Phase-by-Phase Timelines, One Step at a Time

One of our most common requests from new OnePager Pro users is how to create compact, concise, phase-by-phase timelines like this one:

Phase-by-Phase Portfolio Report

Users like this format because it aligns phases sequentially in the same row, instead of staggering them in a waterfall format like a traditional Gantt chart. We’ll walk you through a step-by-step approach to creating reports in this format, starting with a simple Microsoft Project plan:

phased-timeline1

This plan contains four subprojects, each with three key phases underneath. In this example, we’re using a single Microsoft Project file, but you can achieve the same results using an integrated master schedule that rolls up several independent project plans.

To get started, insert a flag field to select the phases that you want to import into OnePager Pro. Notice that you do not need to import the parent projects themselves; OnePager Pro can do this for you without flagging:

phased-timeline2

Go to Microsoft Project’s Add-Ins tab, and click the OnePager Pro button to start building your report. For starters, you’ll get something very traditional like this:

phased-timeline4

Our first change will be to line the phases up left-to-right by project to create more of a timeline. To do this, go to Home >Project View Properties >Rows/Swimlanes. By default, OnePager Pro places one task per row. We want to change this to Collect tasks into rows by “Level 1 summary name”, which is the top-level summary task in the Microsoft Project plan. This means that any tasks rolling up to the same parent task will appear in the same row.

phased-timeline5

We recommend leaving the Collect tasks automatically option selected. This will place as many tasks as possible in the same row, but will automatically create additional space for tasks that overlap each other. If you have tasks that overlap and still want them to appear in the same row, choose Collect up to “x” tasks per row instead, and set the counter to a high number like 10 or 20.

Before closing Project View Properties, we want to make sure that our task labels are positioned cleanly so that they don’t sit on top of each other in the new horizontal layout. To do this, go to the Task Bars tab, click the Gantt Bar Label Properties button, and ensure that your labels are positioned at the Center:

phased-timeline6

Now, click OK twice, and you’ll see a much cleaner looking timeline:

phased-timeline7a

The next step is to color-code the timeline. Since the phase names repeat from project to project, it’s easy to have everything in the “Design” phase be the same color, and so forth. This can be done automatically through OnePager’s conditional formatting tool. Go back to Home >Project View Properties >Task Bars and click the Manage Rules button at the bottom. We’ll set up three simple conditional formatting rules to assign colors by phase name:

phased-timeline8

Clicking OK one more time, you’ll get a color-coded timeline that makes it very easy to see where each phase starts and stops:

phased-timeline9

In this example, we ended up turning off the task labels altogether, since they’re better represented in the legend at the bottom-right. You can choose to leave them on or off, depending on how you want your timeline to look.

Do you need more help customizing a phase-by-phase timeline for your portfolio of projects? Leave your question in the comments section below and we’ll be happy to help.

This entry was posted in Gantt Art, Project Reporting by Safford. Bookmark the permalink.

About Safford

Safford is a versatile technology professional with a solid history of empowering emerging growth companies in a broad array of industries. His employment history includes energy industry consulting at Quorum Business Solutions, Senior Manager of Business Development and Technical Sales at telecom service aggregator GetConnected, and Vice President of Strategic Partner Management at electronic payment processor IP Commerce. Prior to his tenure as OnePager's COO, Safford was the company's Vice President of Marketing and Alliances. Safford holds a BA in Psychology and management from Rice University.

4 thoughts on “Phase-by-Phase Timelines, One Step at a Time

  1. Hi,

    Your post describes that an extra row will be created if there is overlapping tasks. I have a gantt chart with overlapping milestones, but one-pager does not create extra rows for that. Is there a way to handle that? Moreover, I want to show the date for the milestone, however when the milestones are close, the dates are on top of each other and not that helpful, is there a way to handle that?

    BR,
    Karen

    • OnePager’s automatic task collection option applies to milestones as well, so if milestones are truly concurrent with another task or milestone, OnePager will add another row to accommodate the overlap.

      If your milestones are close to each other, it’s possible that the text from those milestones will overlap, even if the milestones themselves are not concurrent. In this case, OnePager will not add another row for spacing. Instead, you can reposition the milestone name and/or the milestone date to a more readable location. Depending on how close your milestones are to each other, you may need to move the dates above/below the milestone shape instead of just left/right.

      All of these options are available under the Format menu when you right-click on an individual milestone or group of milestones.

  2. Hi, Thank you for the information. very helpful. If we only want to collect tasks into a single row for certain projects, not all of them as showed above. how do we do that? Thanks, Dan

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