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Do’s and Don’ts: Creating Subprojects

Creating subprojects in Microsoft® Project is a simple mechanical process called consolidation. What isn’t simple is deciding whether or not to check the “Link to Project” checkbox setting in the final step of consolidation. The figure below shows the location of the checkbox.

Do's and Don'ts: Creating Subprojects

This article helps identify some initial considerations before creating subprojects.

Is bi-directional file updating required?

The default in MS Project is to check the “Link to Project” setting. This tells Project that you want changes made in the subproject files to update in the consolidated file. It also tells Project that changes in the consolidated file will update the subproject files. This bi-directional file communication and updating is handy for the individual contributor managing multiple project files.

If the checkbox is cleared by the user, the subproject files are “copied” to the consolidated project file, but bi-directional updates no longer occur.

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Do the files utilize the same resources?

If the same resources are utilized in all of the subproject files, consolidating the files will result in duplicate resources. Unless a resource pool is utilized and consolidated with the subproject files, the consolidated project will look at resource assignments in each subproject file uniquely instead of across all projects in the model. This dramatically affects resource leveling resulting in potential errors in resource schedules.

Are there other considerations?

There are other concepts to think about before consolidating, such as cross project task relationships, interdependent milestones and deliverables, and reporting requirements.

The list of questions can get complicated, and the decisions made will obviously affect the results obtained.
Do create subprojects if you are in a multiproject environment and you feel it is warranted. But be thoughtful and thorough when consolidating.


Sam Huffman
Written by Sam Huffman

Sam Huffman first gained insight into Microsoft Project while working as a member of the MS Project development and support team. He has maintained his depth of knowledge of MS Project with each release and is a leading authority in the use and features of MS Project, Project Server and Project Online. Since the early 1990’s Sam has honed his instruction skills by delivering training programs to thousands every year. Sam is a frequent content contributor to the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG) and speaks to groups often about MS Project, Enterprise Project Management and the discipline of Project Management. He was awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional from 2010-2017. Check out his blog on MS Project.

The softcover version of my newest book Microsoft® Project Do’s and Don’ts is now available for purchase! It is portable, brief and to the point so you can find help when you need it. Through tips, best practices and examples it will help you jumpstart your project!

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  1. A Promgramme Plan was created in MS Project the other way round. Populating the Programme Plan with Project Details as it becomes avaiable.

    I like to split up the individual Projects from the Programme Plan and give it to each of the Project Managers, But I am experiencing dates misalignments (the date on the Programme plan is no longer thesame with the dates on the disintegrated Project Plans due to broken links. how do I fix this?


  2. Moruf,

    Your issue is exactly the reason FOR the links.

    When linked to a Master project the p.m.’s can still use their Project files. They make changes and save their file so you can see the changes in the Master when it is opened. If you are copying and pasting into other files, the link is not maintained in the file where pasted.

    Other potential causes: sub-projects saved in a different location, trying to use the Master project model in SharePoint, network or system connectivity issues, etc. A lot more information is needed – please go to Microsoft and/or MPUG Forums to pose the problem. You should get answers immediately!

    Sam Huffman


  3. Has anyone had success in setting up and maintaining a Master/sub-project model using SharePoint and/or Box? How do I set it up, and what are the common problems I can expect?

  4. What happens when you make a copy of the master project and sub projects into another folder? Will the links between projects follow? Or will the copy of the master project still be linked to the original subs in the original folder?

    What happens when you ZIP the folder containing the master project and subs and email that to someone else. Do all the links between projects follow?

    It is annoying if the users have to constantly edit the links to point to the new locations of the sub-projects.

  5. I have a project (in project 2016) which consistsof sub projects, We had a server drop out for around and hour and I continued working on the master schedule which was updating the sub projects located in folders under the same file tree. Upon saving, it has told me that i now have circular references and wont let me save the existing sub projects or save a copy of them into the same file location. Is this a known issue? I would normally just re-insert the files back into the master, though it is giving me grief with shared resources now doubling up back in the master.

    Any ideas?

  6. I am just seeing these responses after a large project.

    Michael, SharePoint and Project don’t get along well in a multi-project environment. That is Project Server / Project Online realm. I don’t know about Box, but suspect the same to hold true. Check the Technet forums out for more details:

    Esther, the situation you are describing is too volatile for Project. As in Michael’s case, verify in the forums at:

    Aaron, your issue is one I would take to the forums first. I have made a very quick search but did not find the exact problem. There are lots of other issues that are similar, so you may have to grind through them. If no answer, you can open a support incident with Microsoft.

    Thanks to all – Sam

  7. I am considering using the subproject feature. I objective is the create tasks for one group/dept to work on and see just that. It is my understanding that when you create a project and build a team, the see all the tasks going in it thru the Project Center. I do not want them getting bogged down with what I am managing, although if they stick to the Task Page they will see only what related to them. Do you think I should try and use subprojects?


  8. Great information.

    Do you know if there is a technical limit to the number of sub projects you can have, I have a case where the team wants to have 40+ sub projects. We would manage these in project server 2013 on prem.

    Is there also a limit to the number of nested master projects you can have?

    Looking at this from the technical aspect, not addressing the business implications of doing this

    Andrew Payze

  9. Do custom views, fields, filters etc roll down from the Master file for use across the subfield automatically or do they need to be copied into each “sub project”? I have been copying them via the Organizer but there must be a better way manage it right?

    Thank you-

  10. I have a unique problem. I manage 2 sub-projects which are part of a much bigger Master Plan. The 2 sub-projects are dependent and the dependencies have been established by linking the respective milestones.
    As for my entitlements, I am a Resource Manager (PWA) and Owner for the 2 sub-projects.
    When I check-out sub-project A and open that in Project Professional, for some reason, the linked sub-project B (my 2nd sub-project, that i am an owner of) gets checked-out. It doesn’t open on the desktop version and even after checking-in A, B remains checked-out. I have to force check-in. The similar entitlements and use-case has been tested with other users in the program and couldn’t replicate. Can you please help me, why this is happening only to me?

  11. I have a master project made up of subprojects. I would like to archive a snapshot of the master project as an when but noticed that I cannot as the connections to the subprojects remain preserve and subsequently when the project is updated, all the archives would update (defying the purpose of creating an archive). Is there a solution to this? I tried copying and pasting the content but the predecessor column doesn’t copy and paste in the same way as each subproject as rows starting from 1 again. Any thoughts?

  12. I am creating a Master Project in PWA 2016. When I insert subprojects in the master the external mpp file seems to be inserted. When I attempt to expand the inserted subproject none of it’s summaries or subtasks appear.


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