How to create a RAG or traffic light based on the Status Field in Microsoft Project

In project management and business reporting, the use of traffic lights, specifically the Red, Amber, and Green (RAG) system, stands out as an internationally recognized method to visually convey status. These simple yet powerful indicators provide an immediate sense of where a task or project stands. A green light often signifies that everything is on track, amber indicates caution or slight deviations, and red suggests issues or challenges. The intuitive nature of this system allows stakeholders, even those without in-depth project knowledge, to quickly grasp the state of affairs.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through setting up a RAG status field driven by the built-in task status field in Microsoft Project. This method is less subjective and quicker than manually setting RAG status for each task on your plan.. You can also download a PowerPoint slide deck detailing each step, and a Microsoft Project plan with the custom RAG field already in place, so you can integrate it into your own projects.

Video - How to create traffic light status

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Introduction to Status Field:

  • Microsoft Project's built-in status field offers labels such as 'On Schedule,' 'Late,' 'Complete,' and 'Future Task.'
  • Although it comes with its own indicators, these are not very clear.
  • In this tutorial we will create more intuitive, traffic light-based indicators.
A screenshot of a Microsoft Project Plan showing how you can create a traffic light or RAG status using graphical indicators and based on the built-in status field. The RAG icons look better than the built in Status Indicator.

2. Access Custom Fields:

  • Right-click within your Microsoft Project window.
  • Select 'Custom Fields.'

3. Rename the Custom Field:

  • Select a task custom field.
  • Rename the field as required. For example something like RAG status.

4. Setting Custom Attributes:

  • Set the custom attributes to 'Formula.'
  • A message will pop up warning you that any data in this column will be deleted. Confirm this.
  • In the formula field open the Field menu and select 'Status' to insert it into the formula field.
  • Click OK to close the formula box.
A screenshot from Microsoft Project showing the custom fields dialog box and the formula field. The image is labelled to indicate which settings should be used to create a RAG status based of the built-in status field.

5. Configure Graphical Indicators:

  • Under the 'Values to Display' section, choose 'Graphical Indicators.'
  • Your tests will all be 'equals' followed by the value that maps to the status indicator in Microsoft Project:
    • 0 maps to 'Completed': Choose a gray circle.
    • 1 maps to 'On Schedule': Choose a green circle.
    • 2 maps to 'Late': Choose a red circle.
    • 3 maps to 'Future Tasks': Choose a clock icon or any other preferred indicator.
  • Click OK to close the Graphical Indicator box.
A screenshot of the graphical indicators dialog box for Microsoft Project with the test and values needed to create a RAG status custom field. Value mapping for the built-in status field are shown. 0 is Complete, 1 On Schedule, 2 Late, 3 Future task.

6. Adding the Custom Field to Your View:

  • To display your new field in the current view, right-click on the column headers.
  • Choose 'Insert Column' and start typing the name of your custom field. Your new RAG status should appear.
This method provides a clear visual cue to the status of tasks in your project, making it easier for all stakeholders to understand where things stand at a glance.

Download a PowerPoint presentation showing a step by step guide to create this custom field

Download PPT now

Download a Microsoft Project Plan with the custom field already set-up

Download MS Project plan with the custom field created