Microsoft Releases the New Microsoft Project for the Web
The new version of Project, is being called by some “Modern Project,” or as I’ll refer to it “P4W” or Project for the Web.” It’s an entirely new product that is being built from the ground up to work completely in the cloud (Office 365 and through any browser). Its focus is to help provide a bridge between O365 Planner and the current version of Microsoft Project / Project Online, sometimes called “Legacy Project.”
At some point in the distant future, this product may overtake and fully replace the current version of Project Desktop (Professional) and Project Online, but not any time soon.
This new, sleek, and easy to use version of Project isn’t as powerful as it’s predecessor— that’s the beauty of it! Many people struggle with the horsepower and vast capabilities that the current version of Project / Project Online has. This new version provides the best features, those that meet the needs of 80% of people today.
Let’s take a look at this new version.
Project Experience Reimagined
When you purchase Project or enable your licensing, you will go to your Project Home Page when selecting this from the web. At this time, you are presented with the choice to start a new project.
By default, this will launch Project for the Web with a clean, sleek, and new environment that works through your browser.
Notice that you can immediately start typing a Project Name, you have just a few columns (eleven as of right now to be exact), and you can leverage three types of views. The views are:
- Grid View:
- This is the view you see now. Just like a spreadsheet, you focus on the data and doing data entry.
- Board View:
- This view gives you the Kanban view or a card/post-it note type view, commonly seen in Agile Project Management, that allows you to quickly move, drag and drop work assignments, and organize the project activities based on groups, people, or customized columns (buckets).
- Timeline View:
- This view replaces what has been refered to in the past as the Gantt Chart view. It is more of a simplistic timeline that gives you an excellent visual window to work on project schedule relationships by dragging and moving the bars, tasks, deadlines, etc.
When adding resources, you don’t first build a resource pool. Instead, you draw from your contacts in exchange or Office 365. Behind the scenes, Project for the Web creates your security group (like we see in Teams and other Office 365 tools), and you can easily continue adding resources to tasks.
Project for the Web also notifies you and your resources that you have joined a group/project.
I like seeing this, as it also gives you options to view the group in Outlook and stay updated with any new task assignments. This will tie directly into MS To-Do (Outlook Tasks), keeping you abreast of any work assignments that you have, and even do it from your mobile devices.
Using the Grid View
The Grid view in Project for the Web functions as a spreadsheet layout view for you to quickly type, add, and modify information about your projects.
You can also easily add more columns to this view, define what elements you’d like to see, and/or remove what’s not essential.
Notice that the columns list (pre-defined) has different terms than the Legacy version of Project:
- Dependents (after) ~ is called Predecessor in Legacy Project.
- Depends on (before) ~ is called Successor in Legacy Project.
- Effort ~ is called work in Legacy Project.
These changes are pretty significant as barriers for people who are already working on or managing projects, but they’re expected to make life easier. Microsoft wants everyone to get in quickly and use this tool without the need for a deeper understanding of Earned Value or Process / Project Management lingo.
I’m especially excited about this for non-profit or NGO organizations who are very informal, as they won’t have to learn the lingo or understand the traditional parts of a business (like finance, marketing, etc.) to manage projects quickly.
You can quickly move columns by dragging them or going in between the columns to resize them.
Adding Tasks while in the grid view keeps you moving as you type, so you don’t have to move and grab a mouse. If you are already using your mouse, you can easily click add a new task at the bottom left.
As seen above, you can just as easily manage the hierarchy by outlining your new tasks. Just copy, paste, or remove them by clicking on the ellipsis.
At any time, you can also pull more people into your project without having to add them to a task manually.
This allows you to have others collaborate on your project without assigning them work. You can, at any time, add them to tasks, but you can quickly add and remove your team members, as well as provide access to your project with just a few clicks.
Using the Timeline (Formerly Gantt)
If you prefer using a more visual approach, Project for the Web gives you a Timeline View, which was called Gantt Chart in Legacy Project.
The timeline view allows you to easily edit and manage links or relationships between tasks, as well as copy and move work around. You can quickly zoom in or out, and you can see the range of duration for any task you hover over (the start and the finish dates are shown).
Add resource or mark tasks complete, and quickly have the timeline jump to anywhere a task’s schedule dates are (scroll to task).
If you want to see more detail, like effort, bucket information, and dependencies, simply click the ellipsis to view. You’ll see a pop up view of those items that were showing in the Grid view.
What you may or may not notice is that you can add Notes (Text, Hyperlinks, and additional details at the top of the details view). It’s definitely a similar experience that we have seen (and end-users love) from O365 Planner.
Using the Board View (Being Agile with Boards)
If you like the simplicity of using Kanban, White Boards with Sticky Notes, or using AzureDev Ops or Jira cards for quickly moving tasks, work, and assignments around, then look no further. Project for the Web delivers a Board view just for that.
You can group or change the view (just like you do in O365 Planner) to present the cards or tasks. Manage them dragging and dropping.
In this next example, you can see I’ve set up some sprints and also a “Done Done” bucket (because you never know if something is done until it’s done done… 😊)
Edit your dates, mark them complete by checking the little circle, and see the tasks moved to a completed section of your bucket.
What I’ve found rather endearing is when you click the circle to mark a task complete, if you have your sound on, it makes a little chime (called a sonic indicator). Every time you get a task complete, it’s like an angel gets its wings!
At some point, through the User Voice channel, I think we should lobby the Microsoft Project engineering team to create a score leader board for those who accomplish the most number of tasks (follow my Advisicon Power BI blog for more on this one).
Simplicity in Design
Project for the Web is designed for simplicity and ease of use. You don’t have to build a separate resource pool, setup complex security groups, or spend days learning how to configure enterprise templates and custom fields, views, and groupings.
You just turn it on, start working, and begin adding resources and assignments. No need to save, publish, check-in, or check-out. This allows for multiple people to be working at the same time (refered to as co-authoring), which is standard with Office 365 now and an expected feature for web-based technologies.
This re-designed Project experience is just what the end-user needs. Quick, efficient, simple, yet powerful enough to create dependencies and links, allowing work to move forward and backward in time as you progress your schedule.
Leveraging Office 365 Security Groups
There is much to be said around the topic of security, but I wanted to answer a few initial questions around how Project for the Web handles this apsect.
Project for the Web is using Office 365 Groups to handle its security. This is the same model that is now becoming standard in Office 365. It’s robust, easy to manage, and aligns with the rigorous security standards set forth by governments, agencies, and other security organizations.
What I also like is that if you are using both Project Online (Legacy Project) and Project for the Web (Modern Project), you can leverage tools like Roadmap (above), that come with project and actually have two different security models, but bring information together into a single view based on your permissions to see, share or show project information.
Integrate Project for the Web with Teams and Power BI
One of the key values of any software or technology is the ability to leverage Machine Learning and predictive analytics to improve performance. The best way for this is through reporting. Now, while you have many tools that can generate reports, Microsoft’s Power BI already has a report pack you can use for both Project/Project Online (Legacy Project) and now for the Modern Project experience with Project for the Web.
Here is an example of the native Power BI report pack available for you to connect and use in reading from both the current Project Online AND the new Project for the Web.
If you notice on the left-hand side, there are different tabs (these used to be on the bottom of the report window), so you have multiple types of reports as shown below, where it focuses on the Resource Assignments Report.
Microsoft’s goal was to continue supporting the use of their new platform CDS (Common Data Service) enabling Project teams and customers to continue to get and surface visibility to work, tasks, issues, risks, and other related items from Project schedules, regardless of what version you were using.
Microsoft is supporting multiple scenarios of Project since this out-of-the-box template is a starting place you can continue building and growing your information or fine-tuning this in the standard Office 365 tool set.
How to Get Started
What is fun about this is that Microsoft Project for the Web will continue to grow in capabilities and features over time. Feel free to reach out to me directly with questions, thoughts, or updates you’ve experienced with this new version of Project. I always love to help professionals find the right tool for the job!
Watch my on-demand webinar, They Finally Did It! Microsoft Releases a Brand-New Version of Microsoft Project. I cover and demonstrate the updates mentioned in this article and more. The webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle.