions Using Microsoft Project, Project MVP and industry expert [Tim Runcie](http://advisicon.com/staff_bios/tim-runcie.htm) addresses the issue of how to harness the power of Microsoft Project.

By addressing the question: How do PMs implement a successful project management strategy using Microsoft Project to drive better business decisions and increase ROI? Runcie and his co-author Mark Dochtermann PMP, divulge a combined fifty years of project management Industry Best Practices knowledge regarding this all too common Microsoft Project question. Read More