Quick Links

Vendor Showcase Recap: Where There’s a Widget, There’s a Way: Unleashing the Power of Microsoft Project! – By Project Widgets

Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Ira Brown’s showcase session, Where There’s a Widget, There’s a Way: Unleashing the Power of Microsoft Project, being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.

Kyle: Hello, everyone and welcome to today’s MPUG Vendor Showcase session, Where There’s a Widget, There’s a Way: Unleashing the Power of Microsoft Project presented by Project Widgets. My name is Kyle and I’ll be the moderator today. And before we begin, I’d just like to remind everyone that today’s session is a Vendor Showcase presentation, which is a bit different than the typical MPUG training webinars. The presenter will discuss a third-party Microsoft Project add-on in a no-pressure, stress-free environment for you. These add-ons do typically require a product trial or purchase and are out-of-the-box functionality for Microsoft Project.

The session is eligible for one PMI, PDU in the technical category. The MPUG activity code for claiming this session is on the screen. Like all MPUG webinars, a recording will be posted at mpug.com shortly after the live presentation ends and all MPUG members can watch the recordings at any time and still be eligible to earn PDU credit.

All the sessions you watch on-demand could be submitted to your webinar history and the live sessions you attend are automatically submitted. And within your history, you can print or download your transcript and certificates of completion, including one for today’s event. You can access your training history by logging into mpug.com, click my account and then click on the webinar reports link.

If you have any questions during today’s presentation please send those over at any time using the chat question box on the GoToWebinar control panel. We do plan to answer those questions for you during the session today.

All right. We’ll go ahead and begin. Now, we’re very happy to welcome back Ira Brown today. Ira is the founder and president of Project Widgets. He’s a leader in the field of project management and is recognized as a Microsoft Project expert. Project Widgets is well known for offering add-on products from Microsoft Project and project online as well as for creating custom solutions that meet their clients unique business requirements. So welcome back, Ira and at this time I’ll go ahead and hand it over to you to introduce yourself a bit more and going to start today’s session.

Ira Brown: All right. Thank you very much, Kyle. I appreciate it. I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s MPUG vendor showcase session, Where There’s a Widget, There’s a Way: Unleashing the Power of Microsoft Project. And just to give you a little bit of quick information about Project Widgets, we are a Microsoft Project Gold partner and solution provider and have been at this now for well over 25 years delivering Microsoft Project products and services, contributed to a number of books on Microsoft Project and we work with companies in many different industries helping them implement Microsoft Project based systems that meet their requirements.

So one of the things that we specialize in at Project Widgets is to create custom solutions for our clients and we refer to those as our widgets. And really every one of our widgets has come out of a particular need or requirement that our clients had and then we’ve kind of turned that into one of our add-on products for Microsoft Project. So I’m hoping that you’ll see the value in a lot of the products that we’re going to show today and we’ll have opportunity to answer some questions a couple times during the session.

Also, I wanted to mention that at the end of the session, if you just send me an email, we’re going to be giving away three copies of our Driving Path Widget, which is one of our popular widgets for helping to figure out what the driving path is of a particular task within your project. So again stick around to the end and all you have to do is send me an email and we’ll enter you in that drawing and three people will get to get a copy of the Driving Path Widget.

So with that, let’s get right into it. So I’m going to be covering several of our widgets today and familiarizing you with them. We’re going to start off by taking a look at Knowledge Widgets and then working our way through many of these others as we get through the hour here.

Okay. So let’s talk about Knowledge Widgets first. So Knowledge Widgets is an add-on for Microsoft Project, works with both project online as well as project server, and it allows an organization to integrate their methodology into Microsoft Project and also within the project web app as well. So you can display a task’s methodology content just by clicking on the task and you’ll be able to see information such as best practices and procedures, step-by-step instructions, regulatory requirements, whatever information that you’d like to make available for your users related to a task, you’ll be able to do so easily with Knowledge Widgets.

It’s also integrated with SharePoint, so if there are standard documents and tools and templates and any kind of artifact that you’ve created in support of a task, we allow you to very easily map those artifacts to the tasks within a project so that when a user clicks on a task, they’ll see all of those files that are available in support of that task and they’ll be able to work with them. So I’ll show you how that all comes together.

So with that let’s take a demo of Knowledge Widgets. So I’m going to go into our project online environment here and as you can see, I’m in a project here called Application Development. And looks like your typical project. You can imagine somebody new to your company that opens this up for the first time and sees all these tasks and they’re wondering, “I wonder what the process is I should follow. Is there anything in particular I should know about these tasks?”

Well, notice that over in the left pane or rather the column here, you see these little light bulb indicators. Well, the light bulb indicators is a little visual cue to that person that there is Knowledge Widgets content available for this task. So let me actually go ahead and enable Knowledge Widgets so you can actually see how this all works. So notice when I enable Knowledge Widgets, we introduced this left pane inside of Microsoft Project.

So what happens is when a user clicks on a task, you can see all of the information, all of that additional content that you would like to make available for that user so they understand a little bit more about what they’re supposed to do for that task. Are there any step-by-step instructions they should follow? That sort of thing. And as I click on each task, notice that all that content changes that’s displayed in that pane.

So in addition to seeing a little write-up here and this will be your content. It’s whatever the methodology is that you’ve created for your projects, your templates in particular because you actually do this at the template level so that anytime you create a new project based upon that template, all of this content comes along with it. So not only do you see that content displayed here in the left pane, but at the bottom of the pane, this is where you’ll see any of the files that have been mapped to that task.

So in this case we have a couple of Word documents, and I have the ability then to view those documents as well as create a copy of the documents specific to my project and actually fill in a form or complete the information within a particular document and then it will automatically store that file that you’ve customized in your projects document library.

So for example, let’s say I click on this task here called risk management, right? Notice now we see information about risk management showing up in that left-hand pane. You can have some nice graphics there, kind of like this and you can even have a link that might say more information. So if there’s additional details that you’d like to make available beyond what can fit in that amount of real estate, just create a link at the bottom here and then just navigate the user to your company’s website for additional details about this particular task.

So notice at the bottom here, it says we’re showing the items for the current tasks that I have selected. So for this risk management task here, you see I have a risk template tool. It’s an Excel file. I have some sort of security template. So if I wanted to just take a look at that, any of these files, just click on the link and it’ll open up a read-only copy of it. But suppose I wanted to create a version of that document specific to my project, all I have to do is click that little ellipsis and say that, “Here we go. I want to go ahead and copy that particular file.”

And it brings up the copy dialog so I’ll just call this Security Plan MPUG. And then it’ll automatically store it in the root of the document library or I could actually browse if I have any folders in the document library. I can do that as well or create a new folder. In this case, I’ll just go ahead and click okay. It’ll then make a copy of that particular document and in this case it’s a Word document so it launches Word.

And now I can go ahead and I can fill it out specific to my clients. So maybe instead of customer name, I’ll call this MPUG, all right? And this is my demo project and I’ll go ahead and I’ll save it and close it. Okay. Now, when I go back to Microsoft Project, if I switch from templates here and instead of templates I say, “Show me my project documents,” then it’ll show me all the custom versions of those particular files that I’ve created for this particular projects. And notice there’s the MPUG one. So now that I’m looking at my project documents. All I have to do is just click that link and it knows that I want to open up that particular file read, write. Notice it takes me there.

There’s my demo project security plan MPUG, right? So now I can make further changes to this document, okay? So it kind of takes all of that methodology content that a lot of organizations create, but they end up sticking it in a binder somewhere that maybe nobody ever looks at. So this is a way of taking all that content, repurposing it and really just putting it at the fingertips of the users so that they’re more apt to use this information and get some value out of it. You could just get as sophisticated as you want with this or you can just keep it pretty basic, but it just makes it really easy to take all that information that you’d like to have available for a user and just embed it directly inside of Microsoft Project.

So one of the other features that we’ve recently added to Knowledge Widgets, this is great for the project managers who spend their time within Microsoft Project Professional, but what about the team members and the other people that are coming in through PWA? Well, we’ve thought about them as well and I just switched over to PWA and it doesn’t look all that different, but actually, we’re in our browser right now and we’re actually looking at this same project in the browser. And we have that same functionality.

As I click on a task, it refreshes that content and we now have that, really virtually the same functionality, same look and feel available from within PWA for anybody who is assigned as a team member for that project. They just click on the task. They see all that information appear in this Knowledge Widgets pane along with any of the documents or tools or templates that have been associated to that task. All right?

And by the way in addition to being able to see just what’s associated with the current task, you could also say, “Show me all those associated with the entire project and then it’s not dependent upon which tasks that you’re clicked on, okay?” So that’s basically the end user experience for Knowledge Widgets. This is what it will feel like to use this tool, but I guess you may be wondering how difficult is it to actually make this work and set this up for your organization.

So I’d like to give you a little bit of a feel for that right now. So let me go to, let’s see here, this this library right here. So you can notice we’re in a document library right now in SharePoint, and within that document library I’ve created three different folders just to help me organize my content. So when I go into for example project template documents, those are the documents that would appear in that bottom pane of Knowledge Widgets.

So here you can see all these different Word documents and I think I have like an Excel or two in here as well. It could be PDF files or whatever. So basically take any of the documents that you’d like to be able to associate to those tasks in your project and put them in this library right here, all right? You can always add more to it later on. So in addition to the documents like the template documents, we also have something called sample documents.

And the idea with a sample document is instead of it just being a blank file that someone has to fill out from scratch, you can give them a sample version of a particular document that shows here’s what it looks like filled out just to help make it a little bit easier for the user to use that document. And then the third folder here is this project guide folder. This is where we put the actual content files that the user sees.

Let me just go back to not this screen here. When they click on the task and they see this information right here in these little kind of these bite-sized chunks of information, each one of those is contained within one of these files right here. This is just basically a little HTML file that contains that content. So the easiest way to produce that is really just to go to Microsoft Word and enter the information in the Word document or potentially copy and paste it from somewhere else and then just save that as an HTML file right from within Microsoft Word and that’s how you can easily create these individual files.

And you’ll create one per task for a particular template. Not every task needs one, it’s just whichever ones that you want to have this kind of content. And again, you’ll think of it at the template level, okay? So now, as you can see, if we go back, we have three different sources of information. We have the project guide section which is what you see in the left-hand pane when the user clicks on the task like this information right here. We also have the sample documents and the template documents that the user will see in the bottom pane section here.

Here, notice it says templates, here it says sample documents, and here it says my project documents, right? So those are the three different types of documents you can have. Okay. So if you think about what have we talked about so far, you have all of your materials that will need to be available for use with the template. You’ll need the Microsoft Project template and then we need some way of tying that all together, some way of mapping that information. So let me show you how that works. I’m going to go back to Microsoft Project and I’m going to open up the template that this particular project was based upon, which is called application development.

Let’s go ahead and open up that template. I’m going to click this button here called manage methodology templates. Notice that I’m on the Knowledge Widgets ribbon tab here. And notice this says administration. So only people that have been designated as Knowledge Widgets administrators will have access to these buttons. So I’m going to go ahead and click that button. So it’s now going to read in all the information contained within the current template that we’re working on called application development. And let me just kind of take you through the process for how you go about using this dialog box.

This is essentially where we go to map the information that’s contained within that SharePoint library to the tasks within the template. So for example if I click on the task called risk management, this is where we see those HTML files that will display in the left-hand pane when a user clicks on a task. So for the risk management task, what would I like that user to see? So let me just scroll down here for a moment. I think one of them should have a check mark on it. There we go so.

So I want to show them the riskmanagement.htm file. That’s what we’ll render in that left pane when the user clicks on that task. In addition, I want to show them these particular files, the ones that are checked off so you can have multiple files checked off here that the user will see in that bottom pane. And then in addition, this is where they would get to select the sample documents that they’d like to be able to see. All right?

So you’re basically just going to go through the process of just clicking on a task, then checking off how you’d like to associate this content back to that task. And once you’ve gone ahead and done that, all you have to do is click the save button. At that point, it’ll say it’ll actually update the Knowledge Widgets database and it’ll say resave the template to save the Knowledge Widgets mappings, okay? And that’s all there is to it. I won’t actually do that right now, but that’s all that’s involved.

And then one of the other nice features is that, let’s say, you built a project based upon that template and all of the mappings show up the way you would expect, but then a couple months later, let’s say you decide to update the content in some way or add additional mapping information to the template. Well, any project that was created from that template will automatically inherit that information from the latest version of the template. So it keeps everything current regardless of when the project was created.

Okay. So that is how Knowledge Widgets works and kind of gives you a whole new way of putting that content that you’ve created to use so that users will actually hopefully benefit from it.

Okay, great. So let’s actually move on then to the next part of our presentation. And let me go back to PowerPoint just for a moment. And the next thing we’re going take a look at is an application we call our Project Initiation Widget. And the Project Initiation Widget provides a consistent and easy method for project managers to create new projects within your organization. The initiation which will leverage your existing templates or any additional templates you decide to create, it will enforce a standard project naming convention.

It will allow a user to enter metadata for a project and it will also allow the user to specify which activities are mandatory versus which are optional for the projects. Let me say that a little differently. An administrator for Knowledge Widgets when they’re setting up the templates, the administrator will decide which activities are mandatory and which are optional. And then when the user runs the initiation widget, it will follow those rules as I’ll show you.

In addition, you can also enter a quantity of an activity. So in other words, let’s say you build a template and within that template, there’s some tasks that involve training and you need to deliver that training for multiple locations. So you might go ahead and say, “You know what, we have three different training locations that we’re going to be delivering the training at so I will change the quantity for that activity to three.”

And what the initiation which you will do is when it builds the project, it will take that section of the plan and actually duplicate that section, the number of times you specify in that quantity field as I will show. You can create a single project or you can create an entire set of projects for a program all at one time. So if you’re building a program that’s going to be comprised of multiple projects perhaps from different departments within an organization, but it all ties back to a particular program, you can actually enter that program ID and then you can go ahead and build all those projects either all at the same time or you can do a couple now a couple later, anyway you want to do it, but it’s all related back to that one program.

And also, we have a feature that is I think really useful. It integrates the Project Initiation Widget with a product called MasterLink which is made by one of our partners called Matan. So MasterLink is a tool that allows you to create inter project dependencies between different projects. And you would do that normally in a manual fashion. You would say that this particular task is a predecessor to some tasks in another project.

Well, what we’ve done with our Project Initiation Widget is we’ve actually automated that process of creating inter-project links based upon configuration rules that we’ve set up so that when you create projects from within a program, it will automatically create those inter-project dependencies between the appropriate tasks and milestones. So it makes it even easier to use MasterLink.

So with that, I’d like to give you a demonstration. So let’s go back to Microsoft Project and I’m just going to go ahead now and close this project for now. We don’t really need this open for the moment. Okay. And before I run the initiation widget, I just would like to have you take a look at the template that we’re going to be basing the project on. So once again I’ll open up my application development template.

Okay. So one of the things that is important when you’re creating templates and in particular when we’re creating templates for use with the initiation widget is you want to have a really well thought out template and you want to try to build in as much governance kinds of rules within the template as you can. So what do I mean by that? Well, notice we’re in the template and does anybody remember what these little yellow lights mean?

Well, yeah. Just remember back from about 10 minutes ago that tells you that there’s Knowledge Widgets content associated with that template task, right? So that little yellow indicator means that when you build a new project based upon this template using the Project Initiation Widget, all that knowledge widget content comes along with it.

We also have this other column here which we call mandatory. Notice that certain tasks have this little purple dot that signifies that as a mandatory task. Well, what does that really mean then? Well, a lot of organizations that we work with come up with these business rules that say, “We don’t want you to ever delete or rename certain tasks in a project because they’re quite important. They’re used for reporting that rolls up to management reports, so please don’t ever delete or rename those tasks.

Well, inevitably, people may not always follow those rules. However, if you do something like this where you use our little mandatory function, notice what happens. If I click on that task and then if I hit my delete key, it says, “Sorry, this task to find team roles is a mandatory task and cannot be deleted. So we’re building that sort of logic directly within the template to literally prevent the user unless they’re an administrative user from deleting that task. Well, what if I go to a different mandatory task and I say define resources, I’m going to call that something different.

For MPUG, it’ll say, “Oh, sorry.” You can’t change the name of a mandatory task. So it enforces your business rules. They can’t delete it, they can’t rename it. So those are the kinds of things that we’d like to build into our templates just to make them even more useful and those will always then carry over to the individual projects.

Okay. So now that we’ve seen the template, let’s go ahead and close that and let’s go ahead and launch the Project Initiation Widget. So we’ll collect that button right there. And the initiation which it comes up and it says, “Select your project code.” So this would be some sort of project ID or project number or potentially some kind of program ID. So I’m just going to create a brand new one here. I’m going to call this my MPUG project code.

So we’re doing the MPEG program right now and I’ll press enter. And then it then brings up the different types of projects that I can create. So in my particular case, based upon which department I am in, I have these two particular templates available for me to use. However, let’s say you work in a company where you made… Maybe you’re in a pharmaceutical company and you have all these different departments or functional areas and they all are producing their own kinds of projects. Well, when a user from that particular department launches the initiation widget, they will only see those templates that have been designated for use with that particular department, okay?

So in my case these are the two that I see and by the way I’ll just give you a quick peek over here. It’s all configuration driven. We have a PIW project types SharePoint list where you can basically put in the information about your templates and some of the other rules like the departments and things like that or whether they’re active or not, and then when you run the initiation widget it just pulls in that configuration right from that SharePoint list.

So I’m just going to go ahead for now and create this one template. I’ll click on application development. Notice that it’s starting to form what the project name is based upon some of the selections that I’ve made. I can put in the project start date. I can pick who the project manager is. I’ll make Ken Jamison, give a shout-out to Ken, make him the project manager. And now what I want to do is, now that I’ve told it a little bit about what’s going on with this project, I’m going to say select project tasks.

It’s now going to go out and read the template and dynamically create the information that you see here within the initiation widget. Notice that it just added all of these tabs to the initiation widget. So for example in addition to project information, I now have project kick-off, envisioning, planning, developing, stabilizing post project review. Okay? So for example if I go to project kick-off, notice that I’m seeing all of the tasks here that are within the template, but notice that some of them I can’t uncheck. They’re grayed out. Because those have been defined as required tasks, and notice that it says that I’ll have one of these tasks and it’s required, I can’t uncheck it.

But notice that some of them, I am able to check or uncheck. So if I it unchecked that says essentially that means it’s an optional task, and I can decide whether or not that is required for my project. And if it is, I’ll just go ahead and check it off. Now, in this particular case notice that once I check it off in that quantity box there, I can specify the number of those tasks that I need. So let’s say I need to be able to perform that task three times because I’m going to be delivering that task to maybe three different groups. I can put in that quantity right there.

Then I’ll go ahead and check that one. Same thing. I can specify the quantity here as well. All right? I’ll check off that one. This one although it’s optional, it only will allow me to put in a one here. So you’re only going to be performing that activity one time whereas the others, you can specify the quantity. So this really replaces the need to have to teach users how to copy and paste sections and delete out things and what’s required and what’s not required. You build that configuration right into the template and then it makes it really easy for a user to be able to go through and just check off the things that include or needed for their particular project.

So once they’ve gone ahead and made the appropriate selections, at that point all we have to do is click create project. And the Project Initiation Widget will now build the project based upon the template that I selected and based upon all those options I selected in terms of which tasks I checked. It will make sure those get included. The tasks that were unchecked will be removed. Any of the ones that had a particular quantity specified, it will duplicate those sections the number of times that I’ve specified.

So it’s now saving this project and its naming it according to the project naming convention, and once it’s finished saving it, it will then publish the project. And once the project is finished publishing, if there were any MasterLinks that had been defined for this project related to other projects, it would automatically build those inter-project dependencies, okay? So it has to wait for it to be published before it can do that last step. And then once it’s published, it will build those MasterLinks.

So it’s just about done here. We just have to wait until… There you go, publish complete. Checking it in. The project has been created successfully. And that’s all there is to it. That’s all there is to using the Project Initiation Widget. And by the way, I’ll just give you a real one quick peek at the template one more time. I just want to show you one more thing. If we go to this view here in the template that we’ve created called the Project Widgets Enterprise Administration, this is where you can specify using this field called Project Initiation Widget Info. This is where you can specify as an administrator whether a particular activity is mandatory or optional and whether or not you’re only going to have one of those activities in which case we call that mandatory single or whether you allow multiple and we’ll use the text allow multiple.

So these are your different options that you can set for the tasks within your template. And then when you build a new project based upon a template, that’s how it knows what choices to give to the end-user. Okay? One last thing I’ll just say is that in addition to the Project Initiation Widget, we also have a companion widget which we call the insert activity widget and it’s kind of the same idea except the initiation widget is used to create a brand new project whereas the insert activity widget is used to insert standard content into an existing project. So as the scope of the project changes and new activities are required, you can just insert them using the insert activity widget and it will still do that directly from the template.

Okay. So let’s take a look at the project that we just created from the Project Initiation Widget. There it is right here. Let’s go ahead and open that up. And there it is. So notice that you can see we have three of those activities. Remember I said we needed to have a quantity of three so you can see that it respected those rules that I set up. So we’re all set in terms of our schedule. But one of the things that’s important beyond the schedule is there’s often a lot of additional information that needs to be captured about a project beyond just the schedule itself.

And to tell you a little bit more about that, I’m going to tell you about another widget that we have which we refer to our as our Project Details Portal. The Project Details Portal is a tool that provides a modern intuitive interface for capturing project information in a centralized location and it’s all these different categories of data here like the metadata for your project, key contacts, assumptions, issues, risks, et cetera. And every project that you create in the system utilizing the Project Initiation Widget gets its own Project Details Portal automatically.

So let’s take a look and see what that looks like. And one other point to make it is configuration driven as well. I’ll tell you more about that in just a second. So let’s go back to Microsoft Project. This is the project that we just created and I’m going to go ahead and click this button here called Project Details Portal. So I have that right in the ribbon. So you can get to it from Project Professional. You can also get to it directly from within PWA.

Okay. So the idea here is that this becomes this portal where you can capture all of this other supplemental information related to your project beyond the schedule itself. So here you can see we have this project metadata tab and as we scroll down we can capture things like a project number. What are your project objectives? Notice that it’s it supports rich text. Who’s the project manager? Who’s the project sponsor? What’s the name of your customer?

So those are the kinds of fields that we can click. And as I mentioned a moment ago, this is configurable. So when we implement this for our clients, we’ll have a working session with them where they’ll tell us here’s the fields that we’d like to be able to capture related to this project. Notice when we go to key contacts, here you can see various departments here. We want to put in who the key contact person is from that particular department.

Assumptions. So when you’re building a schedule, there are assumptions that go along with that like maybe tell me about the complexity of the project, is it high, medium, or low? Put in a comment about that. How many different sites will you be working with? How many users will you be working with? What is the duration of your project? What is the cost of your project? How many different locations, okay? This is where we would capture any of the assumptions related to your project.

At your company, you may say, “Well, you know what, these are all important assumptions but for the types of projects that we work on, we want to capture other kinds of assumptions. Well, again, this is completely configurable. We would basically just capture your requirements and then we would update our configuration and the next time that you run the Project Details Portal you will see whatever the tabs are here that are important for your organization and then when you click on a tab, you will see the fields that are important for your organization.

We also can use this to capture risks and issues all in one place, okay? So with that, I just like to pause for a moment and see if there’s any questions that anyone has. Kyle, do we have any questions from anyone at this time?

Kyle: Yeah, we do have some questions. And just to remind everyone, you can chat those over to us and we will answer them during the session here live. So the first question, I believe this is going back to the initiation widget. And he was just curious. He says, “What is a good level for the user to use this widget?” So I’m not sure if he means like project experience level.

Ira Brown: Yeah. So I mean when whenever an organization is serious about their project management and they typically form a project management organization, a PMO and they may only even have one person running that PMO or sometimes this very small number of people, but it does show that they’ve taken project management seriously and they’re the kind of organization that will start to build templates for projects. So they’ll think about what are the different types of projects we work on within our organization and why don’t we build a temple. Let’s get the subject matter experts together and let’s pick their brains and let’s all agree upon what a template might look like for that type of project.

And while we’re at it, let’s come up with some meaningful task descriptions so any anybody who’s working with that template will understand the important information they want to be able to have available for that task. And maybe while we’re at it, there are certain forms or documents that are important. So let’s gather up all that content. Right? Let’s build our template with the experts in the company and let’s gather up the artifacts and the information.

And once you have those things, then the initiation widget will work great because now the initiation which will leverage that template and all and new projects will be based upon that template or depending on the type of project that’s initiated, you can have many different templates that you select from. One other thing I’ll say about the template is that a lot of organizations will create many different versions of a template and oftentimes they only differ by a small amount. But they feel like they need multiple versions of a template and then whenever anything changes, they often have to go then update many templates.

Well, one of the things that you can do with the initiation widget is you could have a single master template for a type of project instead of having multiples and then by using the feature where you can select or deselect the tasks to be included or the quantities of tasks to be included, that often eliminates the need to have multiple templates that are essentially quite similar.

Kyle: Okay, great. Thanks, Ira.

Ira Brown: Sure.

Kyle: Next, two that are somewhat similar. What version of project are you currently using and what versions of projects are the widgets compatible with?

Ira Brown: Yeah. So great question. So we originally built many of these widgets when Project Server was out there and then when Project Online came along, we came up with Project Online versions of our widgets. So basically the answer to the question, these widgets that I’m demonstrating today will work with project online and typically organizations try to stay pretty current with that, but as long as you’re using a version of Project Online that’s within the last couple of years, you should be fine. And in terms of project server, I mean, we have some companies that are still using project server 2013. Most of my grade it’s either 2016 or 2019 and all the widgets will be compatible with those versions as well.

Because these are enterprise applications, they do require either Project Online or Project Server. They don’t work with just standalone Microsoft Project. We do have a couple widgets that will work with standalone project like our Driving Path Widget which we’ll be giving away a few copies of at the end of the session. But everything, also I’ll be demonstrating today does require Project Online and Project Server. Or I should say or Project Server.

Kyle: Okay.

Ira Brown: All right. Great, how about if we move on. We’ll, take some more questions at the end as well.

Kyle: Perfect.

Ira Brown: All right. So let’s continue then with our next widget that we’re going to take a look at and the next widget is called SnapIt! And SnapIt! is an application that allows an organization to create snapshots of their projects, basically capturing key information for a project such as for tasks and milestones, start date, finish dates, durations. And in addition to capturing the information from the schedule, it also captures the data that’s entered into the Project Details Portal application that we looked at a moment ago.

So the snapshot has all of that information. Basically, it’s a way of capturing what your schedule look like as well as what all that supporting information look like such as your assumptions and your metadata and your issues and risk. When you take a snapshot, all of that is captured. So it’s conceptually similar to a baseline in Microsoft Project. Some of the differences between a snapshot and capturing a baseline is that a baseline is you get 10 base lines basically plus the original baseline where you have virtually unlimited snapshots.

Also, the snapshots are generally taken in a more centralized fashion. So for example the head of a PMO might go in and say I want to take a snapshot of what our entire portfolio looks like at a particular point in time. So one of the ways that we see organizations using this feature is they have these monthly snapshots that they take. So at the end of the month, the head of the PMO goes in and says, “We’re snapping the whole portfolio and all the project managers know that all of their projects need to be up to date before they take that snapshot. Because the data that’s captured within the snapshot is what we’re going to be basing all of our reports on that are going to be sent around the organization including senior management, so they know to keep their projects up to date.

And one of the things that SnapIt! will do is it will make it easy to compare one snapshot to another, one reporting period to another so you can see exactly what has changed so that nothing slips through the cracks. And one of the other features that we have with SnapIt! is that it is integrated with OnePager Professional which is an add-on product that many companies use made by one of our business partners, Chronicle Graphics and it allows us to create presentation quality reports from the data.

So with that, I’d like to show you a little demo of SnapIt! Okay. So let’s go back to Microsoft Project. Here we go. And I’m going to go ahead and notice that we have this SnapIt! tab here. And this is where I can go when I can say I want to create a project snapshot. And you can control who has the ability to actually do these. You can control that through security. So I’m going to say let’s create a project snapshot. And what that’s going to do is it brings up the dialog box and it says go ahead and select the project.

So here’s where you can say, I want to take a snapshot of… I’ll just pick my MPUG project that we just created and then it says what type of snapshot will you be creating. So an organization can define different types of snapshot. So in this case I have one called Current Approved and one called Original Approved. So the idea would be maybe the Original Approved is what the project looked like at the very beginning when management first approved everything about your schedule.

But as things change down the road, and you need to reflect that change within your schedule and have a new set of assumptions, you might then take a snapshot later on, which is a current approved snapshot. So you can take as many different snapshots throughout the life of a project and you can basically see what has changed over the life of the project. This is how we go about taking a snapshot as simple as that. We also have the ability to create portfolio snapshots.

So here you can see now I can select multiple projects and I can say let’s create a snapshot. Of all those projects, this will be a portfolio snapshot and click okay, and then it will take that snapshot of all the projects that I’ve selected across the portfolio. Okay?

Now, once I’ve taken that snapshot, there are many different reports that can be created. I’d like to just go back to PowerPoint for a moment and let you see some examples of some reports that can be created right from within SnapIt! This is one we call the dynamic Gantt. So here you can see we’re looking at all the key milestones for the project displaying at the top of the report and you can specify as part of your configuration what do you want those milestones to look like, what shape, what color, what text might you want to include. You can put an abbreviated name in if you want.

And then here you see all of the key activities or phases of the project and that’s all nicely displayed within a single one-page kind of report, and this data comes from a snapshot. We also have a version of this report that is the variance version where you can see each milestone and each activity has a top bar and a bottom bar. And that’s where you can see the current versus the previous dates associated with these tasks and milestones where you’re comparing two different snapshots or perhaps you’re comparing the current version of the project to some previous snapshot like what it looked, when it was initially approved.

Basically, the idea behind this is that you capture that snapshot data, you come up with these really nice-looking report templates and then we make it super easy just to click a button and produce that report instead of having to have the users go to PowerPoint and try to make something that looks pretty to give to senior management. Let’s build it right from the trusted data source and generate the nice graphical reports right from there.

This is what we call our Key Events report. Again, we’re looking this time across multiple projects. So you can see project A all the way through project H and now we’re looking at the key milestones across multiple projects that were captured as part of a snapshot. And then we have a variance version of that as well where you can see the top row represents the current dates and the bottom row represents the dates that were in the snapshot. Okay?

Finally, we have one that’s called the SnapIt! Change Report. The only thing that goes in this report would be those tasks that have changed when you’re comparing one snapshot to another, and it makes it really easy to see exactly what’s changed and you can even put in the reason for a change as well as the impact of that change, okay?

So that just gives you an idea of what SnapIt! is all about and the really nice part of that is because we’re capturing all of that snapshot data in a database then we can design any kind of report that you like using SQL Server reporting services or using Power BI to to generate any kind of report that looks at that snapshot data. So it’s all available for your use, okay?

So with that, I’d like to just take a minute or two and tell you about the Outlook Integration Widget. And the Outlook Integration Widget just like it sounds, it allows you to integrate Microsoft Outlook with Microsoft Project. The idea here is that let’s say you’re an organization that’s using project and everyone’s doing a really good job of managing their projects and there are frequently certain tasks or certain milestones that are contained within a project that you would like to have visibility beyond just you know the people that are working on the project. You’d like to have people within the organization be able to know when an important event is taking place, when are you going live with an application, when are you going to be conducting training, that sort of thing.

So it makes it really easy to select certain tasks within your project and then have those automatically show up in designated users Outlook Calendars. So if you have an activity that spans a day or multiple days, it’ll just show up at the top of Outlook and it’ll be displayed as free time. So it will not appear like it like the user is busy. The project manager can flag which tasks should be included in Microsoft Outlook and there’s no acceptance required unlike when you invite somebody to a meeting, they don’t have to accept that, it just automatically shows up in their calendar.

So what I’m going to do is just real quickly I’m going to go to my own Outlook Calendar here, and you can see I have a couple of examples in my calendar. I had this key event training and this key event production release. Each one of those came from a task within a project. And we can specify through configuration at the exact text that a user will see as well as what the color it is they will see. And then if the dates change in my project, the next time I publish the project that automatically keeps everyone’s Outlook Calendar who’s been designated to see these events, it’ll keep those dates in sync with their Outlook Calendar.

One other feature we have is we also allow you to create a project specific calendar that will show up in Outlook so that anybody that you give access that you share that calendar with then they’ll just automatically see all of the activities within the project that have been designated for use with the Outlook Integration Widget.

Okay. Man, I can’t believe how quickly this hour is going by. We have one more widget I’d like to take you through and then we’ll wrap up today’s session, and that is called the Scenario Builder Widget. And now more than ever, the use of what-if scenarios is really, really important as I’m sure all of you are experiencing projects are changing all the time and we have to come up with these different versions of plans to share with management to decide how we want to go about modifying our work and changing our schedules.

So the Scenario Builder Widget supports that, and it allows you to create one or more what-if scenario versions of a project. And once again, we are integrated with OnePager Pro and we can create a change report that will allow you to compare the active project to one or more scenarios. Let’s say you create three different scenarios and management decides they’d like to move forward with one of those scenarios, then you can actually promote that scenario to become the active project.

So with that, I’d like to just give you a bit of a demo and let me move as quickly as I can here. Let’s see here. I’m going to go real quick. I’m going to create a brand new project and I’m going to call this first task here, Task A and then I’m going to put in Milestone X, and then Task B and Milestone Y and then Task C and Milestone Z. I’m sure you saw where I was going there. Let’s make task a six-months and of course Milestone X zero days. Let’s make Task B four months, Milestone Y zero days. Task C, let’s make that two months and let’s make Milestone C zero days. Let’s link those tasks together all right and let’s go ahead and save this.

So this will be a new project I’m going to be creating. I’m just going to call this my MPUG Scenario Builder Widget Project and then we’re going to hit, go ahead and click save. And then once this is saved, I will go ahead and publish this.

Okay. So this will be the project that we’ll use for demoing the Scenario Builder Widget, okay? So we’ll just have to wait for this to publish. It should only take a couple of seconds. I see a lot of people are visiting our website right now. That’s good to see. Okay. So I’m going to go ahead and close this project. I should be just about done publishing it. And I’ll just go ahead and close it. And now what I’m going to do is I’m going to bring up the Scenario Builder Widget and here is.

So we click the button in the ribbon and I’m going to say, “I want to create a scenario version of my MPUG SBW, Scenario Builder Widget Project. I’m going to call it Scenario 1. I can put in a description if I want. In the interest of time, I’ll just go ahead and tell it to build the scenario and the scenario has been created successfully. And now that I’ve created the scenario, I am going to now… Think of the scenario as a complete copy of the project. So I’m not in any way changing the original project.

Well, what kinds of things might I want to be able to do with a scenario? Well, I might want to change some durations. This particular task I think is going to take a little bit longer. So I’m going to make it seven months. But we’re going to try to get this done in two months instead of four months, all right?

Test C and Milestone Z, I’m going to delete completely and I’m going to put in a new task. I’m going to call this task how about Task D and let’s put in a new milestone, Milestone Q, okay? Whoops, sorry. Zero days. And we’ll make this task here. Let’s just maybe make Test D, two months. All right? So we’re essentially modeling our what-if scenario. And I’ll just go ahead and I’ll link those up like that. I will publish the scenario. And by the way, I can make multiple scenarios. I can copy scenarios, okay?

So for now, let me just go ahead and… So you see, I’ve changed some durations, I’ve added a task, I’ve deleted a task, I’ve added a milestone, I deleted a milestone. So those are the kinds of things that you might do in a scenario, right? And now I’m publishing this scenario version of the project. Okay. So let me just go ahead and close this. I imagine it’s probably just about done. And now that I’ve created the scenario version of the project, let’s bring the Scenario Builder Widget back up and notice we have a variety of reports, but I want to show you the one that’s integrated with OnePager Pro.

I’m going to say, let’s go ahead and let’s compare Scenario 1 which is the scenario that I just created to the active version of the project and let’s run our change report. And we’ll click okay. It’s now going to analyze the two projects, figure out what’s different and then build that scenario change report. So let me just enlarge this a bit and show you what’s in here. Notice that you have two swim lanes. This is your active project up top. This is your scenario project below it.

Any of the bars that are in red mean that that activity is taking longer or I should say finishing later. Here, you can see a red milestone. So Milestone X is finishing later, but then all of a sudden we managed to make up some extra ground. So Task B is green because it’s finishing earlier and then you can also see that Milestone Y is green. Here you can see tasks that were either like this. Remember I added Task D and I deleted Task C, and I added and deleted certain milestones. So it kind of does that comparison for you automatically and produces this nice report that you can then share with your management team to be able to explain the differences between your scenarios versus the active version of your project.

Believe it or not, I managed to get through everything I wanted to show you. So let me just wrap this up here by thanking you and I want to remind you that we will be giving away three free copies of our Driving Path Widget. You just have to send me an email at ira.brown@projectwidgets.com. And just say I’d like to be entered into the drawing for the Driving Path Widget. If you like the widgets that you’ve seen today and you’d like any more information or you’d like me to give a demo to other people within your company similar to what I’ve shown today, I’m happy to do all those things. So please I’d love to hear from you and I’d like to thank you for attending today’s session. I’m going to turn it back over to Kyle.

Kyle: Thanks, Ira. That was the perfect timing. It took us up to the end here. And just a heads up for those of you watching live, there’s a screenshot button at the top of the viewer window. So you can just take a screenshot of Ira’s contact info here. It’ll save it right to your desktop. All right. So thank you, Ira for the showcase session that was great and especially for the offer to the attendees as well. We really appreciate that.

For those of you that are claiming the PDU for the session, I’ll get the code back on the screen for you now. All right. And today’s session is eligible for one PDU in the technical category. And if you missed any of the session, would like to go back and review or share the session, recording will be posted at mpug.com later today. You’ll receive an email in just a couple hours with a link to the recording.

MPUG members have full access to our PDU eligible library of on-demand training webinars. And today was the first of the Vendor Showcase series and we have three more sessions coming up throughout July. Next week, Critical Tools will join us to cover WBS Schedule Pro. The following week, Barbecana will cover Making Light Work of Scheduled Risk Analysis. And Triskell will be here on July 29th to cover their Software for Enterprise Governance. So all three of those sessions are open for registration now and I just chatted over the link to you to sign up for those sessions.

That does it for today. So once again, I’d like to thank you, Ira for sharing Project Widgets with the community. We really appreciate it. Also, to everyone that joined us live or is watching on-demand, we thank you as well. We hope you have a great rest of your day. We’ll see you back next week. Thanks.


Watch the on-demand recording


Avatar photo
Written by Ira Brown

Ira Brown is a leader in the field of project management and a recognized Microsoft Project expert, Project Widgets is well-known for offering add-on products for Microsoft Project and Project Online, as well as for creating custom solutions that meet their client’s unique business requirements.  This company continues to extend the scope and breadth of their offerings, thereby increasing the value they provide to customers, by creating Microsoft Project solutions that are tailored to an organization’s unique needs.  They even have several free, downloadable widgets available on their website that you can begin using right away.

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>