Cross-Project Dependencies: Definition and Best Practices

Cross-project dependencies, or hard links, are links between two different projects within Microsoft Project. A project manager sets up cross-project dependencies to make specific tasks between projects dependent on one another. This means that one task relies on another task before it can begin or conclude.

Projects rarely exist in a vacuum, and as a result, project managers need to be aware of all cross project dependencies that may be present. Cross project dependencies occur when one project relies on the completion of another project before it can proceed. When these dependencies exist, failure to plan accordingly can lead to critical delays and missed deadlines. As a result, it is important to ensure all cross project dependencies are identified and managed effectively to minimize their risk and impact on other projects. In this blog post, we’ll look at how to identify, manage and reduce the risks associated with cross project dependencies. We’ll discuss the importance of creating a comprehensive project management system, and examine how to monitor the progress of cross project dependencies to ensure project timelines are met. Finally, we’ll explore the benefits of using tools and technology to keep tabs on cross project dependencies. By following these steps, project managers can mitigate the risks associated with project delays due to cross project dependencies.

Cross Project Dependencies Add-On

Cross-project dependency vs. inter-project dependency

While an inter-project dependency, also known as a soft link, depends on a project’s deliverables, a cross-project dependency involves tasks between various projects. This indicates that a task’s beginning or conclusion depends on a project’s deliverable. When a task in one project depends on a task in another project, project managers use a cross-project dependency rather than an inter-project dependency.

What are cross-project dependencies?

Hard links, also known as cross-project dependencies, are connections between two various projects in Microsoft Project. Cross-project dependencies are established by a project manager to make certain project tasks dependent upon one another. This indicates that for a task to start or finish, it needs to depend on another task. To maximize efficiency, many project managers identify their cross-project dependencies early in the planning stage.

How to create cross-project dependencies

To create a cross-project dependency, follow these steps:

1. Open all relevant projects

At least two projects are required to create a cross-project dependency, though you may want to use more. Begin by opening all relevant projects within Microsoft Project. Each Microsoft Project data file (MPP) can be opened using the desktop program. You can open each project after approving it for edits if you’re using Microsoft Project Online or Microsoft Project Server.

2. Prepare the Gantt chart

Proceed by clicking the “View” tab. This action reveals the “View Ribbon. You can choose the “New Window” button from here to bring up a “New Window” dialog box. Click on one of the open projects. All the other pertinent projects should be selected while holding down the “Shift” key on your keyboard. Next, choose “Gantt Chart” from the top ribbon’s “View” menu. To view a list of all your projects in a temporary master file, click “OK.”

3. Link your preferred tasks

You can define your “Predecessor” and “Successor” tasks in the temporary master file. The task that comes first is referred to as the “Predecessor” task, and the task that comes after it is referred to as the “Successor” task. Start by clicking the “Predecessor” task while keeping your keyboard’s “Control” key depressed. Simultaneously, click on a “Successor” task in a different project. then select the “Schedule” section from the “Task” ribbon by clicking there. By selecting “Link the Selected Tasks,” you can link the tasks. This action creates a cross-project dependency.

For every cross-project dependency you establish, you can repeat this step. You can decide to spread the links across three or more projects or keep them limited to two projects.

4. Close the temporary master file

Click “File” in the top right corner of the screen and select “Close” to end the temporary master file. Click “No” when you see the warning dialog box about saved changes. There is no requirement to save modifications to the temporary master file because dependencies are saved within each subproject. At this point, all applicable projects feature the appropriate links. For each project, select “Save” from the “File” menu, then click “Close” when you’re finished.

Best practices for creating cross-project dependencies

Here are some best practices for creating cross-project dependencies:

Use cross-project dependencies intermittently

While managing the progress of your projects with a cross-project dependency can be helpful, think about only using them occasionally. You can reduce the complexity you add to your project by using them infrequently. Having minimal cross-project dependencies typically makes them easier to manage.

Choose tasks that occur early in the successor project

Choose tasks that happen early in the successor project whenever possible. This can limit the need for multiple cross-project dependencies. It also ensures that the project’s other tasks are completed on schedule.

Link projects only in one direction

Choose one linking direction rather than connecting two projects back to back. Consider choosing one of these directions, for example, rather than connecting both your first project to your second project and your second project to your first project. Simplifying the process by choosing just one linking direction

Review your cross-project dependencies

It’s crucial to keep track of all the cross-project dependencies you create to make sure they all line up. This can be accomplished by reviewing each task’s cross-project dependency. Any task can be double-clicked to access the “Predecessor” tab. You can see the history of each predecessor for the particular task in this section.

Remove them before deleting a task or project

Before you delete a task or project, think about removing particular cross-project dependencies. This can assist you in setting priorities and adjusting to the updated timeline for other projects. Each task dependency can be deleted separately or all at once, but deleting them separately may help ensure that only the ones you no longer need are deleted.

Example of a cross-project dependency

Here’s an illustration of a cross-project dependency in action:

Project X and Project Y are managed by a project manager. There are some tasks that are dependent on one another within each project, but the project manager has not yet specified any cross-project dependencies. They want to establish a dependency that delays the beginning of Project Y’s first task until Project X’s fifth and final task has finished. This necessitates the creation of a finish-to-start dependency by the project manager, allowing one task to start when another one ends. The format for a finish-to-start dependency looks like this:

[Project Filename][Line Number]

Following this format, the project manager enters the command “[Project X]” into the “Predecessor field.” Microsoft Project verifies the file names are accurate and turns them into a complete file path after the project manager presses “Enter.” The project manager can observe that each task in Project Y moves in accordance with the connection to Project X.

Please be aware that Indeed is not connected to any of the organizations mentioned in this article.


What is a cross-project?

The process or practice of “capturing the learning from projects so that it is available for use by other projects” is known as cross-project learning (Newell, 2004, p. 1). The essence of learning from one project and applying that knowledge to another project is this (Schindler and Eppler, 2003).

How do I show dependencies across a project?

View and update external dependencies
  1. Choose View > Gantt Chart.
  2. If any filters are active, disable them by selecting No Filter in the Filter list on the View tab’s Data group.
  3. Choose Project > Links Between Projects.
  4. View external predecessor tasks or successor tasks:

What are dependencies of a project?

When it comes to project management, a dependency is a group of related tasks. In project management, there are several different kinds of dependencies: Finish-to-Start: Task B cannot begin until task A has been completed Start-to-Start: Task B cannot start until task A starts.

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