What does the new cloud project management service offer?

The new Microsoft Project Plan 1, available starting Oct. 28, 2019, offers an additional O365 cloud service for planning projects and tasks – in addition to Project Online and Planner. This new service is targeted at users involved in collaborative work management who plan simple rather than complex projects.

The price of the new Microsoft Project Plan 1 is $10 per month (source: Microsoft). If you already have a Project Online Professional or Project Online Premium license, the new service is available at no extra cost.

Easy start into modern project management

The initial Microsoft Project Plan 1 offers an easy-to-use range of functions which will be expanded in the next years. The functional scope was designed to enable a future migration from Project Online to the new Microsoft Project Plan 1. Until then, Microsoft recommends using both products in parallel based on the projects’ complexity.

Microsoft says that it will later offer technical support for migration.

 

The available functions currently focus on simple scheduling.

  • You can create summary tasks, tasks and milestones and link them with end-to-start relationships.
  • You can also specify the duration in days, the effort in hours (completed + remaining = total) and % complete.
  • The formula for converting duration to effort (and vice versa) uses an eight-hour day and this begins as soon as a person is assigned. If more than one person is assigned, the effort is increased but the duration remains the same.

There are currently no scheduling options including different types of links or time intervals. In addition, the critical path and task drivers cannot be displayed. Baselines, cost and user-defined fields are currently not available.

Modern views

The new Microsoft Project offers a nice mix from classic and agile best practices. The Timeline view displays a Gantt chart and the Board shows all tasks as cards with status and additional information.

Co-authoring: Collaboration on a project plan

One of the key advantages of the new service compared to Project Online is the ability to work together on a project plan, which is referred to as “co-authoring”.

Carefully delegating parts of the plan to individuals can simplify the planning work. All members of the O365 group belonging to a project may edit the schedule simultaneously. Changes by other users are shown immediately. This allows for teamwork while building the schedule.

 

Simple resource management

The resources in Microsoft Project Plan 1 are derived from a new or existing group in O365 Groups. There is no resource pool for cross-project planning as in Project Online. Capacities or costs of resources do not exist at the moment.

If several people are assigned to an activity, it is not possible to differentiate who is responsible for completing each part. An app for time reporting is currently not available.

Assignment and time reporting may be integrated with Dynamics 365 in the future. Specific information is not yet available.

New technical base

Unlike Project Online, then new Microsoft Project Plan 1 is not based on SharePoint, but rather on O365 Groups and the Common Data Service (CDS). This provides users with a platform that can be extensively adapted to their individual requirements using Power Apps, Power BI and Flow. New entities such as risks, issues and other lists can be created and analyzed in connection with the new service’s projects and tasks.

However, you'll need separate licenses to edit and use Power Apps and Power BI and Flow, making this option considerably more expensive.

 

These following limits are sufficient for small to medium-sized projects and should not be a problem for simple use cases:

  • 500 tasks
  • 20 links per task
  • 600 max. number of task links (predecessors)
  • 20 people per task
  • 150 max. number of persons
  • 10 Levels with summary tasks

Report Pack for Power BI

From day one, Microsoft offers a free report pack for Power BI with a number of useful reports. Some of them display portfolio level information across all projects.

Project Online and Project Server remain available

Project Online will be available and maintained in terms of security and performance. Microsoft says that it will continue to fully support it.

Users can therefore rest assured that their investment is safe and continue to use Project Online with all its functions for company-wide project and portfolio management in building their environment.

For local installations, standard support for the current version of Microsoft Project Server 2019 will remain available until Sept. 1, 2024, and extended support until July 14, 2026.

The projects from Project Online and Microsoft Project Plan 1 (Project for the Web) can be accessed via Project Home and can be jointly analyzed in Project Roadmap and via Power BI.

According to the latest information, there are currently no plans to integrate it with Planner or Project Desktop Client, contrary to the announcement made in 2018. However, Microsoft wants to integrate the features that are most frequently requested in User Voice. So, this integration may happen someday after all.

Beginning Oct. 28, 2019, the services will be named as follows:

  • The new Microsoft Project is included in the Project Plan 1 subscription
  • A subscription Project Online Professional will now be called Project Plan 3 (includes also Plan 1)
  • A subscription Project Online Premium will now be called Project Plan 5 (includes also Plan 3)
  • A subscription Project Online Essentials remains Project Online Essentials

Our evaluation of the New Microsoft Project Plan 1

Microsoft Project Plan 1 offers an easy and attractive entry to the world of classic project planning in combination with agile work management.

The new Project Plan 1 offers a timeline with linked tasks and a board view – a combination that makes a lot of sense in terms of usability and acceptance. The possibility to work in parallel on a schedule is highly welcomed by users from agile methods. So, if all you want to accomplish is simple scheduling for a small team and you don’t need any resource management features, timesheets and such, it should be sufficient for your needs. We look forward to seeing which functions Microsoft will implement next.

If you are looking for an immediately implementable solution for portfolio management, resource management in a team or for planning resources and costs in a project, then check out our other solutions. You can already use them together with Project Server, Project Online or as a standalone solution, and soon you’ll be able to connect them to the new Microsoft Project as well.

For more information, see the Microsoft message dated 10/29/2019.