Build Your Skills: Manage your project team with Project Central

Managing distributed teams with Microsoft Project workgroup features

Project Central offers team members ways to keep in touch with each other on a project. It’s also a valuable tool for project managers who need to manage a team, or teams, simultaneously. The system requirements for project managers are similar to the requirements for team members. Since project managers create and update Project files, they need Microsoft Project. (A Project Central access license is included with the product.) All other requirements are the same and include:
  • A Windows operating system
  • Internet Explorer 4.01 or greater
  • A Microsoft Project Central access license
  • Outlook

Fourth in a series
This is part of an occasional series on Microsoft Project and Project Central. Previous articles have covered using Project Central as a team member, Project’s workgroup management features, and its utilization of e-mail.

Setting up a Project
The first step in managing a project team with Project Central is to set up the project. After you create your Project file and are ready to distribute task assignments, complete these three steps:
  1. Define Project Central settings in the Project file.
  2. Submit the Project file to Project Central.
  3. Send task assignments to team members.

Define Project Central settings
In this step, you define where Project Central is located and the username you will use for the site. To change settings, access Tools | Options. To change a username, click the General tab and change the User Name field (see Figure A). Make sure the name matches the resource name you have given yourself in the project. Otherwise, you’ll have two accounts in Project Central—one as the project manager and one as a team member.

Figure A

To change the other Project Central settings, click the Workgroup tab and make the following modifications (see Figure B):
  • Change Default Workgroup Messages to Web.
  • Type in the URL for the Project Central site. You’ll get this information from the Project Central Administrator.
  • Choose the method for authentication on the Project Central site. Again, you’ll get this information from the Project Central Administrator.
  • Check the Send Hyperlink In E-mail Note field. This will send a link to the Web site to team members when you send them an e-mail through Project workgroup features.
  • Uncheck the Allow Resources To Delegate Tasks In Microsoft Project Central field. Use this only if you want to allow team members to delegate the tasks you assigned to them to another person.
  • Check the Update Project Information To Microsoft Project Central Server On Every Save field. This will automatically save your changes to the Web site when you save the file.

Figure B

When you’re finished, click OK at the bottom of the Options screen.

Submit Project file to Project Central
Now it’s time to submit the file to Project Central. Simply save the Project file. You’ll see a dialog box confirming that the file is being updated on the Project Central server.

If you want to manually submit to the Project Central server, you can do so by accessing Tools | Workgroup | Update Project To Server.

Sending assignments to team members
To allow team members to use Project Central to manage their tasks and time, you need to send a task assignment message. This is the same function used when sending a task assignment message via e-mail, but the messages end up in Project Central instead of as an e-mail message. Follow these steps:
  1. Access Tools | Workgroup | TeamAssign.
  2. Choose All Tasks or Selected Tasks from the Workgroup Mail dialog box and then click OK.
  3. The Planning Wizard will appear and tell you that you can set this feature up to use team members' Windows accounts instead. Place a check mark in the Do Not Display Again field and click OK.
  4. The New Task Assignments screen will appear (see Figure C). Make your changes and click the Send button.

Figure C

The task assignment messages will be sent to the user accounts on Project Central. If the user doesn’t exist on Project Central, the account will automatically be created with a blank password.

Managing the Project team
Once the Project file is on the Project Central server, you can carry out several tasks. As a project manager, you can:
  • Reply to messages received in your inbox.
  • Request status reports from team members.
  • Review status reports.

Reply to messages received in your inbox
As a project manager, you send out task assignments and updates to team members. As team members respond, these replies will appear in your Project Central inbox. You can choose to update the Project file with the information or simply respond to team members’ messages.

To access this feature, click the Project Central inbox link under the Messages section on the main page. Then, choose the message you want to review (see Figure D).

Figure D

After you’ve reviewed all new messages, click the Messages link on the left navigation bar to access old messages.

Request status reports from team members
You can set up status-report requests to occur on a schedule. For example, if you want team members to submit a status report every Friday, you can set Project Central up so that a request will be sent every Friday. To do so, follow these steps:
  1. Click the Request A Status Report link under the Status Reports section on the left navigation bar. The screen shown in Figure E will appear.

Figure E

  1. Select the Set Up A New Status Report For Your Team To Respond To option. The screen shown in Figure F will appear.

Figure F

  1. Type the title of the status report in the Title field, choose the frequency and days the reports are due, and choose the start date. Then, click Next. The screen shown in Figure G will appear.

Figure G

  1. Add the team members who should submit this status report. Also, remove the check marks beside each name. If you don’t, the status of each team member will be automatically added to the group report. (I like to review individual submissions before adding them to the group report.) Click Next. The screen shown in Figure H will appear.

Figure H

  1. Modify the list of sections that will be included in the status report and click Next. The screen shown in Figure I will appear.

Figure I

  1. Click Send to distribute the first status-report request. New status reports will be generated based on the schedule you defined.

You can go back at any time and modify or delete a status-report request.

Review an individual status report
Once your team members have submitted the status reports that you have requested, you’ll access them from the Status Reports section under Requested Reports on the main page (see Figure J).

Figure J

Once you’ve selected the status-report submissions to review, a screen will appear on which you can choose to view individual status reports, see who has submitted reports, and merge individual reports into the group status report (see Figure K).

Figure K

Notice that if a report has been submitted but not merged, a document icon with a red exclamation mark appears. If a report hasn’t been submitted, a document icon with a question mark appears. To view a submitted status report, click a document icon with a red exclamation mark (see Figure L).

Figure L

From here, you can merge the individual status report into the group report by clicking Merge at the top of the status report. Once an individual report has been merged into the group status report, the icon changes to a document icon on the Group Status Reports list page (see Figure M).

Figure M

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