What features makes Project for the Web enterprise ready?

Please find highlights from Erik Van Hurck’s course – Project for the web: How It Works and What You Can Do With It – 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, or there may be addition to expand on concepts. You may watch the on-demand recording of this webinar at your convenience.

In the previous article with our key takeaways from Erik Van Hurck’s webinar, we discussed who Microsoft Project is for, and where it fits in the Microsoft range of tools. In this webinar, we discussed which key features make Microsoft Project for the web enterprise-ready, as decided in a survey hosted by Erik Van Hurck. In this article, we discuss the top 6 features in depth.

Baselines as an Enterprise-Ready Feature for Project for the web

Baselines refer to a snapshot of the project schedule that is captured at a particular moment in time. It is an essential tool for measuring project performance and making informed decisions regarding the progress of a project. In other words, a baseline is a reference point against which actual performance can be compared.

A spreadsheet-style table with a timeline and Gantt chart shows phases, tasks, milestones, duration, start and finish dates.  A baseline tracking Gantt chart with 50 days spans Monday, January 23rd, 2017 to Friday, March 31st, 2017. Phases  include Phase 1 (20 days) and Phase 2 (30 days). Tasks include Task 1 (3 weeks), Task 2 (1 week), Task 3 (2 weeks), Task 4 (1 week), and Task 5 (3 weeks). Milestones include Milestone 1 and Milestone 2.

In this recent webinar, project management expert Erik, and a group of attendees, discussed the topic of baselines in project management. Erik explained that in the current situation with Project for the web, there is no concept of a baseline. This means that the current schedule is merely what we see, and there is no trend analysis or original project scenario. Erik then posed a few questions and topics for debate, which could serve as a starting point for the discussion.

The attendees discussed the idea of having multiple baselines, similar to what was available in Microsoft Project, which has 11 baselines. The attendees questioned whether all 11 baselines were necessary, and what kind of scenarios require them. Additionally, they suggested the need for labeling each baseline. For example, instead of seeing the baseline, attendees preferred seeing the original schedule, second scope change, or any relevant name, making it easier to identify the baseline.

Joe, an attendee from the pharmaceutical industry, shared his experience with baselines, stating that they used snapshots instead of baselines. They created snapshots every time there was a governance-approved set of dates or timeline, which was compared with the previously approved governance snapshot. They called them snapshots instead of baselines, and there was a need to label them with the date and governance forum that approved it. Joe emphasized that having unlimited snapshots was crucial, as they frequently used them in the roadmaps to compare the previous and current roadmap.

Advanced Dependencies as an Enterprise-Ready Feature for Project for the web

In the current scenario of Project for the web, the only option for schedule links is a finish-to-start dependency within the current project. Advanced dependencies, on the other hand, provide a wider range of options. In Microsoft Project, there are several dependency types available, including start-to-start, finish-to-start, start-to-finish, and finish-to-finish. These options provide project managers with greater flexibility in creating and managing dependencies between tasks.

A screenshot of a timeline in Microsoft Project. The timeline shows a project schedule with tasks, durations, and dependencies. The tasks are arranged in a Gantt chart format, with bars representing the duration of each task. The screenshot also shows a calendar view, which allows users to see the start and end dates of each task.

In addition to the different dependency types, Microsoft Project for the web also includes the concept of a hammock task. Hammock task links to other project tasks and can be used to allocate a percentage of a team member’s time to a particular task. This feature is particularly useful for project managers who need to allocate a specific percentage of their team’s time to a task, but don’t want to assign them to individual tasks where they may overlap.

Another key feature of advanced dependencies is the ability to add lag. This means that project managers can set a delay between the end of one task and the start of the next. This is particularly useful for tasks that require some time to elapse before the next task can begin. For example, if a task involves painting a wall, there may be a lag time before hanging pictures on the wall to allow the paint to dry.

Furthermore, the ability to link between projects is another important feature of advanced dependencies. This feature allows project managers to link tasks between projects and ensure that the completion of one project is dependent on the completion of another. This is particularly useful for large-scale projects that are broken down into smaller, more manageable projects.

Resource Pool: Managing Active Directory Users for Project for the web

One of the main features of Project for the web is the ability to add resources to projects, but all resources must be Active Directory users. This requirement means that the resource pool is a vital part of managing Project for the web. In this article section, we’ll take a closer look at the concept of the resource pool and how it functions in Project for the web.

First, let’s define the resource pool. In Project Online, a group of resources can be of different resource types. Similarly, in Project for the web, the resource pool is a concept of having a group of resources that can be added to projects. It also includes ownership of resources in the form of the line manager.

The second topic most voted on as a “need to have” is what would be stored in such a resource pool. This information can include the company the resource is from, the standard rate for their services, and their availability.

However, it is important to note that in some cases, having all resources as Active Directory users may not be sufficient for complex projects that require shared resource pools. For instance, one individual who works in the automotive industry with multiple agencies explained that even if all the users were in a single active directory, it would still be unmanageable.

To address this issue, the user assigned a shared resource pool to Team A at Agency 1, creating generic names for resource pools across different organizations. They noted that it would be beneficial to have an online version of Project for this type of project management.

Importing Projects to Microsoft Project for the web

To import a project, users need to go to project.microsoft.com and click on the “new” button. The import project option will allow users to upload an MPP file, which is a Microsoft Project file. This feature serves as a bridge between the old and new worlds of project management, allowing users to incorporate their existing projects into the Project for the web application.

Despite the benefits of this feature, it comes with several limitations. For instance, there is no option to have a baseline, and there is nothing like the concept of a deadline in Project for the web. Additionally, apart from uploading a project to Project for the web, there is no option to download or synchronize to Microsoft Project again.

Users who prefer the functionalities of Microsoft Project Desktop can still import their MPP files into Project for the web. In the automotive industry, for example, subcontractors may send in Microsoft Project files, and users can include them in their projects.

One user, Ben, noted that he would like to use the import project feature to gradually migrate his projects to Project for the web, provided that the application retains all the functionalities. He plans to take the bucket from one end to the other and see if it works. He also mentioned that most of the companies he works with prefer Microsoft Project Desktop and do not understand why Project for the web has so few possibilities.

The “import project” feature in Project for the web is useful for incorporating existing projects into the cloud-based application. However, users need to consider the limitations of this feature, and whether it meets their project management needs.

Enterprise Custom Fields in Microsoft Project for the web

Microsoft Project for the web has gradually introduced custom fields to its users based on community feedback. The current implementation of custom fields is limited to a single project, although it is possible to create a local custom field and apply it to other projects using the copy project functionality. However, there is no concept of an enterprise custom field.

The introduction of enterprise custom fields raises several questions: who needs to create these custom fields, and what is the main driver for adding them? Is it for consistency, or legal purposes, or is it more about reporting? Do users want to have a specific field always present in all projects, or do they need to address it on a project-by-project basis?

Project for the web works at the schedule level, which means that there are no enterprise project-level custom fields. However, project departments can use enterprise custom fields for various purposes, such as tracking contract names, vendors or subcontractors, and project phases. They can also use custom fields for grouping and views within PWA (Project Web App), especially in project center and resource center, as well as in reporting as parameters. This allows users to see all current active portfolios for a department, project type, or contract.

Enterprise custom fields in Microsoft Project for the web offer a range of benefits, especially for large project teams that need to track and report on various attributes. Although the current implementation is limited to a single project, the ability to copy custom fields and use them across projects makes it easier for users to manage their projects efficiently.

Permissions-Based Access in Project Management Applications

In the world of project management, permissions-based access is a critical feature that allows team members to collaborate on projects securely. In a recent forum, a group of professionals discussed the various roles that should be granted permission-based access to a project management application.

Enterprise architects were identified as individuals who could create custom fields and manage access permissions. The group discussed which roles were required for permissions-based access, such as portfolio managers, administrators, line managers, resource managers, project managers, and team leads.

What do you think Microsoft Project for the web needs to be enterprise ready? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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 Power Platform cloud solutions for Project and Portfolio Management. Beyond writing for MPUG, Erik also has a personal blog (www.theprojectcornerblog.com).
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