Best Practices of Project Management in Microsoft Project Online

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Start projects quickly and execute them easily with Microsoft Project Online, a comprehensive project management solution. Built-in custom templates have industry best practices so that you can get started right away. You do not need to create new project management plans.

With familiar scheduling features such as Gantt charts and drop-down menus, project management software simplifies the planning process and requires project managers to spend less time training. Create reports that contain all the data you need, from task combustion charts to financial metrics. They are easy to share and work with in-house.

Quickly review all your project activities, from tasks to upcoming milestones. Set up timelines and easily share them with project implementers. Combine information from different projects and share them with project promoters and teams.

Microsoft Project Configuration

Although one of the benefits of using a cloud-based service is avoiding having to deal with deployment, setup, and hardware and software tuning, it still requires adjustments to deliver the best performance compared with an on-premises deployment. “Best practices” in the name entails the design recommendations when it comes to customizing and configuring Project Online. Below are areas that can potentially have an impact on the overall performance of your Project Web App site.

Security permissions modes: SharePoint Or Project. By default, the Project Online instance comes with SharePoint Permissions mode. When possible, keep the default SharePoint permission mode for better overall performance. If you must change it to Project permission mode, limit your customization as much as possible. A comparison between each setting can be found on TechNet.

Project site configuration. You can configure this at each Enterprise Project Type (EPT) level. Project Site creation is turned off by default. If your organization uses project sites, select the option to create them on demand rather than automatically. The first publishing experience is sped up by avoiding the creation of unnecessary sites and content.

Sync user permissions for your project site. You can configure this at each Enterprise Project Type (EPT) level. This setting is disabled by default. Disable the Project site permission sync option if the following is true of your deployment:

  • You have several resources (>1000).
  • You have several projects which require a Project site (>1000).
  • You have several resources that need to be granted access to the majority of the Project sites.
  • Project sites are created outside of the default site collection (sync is disabled).

Here are some options to consider for managing your Project site permissions:

  1. If your project teams have low turnover, consider turning off Project site permission sync to improve Project Publish and Project Detail Pages performance. You would then have to manually grant or remove permission to your Project sites whenever someone joins or leaves a project team.
  2. If access needs to be granted for all users in PWA and it maps to your existing group permissions, consider configuring your Project sites to inherit from the parent PWA site.
  3. If site access aligns with specific roles, create one or more groups that map to those roles (possibly if you have Group sync enabled, you can use the same groups) and grant those groups access to the Project site.

Synchronize SharePoint Tasks Lists for Enterprise Projects

You can configure this at each Enterprise Project Type (EPT) level. This setting is disabled by default to improve the speed of project publishing. The Sync SharePoint Task Lists option was intended for use with small project plans. If the project has a significant number of tasks, syncing them on publish will take some time as each task needs to be updated one at a time.

For example, it takes several minutes to sync up to 500 task project plans to the SharePoint task list.

Even though the queue job is on a separate correlation and does not block the saving and editing of the project plan, we recommend not enabling the Sync SharePoint Task Lists option. We also recommend only syncing projects with less than 250 tasks.

Project Online Custom Development Options

Project Online has three online API sets: Client-side Object Model (CSOM), JavaScript Object Model (JSOM), and Representational State Transfer (REST).

  1. The .NET CSOM implementation is the preferred interface when developing Windows applications that interact with Project Online tenants. Typical environments for user-centric applications include Windows desktops and Microsoft Surface devices. Back-end applications written with .NET CSOM can connect to other servers for business logic and data sources that are external to Project Online. Retrieval requests to Project Online use a LINQ-like query system that offers several enhancements over basic retrieval functions.
  2. The REST/OData model provides HTTP-based communication; this interface is recommended for applications in non-Windows environments. Communication endpoints are the objects in the Project Web Application (PWA) site. OData interface is recommended for developing custom Project Online Reporting Add-ins as well as for developing Excel/Power BI-based reports.
  3. The JavaScript Object Model (JSOM) interface provides cross-browser support for Project Online Add-ins. An add-in is a web application that is stored in the Project Online tenant. When a user wants to run an add-in, the code for the add-in downloads and runs in the browser on the user’s machine.

Prerequisites to setup development environments are as follows:

  • .Net Framework 4.0 or newer — Use the complete framework.
  • Visual Studio 2013 or newer — Any edition is acceptable.
  • SharePoint Client Components SDK — Project Online and Project Server sit on top of SharePoint, and SharePoint assemblies. The SharePoint Client Components are included in Visual Studio Professional and Enterprise editions.
  • A Project Online account — This provides access to your Project Online Development site.
  • Projects on the Development site that are populated with information.

Configure Rollup of Reporting Data in Project Online

Many organizations need reports that retrieve Tasks and Assignments data. The problem is performance issues, especially in organizations that have a lot of Project Online reporting data. Microsoft acknowledged that not all organizations would need the data to be reported by day. So they introduced an option to roll up the data on a broader time frame (such as weekly or monthly) this can significantly improve report performance by reducing the number of records that you need to download.

For example, instead of needing to retrieve 300,000 records when set to daily, setting it to monthly could reduce this to a much lower number, such as 10,000 records.

Another benefit of rolling up time-phased data is that time to publish projects is a lot faster since data won’t need to be broken down by the day when publishing. Also, in some cases, it can improve the performance of interacting with Project Detail Pages. Organizations that have complex workflows could also benefit from this feature where users will see performance improvements when publishing the projects. How to change this setting:

  1. On the Project Online home page, select Server Settings.
  2. Next step – on the Server Settings page, in the Enterprise Data section, select Reporting.
  3. After – on the Reporting page, in the Time phased Data section, select the option that you need:
  • Never
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • By fiscal period

Microsoft Project Roadmap

Microsoft Office 365 provides a new feature called Roadmap within the Project App. It allows you to present projects from various Project Online sites and Azure Boards in one simple bar chart. This is to give you a better overview.

(A short description of Project Roadmap in a video).

In the first version of Project Roadmap, it is only possible to display existing projects. You can retrieve summary tasks, tasks, and milestones from Project Online. From Azure Boards, you can take over Epics, Features, Requirements, etc. depending on the template used. You can create new roadmaps in Office 365 in the Project App by selecting Roadmap:

Microsoft Project Roadmap

Next, you have to:

  • add projects as rows and follow this.
  • select the project details, i.e., the bars.

To this end, you create a link to Project Online or Azure Boards by entering the respective URL.

Project Online or Azure Boards

In the next step, you select the elements you would like to present as bars. However, a list of tasks or Epics will only appear after you have entered three letters.

Project Online Phase

The presentation of the bar is always the same – regardless of the source. What data is transferred:

  • Name
  • Start date
  • End date

It is possible to change the names of projects and bars but not the dates. You have the option to change the status and, thus, the colors of the bars and the milestones. Linking the status to properties in the source project via the user interface is currently impossible.

Project Online Status

You can move projects up or down but not their bars. The presentation of the bars is recalculated each time to ensure optimal use of the available screen space.

Project Online roadmap

The structure in the source project does not have an impact on the presentation. This may not matter too much, as you will very likely integrate only summary tasks.

Project Online Project Status Report

Project Online is a great tool for managing a portfolio of projects. For Executives, PMOs, and Project Managers, having one place to view the overall project status is an excellent feature.

However, the out-of-box views are limited and do not provide all the information you may be looking for in a format that can quickly give the status of your project. You can use Power BI or Excel reports/dashboards to achieve these goals. However, these options either may not be accessible to you or you encounter limitations such as the below:

  • Power BI requires additional licensing (though Power BI Desktop is free, still you need to refresh the Power BI report manually and share it with the PMO).
  • Excel Online does not allow you to build complex reports (though you can use Power Query with the Excel client to create sophisticated reports, you can’t refresh them on the browser, you need to update them manually on-demand from the Excel client).
  • SSRS is not directly supported in Project Online.

If you’re looking to improve your reporting capabilities and empower your PMs. PM and decision-makers with internal visibility of the project data, consider adopting a full-grown PPM tool. Unlike the multiple alternative solutions, PPM Express has the unique benefit of providing the user with true customization options for every single detail in your portfolio.

FluentPro’s uniquely equipped with close to ten years of experience in helping small to humongous organizations with exactly the tools they need to create transparent, maneuverable, and vibrant portfolio management models. We also take pride in providing our clients with free and competent support from the point of deployment to the point of complete success.

Major benefits of adopting PPM Express include:

Adopting PPM Express gives a way to give your PMOs and executives project transparency and flexibility. As a result, you get to foster a collaborative environment, where decision-making is easier and more fruitful. It is also minimizing the risks to individual projects regarding business impact, humanely maximizes human resources efficiency, and allows for the repetitive use of the proven successful project in future initiatives.

Best Practices of Project Management in Microsoft Project Online
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