Thursday, December 8, 2016

Project, Planner, Action list: tools versus granularity, what to choose?

Haven't you already faced some concerns from your customer such as: I have Planner, Project and also an action list in my project site... Which one is intended to track what?? 


Indeed this is a good concern. Without a clear guidance, what is at the beginning a relevant cohabitation of complementary tools can become a huge mess of redundant applications which leads to maintain a large amount of irrelevant data and thus loose sponsors and users adhesion. Garbage in, garbage out!

Which makes me talk in introduction about granularity and schedule type. The granularity is a key factor of success regarding the project weekly updates. Indeed, if the granularity is too much detailed, the project plan will be tedious to update on a regular basis and team members will have a long list of activities to update in their weekly timesheet. On the other hand, the granularity should be detailed enough to allow the project manager tracking with the appropriate visibility his project plan. Here is a recommendation (I say "a" because this is only based on my own experience). So granularity should be what helps you choosing a tool for each need.

  1. I do recommend to update a project plan in Project Online with an average of 200 tasks on a weekly basis (steering plan). It is handled by the project or program manager and should stay at activity level such as “specifications” or “chemical testing”. Activities should be between 5 and 20 days (duration), which will also make lighter and clearer timesheets for team members. This steering project plan is mandatory and dynamic.
  2. The project manager might need to establish at the project start (during the planning phase) a very detailed project plan in order to have a clear vision of the effort and task sequencing and milestones. In order to achieve this purpose, a definition plan might be created at this time, which might contain a lot of very detailed tasks. This plan is a “one-shot” standalone plan, not meant to be updated once the execution starts. Consequently, it should not be managed in Project Online but locally by the project manager (MS Project) and will be the starting point for the steering plan.
  3. Finally, as the steering plan might be too high level to track daily work, a task management application might be required. The task management should not be held by the project manager but by a work-package leader such as the engineering lead. It consists in a backlog tool to track team tasks which cannot be managed at project level. Many tools already exist and can be used for this purpose. Nevertheless, I do recommend Microsoft Planner, a task management solution part of the Office 365 ecosystem, in order to keep a consistency in your IT ecosystem (and also because we might one day have a connection between Planner and Project).

Another 4th item could have been added: actions or to-do's to track at project level such as "calling the provider to confirm the delivery date" or "booking a room for the executive committee". Those actions are not tracked in terms of duration or effort, but just simple tasks which must not be forgotten, thus recorded somehow. The project site action list should be the place for that.


Here is how it could be designed:

I do understand that it might seem tedious, but as soon as the guidance is clear as well as the responsiblities and accountabilities, everybody will understand and follow the best practices and all information will be tracked at the right level in the right tool.


In term of tools, we could summarize with the following recommandations:

  • MS Project should be used to build a detailed project schedule in the initial planning phase. This plan is a "one-shot" exercise and will not live during the project execution,
  • Project Online should be used by project manager to track project high level activities between 1 and 4 weeks, on a weekly basis,
  • Planner should be used by technical leaders to break down those activities into smaller technical tasks to be updated on a daily basis,
  • Action list on the project site should be used by the project manager to record and follow project actions assigned to members, which are not technical but rather related to the project management area.

Once more, there is not a unique model and it does depend on a lot of parameters: culture, maturity, business, IT ecosystem, etc. For example, a technical project manager might hold efficiently a detailed project plan without requiring the usage of a backlog. What do you think? I'd love to share your thoughts on this.



Share this article :

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Heads up about Project certifications

Hi dear Project experts,

You recognize those logos? Have them, want them?
We are all convinced that having Project certifications is definitely a plus in order to be recognized as Project experts and are required to be Microsoft certified as a company. Moreover, it assures to our customers that we know what we are doing. Off the record, this is not always the case and not all certified professionals are Project expert, but this is another subject...

Anyway, I'm here today to give you a quick heads up on the new certification plan for Project. We had a good summary by Yuval Stern on the Yammer group, but since not all of you might have the information, here is what you need to know about the new plan.

  • Exam 74-343 "Managing Programs and Projects with Project Server 2013" will be retired and replaced by Exam 70-348 "Managing Projects and Portfolios with Microsoft PPM". The beta version is accessible here.
  • Exam 70-331 "Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013" will be retired and replaced by Exam 70-339 "Managing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016". This one is a tuff one.
  • Please note that Exam 74-343 "Managing Projects with Microsoft Project" retains the same exam code and has been refreshed for better alignment with the latest Project client version. Good news if you already have it, it is still applicable!
Another good news? You can follow 2 free trainings on MS Project and Project Online through EDX, the Microsoft training partner. 



I've not been following the training but I had the feedback that they are pretty complete and well organized.

Get certified! 

Share this article :

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Work on summary task different from the sum of sub-tasks work! What is happening??

Hi,
Back to the basics, I'll talk today about a support case I got today in MS Project. Always good to go back to scheduling challenges.
The issue? When running odata reports in Excel, a customer tells me that the work on the summary task is greater than the sum of the sub-tasks work.

Something like this:


2 tasks with 4 and 2 days of work, the work on the summary task should be 6 days and not 12 right? Here were my first thoughts that I submitted to my customer :

  • a filter might have been applied so some of the sub-tasks might not be visible. NO!
  • the tasks might not be sorted along the ID, so some sub-tasks might be located at another place in the WBS. NO!
  • the summary task might be manually scheduled. NO! (anyway this wouldn't have helped since even if it was the case, the sum should have been correct).

Any idea? Guess what, I've been telling for 10 years to my customers NOT TO ASSIGN RESOURCES ON SUMMARY TASKS, but I just didn't think about it! What puts me on the wrong way was the screenshot I received from the customer, similar to the one above: no resource is displayed near the summary task bar. Unfortunately, I didn't remember that the summary task bar style does not display any information around the bar.

So here is what happened:




Without any resource on the summary task, you get 6 days of work. If you add a resource on the summary task with the default unit (100%), on a 6-days duration task, you'll get 6 days of additional work, which makes 12 days in total.

Here is how 2 + 4 = 12 !

So keep that in mind, this is really a worst practice! Not convinced? I could give you several examples. Quite often, the use case about assigning resources of summary task is when you don't want to assign the same resource on 10 tasks, you think this is simpler to directly assign it on the summary task. Here is a simple reason why you should not: it can create ghost over or under allocations

Here is a use case with a resource assigned on 2 task with a positive lag. You can see that I have a duration of 8 days, but 6 days only of work since I have a 2-days lag.



If I assign the resource on the summary task which has no lag, the work is calculated based on the summary task duration (8 days). I thus have 8 days of work, which is not what I want.



Similarly, if I put a negative lag, meaning that the task cannot start earlier than 2 days before the predecessor is finished, I get a 4-days duration but 6-days work since 2 days are in parallel. Moreover, I have an over allocation since resource A is assigned on both task the 2 first days.



If you assign resource A on the summary task which is 4-days duration, you get 4 days of work instead of 6 and no over allocation.



Hope you are now convinced that there takes a lot of verifications when assigning resources of summary tasks. You might anyway need or want to do it (even if I do recommend not to do it), but be aware of the traps and consequences.

Have a good scheduling!

Share this article :

Friday, November 11, 2016

Playing around with the PowerBI mobile app

I've been working with PowerBI since the first weeks it was available and I could follow the ramp-up of the capabilities. You know if you're following me that I love blogging about PowerBI.
Working since a couple of month with a new customer who is deeply involved in the digital transformation, I are willing to give access to the top management to a set of dashboards. I wanted to anticipate their requirements so I downloaded (why didn't I do it before??) the PowerBI app



I created 2 simples dashboards in 1 hour just to test the app. Note that they are draft and still require to be improved. After getting authenticated, you land on a home page where you can navigate in your various workspaces. Like in PowerBI app, you'll see reports and dashboards which you can add a favorites.



Then you can access your dashboard, playing around with the data. You can also share dashboards with people in your organization.




Note that in my example, I have a lot of information on the dashboard. On a WP10, it is quite tedious to use the segments. It should be easier on a tablet, but I do advice to create lighter dashboards with less information to make easier the manipulation. I think it is better to have many light dashboards (since it is easy to navigate between dashboards using the favorites) than having a few complex dashboards.

Notice how easy and fast it is to create a WOOW with your customer, simple tool, complete dashboard, user-friendly app, in just 1hr!


Share this article :

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Office Roadmap for Project: New features rolling out or in development

Hi Folks,

I've been a couple of weeks ago to the European PPM Partner Forum in Amsterdam. First of all, it was a great opportunity to network with the partner community. I had for example a great chat with Allan Rocha, a fellow MVP. I also had the opportunity to talk with Jean Donati who is leading for Microsoft the engineering product team. But as you might know, what happens in Veg... sorry Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam so I can't really blog about what we heard. I can just tell you how excited I am about the new features which are coming soon...
But... I can talk about what Microsoft already communicates about. The best channel is to refer to the Office Roadmap. If you filter on Project, you'll see some interesting things.

In development:


  • External user support for Project Online: often required, you'll be able to add users to Project Online who are not part of your organization, meaning subcontractors will be able to collaborate with the project teams through the SharePoint sites and do timesheets.
  • Label and progress in timeline view: the timeline view has already been improved in 2016 desktop version with the multiple timeline. Now you'll be able to define custom labels for your timeline's bars and show the progress (I guess in a similar way than the team planner).
  • OData improvements to include timestamps for project entities: OData is being improved every week (performance). But a common request was to report on the projects last published dates or some similar timestamped data. It will now be possible.

Rolling out :

Among the various features currently being rolled out, the following one is particularly interesting.


  • Team tasks enhancements: the team task assignment was already a pretty nice feature. You could create teams and add users to teams. Then in your project, you could assign tasks to teams. Finally, any user from the team could take the task in his timesheet. The limitation was that it was a 1:1 workflow: as soon as a member of the team takes the task in his timesheet to self-assign himself on it, then the task was no longer available for other team members. I usually deployed this feature in an Agile context: you have a team of developers and you assign workpackage to the team, no matter who does it since all the developers have more or less the competencies to do the task. But quite often, the reality is different: a first member will start the task and a colleague will finish it for any reasons. Now the team assignment will be a 1:n workflow: once taken a first time, the task remains available for other team members.
Looking forward to see more? Me too! Don't hesitate to comment this article with some feedbacks!

Share this article :

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Project Time Reporter

Hello All

It is with great excitement that I share that news. rolling drums...


The Project Time Reporter iPhone app is available



This is so great. I had a chance to test it and it looks amazing.

Please have a read to the Microsoft article and download the app
More information on how to get started with the app is available here : Getting started with Office 365 Project Time Reporter

I may update this article later on based on my tests but I wanted to share the big news

Enjoy
Share this article :

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Project SKUs, what you need to know in a nutshell!

Hi Folks !

Quite a long time since I didn't publish a new post, sorry for that! Hopefully my blog mate backed me up on this, thanks Jérôme!

I'd like to share with you today some fresh information about the new SKUs for the Project cloud subscription plans effective August 15th 2016. This article might be updated since we are still on the way to get it fully clear. It also might contain some inaccuracies that I'll be pleased to correct, see the disclaimer at the end of the page. If you do need clear and official information about this plan, contact your Microsoft representative.

You can always refer to those following links from Microsoft to have the clear picture. I'll not repeat what is said on those articles, but give some insights.

Note that there is no deprecation, this is purely a change to licensing. Let's start with the basics, the 3 new SKUs:

Project Online Essentials: it replaces as is the former Project Lite. Same features, same price, different name. You just get access to Project Online via the web app, so no desktop client (Project Pro).

Project Online Professional: don't mix it with Project Professional which is the desktop client. Actually this desktop client coming with the Online subscriptions will now be named "Project Online Desktop Client" so SKUs are self-explanatory. 
This Project Online Professional SKU is actually more or less equivalent to the former Project Online with Project Pro for O365 SKU, meaning that it includes Project Pro (so Project Online Desktop Client if you follow me), but with restricted functionalities. We can mention the new Dashboard app, the portfolio module, resource engagements (approve/reject/modify) : they all are NOT part of available features for this SKU. Note that you can request resource engagements, which seems obvious for a PM role. This SKU is intended to be assigned to administrators.
Talking about price, this SKU has no equivalent in the former model, so tricky to compare, but let's say that at $30, it is still cheaper that the former PO SKU ($33) which was only web accessible (not desktop client) but more features.

Project Online Premium: this is the full license, all included, full package. It comes at $55, so a $3 economy compared to the former PO with Project for O365.

So who should have what? The easiest: team members with Project Lite just need Project Online Essentials since it is transparent. Then the Project Online Professional would be for project managers. The tricky point is that as soon as your PM have an extended role (demand management, portfolio management, dashboard reporting), they'll be out of this SKU's scope and would require the Premium SKU; as well as for the resource managers. Still, it is cheaper than the former SKU. But talking with the MVP folks, we ended up with the conclusion that we would require intermediate SKUs for team leads and resource managers. Those roles usually don't require Project Pro, but do need advanced features included in the Professional and Premium SKUs.

As for the reporting part, users will need the Premium or Professional SKU to elaborate and share reports/dashboards through PowerBI, but the Premium SKU is required for the Project PowerBI content packs. To access those dashboards, users will need at least the Professional SKU (with the Odata feed access).

As additional information, I can tell you that there is no change for on-premise and perpetual plans. Moreover, as for the former plan, the licensing restrictions are not enforced in the application today. Finally, a very fresh information from Brian Smith (he should soon blog about it), beginning in February 2017, due to architectural changes to features in Project Online which impact older versions of Project, Project Online will require the latest version of Project to connect to Office 365. Thus for example, no more Project 2013 for Project Online.

Last but not least, it seems that there will NOT be a Project Pro for O365 subscription anymore. If you require only MS Project Pro (without Project Online), you need to get it through the perpetual license, you won't be able to get it with the former monthly subscription. As far as I understood, if you have now Project Pro for O365, the plan is : you'll be reassigned to the Project Online Professional SKU, so you'll also get access to the Project Online web interface, even if you are just in a standalone mode. 

I'll ask you guys to take carefully this information, like all the content of this article, since all that I share with you is pretty fresh, so I might still need to dig into it and update it based on the regular information we get from Microsoft.

EDIT 2016-08-25: comment from my blog mate: the Pro SKU gives you the ability to request engagement, but not to modify/approve/reject. We are typically in the model of the Pro SKU for PM and Premium SKU for RM.

Share this article :