I’ve been looking for more efficient ways to reduce project administration and still have a meaningful conversation about project status. Instead of creating a separate Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel-based status report, I wanted to use Microsoft Project to generate a one-page status report that could facilitate a discussion and provide relevant project detail.
Project managers don’t need another status report template; we need better solutions to reduce the overall project management administrative burden. In this tutorial, I show how to customize Microsoft Project 2010 to create a custom view that filters out the detailed tasks and highlights the major deliverables that need to be reviewed in a sample software development project (Figure A). I also demonstrate how to create custom fields, tables, filters, and views that can be applied to other projects.
Project status report in Microsoft Project 2010 (Click the image to enlarge.)
Step 1: Create custom fields
In this example, I use the Flag1, Text2, and Text 3 fields. Depending on your existing Microsoft Project file or template, you may have already used these fields. If your PMO or methodology mandates the use of these fields for other purposes, you need to select different fields names. Fortunately, Microsoft Project provides a lot of additional fields for customization.
1. Go to Project | Custom Fields and click the Text2 field and rename it Comment (Figure B).
Rename fields (Click the image to enlarge.)
2. Do the same for the Flag1 field by selecting Flag from the Type drop-down menu and renaming Flag 1 to Include In Project Status.
3. Select the Text3 field and rename it Health.
4. Click the Lookup button of the newly renamed Health field and enter R, Y, and G for the traffic light project status values for Red, Yellow, and Green (Figure C). You can also consider adding a C for complete to reflect completed work streams, tasks, or milestones.
Red, Yellow, and Green lookup values (Click the image to enlarge.)
5. Click the graphical indicators button and set up the test, values, and graphical indicator image (Figure D). In order to cascade the graphical indicators to the summary rows and project summary task, you need to click the Summary Rows and Project Summary radio buttons and ensure each option inherits criteria from the child rows. When using graphical indicators, this is an important step to remember if your summary tasks don’t display the graphical indicators.
Set graphical indicators (Click the image to enlarge.)
With this step completed, you have a list of customized fields that will be added to a new Project Status table and existing views.
Step 2: Create a custom project status table
A custom table will be created to include the custom fields you created in step 1 as well as existing Microsoft project data. It is better to create a custom table that incorporates custom and existing fields rather than customized delivered tables and views in Microsoft Project. I’ve inherited many project schedules that have customized common views and tables that make you wonder if you are even using a standard version of Microsoft Project.
To create the custom project status table:
1. Go to View | Tables | More Tables.
2. Click New.
3. Enter the name ProjectStatus.
4. Click each row and select the following field names (Figure E):
- Health (this was the Text3 field)
- Comment (Text 2)
5. Click OK and then click Apply.
Custom project status table (Click the image to enlarge.)
Step 3: Create a custom Include In Project Status filter
Once the project table is created, the next step is to create a Project Status filter that can be added to a view. Before you create the filter, switch to the Gantt Chart view and insert the Include In Status field into the Gantt Chart view. Go ahead and change the Include In Status flag to Yes for some sample tasks (Figure F).
Gantt Chart View with Include In Status field (Click the image to enlarge.)
To create the filter:
1. Go to View | Filters | New Filter.
2. Enter the Name Include In Status (Figure G).
3. Select the Include In Status field from the Field name.
4. Set the Test to “equals” and the Value to “Yes”.
5. Click Show in the Menu checkbox in the upper right corner.
6. Click Save.
7. Click Apply.
Include In Status filter (Click the image to enlarge.)
By applying the filter, it will only show the tasks that have the Include In Status field that have been set to Yes. (Figure H).
Include In Status filter applied (Click the image to enlarge.)
You can clear the filter by going to View | Filter | Clear Filter to reset the Gantt Chart view.
Step 4: Create a custom Project Status view
The next step is to create a custom view that combines the ProjectStatus table and the Include In Status filter (Figure I). To create the view:
1. Go to View | Other Views | More Views and select New.
2. Enter the name Project Status.
3. Select the Gantt Chart screen.
4. Select the ProjectStatus table.
5. Select No Group.
6. Select the filter Include In Status.
7. Click the Show In Menu checkbox.
8. Click OK and then click Apply.
Project Status view (Click the image to enlarge.)
The next step is to identify the key summary tasks to be included in the project status report.
Step 5: In the Gantt Chart view, identify the high level WBS tasks for reporting
At this point, you likely only have a couple of tasks identified to be included in the project status report. Switch back to the Gantt Chart view and review the entire project schedule. Identify the higher levels of the work breakdown structure (WBS) and determine which sections require status reporting. I think about the major workstreams or deliverables in a project and prefer to report out on those items in the schedule. If the project sponsor has a particular area of interest, be sure to include it on the status report.
In the Gantt Chart view, set the Include In Project Status column to Yes for the desired tasks. In Figure J, I collapsed the project schedule layers and only applied the Yes value to specific higher level summary tasks.
Set Include In Project Status to Yes (Click the image to enlarge.)
I also included several lower level tasks, including Develop Code, Interfaces, and Conversion, as those are typical status items in an IT project. When you apply the Include In Project Status filter, only the rows flagged with a Yes will appear. For planning purposes in the Gantt Chart view, you can hide the Include In Status column and insert it when needed.