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Using the Locked Column to Prevent Task Updates


One of the challenges facing project managers who use the Microsoft PPM solution (Project Online or Project Server) is how to prevent team members from entering additional time on completed tasks. For example, two weeks ago a team member named Mickey Cobb used the Timesheet page in Project Web App to enter time on a task. The time she entered resulted in the completion of the task. Two weeks later, Mickey performs work that does not coincide with any task to which she is assigned. Being a dutiful team member, Mickey wants to enter time somewhere, so she enters the time on the task she completed two weeks earlier. This is not a good practice and should be prevented. Fortunately, Microsoft offers us two different method for locking completed tasks.


One way to prevent team members from entering additional time on a completed task is to use a feature that has been in Project Web App for many years: the Locked column. To lock a task using this feature, the project manager must do the following:

    1. Log into Project Web App with Project Manager permissions.
    2. Navigate to the Project Center
    3. Click the name of an enterprise project to open it as Read-Only in a web view.
    4. In the “drill down” section at the top of the Quick Launch menu, click the Schedule link to display a detailed view of the project.
    5. Click the Task tab to expand the Task
    6. In the Project section of the Task ribbon, click the Edit pick list button and select the In Browser item to check out the project for editing in your browser, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Check out the project for editing

7. In the Data section of the View ribbon, click the View pick list button and select the Close Tasks to Update view, as shown in Figure 2. This view includes the Locked column that you can use to prevent team members from entering additional time on completed tasks.

Figure 2: Select the Close Tasks to Update view

8. Set the Locked value to Yes for every detail task that is 100% complete, as shown in Figure 3. A detail task is any task with resources assigned. You do not need to specify a Locked value for summary tasks and milestone tasks.

Figure 3: Set the Locked value to Yes

9. In the Project section of the Task ribbon, click the Publish

10. When the publish job is completed, click the Close button in the Project section of the Task

11. When prompted in a confirmation dialog, leave the Check it in value selected and then click the OK

As you can see from the previous set of steps, it is a lengthy process to lock completed tasks using this method. To our benefit, however, Microsoft recently introduced a new feature to speed up this process by allowing you to use the Locked column in Microsoft Project. To lock a task using this new feature, the project manager must complete the following steps:

  1. Launch Microsoft Project Professional and connect to Project Web App in the Login
  2. Open an enterprise project and check out the project for editing.
  3. Apply any task view, such as the Gantt Chart view, for example.
  4. Right-click on the column header of any column, such as the Duration column, and then select the Insert Column item on the shortcut menu.
  5. In the list of available task columns, select the Locked
  6. Set the Locked value to Yes for every detail task that is 100% complete, as shown in Figure 4.
  7. Save and publish the enterprise project, then close and check in the project.

I think you can see that the process for locking completed tasks is much simpler using the Microsoft Project desktop client than it is using the Project Web App user interface. Using either method will prevent your team members from adding time to each task you lock.

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Written by Dale Howard

Dale Howard is the Director of Education for Sensei Project Solutions.  He is in his 15th year of serving as a Microsoft Project MVP (Most Valuable Professional) and is currently one of only 39 Microsoft Project MVPs in the entire world. Dale is the co-author of 21 books on Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He works out of his home in Ellisville, Missouri (a west suburb of St. Louis).

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  1. Thanks for this. I suffered through well intended team members updating old tasks. The PWA based process is so time consuming for my large projects that I didn’t bother. Using the Locked field is much easier. Especially if you apply a filter to only show Completed tasks first!!! We still have an issue with weekly timesheets being submitted or updated for past periods on tasks that are still open. We close the timesheets periods on a monthly basis but report status on a weekly basis. It is a training and compliance issue that we’ve built reports around.

  2. Bruce, thank you for your kind comments and for sharing your experience with timesheets in the Microsoft PPM solution.

  3. I never knew of this, thank you for your insight. As I was reading through it, I was wondering if using this function might also help with another problem that I run into, which is pre-populated hours in PWA timesheets. PM closes a task before it’s finish date; resource opens new time period where that finish date falls and time is pre-populated. I’m thinking that if the PM has to take that extra step to lock the task, that may encourage them to also update the finish date?? Just trying to think this through. If there are any thoughts on this, please do chime in. Thank you and happy holidays.

  4. Hi!
    we tried to use the Close Tasks to Update new function through Project and it does’nt seem to work. After changing the Locked value and re-publishing, the Locked staus in PWA does’nt change and we can still report time to those tasks. Any hints? Should the tasks be 100% completed for the logic to work? It was’nt the case using the feature from PWA…

  5. Where is the Locked field in the database? I would like to run a report of completed projects that have unlocked tasks.


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