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).

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

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–Fluent Pro’s EPM Pulse for Project Online

EPMPulse LogoAt the Project Conference, Microsoft announced some improvements to the reporting capability of Project Online through the introduction of support for SSIS. However, there is a solution available now that will enable you to create powerful dashboards in Project Online from the guys at Fluent Pro called EPM Pulse for Project Online which you can get going in minutes which is available now in the SharePoint app store.

Example Dashboard

Once installed, EPM Pulse will provision an instance within Fluent Pro’s infrastructure that will be used to render your dashboards, which can take a few moments the first time you install. The EPM Pulse instance reaches into your Project Online tenant  and pulls out the relevant data to render the reports.

EPM Pulse Dashboard Provisioning

The app allows you to create multiple dashboards which can be shared or private and cover different timeframes and projects.

EPM Pulse Dashboards

EPM Pulse allows you to choose from a selection of predefined widgets covering Analytics, Financial, Portfolio, Resources, Risks and Issues & Workflow which you can place on your dashboard and move around using full drag and drop. Each widget is added to the dashboard and is automatically configured to pull in the relevant data, but can be further refined to change the title to something more meaningful for your organisation and the look and feel.

Available Widgets

The authors have done a fantastic job of abstracting away the complexity of configuration, whilst still giving the user a huge range of configuration options to make sure the dashboards show the information your organisation needs. Of course it doesn’t end there, dashboards can also be exported to PDF / PNG, viewed in Full Page mode and also shared with other parties.

Fluent Pro’s EPM Pulse is licenced under a subscription with monthly subscription options for users that design dashboards and users that consume the data within them and can be downloaded from the SharePoint App Store.

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.

App Review–Nearbaseline’s Bulk Edit

imageAny organisation that uses Project Server will quickly get to the point where they need to modify or add new custom fields as their organisational process or requirements change. As any Administrator will tell you, adding new custom fields is simple, however updating all the projects to reflect the new custom fields is not. Enter Bulk Edit, a popular 2010 solution starter that has been given the app treatment by a few partners. In this post we are going to look at the first and most impressive, Nearbaseline’s Bulk Edit, available in the SharePoint app store.

Once installed, the app can be accessed from the Site Contents menu, or directly from Project Centre view.

Bulk Edit in the Project Centre Ribbon

When the app opens you will be shown all the fields that you can edit by default and given the option to choose which ones you wish to update.

Bulk Edit - Select the custom fields to edit

Once loaded, the app will show all the projects within your PWA instance and the fields chosen above in a grid so you can easily see the relevant fields to update

Bulk Edit - Modifying the fields and synchronising back

As you change fields in the app, it will synchronise the update back to Project Server and show you the status with a simple tick or cross. What makes this app truly great is that the author really thought about the key use cases when performing a bulk update and added support for ‘autofill’ using a little nub similar to what you see in Excel and added filters / sorting to help you classify and find the projects you wish to update.

Bulk Edit - Update Status

Bulk Edit - Filter and sort fields

All in all, Nearbaseline’s Bulk Edit is great free app addition for your Project Server / Project Online environment.

Project Conference 2014 Wrap Up

It’s been a little over a week since the Project Conference in Anaheim finished up and what a conference it was. It’s always great to meet up with the Project Community and catch up on what’s happening, it’s also the only place I know that you can wax lyrical about Project Server without people looking at you as if you’re strange Smile Anyway, I thought I would share some of the highlights with you.

Project Conference Banner

First up the keynote, there were some great demonstrations, announcements and in a first reveals about future directions and investments for Project. A key announcement was the introduction of the new Project Lite SKU for Project Online, a $7 a month licence of Project Online targeted at users who don’t need all the capabilities of Project Online, but do need to complete timesheets, update tasks, view schedules and interact with collaboration sites. The Project Lite SKU will be available from the 1st May 2014.

Project Lite SKU

The other big announcement in the keynote was a new SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) connector which can consume oData feeds (as provided by Project Online), the SSIS package can then write out to a database hosted in Windows Azure that you can then use SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to create enterprise reports.

Microsoft are pushing apps in a big way and there are some great apps out there, it was great to see the Publish All Enterprise Projects app in the keynote (click here to learn more) followed shortly afterwards by a pretty deep demo of Nintex Workflow for Office 365, one of the products I am responsible for in my non project day job at Nintex Smile (thanks Jakob for the better picture).

Publish All Projects in the Keynote

Howard Crow showing Nintex Workflow for Office 365

The sessions at the conference were great, with a diverse range of speakers from customers, partners and the engineering team. I personally enjoyed a few of the workflow sessions and was excited to see so many people getting on board with Demand Management in 2013. It was also great putting faces to names, and of course catching up with old friends and fellow Project MVP’s from around the world.

Alex and the ever stylish Dux Raymond SyHardcore Beer Drinking Project MVP's

I was lucky enough to present a session on behalf of Nintex on how our products could be used to implement organisational process. The session went really well with a great turn out, some good questions and all five demo’s workflow flawlessly.

Project Conference Session

For those of you that came along to the session, thank you, as a final reminder, all the links from the session can be seen at http://bit.ly/nintexpc14. I have a couple of videos of the demo’s I showed that I will push up in the next couple of weeks.

All in all it was a great conference, lots of information, lots of networking, lots of preparation and whilst there, lots and lots of work. Thanks to everyone at Microsoft and Dynamic Events that put the whole thing together Smile

Using Project Server 2013 / Project Online–make sure you read this…

The Project Support blog today published a post about a pretty nasty bug that has been found in Project Server 2013 and until very recently in Project Online that could cause you to lose resources across schedules.

Full details of the bug and the actions you can take to address the issue if you have encountered it can be seen at http://blogs.technet.com/b/projectsupport/archive/2014/02/06/project-server-2013-and-project-online-what-happened-to-my-resources.aspx.

If you have encountered any issues with lost resources including resource names turning into numbers, or mysterious material resources appearing, I would highly encourage you to read the above blog.