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Using the Assignment Owner Field with Project Online

Background Information

A couple of weeks ago, there was an interesting question in the Project user forum on the Internet. My answer to that question revealed why and how to use the Assignment Owner field in the Microsoft Project desktop application, when used with either Project Online or Project Server. Following is a summary of the user’s problem:

  • In the Microsoft Project schedule, the project manager needs to assign resources to tasks, but these resources do not have access to a computer. These resources include people in skilled trades such as electricians, pipe fitters, etc.
  • These resources report to a supervisor, who is responsible for collecting task progress from them, and then entering their progress in Project Online.
  • On the Tasks page in Project Web App, the supervisor needs to be able to enter progress on the tasks assigned to the resources who report to him.

Solution

The solution to this problem is for the project manager to use the Assignment Owner field in the Microsoft Project schedule. However, before the project manager can use this field, he/she must complete a couple of preliminary steps. The first step is to build the project team and to include the supervisor as a part of the team. This step is mandatory and is vitally important to the process.

In Figure 1, notice the project team members shown on the right side of the Build Team dialog in Microsoft Project. In this project team, Dale Howard is the supervisor to whom Cindy McNair, Larry Barnes, and Mickey Cobb need to report their task progress. Even though Dale Howard will not be assigned to any tasks in the project, he must be a part of the project team. This is so that he can be designated as the Assignment Owner for the tasks assigned to Cindy, Larry, and Mickey.

Figure 1: Project team includes the supervisor

The second step in the process is to assign the team members to the tasks on which they will work in the project. Notice in Figure 2 that the project manager has assigned resources to all the detailed tasks in the project schedule. Notice that Dale Howard (the supervisor) is not assigned to any tasks in the project. Remember that he merely serves as the supervisor of Cindy, Larry, and Mickey.

Figure 2: Team members assigned to all detailed tasks

The third step is to assign Dale Howard (the supervisor) as the Assignment Owner for Cindy, Larry, and Mickey. By the way, the Assignment Owner field determines who sees the tasks on the Tasks page in Project Web App. Since Cindy, Larry, and Mickey do not have computers and do not use Project Web App, they should not be the Assignment Owner for their tasks. Instead, Dale Howard needs to be specified as the Assignment Owner for their tasks, so that he can see their tasks on his Tasks page in PWA and enter the task progress that they report to him.

To designate a supervisor as the Assignment Owner for one or more resources, apply the Resource Usage view. Click the column header in the Add New Column virtual column and select the Assignment Owner field in the pick list of available resource fields. Finally, the widen each column in the view, as needed. Notice in Figure 3 that the Assignment Owner value for every task assignment is the same as the name of the resource assigned to the task. This means that Cindy is the Assignment Owner for her tasks, Larry is the Assignment Owner for his tasks, and Mickey is the Assignment Owner for her tasks.

Figure 3: Current Assignment Owners for each task

To change the Assignment Owner value for a task assignment, click the pick list in the Assignment Owner column for the task, and then select the name of the supervisor in the pick list. For example, notice in Figure 4 that the project manager is selecting Dale Howard in the Assignment Owner pick list for the first task assigned to Cindy McNair.

Figure 4: Select the new Assignment Owner for a task assignment

Continue selecting the supervisor as the Assignment Owner for the tasks assigned to each of the resources who report to that supervisor. To speed up this process, you can use the Fill Handle (like the Fill Handle feature found in Microsoft Excel) to fill the Assignment Owner value into successive cells. You can also use Copy & Paste to speed up the process as well. Notice in Figure 5 that the project manager specified Dale Howard as the Assignment Owner for every task assigned to Cindy, Larry, and Mickey.

Figure 5: Assignment Owner specified for each task assignment

When the project manager finishes the process of specifying Dale Howard (the supervisor) as the Assignment Owner for the tasks assigned to Cindy, Larry, and Mickey, the project manager then needs to save and publish the latest changes to the project. The act of publishing the project will force the tasks assigned to Cindy, Larry, and Mickey to display on the Tasks page for Dale Howard.

Figure 6 shows the Tasks page in PWA for Dale Howard. The Project Online application administrator set up this “best practice” layout of the Tasks page to support the organization’s default method for reporting progress (% of Work Complete) and to support the needs of supervisors like Dale Howard in the organization. By the way, notice that the Resource Name column displays the name of the resource who is assigned to each task.

Figure: Tasks page in PWA

Note: To create the custom layout of the Tasks page shown previously in Figure 6, the app admin added the Resource Name, Actual Start, Remaining Work, and Actual Finish fields to the view, and then organized these columns into the display order shown in the figure. The app admin also applied grouping by Planning Window, then by Project Name, and then by Resource Name. Using this custom layout of the Tasks page, Dale Howard can easily enter the task progress reported to him by Cindy, Larry, and Mickey.

Setting Up the Default Assignment Owner

Using the process described previously in this article, project managers would need to manually specify the Assignment Owner values in every project they manage. To eliminate this manual process, the app admin for Project Online or Project Server should specify the Default Assignment Owner value for resources in the Enterprise Resource Pool, wherever needed. In the example used in this article, the app admin would need to specify Dale Howard as the Default Assignment Owner for Cindy McNair, Larry Barnes, and Mickey Cobb.

To begin this process, the app admin should log into Project Web App with Administrator permissions, and then navigate to the Resource Center page in PWA. The app admin should select the checkboxes for names of the resources who need to have their Default Assignment Owner values changed. With the resource names selected, the app admin should click the Bulk Edit button. Figure 7 shows the top half of the Bulk Edit page with the names of Cindy, Larry, and Mickey selected in the Resource Center page.

Figure 7: Build Edit Page in PWA

On the Bulk Edit page, the app admin should click the Browse button to the right of the Default Assignment Owner field. Project Web App displays the Pick Resource dialog. In this dialog, the app admin should select the name of the supervisor, which in this case would be Dale Howard, such as shown in Figure 8. After selecting the name, the app admin should click the OK button.

Figure 8: Pick Resource dialog

After the app admin selects a name in the Pick Resource dialog and clicks the OK button, Project Web App updates the Bulk Edit page, such as shown in Figure 9. To finish this process, the app admin must select the Apply Changes checkbox for the Default Assignment Owner field (Project Web App does not select this checkbox automatically), and then click the Save button.

Figure 9: Updated Bulk Edit page

Once the app admin completes the preceding steps, project managers should not need to specify a value in the Assignment Owner field for any of the resources in their project teams for all future projects, thus saving them a lot of time and manual labor.

Written by Dale Howard

Dale Howard is the Director of Education for PROJILITY. He has used Microsoft Project since version 4.0 for Windows 95 and he has used the Microsoft PPM tool since the first version of released as Project Central in the year 2000. He is the co-author of 21 books on Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He is currently one of only 28 Microsoft Project MVPs in the entire world and one of only 6 in the United States.

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  1. Exactly how we use it here!
    Dale, thanks for posting this. This is exactly what we do here with assignment owners. The one thing I would add is that we also set up pseudo “generic” resources like “Software Engineer” but it’s not truly generic because we do want to give it an Assignment Owner, which you can’t do if you actually flag the resource as generic. Great article though!
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