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.


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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. 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


  2. 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

  3. 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-

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