Project Roadmap – What Are the Actual Benefits of the New Online Tool?

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+++ The Benefits and Limitations of the Microsoft Project Roadmap +++ The Most Important Functions at a Glance (Status 02/2019) +++

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In Office 365, Microsoft provides a new feature called Roadmap within the Project App. It allows you to present projects from various Project Online sites and Azure Boards in one simple bar chart. This is to give you a better overview. (Here you can find a short description of Project Roadmap in a video).

In early February 2019, we tested this new tool for you. Below, you will find a description of the features (which are frequently still limited). We will keep updating this article whenever there are new developments.

What Does the New Project Roadmap Offer?

In the first version of Project Roadmap, it is only possible to display existing projects. Higher-level planning for new projects would be desirable but is not possible at this point.

Project Roadmap 1

Figure 1: Roadmap containing Project Online sites and Azure Boards with key dates

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You can retrieve summary tasks, tasks and milestones from Project Online.

From Azure Boards, you can take over Epics, Features, Requirements etc. depending on the template used.

How to Create a New Project Roadmap

You can create new roadmaps in Office 365 in the Project App by selecting Roadmap:

Project Roadmap 2

Figure 2: Creating a Project Roadmap in the Office 365 Project App

Next, you have to:

  • add projects as rows and following this
  • select the project details, i.e. the bars.

To this end, you create a link to Project Online or Azure Boards by entering the respective URL.

Project Roadmap 3

Figure 3: Adding a project from Project Online or Azure Boards

In the next step, you select the elements you would like to present as bars. However, a list of tasks or Epics will only appear after you have entered three letters.

Project Roadmap 4

Figure 4: All the data a bar contains at present

The presentation of the bar is always the same – regardless of the source. What is transferred at present:

  • Name
  • Start date
  • End date

In the roadmap, it is possible to change the names of projects and bars but not the dates.

You have the option to change the status and thus the colors of the bars and of the milestones. Linking the status to properties in the source project via the user interface is currently impossible.

Project Online Roadmap 5

Figure 5: It is possible to set the status of the bars manually

Moving Projects

You can move projects up or down but not their individual bars. The presentation of the bars is recalculated each time to ensure optimal use of the available screen space.

Project Roadmap 6

Figure 6: Automatic positioning of the bars

The structure in the source project does not have an impact on the presentation. With regard to the presentation, summary tasks and tasks are treated in the same way. In the source project, Task 1 is part of Phase A.

In reality, this may not matter too much, as you will very likely integrate only summary tasks.

Aside from Roadmap Microsoft announced other new features for Project Online at IGNITE – including a new “Project” Service.

Adding Elements from Project Online

A new command in the ribbon Tasks enables you to add published elements from Project Online as bars to the roadmap. By the way, this is also the only way to add the project summary task to the roadmap. The roadmap itself does not offer an option for adding the project summary task.

Project Roadmap 7

Figure 7: New command in Project Online for adding tasks to a roadmap

Naming the Projects

The names of projects are only transferred when linking to the source, but they will not be updated in the case of changes.

You also have the option to assign any desired name regardless of the original name of the linked project. The same goes for the names of the bars that are taken over when the bars are first created. Yet in the case of subsequent changes in the source, they are not aligned in the roadmap.

The new name will only appear in the details of an individual bar or project but not in the roadmap view.

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Setting the Time Scale

The time scale can be set to weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Neither the width of the time units nor their labeling can be changed. This means that you can only view one year on your monitor without turning the page.

Are you thinking that must be the wrong monitor? So did we.

Turns out it is independent of the resolution and size, so it is always a year that is presented. For a roadmap, this is somewhat poor – we find.

Project Online Roadmap 8

Figure 8: Time scale of one year max

Filtering Project Rows

The filter provided allows you to filter project rows by owner. Unfortunately, it is impossible to filter by projects or project rows at present. Hence, you will not be able to filter an overview e.g. of interfaces running directly across different projects.

Our tip: If you desire the presentation of interfaces across several projects, this could be realized with the tool TPG ProjectLink for multi-project and program management with Project Online.

Managing Permissions

The permissions of the roadmap are controlled via Office 365 groups. Office 365 can create a new group for your roadmap or you can choose an existing group.

You can choose from groups in which you are the group owner. All members of the group are able to edit the entire roadmap.

By the way, it is impossible to change the assigned group later on!

And watch out: Be careful when adding users to a group by entering their names. These users will not only be added to your roadmap but also to the O365 group you assigned to your roadmap. This is in keeping with the group concept of Microsoft but might not be apparent from the user interface of the roadmap.

So think twice before assigning an existing group. You will be more flexible in the future, if you create a new group.

It is possible to assign owners to projects who, for unknown reasons, do not have to be members of the O365 group assigned to the roadmap. This is even possible when these “owners” do not own the project in Project Online or Azure Boards. You can assign any user from your own Office 365 environment.

However, this does not seem to come with a change of permissions for the projects in the roadmap, as we found out. All members are currently able to change all bars, to add new bars and to delete items. This makes “owner” a rather misleading term with the current functionality.

Microsoft Flow in the Background

To make linking projects as flexible as possible in the future, Microsoft relies on Microsoft Flow in the background. This makes it possible to collect Office 365 data from various sources, compile them individually and deliver them to diverse target systems.

At present, the user interface of the roadmap offers the sources Project Online and Azure Boards for a start. Further systems are meant to follow.

Should you come up with the idea of making your own flows to populate the roadmap: while it is possible to view the configuration of the flows for the projects in your roadmaps, it is not yet possible to select the roadmap as the target for your own flows.

Setting Up the Project Roadmap

To ensure the Roadmap feature works in your Office 365 project environment, it needs to be set up accordingly. This means an administrator of your environment has to activate the feature in Settings – Services & Add-ins.

It may be that other directions appear indicating that further steps are necessary for the activation, such as the migration of CDS (Common Data Service). CDS is required for the data transfer with Flow and needs to be running in the latest version.

Project Online Professional and Project Online Premium cover the licensing of this feature. Still, the services have to be activated first.

Our Conclusion on the Current Status of Project Roadmap

Our tests have led to the following conclusion: at present, Project Roadmap is a very simple feature for the presentation of project parts from Project Online and Azure Boards.

The functionality is minimal.

We hope that the range of functions will be expanded soon, adding value to the tool and making it actually useful in the true sense of the word “roadmap”.

What has been your experience with the new Project Online feature Roadmap? Please let us know your opinion in a short comment below.

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

 

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