PM Tech Corner: Multiple Timeline Views in MS Project

Welcome to the technical corner for Project Managers! Today I’m going to talk about an important aspect for leveraging scheduling in MS Project for communicating with different stakeholders. I will use MS Project 2013 for my screenshots and steps, but you can do this with any version of Project from 2010 or higher.

One of the key features of MS Project is a new feature called the Timeline View.  The idea behind this is that the Gantt chart can be too weighty or busy or in some cases, it is just too detailed for some audiences.  For years project managers would take and build a separate Visio or PowerPoint chart to communicate a high level rollup to stakeholder audiences.

Microsoft realized that in order to save you time, they could automatically create a timeline view directly within Project. A value proposition to leveraging the timeline view as seen here, is that you can showcase key milestones, dates, tasks or deliverables in a manner that is much cleaner and easier to readers to digest.

Timeline View

Timeline View

 

Today’s topic isn’t just how to build a timeline, but how to have multiple timelines all within a single schedule.  The idea being that you may have different audiences that want to see different milestones.   What we often do is completely rebuild the timeline view each time to showcase different values to each audience. Now, if you are spending more than 30 minutes once a week managing your schedule(s), then you are spending too much time and there are some knowledge gaps you can fill with a little training.

Today, I’m going to showcase how you can build and have multiple timeline views (named) for different audiences so that you can change, export, print, .pdf or copy and paste out to different audiences who are not going to have or use MS Project.  All without having to replace or rebuild your views.

 

First of all, let’s help you build your timeline (the steps will be the same for building each new view.)

Step 1:  Build a Project Schedule

Step 2:  Right Click on any task or milestone you want to put on the timeline and choose from the Properties menu Add to Timeline, or select the task by clicking on it and then use the Add to Timeline button on the ribbon (as seen here on the Task Tab).  Another method is to simply highlight the row and drag the task object to the timeline view.

Once the timeline view is built, you can click on any task in the timeline and format it from the Format Ribbon tab.

 

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Whichever way you like, you can quickly pull tasks, milestones, or summary tasks to a view and help create a snapshot of key activities based on your schedule.

Now here is where many project managers stop. 

When a different audience needs to see different information, some managers or schedulers will delete the existing tasks from the view and rebuild it each time.  Ugh!  Here is where a little information goes a long way.

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You can actually save and name different Timeline views so all you have to do is switch between them quickly and easily. The steps for building a timeline don’t change  - the key is to save and name a timeline view.

Step 1:  Build a Timeline view

Step 2:  Click inside the timeline view to activate the Timeline Ribbon’s context sensitive Timeline Tools as seen here.

You will notice on the ribbon that there are options to copy the timeline to any external source, but to the far right, there is an option to switch the Timeline view.

 

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Step 3:  Click on the Timeline View Drop down as seen here and choose the More Views option.

When you choose this option you will be able to choose a new view.

Step 4:  Click the New button.

Step 5:  Choose the Single View option and then click the OK button.

 

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Step 6:  Now from the View Definition dialogue box, give the view a new name, choose the Timeline view type from the screen and make sure you select Show in Menu to easily find and select your new view. 

In this case I will name my view “Finance Steering Committee”, which you will see in the next screen of created views.

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Step 7:  Click the Apply button in the More Views dialogue box, or close and try this from the ribbon.  Your new View awaits you.

 

 

You now have a blank timeline view you can add tasks and milestones to that a different audience will want to see.  Format this new timeline view and you can switch between different Timeline views by simply clicking the drop down and going between Timeline (the default) and any named views.

It is these little shortcuts that save countless key strokes, rebuilding, reformatting and allow project managers the ability to get in, get out and get back to work.

I hope you enjoyed this tip.  If you are interested in more, or have questions, please feel free to contact me at Tim.Runcie@Advisicon.com or contact Advisicon at 360-314-6702.

I look forward to hearing from you and happy PM’ing with great tools and technologies.

 

About the Author

Tim Runcie photo Tim Runcie is the president of Advisicon (a Gold PPM Company), a 20+ year project, program and portfolio expert and member of the Microsoft Advisory council.  Tim is also the author of over 36 books on technology and project management and a 12+ year nominated and awarded MVP at Microsoft. Tim and Advisicon offer webinars, classes and customized training for all your project management needs. book cover image 
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