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A Roadmap “Step By Step” Guide

Imagine you are a running a program containing five separate projects. The following “step by step” guide will help you set up a Roadmap for managing your projects. Obviously, the laid out scenario is fictional, but it might be closely aligned with your own situation if you manage a program at your organization.

 

Background Information

The example we will consider has five active projects that are managed by three different project managers. Within Roadmap, you have the option to name a different “owner” for each project. In our case, we will name the Project Management Office (PMO) employee that is assigned to assist the three project managers as owner. This will make life easier because as a program manager, our owner will have just one person to talk to instead of three.

Four of the projects were created using Project Online, and one with Project for the Web. In a real life situation, you might have projects coming from an Azure Boards environment as well. That’s ok! You can even connect the Agile world to your program, if needed.

In the steps that follow, we’ll start with the creation of the five projects. The projects might already be available in your situation, and if that’s the case skip to Step 2.

 

Step 1: Creation of Projects in Project Online and Project for the Web

Projects using Project for the Web are created from the Project Home page. For a Project Online project, you will need to navigate to the specific PWA site.

Figure 1: (1): The Project Home website. (2): Create a new p4w project. (3): Navigate to Project Online.

 

A new Project for the Web project is created by clicking on “New blank project” (#2 in the image above).

Adding a suitable title, some tasks, and a milestone to the Project for the Web (P4W) schedule will result in the following Gantt chart:

Figure 2: The Timeline view of our Project for the Web schedule.

 

Keep in mind that currently Project for the Web schedules are light weight, meaning that the tool doesn’t support complex scheduling practices such as splitting tasks or assigning different allocation hours for different resources on a single task. You have a say in what Microsoft develops next through UserVoice.

Complex schedules based on templates designed by your organization and containing meta data can be created through Project Online, however. There are also third party tools such as Power PPM that leverage the Common Data Service (CDS) data layer to allow for meta data capturing.

For the sake of our example, we will create four schedules in Project Online. We are guided to our default PWA environment by navigating to Project Home (www.project.microsoft.com) and clicking on Go to Project Online (#3 on figure 1).

From here, we have the option to create different types of Enterprise Projects, each containing its own schedule template, generic resources, and meta data.

Figure 3: In Project Online, you can start with a predefined project type called an EPT.

 

Let’s create one IT project, one RnD project, and two Construction projects totally the four referred to above.

Figure 4: Example project (don’t look directly at all the flaws, it’s an example).

 

Once we completed the creation of all the projects, we see them show up on our Project Home screen. We have the option of pinning one or all of the projects to our Favorites, if we like.

Figure 5: Recently created projects show up here.

 

Step 2: Creating a New Roadmap

From the Project Homepage, create a Roadmap from the dropdown option next to New blank project.

Figure 6: Creating a new Roadmap through the dropdown menu on Project Home.

 

Figure 7: First view of an empty Roadmap.

 

Instead of adding new rows right away, we will start by giving the Roadmap a name and assigning the owner.

Figure 8: (1) Click on the untitled Roadmap. (2) Give it a different name.

 

From here on, you will have Roadmap available from Project Home. You can also add this to your favorites if you like.

Figure 9: The program and individual projects each have their own icons indicating different types.

 

Step 3: Adding the Projects

From the ‘Program 1’ menu, we have the option to add Projects by clicking on Add Row.

Figure 10: Adding a new row to our Roadmap.

 

When clicking on Add row (#1 on Figure 10), we are presented a new side pane with a row name (#2), Owner (#3), and Connection option. If we do not change the “Untitled row,” but instead choose to connect to a project, the name of the row will take on the name of the actual project. If we choose a name for ourselves, we can give it any name that we find descriptive for the project.

Figure 11: Connect to a project sub menu, which contains both Project and Azure Boards options.

 

I can select Project to get both my Project for the Web and Project Online schedules.

Figure 12: Both Project for the Web and Project Online schedules show up.

 

On the next page, you will be informed about permissions that are required to connect the schedule. For Project for the Web, these settings will consist of Project and CDS.

Figure 13: The permissions page for the automations.

 

The last page in the connecting activities shows a selection option for “phases” and “Key dates.”

Figure 14: I selected the Summary and Milestone in this example.

 

Once these values are selected and we click on “Add,” the Roadmap will show our project as well as the PMO employee (Mirjam van Hurck), the selected “phase,” and the “Key date.”

Figure 15: Our first project is now visible on the Roadmap.

 

Please be aware that Roadmap is a tool that is designed to assist portfolio and program management activities. Therefore, you will not see the phrase “Task” or “Milestone” in this application. Tasks and milestones are project management terms, but a program manager is more interested in the high-level progress of projects within a program. That’s the reason why I haven’t included all tasks from the P4W schedule.

In Roadmap, we also have the option to include the whole schedule as one bar starting from the project start date and ending at the project finish date.

Let’s add the Project Online schedules, as well, and see what our Roadmap looks like afterward. Be aware that because we used a different source to bring the project in, a different permissions approval is required.

Figure 16: The permissions page for a Project Online schedule automation.

 

For Project Online Projects, there is another way to add a Project to Roadmap. Because this option is in PWA itself, it is ideal for a project manager that needs to report up to the program manager.

Figure 17: The option “Add to Roadmap” is located in the Task ribbon on a schedule in Project Online.

 

After adding all projects to the Roadmap and including the relevant Phases and Key dates, we are ready to begin analyzing the program.

Figure 18: A Roadmap containing the main focus areas for the program with Mirjam as main contact (Owner of progress).

 

Step 4: Adding Program Key Dates

Next, include program specific key dates. These are apart from the schedules and the focus areas that we already have in our Roadmap.

A Key Date can be added by clicking on “Add Key date” next to “Add row.” A little pop up screen opens and shows us three fields. A title, date, and status are all Roadmap needs to provide you with a new Key Date.

Figure 19: Adding a new Key Date.

 

The result of this action will be a little pin on top of the Roadmap, in the color that you set earlier as a status indicator.

Figure 20: The new Key Date.

 

These key dates don’t reflect on row (project) specific deliverables, but are designed to give you program deliverable indicators.

 

Step 5: Updating the Rows

Because Mirjam (the PMO) is assigned to each Roadmap row for the five projects she is managing, she will be editing the individual statuses. It is up to the organization to decide on this because a project manager can do this as well. Basically, everyone with access to the Roadmap can change the values, so decide on the protocol your organization will be following ahead of time.

The PMO doesn’t need to update start or finish dates, as they are managed using Power Automate (two deep dive articles about this here and here).

The only thing the PMO needs to do is update is the status of each row. This can be done using the menu that appears when clicking on an item.

Figure 21: Changing the status on the Roadmap item by clicking on that item.

 

Note: the “Open details” button doesn’t really provide much more options other than that of removing the item from the row.

Figure 22: The remove option at the bottom of the pop out menu.

 

After updating all items, the Roadmap becomes even easier to analyze.

Figure 23: The roadmap is now updated with the status on each individual item.

 

These status values don’t flow from Project or Project for the Web though, but this can be considered a good thing if you have a different definition of “at risk” than your project managers. Regardless, I would argue that it might be a good idea to clearly communicate on this.

 

Step 6 (Optional): Use Power BI or Create Flows to Analyze the Roadmap and Update Status Values

Because Roadmap is a collection of entities on CDS, we have the option to create Power BI reports for further analysis. Here is the download link to a Power BI template that you can use to analyze your Roadmaps. Credits for the PBIX files go to Paul Mather.

Figure 24: With some minor changes, the Roadmap Power BI report will look great on your quarterly review.

 

Paul Mather also provides an excellent blog post about creating flows that will update the Status values based on the data from Project Online. You can find the article here.

I hope you’ve found the above steps for setting up Roadmap helpful. I’d love to read your feedback in the comments below.

 

For more info on Project for the Web, join the new Project for the Web Group.

 

Erik van Hurck
Written by Erik van Hurck

Erik van Hurck is a Senior PPM consultant for Projectum, a western European Microsoft Partner with offices in Denmark and The Netherlands. On top of that Erik is a Microsoft MVP. As such, Erik assists enterprise customers to adopt the new Project Online cloud solution for Project and Portfolio Management. Erik has a personal blog (www.theprojectcornerblog.com) and is also a writer for the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG.com).

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2 Comments
  1. Hi Erik, interesting article, so I have a question, do you see a way to visualize the dependencies between projects via Roadmap or something else? Maybe a PowerBi report as also recommended above

    The figure 2 shows a project with dependencies, so I’m looking for something like that, with the bars and milestones and also adding dependencies (lines linking the projects)

    Thanks,

    Reply
  2. Erik van Hurck

    Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for your comment, glad you liked it.

    As of this moment the dependencies aren’t available in the reporting feed from Project Online or Roadmap (which doesn’t have dependencies).

    There’s only one visual to my knowledge that has the option to visually represent dependencies but there again it’s a different table that needs to manually be set up (not ideal in my opinion). I mention this visual and others in my video: https://youtu.be/oPvUCaA-yUI

    Reply

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