Create a Custom Screen Layout for Planning Resource Engagements | Sensei Project Solutions

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Create a Custom Screen Layout for Planning Resource Engagements

My Sensei colleagues and I have written several articles about the Resource Engagements feature that Microsoft introduced almost two years ago in Project Online. I think it’s time for another blog post on this subject.

I personally love how the Resource Engagements feature opens a formal negotiation process between a project manager and a resource manager for the use of named resources in a project. However, creating the actual Resource Engagements for a named resource can be a bit of a challenge. For example, Figure 1 shows a project in which I need to create one or more Resource Engagements for the resource named Mickey Cobb.

Figure 1: Resource Engagements Needed for Mickey Cobb

According to company policy, Mickey Cobb cannot be used as a resource in any project without the explicit permission of her resource manager. In Figure 1 shown previously, the orange indicators in the Indicators column reveal the tasks to which she is currently assigned. In this project, I need to answer the following questions before I attempt to create any Resource Engagements for Mickey Cobb:

  • Should I create only a single Resource Engagement spanning the entire project?
  • If I create only one Resource Engagement for Mickey Cobb, what Units value should I use? I need her to work full time early in the project, but only need her part time later in the project.
  • Or should I create multiple Resource Engagements for each time period during which I need her in this project, and then specify the correct Units value for each of those time periods?

I think you can see that creating one or more Resource Engagements for Mickey Cobb requires a bit of analysis. For this article, let’s assume that I want to create three Resource Engagements for her with the correct Units for each time period.

Figure 2 shows the Resource Plan view for the project shown previously in Figure 1. I am ready to create the three Resource Engagements for Mickey Cobb. However, for what time periods do I need to create those Resource Engagements? I need those dates for the Proposed Start and Proposed Finish column. What is the Units value for her assigned tasks in each time period? I need this information for the Proposed Max Units column. And what type of work will she do during each time period? I need this information so that I can provide a description of the work in the Description field for each Resource Engagement. Do you see how the Resource Plan view offers no answers to these questions?

Figure 2: Resource Plan view

When the Resource Engagement feature was originally released for Project Online, I wrongly assumed that I could create a combination view (aka “split” view) that would include the Resource Plan view in the top pane, along with a view such as the Gantt Chart view in the bottom pane. A combination view such as this would make it easy to answer the questions I asked in the previous paragraph. Unfortunately, the error message shown in Figure 3 is what you will see if you attempt to use the Resource Plan view as part of any combination view.

Figure 3: Error dialog

Because of this limitation, I had been resorting to “flipping back and forth” between the Resource Plan view and the Gantt Chart view to create Resource Engagements. However, during a training class in which I was teaching Resource Managers how to use Project Online, I had a stroke of inspiration. I figured out how to work around the restriction that does not allow us to use the Resource Plan view as part of a combination view.

Instead of trying to create a custom combination view containing the Resource Plan view, which is forbidden, I figured out that I could use a custom screen layout instead. Following are the steps needed to create this custom screen layout:

  1. Apply the Resource Plan
  2. Click the View tab to display the View
  3. In the Window section of the View ribbon, click the New Window Microsoft Project displays the New Window dialog shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: New Window dialog

  1. In the New Window dialog, click the View pick list and select the Resource Usage view, and then click the OK Microsoft Project displays the Resource Usage view shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Resource Usage view

  1. In the Resource Usage view, successively click the Add New Column virtual column and insert the following additional columns to the right of the Work column:
  • Start
  • Finish
  • Assignment Units
  1. Widen or narrow each column, as needed. Figure 6 shows the customized Resource Usage view with the new columns added. Notice how this view shows you the time periods during which Mickey Cobb will be working (shown in the Start and Finish columns), and displays the Units value at which she is assigned (shown in the Assignment Units column) on each task.

Figure 6: Customized Resource Usage view

  1. In the Window section of the View ribbon, click the Switch Windows pick list button and select the first window in the list to return to the Resource Plan
  2. In the Window section of the View ribbon, click the Arrange All

Microsoft Project will tile the two windows, stacking them vertically in a layout that looks very much like a combination or “split” view. Figure 7 shows this custom screen layout with the Resource Plan view in the top window and the Resource Usage view in the bottom window.

Figure 7: Custom screen layout

Click anywhere in the Resource Plan window to activate the window, and then click the Engagements tab to display the Engagements ribbon. In the Engagements section of the Engagements ribbon, click the New Engagement button to display the Engagement Information dialog. Using the Start, Finish, and Assignment Units information shown in the Resource Usage window for Mickey Cobb, I can create each Resource Engagement for her. For example, Figure 8 shows the new Resource Engagement I created for her to write the training modules.

Figure 8: Engagement Information dialog

Figure 9 shows the custom screen layout after creating three Resource Engagements for Mickey Cobb. Notice how the dates in the Proposed Start and Proposed Finish fields match the dates in the Start and Finish columns in the Resource Usage view. Notice also how the Proposed Max Units value for each Resource Engagement corresponds with the Assignment Units value for Mickey Cobb’s task assignments in the Resource Usage view.

Figure 9: Three Resource Engagements created

To effectively use this custom screen layout, you can activate either window by clicking anywhere in the window. When you activate a window, Microsoft Project displays the appropriate ribbons for the active window. When you finish creating your Resource Engagements, click anywhere in the Resource Usage window to activate it, and then click the Close button in the upper right corner of the window. From there you can save and publish your enterprise project, as well as submit the new Resource Engagements for approval.


About Dale Howard, Director of Education, Sensei Project Solutions

Dale Howard is a seasoned training professional who is approaching 30 years of technical training experience. He has taught students how to effectively use every version of Microsoft Project beginning with version 4.0 for Windows 95, and every version of the Microsoft EPM tool beginning with Project Central in the year 2000. Dale possesses the coveted Project MVP title and is one of only 64 Project MVPs in the entire world. He is the co-author of 20 books on Microsoft Project and Project Server. Dale is known for high-energy, highly interactive style of presenting and teaching. He was voted the “Best Presenter” by conference participants at the Project Conference in 2012.








About Sensei Project Solutions

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