Structuring Master Projects with Subprojects

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With Microsoft Project, you can insert one project into another. Inserted projects look and act like summary tasks in any task view, with their subordinate tasks readily available. You can view and change all tasks within that inserted project. The task information is changed in the source project file as well, because the two projects are linked by default.

Although you might insert projects for a variety of reasons, the most effective use of this capability is to create a master project structure with subprojects inserted within that master project. This structure is most useful when you have a large project containing a number of subcomponents, especially if those subcomponents are managed by other project managers. If you're managing the overall project, your master project can give you the view you need into the planning and execution of all the subprojects.

Reviewing multiple projects' information in a master project structure is analogous to using the enterprise Portfolio Analyzer feature. If you're set up for enterprise project management c using Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003 and Microsoft Office Project Server 2003, p you can use the Portfolio Analyzer to see a high-level overview of multiple enterprise i projects. With the Portfolio Analyzer, you can review schedule information, cost perfor in mance, and resource allocation, for example.

For more information about the Portfolio Analyzer, see "Examining Projects Using Portfolio Analyzer" on page 749.

Even if you're the sole project manager, you might find the master project-subprojects structure helpful for alternating between project details and the overall project picture.

Information in the master project and subprojects are interactively linked to each other. When project managers of the subprojects make changes, by default, you see those changes reflected in your master project. The reverse is true as well—you can change subproject information in your master project, and those changes are updated in the source subproject.

Your master project can also contain regular tasks. Tasks and subprojects can be organized in relation to one another, and your inserted subprojects can be part of an outline structure and have dependencies, just like regular "native" tasks.

Note Instead of inserting and linking projects together, you might need to just link an individual task in one project to a task in another project.

For information about linking tasks between projects, see "Linking Information Between Project Plans" on page 451.

Setting Up a Master Project

When you want to set up a master project with subprojects, first decide where all the files are going to reside. If you're the sole user of the projects and subprojects, the files can all be stored on your own computer. If you're handling the master project, and other project managers are responsible for subprojects, you'll need to store the projects on a central file server or in a shared folder to which all the managers have access.

Inserting Projects into a Master Project

Creating a master project is simply a matter of inserting subordinate projects into what you're designating as the central controlling project; that is, the master project. To insert a subproject into a master project, follow these steps:

Open the project that you want to become the master project.

Display the Gantt Chart or other task sheet.

Click the row below where you want to insert the project.

You can insert the project at any level in an existing outline structure. The inserted project adopts the outline level of the task above the location where it's inserted.

Click Insert, Project. The Insert Project dialog box appears (see Figure 14-1).

Look In box

Look In box

Up One Level button

Figure 14-1. Use the Look In box and the Up One Level button in the Insert Project dialog box to find the location of the project you want to insert.

Up One Level button

Figure 14-1. Use the Look In box and the Up One Level button in the Insert Project dialog box to find the location of the project you want to insert.

5 Browse to the drive and folder in which the subproject is stored.

6 Click the project file and then click the Insert button.

The project is inserted and its filename appears as the summary task name in the selected row. The inserted project icon appears in the Indicators field (see Figure 14-2).

Figure 14-2. The inserted project looks like a summary task among your regular tasks.

7 To see the tasks in the inserted project, click the plus sign next to the project name in the Task Name field.

The subproject expands to show all tasks (see Figure 14-3). They look and behave exactly as if you created them in this project.

Task Name

Jan 4, '04

Jan 11. '04

Jan 18, '04


S M T | W | T | F | S

S | M T | W | T | F


Obtain approvals to proceed (concept, timeline, budget)



Secure required resources


Analysis complete



□ 14-Design

E- Design


Review preliminary software specifications


Develop functional specifications


Develop prototype based on functional specifications



Review functional specifications



Incorporate feedback Into functional specifications


Obtain approval to proceed



Design complete

El Training


Develop training specifications for end users



Develop training specifications for heipdesk support staff

Figure 14-3. You can view and edit the tasks of an inserted project in the same way as those that were originally created in the master project.

The summary task Gantt bar for the inserted project is formatted with a different color. On the other hand, the inserted project's Gantt bars for subordinate tasks are formatted exactly the same as native tasks.

To hide the tasks in the inserted project, click the minus sign next to the project name.

Repeat Steps 3-6 for any other projects you want to insert into your master project (see Figure 14-4).

Figure 14-4. This master project contains four subprojects, each one containing the plan for a major project phase.

9 Indent or outdent the inserted project as appropriate. Also link inserted projects or tasks to native tasks as needed to reflect task dependencies.

In the Network Diagram view, the summary task representing the subproject is formatted differently from other tasks and includes the path and name of the source project file (see Figure 14-5). The subproject tasks themselves look the same as regular tasks.

Managing Master Projects and Resource Pools

Native tasks


Figure 14-5. In the Network Diagram view, the node representing the subproject summary task shows the name of the source project file as well as its start and finish dates.

Native tasks


Figure 14-5. In the Network Diagram view, the node representing the subproject summary task shows the name of the source project file as well as its start and finish dates.

In the Calendar view, the name of the subproject appears with the individual subproject tasks (see Figure 14-6). If you don't see the subproject name, drag the bottom edge of a calendar row to increase its height.

Native tasks

Native tasks

Subproject tasks

Figure 14-6. The Calendar view displays the subproject name above the individual subproject tasks.

Breaking Up a Large Project into Subprojects

You might know during the preplanning stage of your project that you want your project set up as a master project with subprojects, which makes things easier. On the other hand, you might not know until you're in the middle of project execution that a master project is just the solution you need. You can still set it up without having to significantly rework your project files.

Microsoft Office Project 2003 Inside Out

If you already have multiple project files that you want to bring together with a master project, it's pretty simple. Create a new project file, insert the projects, and you're all set.

If you have a single large project file and you want to break it up into more manageable subproject files, it's a little trickier, but still very doable. In this case, you need to do some reverse engineering. The overall process for doing this is as follows:

1 Create a new project file for each new subproject you want to insert.

2 In each new file, set the project start date (or project finish date if you're scheduling from the finish date) for the project.

3 Set the project calendar to match the project calendar in the original file.

For information about copying calendars and other project elements from one project file to another, see "Copying Project Elements Using the Organizer" on page 462.

4 Move tasks from the large project file into the subproject file using the Cut and Paste commands.

Be sure to select all task information by selecting the row headers, not just the task names. When just the cell is selected, the command name is Copy Cell; when the entire row is selected, the command name is Copy Task, which is what you want. Selecting and copying the entire task copies all necessary task information, including any actual progress information, to the new project file.

For more Information about moving project Information, see "Copying and Moving Information Between Projects" on page 459.

5 After you have all your separate project files set up, as well as the proper project start and finish dates and calendars, you can insert those files as subprojects into your master project.

If you're set up for enterprise project management using Project Professional 2003 and Project Server 2003, only subprojects are published to the server unless the server has been explicitly set up to accept master projects. You create and maintain your master project on your local computer.

For more Information about importing and publishing projects to the enterprise server, see "Creating a New Enterprise Project" on page 645.

Working with Subproject Information

You can edit any task, resource, or assignment in a subproject. By default, any change you make to subproject information is instantly made in the source project file. Likewise, any change made in the source project file updates the information in your master project because the subproject and source project are linked. This updating is convenient because you never have to worry about whether you're synchronized with the most current subproject information.

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  • Stanley
    How can i automatically create a new linked subproject when a task is added to the master?
    1 month ago

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