Let’s consider the following scenarios of project management:
Scenario 1: Suppose, you are the program manager and you are running multiple projects and all those projects managed by other project managers. As a program manager, you want to get the consolidated schedule view to see how the program is doing.
Scenario 2: Suppose, you are the project manager and managing the multiple projects in your organization. The projects that you manage are not a part of one program. These all projects belong to various programs. If you want to look all the projects in one file to get the quick glance about all your project schedules.
The answer to both the above scenarios, you need a consolidated view of all your projects. The goal is still keep all those projects individually maintained, but we want to have those projects to view the consolidate information.
To address the above issue, MS Project has the feature called “consolidated project”. What is this means; you can insert all required individual project plans in one file to view the consolidated summary. These individual sub projects can retain links to their source projects and may be linked to one another.
Consolidating the related projects in to single file is called the Master Project.
Master Project vs. Consolidated Project:
In above described scenarios;
- Scenario1 is suitable for Master Project
- Scenario 2 is suitable for Consolidated Project
Please don’t confuse between master project and consolidated projects. In other words, both are the nearly identical. But really want to have the logical meaning between master project and consolidated project, please see the explanation below:
Master project is best suitable for programs or large project which has been decomposed into multiple projects. Individual sub projects in the master are more related each other and some times master also have the own tasks. Master project will offer the hierarchical structure of the subprojects and may be show the dependencies between the projects.
Updates are bi-directional between Master and individual projects. When project manager of the sub project makes change, by default, all those changes will be appear on master project. The reverse is also true; if any updates performed in master project and those changes will be appear in the source of sub project.
Consolidated project: Consolidated project is not necessarily structured as hierarchy. The consolidate projects not necessarily related each other. When you collapse the individual projects, all those projects will be appear at the same outline level. The consolidated of projects will appear in single file as temporary, and this file can be created for just view the summary.
Use master projects and subprojects if you have projects that are a part of a larger project. The way you insert and organize the subproject files shows a hierarchy among the projects. You can work with existing projects or start new files and then insert the subprojects into the master project.
Use consolidated projects if you have multiple files you would just like to combine in one window (whether they are related or not). Combining unrelated files in a consolidated project makes it easier to see information from multiple projects in various views and to print information combined from various files you may want to filter, sort, or group together. It is especially useful for project managers to oversee multiple projects.
Benefits of the master/consolidated projects:
Get the overall picture of the program by having all subprojects in one file
Get the resource allocation details across the projects
Easy to manage the dependencies among projects
Edits to individual projects is possible from master/consolidation project
Please refer to the Plans within plans: using master projects and subprojects
article on Microsoft site for more details on master project and consolidated project: