It is important to keep your project team focused on current and near-term tasks. If you want to send out a weekly update to your project team, showing which tasks are active, but incomplete, or scheduled to start in the next week, it would help to have a flag that automatically identifies those tasks for you. Here’s how to add it to your MS Project plan.

Inserting the Flag

Right click on the column where you want to insert the status indicator. Click “Insert Column” and then select Flag 1. Right click on the newly inserted column and select “Custom Fields.” From here, you can rename the field (I chose “Act” to keep it brief). Then, under custom attributes, click on the radio button for Formula. You’ll get a warning message, but that’s fine because you really do want to calculate the values.

Next, click on the Formula button and paste in the following:

IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd([Status Date],”5″) And [% Complete]<>100,True,False)

Click OK, and then click on the Graphical Indicators button. This is where you choose the flag to display and associate it with a specific value. The formula will return a binary value—think of it as Yes or No.

In this example, the flag will only appear for non-summary rows. Your project team members will likely be more interested in the specific tasks assigned to them than in the summary tasks.

Click in the first cell in the first row and select “equals” from the pulldown list. Then, click within the second cell. You will be presented with a list of all available fields, but you want the “Yes” value at the top of the list. Click in the third cell and choose a graphical image that meets your needs. I used a blue flag, but the light bulb image is also a good choice.

To confirm, click OK.

Using the Flag

In the formula, we reference a field called Status Date. This is set at the project level, under the Project tab. In this case, I’ve set the status date to May 14.

The formula will add five working days to the status date, as reflected in the project calendar. In this case, the result will be May 21. If a non-working day, such as a holiday, falls during that period the formula will take that into account. Thus, any task with a start date on or before May 21 and not at 100% complete will be flagged.

In our example, Task 1 is not flagged because it is marked 100% complete. Task 2 was scheduled to finish on May 11, but is not yet 100% complete, so it is flagged. Task 3 and 4 are flagged because the start dates fall on or before May 21. Tasks that are scheduled to start after May 21 are not flagged.

By setting the filter on the Act field to Yes, only the flagged tasks will be visible. The resulting data can easily be captured in a PDF or image file and incorporated into an Email or status report. This is useful for communicating current and near-term tasks to the project team, as noted earlier.

Modifications

The “5” in the formula is the part that specifies five working days. For two weeks, use “10”. If you want to use a different reference point, change Start to a different date field such as Baseline Start. Explore the list of available fields in the Formula screen by clicking on the Field button.

Another alternative is to use the current date. In the formula, replace [Status Date] with Now(). This will save the step of setting the status date.

IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd(Now(),”5″) And [% Complete]<>100,True,False)

You can also add criteria to the formula. For example, you may want to filter out summary tasks. This allows you to focus attention on the individual tasks.

IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd([Status Date],”5″) And [% Complete]<>100 And [Summary]=False,True,False)

If you think of other variations that might be useful, leave a comment below.


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