Project Management

Create a task-based issue log in Microsoft Project 2007

You can customize Microsoft Project 2007 to create an issue list at the task level. Andy Makar shows you how in this project management tutorial.

Project issues are typically recorded in an issue log, a project log, or some type of list to track open and closed issues. The issue log is critical to project delivery, as schedule delays, roadblocks, and project problems arise and need to be resolved by the project team.

I recently received an e-mail from a reader asking about how a project manager could customize Microsoft Project to create an issue list at the task level. The approach to directly link an issue log with a task makes a lot of sense. By linking Microsoft Project tasks to specific project issues, it allows the project manager to clearly identify the impacted work and quickly describe issues for delayed tasks.

Some Web-based project management tools, such as Liquid Planner, allow project managers to enter issues against specific project tasks; other project management systems have online issue logs that are hyperlinked to a project schedule. In this case, I want to develop the same solution with Microsoft Project 2007 and use it as a standalone solution (Figure A). Figure A

Issue log in Microsoft Project 2007. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Follow the steps in this tutorial to create your own issue log in Microsoft Project 2007.

Step 1: Create a custom table

1. Open your existing project schedule and select View | Table | More Tables.

2. Click the New button.

3. Enter Issue Log in the Name field.

4. Add the following fields in the Field Name sections:

  • a. ID
  • b. Name
  • c. Text1
  • d. Text2
  • e. Date1
  • f. Flag1
  • g. Text4
5. Click each field and enter a descriptive title, per Figure B.

6. Click OK and close the dialog box.

Figure B

Issue Log table

Step 2: Create a custom view

The next step is to create a custom view that uses the Issue Log table.

1. Select View | More Views.

2. Select New | Single View.

3. Enter Issue Log for the name.

4. Select the Issue Log from the table drop-down menu.

5. Select No Group for the Group field.

6. Select All Tasks for the Filter.

7. Check the Show in the Menu check box.

8. Click OK.

The options should look like Figure C. Figure C

Create the Issue Log view. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 3: Switch to Issue Log view

1. To enable Issue Log view, select View | Issue Log from the drop-down menu.

2. If you haven't entered tasks in the project schedule, you'll see a blank table similar to the Gantt Chart view.

Step 4: Enter issue data at the task level

1. Populate the fields in the Issue Log just as you would enter issue data into your project issue log.

2. Enter an Issue Name.

3. Enter an Issue Description.

4. Select a Target Date.

5. Select Yes or No from the Open field.

6. Assign an issue owner in the Assigned To field.

You should have an issue log similar to Figure D. Figure D

Project Issue log. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 5: Filter open issues

If you want the log to identify only the tasks with open issues, you need to activate the project filter.

1. Click the Auto Filter icon in the toolbar.

2. Click the Target Date column filter and select Custom.

3. Enter does not equal and NA in the Custom Auto Filter box (Figure E).

4. Click OK.

Figure E

Auto Filter

The result will be a filtered list similar to the one shown in Figure A.

Limitations

Experienced project managers will notice that the issue log allows only one issue per task. Since a task can be impacted by multiple issues, one solution could include using the task's note's field in the Task Information panel. This isn't the most elegant solution, as the tool should allow the project manager to quickly identify all the tasks and issues in one view. Since a work breakdown structure is composed of deliverables and work packages with multiple tasks, the project manager could assign an issue to another task within that same work package. This solution would work well for tasks that have sufficiently defined sub-tasks.

Summary

Integrating an issue log within Microsoft Project 2007 is one approach to documenting issues in a project; the common way of tracking issues in a separate document works just as well. However, I encourage you to try this approach and review the issues and the tasks in your next team project schedule review. Give it a try and let me know your results.

About Andrew Makar

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

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