Il est bien plus beau de savoir quelque chose de tout que de savoir tout d'une chose. [Blaise Pascal]

The final note on managing Master projects and subprojects with Project Server (and Project online)

This article will describe all the necessary information required to understand how to manage master projects and subprojects within Project Server. Note that the approach is similar with project Online.
For the illustration, I will use a team of 4 persons:
  • Jane Doe, project manager
  • Jeremy Cottino, project manager
  • John Doe, team member
  • Yan Yellow, team member

And I will use the delegation feature to illustrate what other users will see when using the tool.

Create a new master project
From the Project center, select the PROJECTS tab and click on New project (select the relevant Enterprise Project Type). Create the project which will be your master project (e.g. “My Master Project”).

You can Build your team and insert some tasks and milestones.

Create a subproject
Create the second project using Microsoft Project Pro (client).
When publishing the project using Microsoft Project Pro, you can choose where the project site will be created (which is not the case in PWA, where project sites are provisioned at the root level). In this example, I prefer to create a sub-site of the master project site.

You can of course Build your team and insert some tasks and milestones.

A side note here: In order to connect to Project Server or Project online you need either Microsoft Project Professional (versions depend on your Project Server version) or Project Professional for Office 365. For more information on versions, please check this BrianSmith’s blog post.

Another side note: When you create a project, your account is the default project owner but also the default status manager (person in charge of approving task update) for all tasks. If you change the project owner using the information PDP, the status manager is not updated. The new project owner needs to update the status manager field into the schedule (from Microsoft Project Pro), as this cannot be done by someone else.

Add the subproject to the master project
In order to insert the subproject into the master plan, you need to open your master plan in Microsoft Project Pro. Then go on the Project tab, and click on Insert > Subproject.

Note that you should first select the line where the subproject will be inserted, it’s not always at the end of the schedule.
The Insert project window pops up. Select the project to insert from your PWA instance. Ensure that the Link to project checkbox is checked (we want to link our projects, not just copy the tasks of the subproject into the master).

Then click Insert.
The subproject is inserted and linked. The subproject summary task (task 0) is displayed. You might note the icon on the indicator field, showing it’s a subproject.

Create mandatory dependencies between tasks in different projects
A good reason to create master/subproject is to create dependencies (links) between tasks in different projects. Let me first start with some definitions. There are 3 types of dependencies:
  • Mandatory Dependencies: or strong dependencies, it creates a firm relationship between tasks (must do).
  • Discretionary Dependencies: or soft dependencies (should do), when project team would like activities to happen in a particular order without any constraint.
  • External Dependencies: those outside of the control of the project team.

Working with master/subproject allows the PM to create mandatory dependencies between tasks within different project/subproject. On “non-linked” project, you can only create discretionary or external dependencies, using the Project Server feature Deliverables for example.
Here is the representation of this dependency when viewing the master project (which also display the subproject).

Note here, the Task 1(master) is a Predecessor of Task 1 (project 1).
In the picture below is the representation of this dependencies when you open the subproject (only). Greyed out is the task from the master project.

Finally, it’s interesting to see the following case, I’m using Project Pro 2016. When you open the master project the first time, the subproject is collapsed, you can see the greyed out task that represent the dependency.

When you expand the subproject, the greyed out task is removed and the link to the task into the subproject is displayed (good to know J)

A side note here: When you link a subproject to a master project, the 2 project files are checked out.

Back to the Project Center
By default, subprojects are not displayed on the project center.

In order to display the subprojects in the project center, you need to click on the PROJECTS tab on the ribbon and select Show/Hide > Subprojects.

Note the icon on the master project is different than the icon on other projects (including subprojects).

Moving forward with the project center, it might be interesting, when using master/subprojects to monitor a program, to define a “Program view”. My recommendation is to create an Enterprise Custom Field (ECF), type text (lookup or not) that contains the name of your corporate programs, and use this to create a grouping, as follow:

A team member cannot open a subproject
An interesting feature (or bug) of Project Server when using the ProjectServer permission mode. When a team member tries to access a subproject, the access is denied with the message below.

In order to solve this, you need to edit the My Tasks category.

And give to the Team Members group the Open Project rights (which originally is required to open project using the client…).

Now your team members can open the subproject.

My tasks
When your team members are requested to use the task center to provide their tasks’ status, it is interesting to note that it does not make difference between projects (master) and subprojects. All are listed at the same level.

Working with Issues and Risks
To illustrate how we can work with Issues and Risks on project and subprojects, here is the scenario I will describe.
“A project manager creates 2 issues on the subproject (Project 1), and wants to link the first issue with a task within the same project (Project 1), and the second one to a task in the master project (My master project), and generate a report of this.”
For more information about how to manage risks and issues and link items to tasks, visit my previous blog article: Managing risks and issues with Project Server 2013 (or Project Online).

So, the 2 issues created on the Project 1 (subproject).

The issue “Issue #1 from Project 1” is linked to the task “Task 1 (Project 1)” using tasks list and the related items feature.

When displaying the schedule, the issue’s icon is displayed in front of the “Task 1 (Project 1)”.

Now opening the master project, selecting the task “Task 1 (master)” on the tasks’ list of the project site, using related items linking the issue from the subproject.

BUT, and this is not a good news, the issue’s icon is not displayed on the schedule page. Moreover, the issue’s icon on the “Task 1 (Project 1)” of the subproject is not displayed neither.

Creating a very simple report, using oData source in Excel, there is no issue on the master project, whereas the 2 issues are listed under the subproject.

You can deeper investigate on how to make reports on the issues and links with projects and tasks by using ProjectData service and the Association elements, more information here:

Quick wrap up, in order to create a master project and subproject(s):
  • Create your master project either from PWA or Project Pro
  • Create your subproject(s) from Project Pro in order to specify the project site location
  • Insert the subproject within the master project with Project Pro
  • On the Project Center, ensure that you display subprojects
  • If you are using default security configuration of Project Server (on ProjectServer security mode), ensure that your users have the “Open Project” permission.


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