Understanding “What Changed” After Approving Task Updates from PWA

//Understanding “What Changed” After Approving Task Updates from PWA

Understanding “What Changed” After Approving Task Updates from PWA

Background Information

One of the challenges for project managers is understanding “what changed” after they approve pending task updates in the Approval Center page in Project Web App. In the current versions of Project Online and Project Server, it is not easy to determine the schedule changes in the enterprise project after approving the pending task updates in Project Web App. Although you can use the Approval Preview page in Project Web App, this page can be difficult to comprehend with a large project.

One of my former students offered his personal solution for this scheduling challenge. I really like his solution and feel it worthy of sharing with you. His solution involves using the Interim Plan feature of Microsoft Project, and using a couple of custom local fields to indicate schedule changes for the Start date and/or Finish date of impacted tasks. In addition to the basics of my student’s solution, I also want to show you how to create a custom view and table to display the changes.

To create this functionality requires you to set up four custom fields, plus create a custom table and a custom view. It also requires you to capture an Interim Plan in each project before approving task updates.

Creating the Custom Fields

Before you can use my student’s solution to this scheduling challenge, you must rename a couple of fields and then you must create a couple of custom fields containing formulas with graphical indicators. To begin the process of working with local fields, launch Microsoft Project and connect to Project Online. Create a new blank project in which to work with local custom fields.

To begin the process of renaming local fields, click the Project tab to display the Project ribbon. In the Properties section of the Project ribbon, click the Custom Fields button. In the Custom Fields dialog, click the Type pick list and select the Start item, such as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Custom Fields dialog - Select the Start field type

Figure 1: Custom Fields dialog – Select the Start field type

In the Field section of the dialog, select the Start1 field and then click the Rename Field button. In the Rename Field dialog, enter Previous Start in the New name field, and then click the OK button, such as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Rename Field dialog

Figure 2: Rename Field dialog

In the Custom Fields dialog, click the Type pick list and select the Finish item. In the Field section of the dialog, select the Finish1 field and then click the Rename Field button. In the Rename Field dialog, enter Previous Finish in the New name field, and then click the OK button.

To begin the process of creating the custom fields, leave the Custom Fields dialog open. In the Custom Fields dialog, click the Type pick list and select the Flag item. In the Field section of the dialog, select the Flag1 field, and then click the Rename Field button. In the Rename Field dialog, enter Start Change in the New name field, and then click the OK button.

In the Field section of the dialog, select the Flag2 field and then click the Rename Field button. In the Rename Field dialog, enter Finish Change in the New name field, and then click the OK button.

In the Field section of the dialog, select the Start Change (Flag1) field and then click the Formula button. Microsoft Project displays the Formula dialog for the selected field. In the Formula dialog, enter the formula shown in Figure 3. You can manually type the formula or you can use the formula builder buttons along the bottom of the dialog. This field will be used to determine whether task updates caused a change to the Start date of any task in your project schedule.

Figure 3: Formula dialog with Start Change formula

Figure 3: Formula dialog with Start Change formula

Click the OK button to apply the formula to the custom field, and then click the OK button in the warning dialog. With the Start Change (Flag1) custom field still selected, select the Use formula option in the Calculation for task and group summary rows section of the dialog, and then click the Graphical Indicators button at the bottom of the dialog. In the Graphical Indicators dialog, set up the graphical indicator criteria shown in Figure 4. In the Image column, you can use any graphical indicator that you want to use. I personally like using the “red flag” indicator for this field.

Figure 4: Graphical Indicators dialog with criteria

Figure 4: Graphical Indicators dialog with criteria

In the upper left corner of the Graphical Indicators dialog, select the Summary rows option, and then select the Summary rows inherit criteria from nonsummary rows checkbox. Click the Yes button in the confirmation dialog. Select the Project summary option and then select the Project summary inherits criteria from summary rows checkbox. Again, click the Yes button in the confirmation dialog. You can see that I selected these two checkbox options in Figure 4 shown previously. Click the OK button when finished to close the Graphical Indicators dialog.

In the Custom Fields dialog, select the Finish Change (Flag2) field and repeat the same process that I detailed for the Start Change (Flag1) field. Click the Formula button to display the Formula dialog for the Finish Change field, enter the formula shown in Figure 5, and then click the OK button. Click the OK button in the warning dialog as well.

Figure 5: Formula dialog with Finish Change formula

Figure 5: Formula dialog with Finish Change formula

With the Finish Change (Flag2) custom field still selected, select the Use formula option in the Calculation for task and group summary rows section of the dialog, and then click the Graphical Indicators button at the bottom of the dialog. In the Graphical Indicators dialog, specify the same graphical indicator criteria and settings shown previously in Figure 4. Click the OK button to close the Graphical Indicators dialog and then click the OK button to close the Custom Fields dialog as well.

Creating the Custom Table and Custom View

With the four custom fields set up, you are ready to create a custom table and a custom view. To create the custom table, click the View tab to display the View ribbon. In the Data section of the View ribbon, click the Tables pick list and select the More Tables item. In the More Tables dialog, select the Entry table and then click the Copy button, such as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: More Tables dialog

Figure 6: More Tables dialog

Microsoft Project displays the Table Definition dialog for the new table. In the dialog, enter the name _Task Approval Changes in the Name field, and select the Show in menu checkbox as well, such as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Table Definition dialog

Figure 7: Table Definition dialog

In the Table Definition dialog, select only the fields listed below, and delete all other fields. Your table should include the following fields:

  • ID
  • Indicators
  • Name
  • Duration
  • Previous Start
  • Start
  • Start Change
  • Previous Finish
  • Finish
  • Finish Change
  • Resource Names

Set your desired values in columns like Align Data and Width for each field as desired. Click the OK button to close the Table Definition dialog. Click the Close button to close the More Tables dialog as well.

Your next step is to create the custom view. In the Task Views section of the View ribbon, click the Gantt Chart pick list button and select the More Views item on the pick list. Microsoft Project displays the More Views dialog. In the More Views dialog, select the Tracking Gantt item and then click the Copy button, such as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8: More Views dialog

Figure 8: More Views dialog

The software displays the View Definition dialog for the new custom view. In the View Definition dialog, enter the name _Task Approval Changes in the Name field. Click the Table pick list and select the _Task Approval Changes custom table. Leave all other field values and options in place, such as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: View Definition dialog

Figure 9: View Definition dialog

Click the OK button to close the View Definition dialog. With the new custom view selected in the More Views dialog, click the Apply button the custom view.

Double-click anywhere in the white part of the Tracking Chart pane to display the Bar Styles dialog. For the Baseline row, set the From value to Previous Start and set the To value to Previous Finish. For the Baseline Split row, set the From value to Previous Start and set the To value to Previous Finish. For the Baseline Milestone row, set both the From and To values to Previous Finish, such as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10: Bar Styles dialog

Figure 10: Bar Styles dialog

Click the OK button when finished to close the Bar Styles dialog. In this custom view, the gray Gantt bars do not represent the baseline schedule of each task. Instead, they represent the previous schedule of each task before you approved task updates.

Save the blank project containing the custom fields, custom table, and custom view as a local Microsoft Project (*.mpp) file. To save the project, click the File tab and then click the Save As tab in the Backstage. At the bottom of the Save As page, click the Browse button. Microsoft Project displays the Save As File dialog. In the Save As File dialog, select the option named Only currently loaded enterprise custom fields and enterprise global items (smaller file size) such as shown in Figure 11, and then click the OK button.

Figure 11: Save As File dialog

Figure 11: Save As File dialog

In the Save As dialog, select a convenient location, such as your Desktop or Documents folder, and save it using a name such as Project with Fields View and Table.mpp. Leave this project file open for the next step.

Copy the Local Objects to Each Enterprise Project

Your next step is to copy the custom fields, the custom table, and the custom view to each of your enterprise projects so that you can use them to track the changes to Start and Finish dates after approving pending task updates. Open an enterprise project and check it out for editing. Click the File tab to display the Backstage in Microsoft Project. Click the Info tab in the Backstage, then click the Organizer pick list button and select the Organizer item on the menu.

Microsoft Project displays the Views page of the Organizer dialog. In the lower left corner of the dialog, click the Views available in pick list and select the Project with Fields View and Table.mpp file containing the custom fields, custom table, and custom view, such as shown in Figure 12. In the list of views on the left side of the dialog, select the name of the custom view you just created, and then click the Copy >> button to copy the custom view to your enterprise project.

Figure 12: Organizer dialog – copy the custom view

Figure 12: Organizer dialog – copy the custom view

Click the Tables tab to display the Tables page of the Organizer dialog. In the list of tables on the left side of the dialog, select the name of the custom table you just created, and then click the Copy >> button to copy the custom table to your enterprise project, such as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13: Organizer dialog – copy the custom table

Figure 13: Organizer dialog – copy the custom table

Click the Fields tab to display the Fields page of the Organizer dialog. The list of fields on the left side of the dialog includes every enterprise custom field, along with the four local custom fields you just created. In the list of fields on the left side of the dialog, select the names of the four custom fields you just created, and then click the Copy >> button to copy the custom local fields to your enterprise project. Figure 14 shows the Organizer dialog after I copied the four custom local fields to my enterprise project.

Figure 14: Organizer dialog – copy the custom table

Figure 14: Organizer dialog – copy the custom table

Click the Close button to close the Organizer dialog. In the Backstage of the enterprise project, click the Save tab to save the latest changes to this project. Close and check in the enterprise project. Repeat the process documented in this topical section to copy the custom view, custom table, and custom fields into every enterprise project in which you want to use them. When finished, close your MPP project file as well.

Using the Interim Plan Feature

Before you begin the process of reviewing and approving task updates on the Approval Center page in Project Web App, you need to capture the current schedule of every task in the projects you want to update. Launch Microsoft Project and connect to Project Online. Open and check out an enterprise project that you are preparing to update with task progress submitted by your project team members. The project should include the custom view, custom table, and the four custom fields, by the way.

Click the Task tab to display the Task ribbon. In the View section of the Task ribbon, click the Gantt Chart pick list button and select the custom view you created with this blog post article. Drag the split bar to the right edge of the Finish Change column. The Start Change and Finish Change columns should show a graphical indicator for every task in the schedule at this point, by the way.

To capture the current schedule of every task, click the Project tab to display the Project ribbon. In the Schedule section of the Project ribbon, click the Set Baseline pick list button and select the Set Baseline item on the pick list. In the Set Baseline dialog, select the Set interim plan option, such as shown in Figure 15. Leave the Copy value set to Scheduled Start/Finish and leave the Into value set to Start1/Finish1. Leave the Entire project option selected and then click the OK button.

Figure 15: Set Baseline dialog

Figure 15: Set Baseline dialog

The graphical indicators in the Start Change and Finish Change columns should disappear at this point since the dates are now identical between the Start and Previous Start fields, and between the Finish and Previous Finish fields. Save, close, and check in the enterprise project. Complete this process for every enterprise project you intend to update for the current reporting period.

By the way, this process captures the current Start and Finish date for every task in the Start1 and Finish1 fields. The dates in the Start1 and Finish1 fields represent the original Start and Finish dates before you update task progress into the project.

Reviewing Schedule Changes after Approving Task Updates

After you approve pending task updates in the Approval Center page in Project Web App, open an updated project in Microsoft Project, and apply the custom view created with this blog post article. Every task whose schedule changed as a consequence of the applied task updates now displays a graphical indicator in the Start Change and/or Finish Change columns. For example, notice in Figure 16 how the applied task updates changed the schedule of several tasks in the Documentation deliverable section of my enterprise project.

Figure 16: Graphical indicators reveal task schedule changes

Figure 16: Graphical indicators reveal task schedule changes

Remember that on the right side of the custom view, the Tracking Chart pane displays the new schedule of each task after updates (red and blue Gantt bars), along with the previous schedule of each task (gray Gantt bar). You can compare the red and blue Gantt bars with their accompanying gray Gantt bars to see how the schedule slipped as a result of applying the latest round of task updates.

By |2019-11-08T11:48:56+00:00November 8th, 2019|Microsoft Project Tips|
Dale Howard, Microsoft Project MVP
Dale Howard is the Director of Education for PROJILITY. He has used Microsoft Project since version 4.0 for Windows 95 and has used the Microsoft PPM tool since the first version was released with the name, Project Central, in the year 2000. He is the co-author of 21 books on Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He is currently one of only 28 Microsoft Project MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) in the entire world and one of only 6 in the United States.

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