Microsoft Project Online Enhancements – New Features and Roadmap

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+++ These Changes in Project Online Will Make Your Planning even More Flexible +++ Planned Enhancements from the Roadmap +++

By Dr. Thomas Henkelmann

Are you working with Microsoft Project Online or planning to change to the cloud version of MS Project? If so, you can look forward to interesting new features.

They offer even more flexibility in planning – both directly from your MS Project Professional Client and via the optimized integration of further productivity tools from the O365 world.

Project Online Enhancements in the Client

Let us start with the changes in the client. In addition to the well-known waterfall method, you can now also plan your projects using two agile approaches: Scrum and KANBAN.

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

1. Agile Project Planning with MS Project according to Scrum

A standard template is available to create a new project:

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Creating a new project according to agile methods via standard template

In the first view, the “Sprint Planning Board”, you can immediately collect tasks in the backlog.

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“Sprint Planning Board” to plan tasks in the backlog

As a result, these tasks are distributed to the sprints, usually in a sprint planning meeting.

What are agile PM methods and when are they appropriate? Learn more here.

Each sprint is a defined period of time (usually three weeks), in which to complete specific tasks with the aim of having a usable product at the end of each sprint.

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Planning sprints in Microsoft Project

You can define the desired date range for each sprint as well as the number of sprints for the project.

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Defining the date range for each sprint

In the standard version, a second view is available for the execution and update of the project: the “Task Planning Board”.

Another interesting read: Earned Value Analysis with Microsoft Project

In this view, you can update the status of the entries from the backlog or the sprints simply by drag and drop. The sequence allows the prioritization of tasks. This can be adapted as well using drag and drop.

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The “Task Planning Board” in the Microsoft Project Professional Client

Of course, additional options such as filtering for the current sprint are available.

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Filtering for the current sprint

2. Executing Agile Projects according to Kanban (with MS Project)

If you do not desire or require planning according to sprints, you can also start directly with the Task Planning Board. This Kanban-oriented approach is primarily about the prioritization of tasks and their quick status update to aid completion.

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Kanban planning with the Task Planning Board in MS Project

Five new reports are available to track the progress and analyze planning. Please see the “Work Status Board” as an example.

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“Work Status Board” to track the progress in MS Project

Project Online: What Are the Web-Based Changes?

1. Integration with the Microsoft Planner in Office 365

Traditional waterfall models first plan work packages and then put them into a logical order or link them to structure the project.

The next step is usually the detailed planning of the work packages through tasks with assignment to individual resources or teams.

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Planning work packages and structuring the project in MS Project

In the current version of the Project Online Client, you can alternatively link a work package with a plan of the Microsoft Planner from Office 365. A new function in the client opens a dialog to select the MS Planner plan.

The person responsible for the work package is automatically transferred to the Planner plan and added there as a team member.

In the O365 Planner, you can further structure and detail the work package for comfortable work planning.

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Comfortable work planning in MS Planner

2. Evaluations with the Power BI Reporting Pack

Project Online – in addition to the well-known and proven reports in Excel – has been offering integration with Power BI for a while now. This is another service from the Microsoft Cloud offering.

You might also like our article on Using Resource Engagements in MS Project.

In order to facilitate your first steps with the analysis, the free “Power BI Reporting Pack for Project Online” is available in a revised version.

The pack can be loaded directly from the Power BI Desktop. Then, it is linked to the desired Project Online Site Collection and can be published immediately for the user.

The Power BI pack itself consists of a dashboard as an entry point for the user. This is where the different KPIs for costs, resources, status, risks and open issues can be viewed.

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Microsoft Power BI Dashboard

If you are interested, you can click the chart to go to the detailed report.

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Drill-down from the charts to the detailed report

This is all on the latest innovations (as of August 2018). These are currently only available in Project Online.

Planned Changes from the Roadmap

At the “Inspire” event in July 2018, a Microsoft event for customers and partners to provide information about the future development and strategy, they announced very promising developments under the motto “Microsoft Project Online: The future of work management in the Microsoft Cloud”.

1. Project Home

With Project Home, a portal tailored to the user will be available. Here, you can individually collect your personal favorites, such as your own projects and frequently used templates for projects.

This does not just concern projects in a Project Online environment but also:

  • plans from the O365 Planner
  • projects from Visual Studio Team Services
  • plans from Dynamics 365 PSA
  • SharePoint task lists

The objective is ONE place where users find all plans and from where they can jump to the individual plan objects.

2. Advanced Planner Integration

As mentioned above, you can create a link from a project in Project Online to a plan in the O365 Planner already.

In the future, you will also be able to create new plans to allow the project manager an easier distribution of the work packages to individual teams. A “return channel” has not yet been communicated in detail but is expected by many customers and partners. This is used, for example, to see in the project plan in Microsoft Project how many tasks were created, which percentage has already been completed or started and similar information.

Conclusion – Project Online Changes and Roadmap

In this article, you have found out that Microsoft Project Online will offer interesting features with immediate effect. They offer direct access to:

  • Agile planning methods according to Scrum and Kanban: You can use the new features directly in the Project Client – via the “Sprint Planning” tile in the standard template menu.
  • Functionalities of the O365 Planner: Directly link your work packages with an O365 Planner plan and structure work packages further for comfortable work planning.
  • The Power BI Reporting Pack for Project Online: This will make the evaluation of your Project Online data much easier by means of numerous reports (i.e. costs, resources, risks or status).

In addition, Microsoft will support you with further planned changes. According to the roadmap, you will shortly be able to:

  • Individually compile your projects and frequently used templates as personal favorites via the portal Project Home
  • Create more than one link to an O365 Planner plan; this will make it much easier to assign work packages to individual teams

If you have any further questions regarding the current changes or the roadmap of Project Online, please use the comment function below. We will get back to you within a short period of time.

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