If you’re managing complex programs or large projects, a summary milestone report may be the best way to share information that shows the status of key deliverables. Yet, out of the box Microsoft Project views are limiting and don’t provide the visual summary level views that give an executive the quick overview of project or program health he or she needs for making quick and accurate business decisions. In this article I explain how to configure a view within Project that provides an executive rollup of a program showing the projects in the program with milestone status. Figure 1 shows the view that will be created through these configurations.

Figure 1. The summary views we’ll create in this step-by-step guide.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

To display the status of each milestone graphically, milestone bar styles need to be configured for each unique status. The following logic was applied to distinguish milestones that haven’t been baselined, milestones that are on track, milestones that are delayed, and baselined milestones for those milestones that are delayed.

I’ve selected the following shape types and colors to designate the status of the milestone being shown:

Shape Types:

  • Solid diamond: Completed milestone
  • Framed diamond: Incomplete milestone
  • Dashed framed diamond: Baseline of milestone
  • Circle around diamond: Attention Required – Delayed incomplete milestone

Color coding:

  • Black: Not baselined
  • Green: On or ahead of schedule
  • Red: Delayed

To create a view with these bar styles, open up the Gantt Chart View from Project or copy the default Gantt Chart View to a new view name of your choice and open up that view.

To get milestones to display on a summary level bar, open up the Layout dialog by selecting Format | Layout from the Menu bar. From the Layout dialog, check the box next to “Always roll up Gantt bars” and click OK.

Figure 2. Initial steps.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

Next open up the Bar Styles dialog by selecting Format | Bar Styles from the Menu bar.

Figure 3. Laying out the specifications for illustrating milestone status.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

Note that the order in which you create the bar styles determines the order of how bar styles overlay on top of each other. The order in which they’re shown in the Bar Style dialog from top to bottom determines priority of sequencing or ordering of how they’re drawn on the Gantt chart view. Hence, as you’re creating bar styles, pay attention that you don’t hide something behind another bar style that you want to display.

Starting at the current bar style named Milestone, rename Milestone to Milestone Complete (No Baseline) and modify the bar properties as shown in the chart below. Insert the remaining bar style names and properties after the bar style you’ve just modified. The logic of the order of these milestones creates a solid black milestone for all finished milestones and then overwrites the black milestone with a solid green milestone for those that are baselined and on time and a solid red milestone for those that are baselined and late. The same logic follows for the incomplete milestones.

Table 1. How we’re ordering the milestones for this report.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

To add the names and dates of the milestones to the graphical display on the Gantt chart view, click on the Text tab from the Bar Style dialog and select the field to display as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Specifying what shows up on the graphical display.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

Note that if you do this for the Milestone Complete (No Baseline) and Milestone Forecast (No Baseline), the names and dates will show up for all the task level milestones, since the green and red milestones are just writing over current black milestones.

Next, create bar styles for rolled up milestones. From the Bar Style menu scroll down the list of bar styles to the current *Rolled Up Milestone bar style. Change this bar style to *Rolled Up Milestone Complete (No Baseline) with the properties shown in the table below and then insert the remaining bar styles listed.

Table 2. Details for bar styles to show summarized milestones.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

Tip: Using * in the name excludes this item from the legend when printing the Gantt chart view.

To change the color of the various workstreams or project summary bars, if displaying a program level view, select the individual task row. From the Menu bar select Format | Bar to open the Bar dialog. From the Bar Shape tab, change the color under Middle, and click OK. Repeat with a different color for each workstream or project summary.

Figure 5. How to specify project summary bars.

Creating Milestone Reports in Microsoft Project

Finally, to print a view for distribution, from the Menu bar select File | Print Preview. Click on the Page Setup button to open up the Page Setup dialog and customize the header and footer with a logo and custom text. Note that the legend at the bottom of the printout shows bar styles that have been designated for display.