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.


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

Customising the Nav Bar & App Launcher in Office 365

A while back Microsoft announced the release of the App Launcher in Office 365, also lovingly christened the Waffle by many due to it’s resemblance to the popular food. In the last few weeks the Waffle has started to appear across Office 365 tenants providing a much cleaner way of navigating to the various bits of Office 365 you care about.

The new app launcher

However, even with this cool new capability, I miss the old Projects and OneDrive links that used to be on the Navigation Bar and often find myself cursing having to go over to the top left and clicking on what I want.

Where is everything?

This weekend, I discovered that MS had indeed catered for this situation and have given the user the ability to pin items to the Nav Bar instead of having to access them through the Waffle.

To pin an item to the toolbar, click on the Waffle.

Click on the Waffle

Hover on the item you want to pin and then click on the ellipses and choose ‘Pin to Nav Bar’

Pin to the nav bar

Low and behold the item will now be available on the Nav bar.

Pinned Project Online

If you change your mind or make a mistake, you can remove the item from the nav bar by repeating the above and choosing Unpin from Nav bar.

Unpin from App Launcher

You’ll also notice from the screenshot above that you can also choose to remove items from the App Launcher completely to customise the launcher to only show the things you care about. Never fear if you accidently do this, you can always re-add the item by clicking on My Apps in the bottom right hand corner of the launcher to open up all the items you can add to the launcher. The name is a little confusing at the moment, as the apps displayed are more items in the Office 365 service with additional apps from partners and ISV’s coming in the future. None of your SharePoint apps you may already have installed are visible in here.

My Apps

Finally to add the item back to the app launcher, however on the item your interested in, click on the ellipses displayed and click on ‘Pin to App Launcher’’

Pin to App Launcher

Happy customising your Office 365 and Project Online Smile

The quiet removal of My Tasks

One of the big things to happen in Office 365 whilst I was ‘offline’ was a quiet announcement about the removal of the My Tasks capability on your My Site. In case you hadn’t seen it, the My Tasks capability rolls up all tasks that have been assigned to you across SharePoint sites into a single view in your My Site.  I’ve posted on it a few times before with the work management tag and it’s a great capability. What makes it even more powerful from the end users points of view is when you can link it up with Outlook and get all the tasks rolling through into OWA or your mobile device.

Back in September, MS quietly posted a support article announcing that the feature would be deprecated over at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2998445/en-us .

The support article highlights that the Tasks link has been removed from the About Me section of the User Profile page, but can be reinstated easily if you want it back. The support article goes onto state that the capability will remain there for a year before it is removed and considered unsupported.

The article goes onto mention that the Sync with Outlook option is also being removed in the future, but doesn’t make it clear if this is just for the My Site capability or for the whole of SharePoint Online.

‘If you’re currently syncing a SharePoint tasks list to Microsoft Outlook, tasks will continue to sync for approximately one year following this announcement. The personal Tasks page will also continue to be available for one year. After that time, this functionality will be removed and will no longer be available or supported.’

If your using SharePoint 2013 on premises, then none of this matters for now as neither of these changes impact on premises SharePoint farms. If your an Office 356 user, I would be wary of building solutions leveraging this capability in the short term and be on the lookout for inevitable replacement and migration plan in the coming months.

Project Online Improvements

Running an online service is a massive undertaking, especially when you consider something of the size of Office 365. Not only do you need to keep adding new capabilities to the service, but you need to balance this with maintaining the lowest possible Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and ensuring the service is efficient and performant.

The Project engineering team have been hard at work over the last few months performance changes across the service including the Project Center, Creating and Publishing a project, Submitting a timesheet as well as general tweaks etc. over all the tiers of the service. I’m sure we’ll see some of the benefits of this  when the next on premises edition of Project Server comes out and we dig around Winking smile

The Project team posted over at blogs.office.com about these changes and a few more including increased limits for the number of projects in a PWA site (5000 up from 2000) and the number of PWA instances available to be added to a Project Online tenant (7 up from 3).

Project Lite now available

Project Online has been available for a little over a year now, the first real SaaS version of Project Server operated by Microsoft and available in Office 365. The online service provides all the capabilities of Project Server you would expect, the centralised view of Projects, Resource Management, Task & Timesheet management, Portfolio Analysis and Prioritisation, Reporting and powerful collaboration for a monthly per user fee. Is some cases, organisations don’t need access to all this functionality for all users, specifically team members only really need access to the Task & Timesheet functionality, collaboration sites and the ability to see their project schedules.

Well, Microsoft listened and as announced at the Project Conference in February, have introduced Project Lite, a lighter version of Project Online aimed for just those kind of users which is available as of today (1st May).



You can read more about Project Lite over on the official Office blog or here.