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How to create a simple RAG status in Microsoft Project

Unlock the power of RAG status tracking in Microsoft Project with our comprehensive guide. Dive deep into setting visual indicators for task progress and download our example file with the custom field already set up. Optimize your project management today!

Why you need a RAG status on your project plan

Setting a RAG (Red-Amber-Green) or traffic light status against tasks in a project plan offers several benefits for project management. Here are some reasons why you might want to implement this system:
  1. Visual Representation of Task Status:
    The RAG system offers a quick visual representation of how each task is progressing. This allows anyone reviewing the project plan, whether they're intimately familiar with the details or not, to quickly grasp the health of various components of the project.
  2. Streamlined Communication:
    The simplicity of the RAG status system makes it easier to communicate project status across different departments or to stakeholders. For instance, stakeholders don’t have to delve into the details of each task. Instead, they can quickly see which tasks are on track (Green), which need attention (Amber), and which are at risk or off track (Red).
  3. Prioritization of Resources:
    Tasks marked as "Red" can be quickly identified as high priority and might need more resources, whether that's additional labor, funding, or management attention.
  4. Proactive Issue Resolution:
    By consistently monitoring and updating the RAG status of tasks, project managers can proactively identify and address issues before they escalate into more significant problems.
  5. Motivation and Accountability:
    When team members see tasks marked as "Red" or "Amber," it can serve as a motivational factor to get tasks back on track. It also introduces a level of accountability since the status of each task is visible to all stakeholders.
  6. Flexibility and Adaptability:
    The RAG system isn't rigid. For instance, if an organization feels the need, they can introduce more colors or customize the system to suit their specific needs, making it a flexible tool that can adapt to various project requirements.
  7. Enhanced Reporting:
    When reporting on the status of the project to senior management or external stakeholders, the RAG system offers a concise way to provide overviews. It can also be incorporated into dashboards or executive summaries for easy visualization.
  8. Risk Management:
    The RAG status can help in risk assessment by highlighting areas (Red tasks) that carry the most significant risk to the project if they aren't addressed promptly.
  9. Aids in Decision Making:
    By understanding which parts of the project are not on track or require attention, leaders can make informed decisions on where to focus their efforts.
  10. Standardization:
    Implementing a RAG system can standardize the way projects are monitored and reviewed across an organization. This standardization can be especially beneficial for larger organizations handling multiple projects simultaneously.
In essence, the RAG system simplifies complex project data into an easily digestible format, enabling more effective management, communication, and decision-making throughout the lifecycle of a project.

Video - Add a RAG status to tasks in a Microsoft Project plan

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Download an example file with the custom field already set up

Step-by-step guide to creating a RAG (Red-Amber-Green) status in Microsoft Project

  1. Insert a Custom Field:
    • Start by right-clicking on your task table within your Microsoft Project.
    • From the drop-down menu, choose to insert a custom field.
    • Choose the field type as 'task'.
  2. screenshot of the custom field dialog box in Microsoft Project. Custom field type of Task is selected
  3. Rename the Field:
    • Rename the field to "RAG Status" (short for Red Amber Green Status).
    • Once you've renamed the field, click "OK".
  4. Set Up Graphical Indicators:
    • Select the option to display graphical indicators.
    • Here, you will assign specific colors (or indicators) based on task statuses. You'll do this by matching values with specific images.
    • For Red Status:
      1. Set your test to "equal to"
      2. Set value to "Red"
      3. Choose the red circle as your image
    • For Amber Status:
      1. Set your test to "equal to"
      2. Set value to "Amber"
      3. Choose the amber circle as your image
    • For Green Status:
      1. Set your test to "equal to"
      2. Set value to "Green"
      3. Choose the green circle as your image
    • For Completed Satus:
      1. Set your test to "equal to"
      2. Set value to "Done"
      3. Choose the gray/black circle as your image
    Screenshot of the graphical indicators dialog box in Microsoft Project. Tests, values and images are shown for setting up a traffic light status field.
    Download an example file with the custom field already set up
  5. Add the RAG Status to your Project Plan:
    • On the task table, right-click where you would like the column to appear.
    • Click on "Insert Column".
    • Look for and select the "RAG Status" field that you've created.
  6. Assign RAG Statuses to Tasks:
    • Now that the "RAG Status" column is part of your project plan, you can assign the RAG status to each task.
    • Type the corresponding status (Red, Amber, Green, or Done) next to each task based on its progress or condition.
    • As you type the field will change to show the corresponding Grapical Indicator.
  7. Screenshot of Microsoft Project plan with a custom field inserted that shows a graphical indicator for traffic light or rag status against each task.
  8. Update the RAG Statuses regularly: As your project progresses and the state of your tasks change, keep updating the RAG statuses to ensure the plan reflects the current state of the project.

Download an example Microsoft Project file with the custom field already set up

Microsoft Project plan with a RAG status custom field

Microsoft Project plan with a RAG status custom field (compatiblity mode)