Microsoft Project Server 2019: Migration to the New Version or to Project Online?


+++ Why to Perform MS Project Server 2019 Migration +++ Benefits of the Project Online Migration +++ Requirements, Options, Costs and Method +++

By Dr. Thomas Henkelmann                                                                                                 Read article in German

No doubt: Migration can be hard work. But is it worthwhile to change from an older version of Project Server to Version 2016 or the brand new Microsoft Project Server 2019? Or should you take the step of Project Online Migration and thus get access to the cloud-based world of Office 365?

There are many good reasons. One of the most important is this: For older versions of MS Project, support has expired or will be discontinued in the foreseeable future.

In addition, the up-to-date versions offer useful new functions and therefore exciting possibilities for efficient project and portfolio management (PPM).

Not least because migration to the cloud can be cheaper on balance than the migration of an older version to a newer on-premises version.

What these arguments make clear is: yes, migration does make sense.

Yet there are reasonable concerns:

  • Will the process of migration be very time-consuming?
  • And very expensive?
  • Will it impair or delay the business processes at the company?
  • Is there a chance of data loss?

Find answers to these questions below. And learn more about:

  • If and when migration is worthwhile on balance
  • How to implement it optimally
  • Why you will have to migrate your data but once, if you wish. And then never again!

Video: Microsoft Project Server 2019 and Project Online – what you should know about a migration to these versions

In this webinar recording you can see the most important new features of Project Server 2019 in comparison with earlier versions and Project Online. From many best practice tips you will also learn what you should know about the migration of your PPM environment.
Watch Webinar here

Why Does Microsoft Project Server Migration Make Sense?

At the end of 2017, we conducted the following small survey in a German-language webinar on migration.

The survey arrived at the following result:

 “Are you planning the migration of your Microsoft Project Server?”

  • Yes, starting within the next three months: 7%
  • Yes, within the year 2018: 29%
  • No, we are not planning a migration at this point: 24%
  • We do not use MS Project Server: 20%
  • Not specified: 20%

This meant more than a third of the companies considered performing the migration of their MS Project Servers in the foreseeable future.

And for good reasons.

Special Download: Benefits of MS Project Server / Project Online to the MS Project Standard

Please click here to download the PDF and learn why you should prefer the server over the client version.

The arguments for migration usually arise from one of the following areas or rather from a combination of all three:

  • IT infrastructure
  • New functions
  • Cost and licensing
microsoft project server migration 1

Figure 1: The drivers for a migration from older Microsoft Project Server solutions

IT and Infrastructure at a Glance

Many companies use an older version of MS Project Server. But maintenance for the versions 2003, 2007 and 2010 has expired.

What is more: Numerous companies have disharmonious infrastructures, for instance a Project Server version 2010 or 2013 parallel to a SharePoint 2016 farm. This can be resolved with appropriate upgrades

Functions at a Glance

New PPM versions include new functions. These provide additional value to the company and intensify the use of project management.

For example, these functions can help companies to switch from scheduling only to resource and shift planning for employees.

With the migration of on-premises Project Server solutions to cloud-based Project Online, valuable additional services from Office 365 (O365) are automatically integrated. These include e.g. Teams, Planner or PowerBI.

————- Presentation and video of a related webinar ————–


Cost and Licensing at a Glance

In this respect, you will find all the advantages in switching from MS Project Server to Project Online. Flexible licensing for O365 subscriptions makes it possible to align the costs with the actual requirements and scale them accordingly in the event of changes.

Moreover, employees at different sites can be easily connected via the cloud.

A business aspect is also important: In the company balance sheet, the line items for Project Online do not appear under capital assets but under running operating expenses.

That was the overview.

But what are the details for these three areas? And what do they mean for your decision to migrate?

IT and Infrastructure in Detail

Support for Project Server 2013 Ended in April 2018

There is a standard for the support period of Microsoft products: It is five years. After that, there are no more functional extensions or bug fixes. What this means: Not only has Version 2010 of Project Server been without support since as far back as October 2015 – support for Version 2013 also ended in April 2018.

The extended support for Version 2010 of MS Project Server, which can be booked as an additional and chargeable service, only serves to eliminate newly detected security gaps. Functional extensions and bug fixes are not included. And even this service will end in the foreseeable future, i.e. in October 2020.

Watch out: The extended support for the MS Project Server Version 2010 will end soon – in October 2020.

Project Server and SharePoint

Many companies use both Project Server and SharePoint farms. This combination makes sense in many ways. However, it makes it necessary to keep both components equally up to date.

So whoever updates to SharePoint 2016 should likewise migrate Project Server to the Version 2016. This makes it possible to harmonize the infrastructure in a sustainable way.

A more far-reaching possibility is to use the Project Server service included in SharePoint 2016 directly. This enables you to do without one of the two farms.

Cost and Licensing in Detail

The Benefits of Project Online as a Subscriber

More and more companies are switching from buying the licenses for their Microsoft products to subscribing to them.

In the evolved structures of larger companies, it can actually happen that both practices exist in parallel.

But this raises problems.

After all, MS Office products (Office 365) are made available to subscribers via the cloud. For technical reasons, they cannot be mixed with products licensed through the traditional purchasing model.

Switching back and forth is impossible – even when dealing with Office products of the same version, regardless of whether it is Version 2010, 2013 or 2016.

So it is necessary to settle for one of the two worlds: Purchase or Subscription.

Are you already using subscriptions for Office 365 solutions with Project Online Professional? If so, you should consider whether it makes sense to carry on running a Project Server in your own infrastructure, at least once you are about to upgrade to a new version.

For you will not incur any additional expenditure if you switch to the cloud completely: Project Online already includes all running costs for the server components including Project Server, SharePoint and SQL Server.

What is more, the flexibility inherent in license subscriptions gives you considerable cost benefits. Depending on the agreed term, for example, monthly cancellation is possible.

It is easy to transfer licenses that become available to employees originally assigned to other tasks.

Even external project participants can use certain functions without their own CAL (Client Access License).

Subscription to Project Online allows an optimal alignment of the licenses with the specific requirements of the company.

With Project Online, you can allocate the licenses specifically to certain roles, such as for example:

  • Project Online Essentials for project team members
  • Project Online Professional for project managers
  • Project Online Premium for administrators, portfolio and resource managers

By the way, all of these licenses include the use of all server components required for Project Online. These include SQL Server and SharePoint Server, Project Server, memory, CPU and hardware. There are no additional costs.

Functional Enhancements in Detail

IT, infrastructure, licenses and costs provide good reasons for the migration already. The functional enhancements add further and particularly telling arguments. They can be classified into three areas:

  • Technical changes
  • Functional changes
  • Integration of O365


Technical Changes

These include several aspects. They all have one thing in common. They make the technical administration easier. For instance, the consolidation of databases reduces the effort for database administration. Up until Project Server Version 2010, there were still four databases. Since Version 2013, there has been only one database.

Version 2013 brought another improvement. It enabled you to create and edit workflows with the SharePoint Designer on a graphical user interface. Older versions did not offer this feature.

What is more, the efficient reporting platform PowerBI has been available since Version 2013.

And last but not least: Administrative settings have been moved to the Central Administration of SharePoint. This means there is a clear separation of the technical administration from the administration of functional settings by the users in project management.

The latter continue to work with their familiar Project Web App (PWA), the web-based user interface of the Project Server.

Functional Changes

Functional enhancements provide specific advantages to the user, such as for example the introduction of resource request and commitment as of MS Project Server Version 2016. This feature makes it easier to plan the assignments of employees.

Additional tools can also be helpful. You can download these from the Microsoft SharePoint / Office Store as a web add-in (formerly “Apps”) and integrate them.

Further web add-ins include tools for mobile integration of staff into project management. For instance, this can be interesting for recording work hours and many other tasks.

The latest version of MS Project actually also includes a tool for agile planning (please look at our related example of use further below).

Agile, traditional or hybrid PM? Which methods fits your project? Find out here.

Integration of O365

Office 365 contains a range of services providing efficient support for project management: These include, for example:

  • Microsoft Planner for planning individual tasks and assigning them to teams
  • Microsoft Teams as a service for the communication and collaboration of the teams involved in a project
  • Skype for Business for direct communication integrated into the Project Web App or the Project Client
  • Microsoft Flow supports simple workflows, also from many services by other providers


Examples of Use

How can the features described above be useful to you and your company? The answer to this can vary depending on your specific requirements and needs. Two examples:

  1. You are a project manager looking to find and schedule staff. As of Version 2016, Project Server supports you in this activity with the new feature Resource Plan. It allows you to request qualified staff members directly from their respective superiors, get approval for this and assign them for the required period of time. In turn, superiors see at a glance which of their staff members have been requested for which project and time periods. Or which are already committed.
  2. You would like to do agile project planning. As of Version 2016, Microsoft Project has provided the agile planning mode for this (see Figures 2 and 3 below). Without leaving the Project Web App, you can create, schedule and manage task-based planning. Detailed views permit an overview of the status within the individual tasks at any time.
microsoft project server migration 2

Figure 2: The agile planning mode in Microsoft Project Online using Kanban

microsoft project server migration 3

Figure 3: The agile planning mode in Microsoft Project Online using Scrum

How Does the Migration of Microsoft Project Server Work?

You are now familiar with the good reasons for migrating to a newer version of MS Project Server or Project Online.

But one question remains: How does this migration actually work?

Video: Microsoft Project Server 2019 and Project Online – what you should know about a migration to these versions

In this webinar recording you can see the most important new features of Project Server 2019 in comparison with earlier versions and Project Online. From many best practice tips you will also learn what you should know about the migration of your PPM environment.
Watch Webinar here

At the outset, you need to clarify which data you would like to take along. The most comprehensive answer is: the whole system. This includes:

  • configuration
  • projects
  • resources
  • time tracking data
  • reports and workflows
  • the Project Sites which are intrinsically complex


Data Cleansing Will Reduce Complexity

Still, it does make sense to check for each of these components whether all datasets will actually be required in the future.

Migration gives you an opportunity to scale down and clean up. Unused fields, reports, permissions and much more can be deleted. Moreover, you can archive completed projects.

Use your migration as an opportunity to clean up your old Microsoft Project Server and reduce complexity.

The effort for cleansing the data will ultimately pay off. For this will reduce the complexity of your migration on balance, including the related error-proneness and cost.

The Two Options for Migration

For the actual migration, there are basically two options:

  • Migration to a newer version of Project Server
  • Migration directly to Project Online

The difference is: With MS Project Server on-premises, the migration can only ever happen from one version level to the next, i.e. for instance from 2010 to 2013.

For technical reasons, it is impossible to skip a version. So you will not be able to migrate from Version 2010 to 2016.

The migration from an earlier version to the latest version of MS Project Server requires several steps with the installation of every single intermediate server version. Accordingly, effort and cost are considerable.

This is different for the Project Online migration to the cloud. In that case, the direct migration from the Project Server versions 2010, 2013 and 2016 is possible.

The migration to Project Online can take place from any of the earlier versions of MS Project Server.

microsoft project server migration 4

Figure 4: The two options for migration from earlier versions to PPM 2019 or Project Online

Option 1: Migration in Your Own Infrastructure

The transfer of your systems from one version of Project Server to the next takes place within the infrastructure of your company.

Technically, the Microsoft Project Server standard migration is comparatively simple. The database of the old version is copied and mounted to the new version. This is an automated process. Depending on the volume of the database, it can take several hours or even days.

Afterwards, it will get exciting. Now, it is necessary to check whether the data have been transferred fully and free from errors. For instance, it can happen that links have stopped working or that certain properties are no longer supported by the new version.

This examination requires the competence and experience of experts. They know where best to start in order to identify possible errors with as little effort as possible. Subsequently, the defects that emerged during migration are fixed manually.

Reports always have to be modified manually. This is because the data model changes from one version to the next.

But there are also customized elements besides the standard migration. They are not technically relevant. But they concern the needs of the company on the one hand and the new functions on the other.

Your company needs decide ahead of migration:

  • which functions will no longer be needed
  • what possible new functions you would like to use in the future

One consequence of this type of decision can be that certain sets of data – i.e. Timesheet, Resource Plan etc. – will no longer be required.

It can also make sense to treat the following items separately when migrating:

  • configuration and master data on the one hand
  • the projects on the other

This is because it is often unnecessary to transfer completed projects to the new version; it is enough to archive them with write protection.

Option 2: Project Online Migration

Is it possible to avoid the many steps of installation from one version to the next? Of course – by migrating to the cloud.

Read about upcoming Microsoft Project Online Enhancements in this article.

As described above, the transfer to Project Online is possible from every version of MS Project Server. This is the good news.

Yet: Microsoft does not provide tools for the standard migration.

Microsoft does not provide a tool for the standard migration of a Project Server solution to Project Online. This step requires partner solutions.

But there are a number of useful partner solutions.

These tools are not all equally powerful. Nor do they provide the whole spectrum of possible migration. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between PPM data (e.g. projects, resources, views, permissions) and SharePoint content stored in the Project Sites.

Before the migration, it is also essential to plan what data and functions you will need in the future.

If this sounds like a lot of effort, the immense benefit of the data voyage to Project Online can give comfort: It is the last migration. No further migration will be necessary in the future.

How come?

All updates in Project Online are fully automatic for both the Server and the Project Professional Client.

This will save you as a customer a lot of effort and hassle. Nevertheless, you stay in control: within a certain timeframe, you can determine the time for the update. On top of that, you have the option to test and evaluate changes in a secure environment.

This enables you and your company to prepare for the rollout of the update.

Tools and Solutions for the Migration to Project Online

Video: Microsoft Project Server 2019 and Project Online – what you should know about a migration to these versions

In this webinar recording you can see the most important new features of Project Server 2019 in comparison with earlier versions and Project Online. From many best practice tips you will also learn what you should know about the migration of your PPM environment.
Watch Webinar here

Tool 1: FluentBooks by Fluent Pro

The Microsoft Partner solutions for migrating to the O365 world each have a different scope. A well-known and widely used tool is FluentBooks. What it provides:

  • Read and write between different PPM versions
  • Documentation of system settings
  • Comparing, testing and tracking of changes

FluentBooks has a proprietary file format. Licensing is based on the number of PWA sites.

Tool 2: TPG EasyECF

A small, efficient tool developed by us is called TPG EasyECF. It includes the following properties:

  • Read and write all fields in a Project Server system
  • Documentation of all data in XML/Excel
  • Possibility to modify the XML files

In addition, there is a variety of tools for the migration of SharePoint content, such as documents including metadata and versioning, lists, workflows etc.

The 7 Phases of Migration according to the TPG Method

TPG has been working according to a defined method of migration for many years. It includes all the factors mentioned above and integrates them into an efficient model taking into account individual customer needs.

The TPG Migration Method can be used both for the migration to new Project Server versions and to Project Online.

In our experience, the implementation takes around three to six months. How long it takes depends on the size and complexity of the systems that need to be migrated.
The cost is between 30,000 and 150,000 Euros.

Microsoft Project Server Migration 5

Figure 5: The TPG Migration Method for Migration to Project Server and Project Online

Phase 1: Planning

This is where we take stock. What we need to find out is for instance: What is the scope of the upcoming migration? Are there any special requirements concerning the feasibility? Based on this assessment, you will receive a recommendation for the migration process and the corresponding cost proposal.

Phase 2: Analysis

Now we dive deep into analysis. We get together with you and clarify all the details: processes, projects and resources, SharePoint Sites, interfaces, future modifications. The result of this is a detailed concept as well as a detailed offer.

Phase 3: Setup

We discuss the technical setup. This includes the future infrastructure comprising the required installations on the Servers as well as the updates to the Client software.

Phase 4: Test Migration

The data are copied to the new MS Project Server version or to Project Online. After that, defects can be analyzed and data corrected. Moreover, the test migration gives information about how long the actual migration will take. Based on this test migration, we provide the migration concept with the firm schedule.

Phase 5: Pilot Migration

In the pilot migration, all technical difficulties have been overcome. The old and the new system now run in parallel. Selected projects are only edited in the new environment. For this, we train key users accordingly.

Phase 6: Production Migration

At the stage of the production migration, the new solution has been stabilized. Step by step, training is provided for all users. All projects are ported from the old system into the new.

Phase 7: Operation

TPG provides support for any problems arising from now on. The now firmly established solution will be enhanced with additional components and functions as required. The old system is now disconnected completely or archived.

Conclusion: Three Good Reasons for Migration

Is it worthwhile to migrate your system for project portfolio management to a new version or even to the cloud?

After careful consideration of effort and benefit, three strong arguments for YES remain.

Microsoft Project Server Migration 6

Figure 6: The three most important arguments for Project Server Migration

The benefits of migration for your company are:

  • Sustainable future-readiness, especially through the automatic updates in Project Online
  • Access to useful new functions and therefore a more efficient utilization of your PPM system as well as easier work for those involved in the project environment
  • Cost benefits through flexible licensing for a hybrid or complete online environment

What is more, effort and hassle are put into perspective in the face of the greatest advantage of Project Online: The Migration to Project Online in the Office 365 world is the last you will ever need.

To carry out the migration, you should employ an experienced service provider to assist you in the process. This will reduce the risk and, in our experience, save a lot of time due to the structured approach according to a proven method.

Do you have any questions regarding migration? We’d be happy to answer them. Please leave a comment below.

Final tip: Subscribe to the TPG Blog Newsletter now and never miss another blog post.

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