Working with Master Projects in Project 2010

The first blog post I ever wrote was actually on this topic – as I struggled with the “insies and the outsies” of managing my own master project.  Seeing as I am currently proposing a master project solution to a client, I figured it was probably a good time to fire up my Hyper V machine and do a little research into how master projects work in Microsoft Project and Project Server 2010.

Note that 2007 may or may not be about the same.  Some of this seemed familiar to me, and some of it a little different than how I recollect 2007 working.  That being said, I never spent a whole lot of time with master projects in 2007, so couldn’t say if things have changed much.

This blog post is split into two parts:

  1. Issues in Project Pro
  2. Issues in PWA (Project Server)

Project Professional Issues

I am not entirely sure that “issue” is the right term to use here, but more “things to note.”  Since that doesn’t sound as catchy as “issue,” I guess that’s the term I’ll settle on.

Issue #1: Baselining the Project is Weird

In this first scenario, none of my subprojects have been baselined.  I have the master project open and select the option to baseline all.

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I expand the sub projects and display the baseline fields to see if it worked…

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…and it appears that only the subproject summary tasks were actually baselined.  Any subproject child task was not.  Expanding the subprojects doesn’t help either.

The trick appears to be that you need to highlight everything and then, when baselining, choose the option to baseline selected tasks.  (Note in the following example, that I only have one project expanded.)

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That yields the following results.  See how the second subproject was not expanded, and therefore did not get updated.

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Moral of the story: each subproject needs to be expanded, and the Set Baseline option must be applied to selected tasks to work.  Baselining each subproject individually works, but that won’t roll up to your master project baseline very well for things like cost or work values.

At the end of the day, it would seem to make sense to create the master project, then baseline from the master project while ensuring all subprojects are expanded and the selected tasks option is applied when setting the baseline.

Issue #2: Status Dates are Weird

If you’re using the status date functionality in Project (and you should be), then you’ll need to appreciate that status dates are a bit weird when it comes to master projects.

Essentially, the status date in the master project does not apply to the subprojects.  The opposite is not quite true however, as the status date in the subprojects definitely impacts the master projects.

To illustrate how status dates work in master projects, I have set the status date for the master project as “10/28/2011.”  Additionally, I opened Sub Project 1 and set the same status date.  Then I added a new custom field to each of the projects called TEMP_Status which is set to display the Status Date at the task level.  See the results:

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So the status date is applied to the summary tasks but not the subtasks.  The implications of this include the fact that the Advanced Scheduling options may no longer apply to tasks updated within the context of a master project.

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Issue #3: …Which (kind of) Breaks EVMS…

Veteran Microsoft Project users will know that EVMS doesn’t work without the status date as most of the EVMS calculations are a snapshot in time as of the status date.  In the following example, tasks have been progressed, but only the first subproject has been opened and had its status date updated.

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The subproject summary task appears to be calculated properly, but the subtasks within each schedule are displaying the ACWP as of the project start – which is the default date for the status date.

As a result, the subtask figures do not total up to the amount displayed in the subproject level.  In the case of subproject 2, 600 + 600 + 280 + 280 decidedly does not equal 8,800.

Moral of that story: the subproject summaries calculate more or less correctly, but the subtasks do not – which makes the reporting a bit confusing..

(Stay tuned tomorrow for a bit of VBA code to address this issue.)

Issue #4: The Project Update Stops Working

Refresh your notes from the Set Baseline issue, because the same thing is at play in the Update Project dialog box.

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If you use the Update Project button, make sure to set it to update selected tasks (not the entire project), then expand the subprojects and highlight all tasks to get it to work.

PWA Issues

Issue #1: Assignments Don’t Appear in PWA

So I created my master project.  I assigned resources, and then I proceeded on to create an assignment view within Project Server.  Interestingly enough, nothing showed up.

It turns out that assignment level data doesn’t appear within Project Server.

Here’s what the subproject looks like in Project Center:

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…and the master project….

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See?  No assignment level data.

Issue #2: The Project Name Keeps Changing

This actually appears to be an issue in Project Server – as opposed to a thing of note.  Presumably, it’s a minor bug that might cause some end user confusion but is probably manageable.

Here’s my default Tasks Summary view in PWA with each of the subprojects minimized.  Note the project names.

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When I expand the project, see how the summary task changes name?

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Minimize the project and the new name sticks (at least until the next time you access the view).

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The name is being pulled from the Title field in the File Properties box within MS Project Professional.  Make sure to change the name there when the sub project file is created.

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Once the name has been changed, publish the sub project and the issue shouldn’t happen again.

Issue #3: You Need to Show Subprojects in Project Center

Not really an issue, but from an end user perspective, make sure to train them to click on the Show Subprojects button in Project Center to actually show subprojects.

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This always comes up as support questions in Project Server implementations.

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Working with Master Projects in Project 2010

5 thoughts on “Working with Master Projects in Project 2010

  1. […] Working with Master Projects in Project 2010 un interessante e completo articolo sulle problematiche della baseline e tracking dei sottoprogetti contenuti nel Master Plan. La seconda parte mostra gli effetti di questa gestione a livello di Project Server 2010 ma se non vi interessa potete tralasciarla. […]

  2. Ginette Deschênes says:

    I have to put in place a Master project plan to have a view of all projects (90) in the business, The probom is that I Can’t change these 90’s project plans, I have to insert them in read only. The basline values does not show up, and like I said, these projects are managed and shared by diffrents project managers and there is no way that iI baseline again because they have real values and historic information. Do you have any idea how to have baseline values for each subproject, plus need these values added in my master task in Master plan without doing a baseline

    1. Good question. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any easy way. I suppose you could copy all of the baseline fields into other fields – then copy them into the master project baseline fields. I suppose that I could write a macro to do all of that and then roll up the dates correctly. It would take a fair bit of work, I would think.

      1. Ginette Deschênes says:

        Tnahks Andrew, it is very complicated, I need all baselined files for cost, efforts and dates off all 90 projects and I could not go change or insert functionalities in these projects. Plus these 90’s projects could be baselined couple of time depending of the state of a project, I do not understand why Msp did not bring back a big recap task for all fields… but thanks a lot, for the moment I do not have the choice to in each MSP, copy fields in an excel project by project, each mont to be able to compare with all status report (for those we have a tool which read all excels files and bring the info in one big portfolio for the management).

  3. Hi Andrew,
    while your post is most helpful, there is actually one thing where a 180° turn from the otherwise very valid advise is required.
    Issue #1: Baselining the Project is Weird
    Baselining from within the master project works very well, but may break when using work contour.
    Case in point: Master and sub project, both use the server standard calendar. Standard calendar has an exception for (example) this Wednesday. In the sub project, you schedule a task for 4 days, beginning this Monday. It takes until Friday, 8h of work per day.
    Baseline it from within the subproject – all is well, baseline is 8-8-0-8-8.
    Baseline it from within the master project – baseline is 6.4 hours each day.
    The solution here is to open the master project for editing, expand the/all subproject, then open the subproject in a new window, select everything and save the baseline incl. the rollup. As the baseline is created from within the subproject, its contour is 8-8-0-8-8. And since the master is open and rollup is selected, the baseline data correctly rolls up into the master in the “other” window.
    This was with CU 2013/02 on the client. Hopefully, this solution also works for updating the baseline or parts of it. (fingers crossed)
    Kind regards,
    Adrian

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