Project Server 2016 IT Pro Preview – A Quick Tour

SharePoint 2016 PreviewEarlier today Microsoft announced the release of the SharePoint Server 2016 IT Pro Preview, our first introduction to the 2016 wave of on-premises products. Obviously a new drop of SharePoint is exciting enough, but this release is doubly exciting as it also includes the IT Pro Preview of Project Server 2016.

With 2016 there are some massive changes to Project Server, the first and most obvious one is that the Project Server bits are included in the SharePoint 2016 binary. What this means is that once you have installed the SharePoint Server 2016 Preview all the Project Server 2016 Preview binaries are also installed allowing you to configure the Project Server Service app within a couple of minutes.

Secondly, Project Server 2016 Preview includes the previously announced consolidated Project databases into the SharePoint Content DB. If you dig into the SharePoint Content DB nestled between the SharePoint tables are a set of Project Server schemas for the draft, published, version and reporting components that were merged into a single Project database in Project Server 2013.

Project Server schema in SharePoint ContentDB

So how does this work for multiple PWA instances you may ask? Well, you can point multiple PWA instances to the same SharePoint ContentDB and Project Server will use the same data structure for the multiple instances. On quick inspection it appears that a SiteId column has been added to the various tables to provide a key to extract the relevant info for a single PWA instance from the database.  Of course, you still have the ability to target different PWA instances to different Content DBs should you wish, but this consolidation makes backup and recovery much much easier.

Project Server 2016 Preview PWA Page

Finally, the preview also appears to include some of the newer features that would previously have been seen in Project Online, for example the new Resource Engagement and Capacity Planning bits are included. Over the coming weeks I will be investigating what other Project Online features have made it into the Preview other than the ‘New to Project Online’ tile that appears to have slipped through Smile

I will be posting some step by step run throughs of provisioning new PWA tenants and upgrading an existing 2013 database to 2016 in the coming weeks as well as a few deep dives into the SharePoint 2016 features (including the Work Management Service that still seems to be present).

To get started yourself with SharePoint Server 2016 Preview including Project Server 2016 Preview, head on over to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=48712 and download the ISO’s.  Don’t forget to check out the SharePoint Server 2016 Preview Reviewers Guide at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=48713 and the initial Technet pages outlining the creation and upgrade process at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc303399(v=office.16).aspx

Customising the App Launcher– Part Two–Custom Tiles.

Back in December I wrote about the ability to customise the App Launcher, or Waffle as it lovingly known. The options were relatively limited unless you built your own app in Azure and deployed it to the organisation. However one request came up again and again, the ability to create a shortcut tile to a specific site or location inside the Office 365 tenant. Imagine being able to have a dedicated waffle link for the Marketing site, or perhaps a dedicated link through to a specific PWA instance.

Well in the past few weeks, a new feature has been added to Office 365 to allow an admin to create a link that they can then push out to everyone in the organisation. The feature is a little hidden, but incredibly valuable. For this post, we are going to create a dedicated link to one of my Project Online instances in my tenant.

The first thing we need to do is navigate to the Office 365 Admin Portal.

Office 365 Admin Center

In the portal, choose COMPANY PROFILE. You will be presented with some information about your institution, however we want to pick the Custom Tiles option on the left hand side.

Choose custom tiles

In this page we can add new custom tiles for use in our Office 365 tenant. Click on the + to add a new one.

Click Add

To add the custom tile, all you need to do is fill in the relevant information. The only tricky one is the Image URL, which needs to be a image that everyone in your Office 365 tenant can see. In this case, reading the help can really pay off as it tells you the icon should be 50 x 50 pixels and stored in SharePoint Online. Specifically the help suggests putting the image in a team site and generating an anonymous guest link that you can put in the Image Url section.

Configure the tile

Once you’ve pressed save, the custom tile is now ready for your users to pick up. By default the tile won’t be displayed in the App Launcher, each user will have to click on the My Apps link.

Choose my apps

 

find the tile and then click on the … and add it to the launcher.

Our Tile!

And tada!!

Tada!

Try the Project 2016 Preview today

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At Ignite a few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the public preview of the Office 2016 clients for you to download and start testing some of the great new capabilities these products include. At the time I was a little disappointed as the preview did not include Project ( or Visio) Sad smile

Today however Microsoft have finally added Project and Visio to the public preview for you to try out Smile

Now you can not only try the new versions of Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and Word which have already replaced Office 2013 on my daily driver laptop, but now you can also start to use the new version of Project including cool new features such as:

  • Support for multiple timelines in the same view
  • Project App Write Back Support; and
  • The new Tell Me control, making it much easier to find and perform tasks in Project (and Office in general).

To grab the new Project 2016 preview (and Office 2016), head over to https://products.office.com/en-us/office-2016-preview, you can either get the excellent Click to Run version of the software associated with your Project Pro for Office 365 account, or scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the I do not have a Project Pro for Office 365 subscription, how do I install the trial version of Project 2016 Preview? link for details on the standalone version.

Happy Project 2016-íng!

Ignite 2015 Wrap up

For the past few days I was lucky enough to attend the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago to hear about all the new stuff coming from Microsoft and I have to tell you, it’s pretty exciting.

Microsoft Ignite 2015

The conference itself was massive, over 23,000 attendees as a result of merging Tech Ed, Microsoft Management Summit, the SharePoint Conference, Project Conference, Exchange Conference and Lync Conferences together. If I had to think about it, I would say it was a little too big and Project looked to suffer for it, but their was some great content.

The keynote was massive, but seemed a little disjointed. Talking to a number of people, it felt as if all the good stuff had been announced earlier or at Build the week before. Ignoring that though, there was some great demo’s from Julia White and my ex-colleague Ben Walters. The highlight had to be Gurdeep Pall (sorry Ben) , who was funny and engaging.

SharePoint 2016 Roadmap Investment Areas

This conference was to be the coming out party for SharePoint 2016, and whilst it’s still early days for the on-premises product, there were some key announcements, including:

  • MinRole concept – simplifying the ability to define which roles servers will take and the knock on effect of significantly reducing the patching overhead
  • Hybrid – SharePoint 2016 on-premises will make hybrid a first class citizen and augment on-premises capabilities with cloud services
  • Next Gen Portals – Awesome ready to go, quick and simple portals that can be up in a matter of minutes
  • Improved Management Tooling including zero downtime patching – Wow
  • Fast Site Creation – Sites will be created within the DB, instead of having to create templates with their various feature dependencies, making the process much much simpler.
  • and finally, the official announcement of the merging of the Project DB into the SharePoint Content DB.

I’ve heard about the merging for a while now for Project Online and it’s a pretty impressive achievement. When a PWA instance was first created, Project Online used to provision a Project DB per tenant. So if there were 100’s of tenants, there would be 100s of databases, all needing to be managed, maintained etc. driving up the cost of goods sold (COGS). Now between going live and early 2014, the Project team managed to consolidate all these databases and fold them into the SharePoint Content DB’s without a single incident or impact on availability. A massive achievement for the team at Project.

From a Project perspective, there were a couple of great sessions where with demo’s and announcements of new capabilities including the new multiple timeline support for Project Pro and the new Resource Engagements capability, both of which I will cover in a bit more detail in other posts.

Multiple Timelines

Finally, there was an interesting session on Project Online Customisation Best Practices, which gave some great insights into how to performance tune Project Central, although I am not sure I agree that taking the web parts off the page or removing indicators is the way to go.

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The session was timed to highlight a great new whitepaper published by Microsoft on the subject of Project Online Perf, covering:

  • Choosing the right Permission Mode – SharePoint or Project Server and it’s impact on Queue Processing
  • Project Site Creation – When to create a project site in online to keep demand management workflow moving along quickly
  • PWA Page customisations
  • OData – Using Server Side Filters to improve oData Perf

You can read more of the white paper at https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Project-Online-performance-best-practices-12ba0ebd-c616-42e5-b9b6-cad570e8409c?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US&fromAR=1 or at http://aka.ms/projectonlineperf

All in all Ignite was really big, full of sessions and it’s going to take me a few days physically to get over it, but it was great to catch up with old friends, make new ones and learn. I am looking forward to Ignite 2016!

Updates for Project Online on the Public roadmap

Just a quick post to highlight a couple of exciting new capabilities for Project Online that have appeared in the Office roadmap, that you may have missed.

 

The following two items have been added under the launched category. The first

Bulk updates in Project Online

Workflow creators in Project Online can bulk update project custom fields with a single service request. Previously, each custom field update required a separate service request. This results in much faster transition between multiple demand management phases.

Improvements to Demand Management in Project Online

Through effective use of demand management workflows in Project Online, you can decouple project site creation from project publishing. This results in Project advancing to the next stage in the workflow much faster.

 

Finally, there is one new Project Online relevant item under development which is pretty exciting and certainly something I have heard people ask for again and again Smile

Task Notifications in Project Online

In Project Online, team members can opt-in to receive email notifications. Team members will receive email alerts whenever a new task is assigned to them. They will also receive daily email reminders with a list of tasks that are upcoming or overdue.

The Appies are coming again..

One of the highlights of the 2014 SharePoint conference were the App Awards for the Office and SharePoint apps, well it seems that the Appies are being run again, this time for the upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference in July.

There are six categories you can nominate your apps in:

  • Best User Interface  – App for Office or App for SharePoint
  • Highest Performing App – App for Office or App for SharePoint
  • Most Business Value – App for Office or App for SharePoint
  • Best International Developer – App for Office & SharePoint
  • Best Office 365 App
  • Best Mobile App

The last two are the most interesting as you can now submit Office 365 / Consent Flow apps and Mobile apps that extend and augment Office 365 in any of the mobile ecosystems. Great stuff.

To enter the Appies you will need to submit a nomination and ensure you app has been submitted, updated or published between the 1st January 2015 and the 10th May 2015.

For more details on the Appies, plus links to the nomination forms, head on over to http://dev.office.com/app-awards

Checking out the new Workflow Health pages

Whilst looking into a workflow issue today on my Office 365 tenant, I noticed a new feature that appears to be quietly rolling out into Office 365, the Workflow Health screen. Dee over at DDLS also noticed it a few weeks back and blogged about it, but I thought I would dig in a little more.

From the surface it looks like the feature addresses some of the issues in Office 365 when the Workflow Manager instance your tenant is attached to is down or unavailable or you want to see aggregated status of workflows in a site or list without clicking into each workflow instance.

To access this Workflow Health screen click the link entitled Workflow Health next to the Workflow history view in your lists, libraries or site workflows and the Workflow Settings screens as highlighted below..

Workflow Health

In all cases, the link will take you to the Workflow Health page that provides an overview of all workflows in your site and the status of their associated instances.

Workflow Health Overview

What makes this feature even more useful is that you can see at a glance the status of each workflow and drill into specific details on the last update for each instance by clicking on the i icon for the status, instead of having to navigate to each individual workflow instance and that you would usually have to click on the little blue i icon to get as well as choosing to Resume, Suspend or Terminate all instances of that specific workflow.

Workflow Health Popup

Now all of this seems to be really easy to get to for SharePoint workflows, but if you want to access Project Online workflows it’s a little harder to more involved…

In PWA, click on the Settings icon to open the Site Settings and choose Workflow Settings

Project Online Site Settings

In the Workflow Settings page, there is a link for Workflow Health.Project Online Workflow Health

Clicking on the link will open the Workflow Health screen for the PWA site.

Project Online Workflow Health Overview

Now there doesn’t appear to be any direct way to get to the page from within Project Online, so other than the Project team adding some links in the PWA settings, adding the following link http://<TENANTNAME>/sites/<PWANAME>/_layouts/15/WorkflowServiceHealth.aspx to the quick links will do the trick.

Happy Workflow Monitoring Smile