[Update] Microsoft Project gets Agile

Good news for all users of Microsoft Project, you can now use “Scrum” or “Kanban” methodologies in you project planning, execution and reporting. As it was mentioned at this years Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Microsoft Project will now support Scrum Masters, Product Owners and other Project Managers, who love Kanban Boards, Backlogs and Sprints. If you are running Microsoft Project “Click-to-Run/Office365” you might already have received the new features.

This post will take you briefly through the new Agile features, functions and reporting options but before we get to the walk-through and screen-dumps, I have prepared a simple overview on, what this “first” agile release has to offer, and what to be aware of:

How do I know if I got the Agile update?

When launching Microsoft Project you will be prompted if any new features, or larger updates, have been installed. When it comes to the new “Agile” features, you should see the below welcome screen in Microsoft Project. If you haven´t received the update yet, and want to get it fast, try switching your update frequency to “Monthly Channel”, that worked for me! Read more here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Overview-of-update-channels-for-Office-365-ProPlus-9ccf0f13-28ff-4975-9bd2-7e4ea2fefef4?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

New templates available

Once you get past the welcome screen, you will soon find two new templates to start building your project from – “Scrum Project” and “Kanban Project”. As you probably already know, the major difference is around the use of “Sprints”, which is what you should use “Scrum Projects” for. However, don´t worry if you select wrong as you can always switch to another planning mode later. Lets try and select the “Kanban Project” template:

Kanban Board view

Immediately after having created the new project, you will arrive at a blank Kanban Board, from where you can start to load your Backlog with new tasks. This is done by simply clicking on the “New Task” plus symbol. Give your task a name, and continue until you have you Backlog ready:

In case you want to allocate one or more resources to a task, simply use the standard “assign resource” functionality, or double-click a task, and notice the “Task Information” is exactly like it has always been.

You can now start to drag´n´drop your tasks to the status it has on your Kanban Board e.g. In Progress, Done or even custom columns you have created for this project:

The Backlog Sheet

In case you would like to view or manage your many tasks and activities in an Excel like experience, you can switch from the “Kanban Board” to the “Kanban Sheet”, which is one of several new views in Microsoft Project, all supporting the Agile experience. Notice below, that the resources we added to our tasks, now have work assigned to them. In other words, your Microsoft Project scheduling assistant is still running behind the scenes, so you should still be aware of your calendar, and project settings:

Switching to Scrum and enabling Sprints planning mode

If you are a Scrum Master, and prefer to run your work in “Sprints”, you can switch the planning mode by navigating to your “Agile Settings” in the ribbon, and switch to “Scrum”:

Switching to Scrum now activates two new buttons in the ribbon called “Sprint Views” and “Adjust Sprint”:

You would probably define your “Sprints” first. Once very nice feature is that Microsoft Project will suggest two week “Sprints”, and already created three of them for you. The first “Sprint” will start on the “Project Start Date”. This way you can quickly set up your first 1,5 months of work, or add several more if needed:

Sprint Board

The easiest way to work with “Sprints” would be to select the “Sprint Board”. Again you can drag´n´drop your tasks to the “Sprint” it belongs to. In case you wanted to manage this work in a “Sheet” style view, the “Sprint” column is now a standard column, alongside with several other of the Agile elements such as “Board Status”, “Sprint Start” and “Sprint Finish”:

Here is an example of managing the “Sprints” and “Board Status” from a non-“Kanban” sheet view:

Reporting on your Agile project with Microsoft Project

More great news to share! Not only did we get a new Agile planning mode, we also got a completely new set of built in reports available from the “Report” section in the “Ribbon”.

In case you want to customize the “Agile” reports, that is obviously possible using the right side report pane. Notice that you can now group your tasks and work using “Sprints” and “Board Status”

Agile planning and Timelines

Even though you are running an Agile project, the “Timeline” feature in Microsoft Project is still a strong visualization tool. There are tons of ways to create smart and useful Agile views and Timelines. In my example I have simply grouped my tasks using the new “Sprints” grouping. After this, I have added the tasks to my timeline above. This provides a simply overview on what is going on, and this view is also accessible and shareable from the “Schedule Web Part/ Browser/Project Sites” experience in Project Online.

Another alternative would be to create a “Sprint” summary task as you would do with phases in a Waterfall project This way you can create multiple “Timelines” and have the “Sprint” number above each “Timeline”:

Reporting on the Agile columns from Excel, PowerBI/ODATA

As of today, the new standard Agile columns in Microsoft Project, are not available for reporting (yet). A simple solution to this would be to create a custom “Task Text Field”, change it to a “Formula” and copy the content of the built in Agile fields e.g. “Board Status” as shown below. This way, the fields are available for reporting using ODATA queries:

(Your new custom fields would also be available for Visual Reports export to Excel and Visio)

I hope you enjoyed this very early review of the Agile features in Microsoft Project. Please dont hesitate to contact me pk@projectum.dk

Have fun and may the agility be with you!


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