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.

image

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!

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

Some useful links for the new year

A little late, but I thought I would post information about this great resource from Brian Smith. If you’ve ever had to hunt for details of which CU contained a fix for an issue and had to sit there in Google and Bing aggregating results, hunt no more, Brian has created a single page that contains details of all the Cumulative Updates for Project and Project Server 2013 on-premises in a single location over at the Project Support blog.

Details of Project & Project Server 2013 CU’s – http://blogs.technet.com/b/projectsupport/p/msp13.aspx

Of course if you want to know a little more about updates to Project Online, well unfortunately there isn’t a simple single view, but a page I would encourage you all to bookmark is the Office 365 Roadmap. The page itself details features that are currently launching or rolling out to Office 365, including Project Online. A couple of things that Peter Kestenholz noted are coming include the Resource Engagement Workflow and Capacity Management Capabilities. When you dig a bit deeper in the roadmap, you’ll also notice another gem…

image

Apps for Project Pro for Office 365 Write Support

An update to the App Model for Project Pro allowing Apps to write back data to the Project Plan (at the moment it can only read). This will open up a stack of scenarios for app developers who are limited to just reading and highlighting issues in a plan, now they can correct them.

I am looking forward to these changes rolling through Office 365 and Project Online in 2015. It’s going to be a big year Smile

Service Resumed

Service Resumed

Wow… I didn’t realise that I hadn’t posted for so long. Things have been a little crazy in my day job over the past few months with me moving into a new role but I’ve been keeping my finger on the Project pulse and have some great posts coming up in the next few months.

PS. For those not sure of the picture, it’s a service card that used to be shown on UK TV when the service was down..

Setting up a workflow proxy account in Project Server 2013

I’ve had a few comments through the blog on setting up a workflow proxy account in Project Server 2013, so I thought I would post something to take you through how to configure this.

The Workflow Proxy in Project Server 2013 is important if you intend to use the classic workflow engine (not Workflow Manager ) and will be the account that makes the PSI calls associated with the workflow. The account should be set up as part of your Project Server installation and is specified in the Plan for administrative and service accounts in Project Server 2013 documentation.

Products such as NW4PS, leverage the classic workflow engine,  so if this account is not set up correctly when the workflow calls the PSI it will fail with an error like in the screenshot below.

WorkflowWorkflowProxyAccountNotFound

Luckily the solution is pretty easy, however, unlike Project Server 2010, where the option was under Server Settings > Project Workflow Settings, in Project Server 2013, the option has moved into Central Administration and is probably the main contributing factor to this being overlooked.

To configure the account, navigate to Central Administration and choose General Application Settings from the left hand menu

Manage PWA Settings

Click on Manage under PWA Settings and you will be taken to the management screen for the PWA instance (if there are more than one instance, you can choose which one in the top right hand corner.

Project Workflow Settings

On the Settings screen, choose Project Workflow Settings, you will then be presented with the option to enter the Workflow Proxy Account.

Configure the Workflow Proxy Account

All that’s remaining is to enter the account you’ve already set up for the workflow proxy in the correct format (don’t forget to use a claims format account if that’s how you’ve set up your Project Server farm).

Quick Start Guides for Project Server & Project Online

I’m a little late to the party with this, but Microsoft have released a number of excellent Quick Start Guides taking users through key concepts in Project Server and Project Online which I thought I would share with the readers of this blog.

Project Quick Start Guides

The quick start guides cover a number of topics and can be obtained from the links below:

Get started with Project Online

Create Projects in Project Online

Track Work with Project Online

Create projects in Project Web App

Track work in Project Web App

App Review–UMT 360 Workflow Visualization

One of the most common add-ons to Project Server 2010 environments was the workflow visualization solution starter that provided a graphical overview of where a project was in it’s demand management workflow. In 2013 and Project Online, Microsoft introduced an out of the box workflow visualisation component, which is pretty good at showing the stage transitions, but can be limited if you have more complex processes you want to visualize.

Enter UMT 360 with their Workflow Visualization app, available in the SharePoint app store. UMT 360 takes the excellent visualization component from UMT 360 for PPM product and have spun it up as a stand alone SharePoint app.

When first opened, the app will display all workflows currently configured within your PWA instance and lets you choose which workflow you wish to set the visualization up for.

UMT360 Workflow Visualization - Choose Workflow

Once the workflow has been selected, the app will call into the workflow and pull out the various stages and branches and render a graphics automatically for the workflow. In my simple workflow, I have three simple sequential stages which the app picked up easily.

Automaticall rendered graphic

You can choose to further customise the themes of the visualization or choose to upload your own graphics that will be substituted.

Choose a rendering theme

Once you’ve configured the app, all that’s needed is to add the app part to your workflow overview project detail page via the Edit Page > Add a Web Part.

Add the webpart

Then to see the visualization, open up a Project where the EPT is using the workflow you chose at the beginning and voila.

The final visualization

On the whole the UMT 360 Visualization app is pretty solid, as I was preparing this review there were a few times when the app took longer than expected to render, but that could either be my Project Online tenant, or something that the UMT guys can easily address with an update or a simple progress cue.

The UMT 360 Visualization app is available from download in the SharePoint app store, you can sign up for a free time limited trial, or subscribe to the app for the low price of $1.99 per month.