Project Online Reporting with “Scheduled Refresh”

This post is simply to give a very direct answer to a questions, I have been asked several times the last couple of months.

I want to have my Project Online reports to be automatically refreshed. I know PowerBI can do this but have many licenses do my organization have to buy?

The answer is simple – you need only one user to have the PowerBI license in order to access the PowerBI area, add the reports and setup the scheduled refresh. The benefit is crystal clear, users no longer have to manually trigger the the “Refresh Data Connection” and wait for the update to be done.

Here is a little drawing of how it looks:

PowerBI image

Now, before you buy a PowerBI license, you should also understand the many other benefits that PowerBI brings to your tenants. To fully understand these capabilities I would recommend navigating to this page: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/powerbi/default.aspx

…maybe you will end up buying more than just one license after having experienced the many other cool features.

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Project Online Performance – getting better and better

[UPDATED 21-10-2014]

A Microsoft Office Blog post that lists recent performance and scale enhancements to Project Online. These should now be live across all our worldwide tenants.

http://blogs.office.com/2014/10/21/performance-scale-improvements-project-online/

 

 

[From 16-10-2014]

This blog post is about my experiences with Project Online when it comes to performance –page load times etc. Over the last few weeks Project Online has received some serious performance enhancements to the point where I can happily say there are no performance issues anymore. It also demonstrates how cloud is enabling Microsoft to respond quickly to customer & partner feedback. Read on to learn what was done and what to expect in your own Project Online tenant.

1      History

Can your enterprise rely on Project Online’s speed and user satisfaction? I have personally used Project Online for testing purpose ever since it was first released in early 2013. Since then I have been involved in five implementations for larger customers in different industries and experienced performance challenges for variety of reasons – BUT NOT ANYMORE.

2      Issues and action plan

After having talked with many of the users at my customers, it was clear that much of the performance issues were around the same features:

  • Accessing Project Center
  • Navigating around different Project Details Pages
  • Doing a “save” job on a Project Detail Page
  • Accessing and publishing from the Schedule Web Part
  • Bad response from lookup items e.g. loading views and user names
  • Refresh jobs doing reports

Through my MVP channel, and in collaboration with Microsoft Product group, we decided to focus on a specific customer, run short iterations of improvements and track the impact. This particular customer has 200+ projects with workflows, uses ODATA with Excel Services for pretty much all of their reporting needs. All in all a very good case.

3      Solution and great performance

Today I can confidently say that we have a very happy customer base. The many small fixes had a great impact and resolved all the issues. All of these updates will also help you, as they are being deployed to all Project Online tenants.

4      What to expect?

  • Project Center
    • Loading a view in Project Center is now extremely fast. Most loads even with 200 projects takes just about 1 second.
    • Opening a project from Project Center has also been improved by changing the way users are moved from the Project Center view to the Project Details Pages.
  • Navigating around different Project Details Pages
    • The load of another PDP while working with a project feels incredibly fast even though these are loaded with feels, web parts or even graphics such as a workflow page.
  • Doing a “save” job on a Project Detail Page
    • Doing a “save” job on a PDP also does a “publish” job. For that reason, Project Online needs to a couple of jobs. This is also one of the areas where you will feel a great difference and especially if you deactivate the WSS sync job between projects and their team-sites
  • Accessing and publishing from the Schedule Web Part
    • Only one thing to say here – improved!
  • Bad response from lookup items e.g. loading views and user names
    • The load of look-ups is now done much more smooth and for that reason the PSI calls as a whole have received improvements
  • Refresh jobs doing reports
    • This is actually one of the areas in which I have not personally experienced any issues and I am pulling all Project and Task level data using OData as the source. Nevertheless, you do experience issues with the refresh jobs, the solution is simply to add Power BI to you tenant and add you reports. That way you can easily setup a background refresh job so that users do not have to do that anymore.

 

5      Most important

The many and great performance improvements by Microsoft will be, or have already been, deployed automatically. However, there is one thing that you have to do yourself, and which can lead to the final and most impacting performance improvement for all users. This is to disable WSS synchronization if you do not need your team-sites to be automatically populated with the resources added to your projects.

I advise all customers to skip this synchronization job as it is much easier for many to simply use the “share” button found in every team site. The output from doing this is a performance improvement that you will notice everywhere in Project Online.

6      Be aware

As a final remark, I feel it important to say that I have seen a couple of cases where users are complaining about bad performance. At the same time, I could not recreate the performance described when accessing the same tenant from my personal laptop. In these cases, when the users logged on an external WiFi/hotspot they felt an increase in the performance increase of up to 300%. For this reason your network department should also consider how they setup firewalls, routers and broadband when dealing with Software as a Service. It also means you should always try to access you tenants from an external access point to make sure your own network is not the bottleneck.

7      Microsoft Support

I would like to take the opportunity to also give a great “THANK YOU” to the Project Online product team at Microsoft. You have been extremely helpful and fast in all your responses. Keep up the good work.

Resource Management – 3 Key Questions

From having been involved with implementing multiple PPM solutions focusing on resource management, I have discovered six critical rules and questions that all organizations should be able to answer before you start implementing. These are questions that consulting companies can help identifying, but surely, they are also questions that organizations could start looking at themselves. Regardless, having clear some clear answers will certainly drive the implementation with a much lower risk of failing.

In this post, I will introduce you quickly to the most important rules and questions that you need to deal with. Several others obviously exists but are some that would be shared in a workshop. Should be interested in this kind of assistance feel free to contact me.

Question 1: How much transparency is needed?

Have an executive sponsor define the business requirements for resource planning and transparency.

An example could be the rule of 18/6 – 18-month demand forecasting on roles and 6 months ahead on the actual people allocated to the Projects.

Illustration:

rule1

Being able to have this “rule” defined by the CXO/Top level will be the most important driver for defining the rest of the resource management processes needed and regardless of the IT Tool chosen for the task.

Question 2: What is the definition of resource capacity?

What formula can be used to calculate availability for projects and operational activities? To answer this question top-level management must once again step up and create a uniform understanding of the term resource capacity.

Illustration:

rule2

In the above example, the FTE is set to have an 8-hour capacity every day x the amount of days within a month. Subtracted from this are the operational/non-project related activities. This leave you with a base project capacity that can be subtracted with the amount of hours already allocated to running Projects. This would leave you with a resource having 50 hours of capacity for new Projects. You could deal with this in many different ways but you simply need the uniform formula and understanding to be implemented for all project managers and resource managers.

Question 3: Which roles are used to calculate capacity?

Having defined the capacity is just half of what is needed to succeed. You also need to make sure that all capacity from an organizational standpoint is based on a 1:1 relationship. This means that each resource can be associated with one role and role only. You might have resources with multiple skills and competencies, but still they have one role that you would calculate your capacity on. As an example, I might be good at .net, java, speak German and have 10 years of experience. However, I can’t calculate my capacity on these skills as they are all available at random points in time.

What is needed instead would be to define me as a Developer thereby calculating my capacity on the Developer level. The problem is that many organizations have resources who would find it hard to accept to have just one role. In some rare cases, a solution for that could be to use the corporate titles instead e.g. Senior Project Manager etc.

Illustration:

rule3

The above illustrates the differences between the role based capacity view and the competencies.

As a final remark, having answered the questions would still be just the beginning of some hard work ahead with the tool implementation. The good thing is that you would now be able to save a lot of “discussion” time and have the change management path cleared for some of the toughest obstacles. Good luck with your implementation.

New App: Projectum Timephased App for Project Online/Server 2013

This short video briefly explains about the benefits of using the Projectum Timephased App for Project Online/Server 2013.

The main purpose of this app is to allow users of Microsoft Project to timephase financial information, without creating too many custom fields as this impacts performance.

The app is expected to be released in the marketplace beginning of September 2013. However, a trial version is already available for download but doesnt allow user to sync data back to Project level custom fields. In this case you would need the pro version.

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Microsoft Project August CU´s are out now!

The SharePoint, Office and Project CUs (hotfix) packages are out now and available for download.

The Project Server 2013 CU can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2883083

Brief overview on which issues it fixes:

  • Assume that you sort the items in the Approvals page by the Remaining Work field in Project Web App. When you browse to the Approvals page again, you may receive an error message that resembles the following:
  • General Unhandled Exception in _Statusing.ReadStatusApprovalsForProjectForGridJson_
  • If an error occurs when you approve and apply status updates to a project, the status approval may still show that it is successfully applied.
  • You may be unable to open a timesheet that contains a specific field in a specific case. Additionally, you receive an error message that resembles the following:
    The View failed to Load…
  • You may be unable to send status update by clicking the Send Progress for all Tasks button. Additionally, you may receive an error message that resembles the following:
    An error occurred while communicating with the server. Check connectivity with your administrator to determine whether further action is necessary.

    When you click OK, you receive an error message that resembles the following:

    __Error loading
  • You may be unable to edit or apply status updates to a large project in Project Web App.
  • When you create a resource that contains more than one rate in Project Web App, duplicate rows are displayed for the resource in the hired resources report.
  • If you publish many projects to a Project server in a very short time span, the “Synchronize Project Web App Permissions to Project Site” user synchronization job may fail and you may no longer be able to access the given project site.
  • You may be unable to publish a project to a Project 2013 server. Additionally, the publish error resembles:
    he INSERT statement conflicted with the FOREIGN KEY constraint “FK_MSP_EpmAssignmentBaselineByDay_ProjectUID_AssignmentUID”. The conflict occurred in database “PWA”, table “dbo.MSP_EpmAssignmentBaseline”. The statement has been terminated.. Details: id=’24006′
  • Assume that you approve a status update from Project Web App. When you open the project in Project Professional 2013, the actual work may not apply to the project.
  • Assume that you create a project in Project Web App from a template that contains an inactive task. When you open the project and activate the inactive task in Project Professional 2013, the schedule may not change correctly based on the duration information.

As always, dont install the CUs if you are not facing the issues mentioned.

Personal Training Schedule for Runners

Normally I only blog about the business benefits of using Microsoft Project. Today, I will touch upon another area in which those of you enjoying running, can use the Project client to manage your training schedule. I have personally used this to train for a 50 miles Ultramarathon in which distance, pace and calories are important factors to keep track of during the many weeks of preparation.

It’s fast and easy to have Project become your personal trainer. Think of tasks as being each a training day. I include my restdays as it is simply something to lookforward to and see visually. I added three custom fields “distance”, “calories” and “pace”. Then I customized the gantt/bar styles and created my own training report to keep track of my progress.

Here is how it looks:

Training View

I hope this little blog entry has served as a new inspiration to other ways of using the Microsoft Project client.

If you would like the sample MPP (Project file) used for the screendumps let me know by sending me an email to pk [@]projectum.dk

New PMI Project Template ready for download

Originally posted on ...Microsoft & PPM?:

pmiA new template for Microsoft Project has been released by the US partner, Project Sensei. This project template gives a complete PMI setup inside your Project 2013 client from views to actual task breakdown with notes.

Download the template here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/pmbok-compliant-project-management-by-sensei-project-solutions-TC104110256.aspx

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New PMI Project Template ready for download

pmiA new template for Microsoft Project has been released by the US partner, Project Sensei. This project template gives a complete PMI setup inside your Project 2013 client from views to actual task breakdown with notes.

Download the template here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/pmbok-compliant-project-management-by-sensei-project-solutions-TC104110256.aspx

Forrester names Microsoft as a Leader in Agile Business Intelligence

This month, Microsoft was acknowledged as a Leader in the Forrester Wave: Agile Business Intelligence Platforms.

“Microsoft received high client feedback scores for its agile, business user self-service and advanced data visualization functionality. Clients also gave Microsoft BI a high score for its product vision”.

Microsoft is delivering on our vision of bringing business intelligence to a billion users by making data accessible through the tools that people use every day. With the accessibility of Excel and the recent release of Power BI for Office 365, we aim to lower the barrier of entry for users and reduce the complexity of deploying business intelligence solutions for IT

You can download the full Forrester report and get more information on this announcement reading Eron Kelly, General Manager/Microsoft, Data Platform Group’s blog post.

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