Enterprise Project Management, Microsoft Project Professional and Microsoft Project Server
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BY: Tim Gryder
It has often been told to me that “Project just is too complicated to schedule with” or that “I can’t make project dates ever work right”.
Project is like a violin in a concert performers hand…In the wrong hands it screeches out the most horrendous information or bad information.
Or maybe it’s like flying a complex aircraft which with all the dials and indicators which would crash at the hands of an untrained pilot, but yet with a person trained to use Project…
MS Project really does allow for the business process of project management to capture good information and reschedule our projects. Scheduling can be made easy and much more accurate.
So for the brevity of this blog post, let’s imagine a project to build a storage barn. Pretty simple, right?
Let’s build out tasks, which in project are easy to do, but in order to enjoy simplicity and ease of schedule in the project as it evolves, we must first set it up correctly in the beginning.
So here is our file. (We are using Project Professional 2013.)
Notice that Work Breakdown must be determined in your project structure.
And you must define Task Mode, Type, Duration, Dependencies, Constraints, Resources, and Calendars and a few other assundry items which are a training class in and of itself…. Also remember, here is where it gets interesting. Project schedules differently depending on the task type. Please take note of the impact of task type and calendar and resource understanding required for the project being set up which this blog isn’t going to unearth…but having made a choice on type and other set up considerations… then we get something like this.
Notice now that I have set duration and work calculated via the Duration * Units = Work which again is a whole other conversation and imperative to learning to use Project.
But now let’s update this schedule. Remember that Project recalculates based on status date which can be found in your project information…
First I update my tasks…and with fixed duration I will update duration on all the tasks I have been given information on from my resources. This should be everything to the left of the green line which represents today.
But, as of Tuesday (which is today) the day I am updating my project (the green line)… I have three tasks that are behind schedule and have not been completed.
I do not want to have to manually change the dates on all the tasks so let’s have project reschedule the project tasks for us.
After I have taken updates I now reschedule everything that is past due…because you can’t do work in the past… (I know some of you think you can)
Highlight all of the project tasks or just the tasks you want…and use the update project button on the Project Tab. Picking the date you want to move uncompleted tasks to start after. Note that this will create a constraint on the tasks rescheduled to start after today. This could be alleviated by just rescheduling the one latest task and letting the schedule push the remaining tasks without constraints.
Now, all of my past due tasks have moved forward to today (the green line)…the day I rescheduled. Also note that based on dependencies and all the other constraints and variables set up in the beginning, all future tasks moved as well. So there you go. Have you been moving things around in project and it was wearing you out??? Just spend a little more time on the front end setting the file up correctly and then enjoy letting project do the rest.
This update cycle means that you can now focus on the impacts of late tasks and implications to future tasks. It also means your resources get true corrected dates to work by. Give it a try and see what happens!
BY: Collin Quiring
We recently had a client who uses Project Online request the ability to NOT create SharePoint sites that are connected to the Project schedules directly. They prefer to use their own SharePoint site. First, it is important to note that Project Online is something that Microsoft routinely tweaks and modifies and doesn’t necessarily notify anybody so it is possible that at some point in the future, this might change, but at the moment there is no ability to turn that off. When you create a schedule with Project Online, you will get a SharePoint site in the Project Online instance.
So, what do you do when you do not want to create a SharePoint site online? There are two options – you can create the site and then promptly delete it, or, you can deactivate the site after you create it. Both of these have their own unique issues that arise as a result. This blog will go through the two options.
The first option is to create your schedule and create the Sharepoint site and then delete the site. So as to have better screenshots and a more clear explanation, I will go through how that appears when using Project Professional 2013 with a Project Online instance. This first screenshot is the schedule being published. My test schedule name is “ZZ Test Delete Site”. Notice that I do NOT get a choice – I have to make a site. The “Do not Create a Site at the time” is grayed out. I have to “Create a site for this project”.
Ok, so now that the site is created, I can go to PWA Settings and to the Operational Polices and select the Connected SharePoint Sites. At this point, I see that the SharePoint site has been created..
Just to make sure that no conflicts exist, I closed Project Professional and checked-in the project.
I select the row and select the Deete Site option from the tool bar at the top of the screen. A pop up message appears. (In case you can’t read it, the box says “Deleting this site will permanently remove all documents, issues, risks and deliverables for ZZ Test Delete Site. Are you sure you want to delete this site?”)
Since I do want to delete this site, I select OK. And, while I don’t get another message, I do see now that the site is no longer listed in the Connected SharePoint Sites screen:
Ok, so now I have accomplished my goal of not having a site, right? Well, yes and I have created a new issue. If I go to Project Center and I drill down on the schedule and select the Project Site I get the message that “There is no site configured for this project.”
However, within Project Professional there is an interesting “bug” about this. When I find and open the file from Project Online and check out the schedule all looks well. But, when I go to Publish again, I get the option box again that I have to create the site. It is just like the first time I published the schedule.
This is a nuisance message. This is something you will just have to train your Project Managers to hit the “Publish” button anyway. In all of the testing I did, this did NOT re-create the site. Going back to Project Center and trying to get so the site still says that there is no site configured. And, no site suddenly appears in the sites list.
A KEY POINT: This will become a bit more clear after the second test. It is important to note that the tasks and settings from the schedule appear as expected within Project Online (Project Center, Resource Center, Tasks, etc).
So, this appears to have resolved the problem and you just have to live with the “create a site” box each time you publish.
Now for the second test. In this case we will Deactivate the SharePoint site, rather than deleting it. In this case, the schedule name is “ZZ Test Deactivate Site”. After creating, saving and publishing the schedule, the site appears in the settings. In this case I will select the Deactivate option for the site but I will not Delete the site.
In the Connected SharePoint Sites screen I select the Deactivate option. I then get this pop up box warning me that I am getting rid of the SharePoint site. Which is what I really do want in this case so I select OK. (In case you can’t read it, it says “This will disable the enterprise project features for project ZZ Test Deactivate Site and the SharePoint Tasks List will be enabled for editing. Are you sure you want to do this?”””)
I select OK and now that the site is Deactivated I see the following in the Connected SharePoint Sites screen:
And, all appears well. However, not so much. If you want to use this like a “normal” Project Online schedule with the task, Project Center and Resource Center working as you would expect then we refer back to the KEY POINT from earlier in this blog. By Deactivating the site what we really have done is not get rid of it, we have only gotten rid of the functionality. In the message we just saw when we deactivated we got a hint to this – where the box says that the SharePoint Tasks List will be enabled. What would be nice is if it said that the Project capabilities would be disabled.
Now when you go to Project Center and drill down on the schedule you are actually taken to the Project Site. So, you are not taken to the Tasks list. You are taken to a site that you theoretically just Deactivated. In our case, this is actually the exact OPPOSITE of what we expected. By selecting “Deactivate” what we really did was “stop using Project Online functionality and only use SharePoint functionality”. Which, is not what we wanted. The tasks have been converted to a SharePoint List and is no longer a “task list” in Project Online as the other schedules with normal sites (or the deleted site).
The tasks list is a SharePoint list now, it is not a “project” task list:
And, opening the schedule in Project Professional now brings up all sorts of interesting pop up boxes. The first one is when you open the schedule it syncs to the SharePoint List.
When you try to save the schedule (not even publish, just save) you get this pop up message (In case you can’t read it the box is called Conflict One and the message says “This task was deleted in SharePoint. To undo deletion, click “Keep Microsoft Project Version”, or click “Keep SharePoint Version” to delete the task from the project plan.” and then it shows the task details)
In this case, my goal is to not use SharePoint so I will select the Keep Microsoft Project Version. This pop up appears for each task (unless you select the option to “Keep the selected version for all remaining conflicts in this synchronization.”
Now, another interesting point. I clicked on save to get this. But, when I look at the bottom right of the schedule’s status bar it doesn’t say “Save Completed Successfully”. It says “Publish Completed Successfully”. And, the publish option is grayed out. I do not have the ability to Publish, yet is says that it was just published. Perhaps that is another blog some day about whether or not this actually published or just saved and said it was published or maybe it thinks that because it sync’ed to a SharePoint list that it counts as published?
Therefore, the final conclusion is that if you do not want to have a SharePoint site, you have to publish the schedule, delete the site and train the Project Managers to hit Publish with Create site selected. If you Deactivate the site you actually are doing the opposite of our goal in this case.
BY: Collin Quiring
This came up a while ago with one client and I just wanted to share this issue with everybody. Depending upon how you look at this issue, you can consider it a bug or a feature. It sort of makes sense the way it works but it probably shouldn’t work that way.
This was tested in Project Web App 2010 (Project Server 2010) and Project Web App 2013 (Project Server 2013) and Project Online 2013. I assume this works the same for all date fields that users can enter but I only tested in the Actual Start and Actual Finish date fields.
When you are in the Tasks page in Project Web App and you enter a date (or any text or numbers) into the Date field the system immediately takes that date and background “saves” that update so that the system thinks that you have placed some data there. That is fine in most situations. However, what about when you realize you put the date in the wrong field (wrong date field or wrong task to update or whatever the reason)? Well, you are stuck.
Since the date information you have entered is in the “background” already you MUST have a valid date format Date in that field from now on. You can not delete it and leave it blank. You can not backspace it out. You have to leave a date in the field of some sort. The only way to get out of this is to leave the page and not save the update. Which, in and of itself, is a bad solution unless this is the very first field and the only update that you have done.
If you try to blank out the field or put in a non-date format text into this field you will get the message ‘’is not a valid value for this field .
If you consider this a bug it is due to the fact that you can’t delete it or otherwise fix the error in the field. The only work arounds are to put in a fake date, save it, and then ask the Timesheet Manager/Project Manager to deny the update. Or, you can leave the page (which isn’t practical in most cases). And, another side effect of putting in a fake date is that if it does get approved, it can affect the entire schedule and everybody else’s tasks.
If you consider this a feature then this is just a nasty side effect. The feature is that it “saves” into the background as you type and that is nice and might help you not to lose work.
Join us in Northwest Arkansas June 10 as we kick off the Microsoft Project User Group newest chapter!
BY: Collin Quiring
This post is about a Resource over allocation we discovered in Microsoft Project Professional 2010. To make it simple, this is not connected to Server, not an online instance, just a desktop version of Project Pro 2010. Specifically, this is about a situation where we had a Resource that was clearly NOT over allocated. I have some screenshots below that explain the situation in detail.
We also tested this in Microsoft Project Professional 2013 desktop and had the exact same results. Both the problem and the resolution worked the same in 2013 as in 2010.
So we are all on the same page, what is the definition in Microsoft Project of an over allocated Resource? It is “a resource is assigned to more work on a specific task or all tasks than can be completed within normal working capacity.” In Project the field reference does not have the space between words and is just called overallocated or overallocation.
In this case, we had a Resource that was clearly not over capacity or over allocated. But, in the Team Planner the Resource was showing over – including on weekends. The weekends were NON-working days AND no work was assigned. But, it also shows over allocation on days that are not over allocated.
Here we see in the Resource Sheet that the Resource called Team Lead is showing an over allocation (in red) and this screenshot shows that this is a normal Work Resource with a Standard calendar.
There is no calendar assigned to the Tasks.
The Project Calendar is the Standard Calendar as well so the Resource and the Project calendars are in sync.
This screenshot is from the Resource Usage view which shows that the Resource named Team Lead is showing an over allocation on a handful of weeks. BUT, look at those numbers – the assignments are only 3, .55, .45 or .12 PER WEEK! The Resource has 40 hours a week available. Obvious math shows that this screenshot “is impossible” because the Resource is not over allocated. In fact, it is almost perfectly the opposite – the have a week with less than an hour of time against it so they have over 39 un-assigned hours!!
Here are the overallocations marked in red in the Resource Usage view:
Now, here is another interesting screenshot. In this one, in the Task Usage view (Gantt Chart) we see the little red man indicator that tells us the Resource Team Lead is over allocated. We also see that when we add the column Overallocated, it states that the Resource is NOT overallocated!
So, Microsoft Project is actually giving us BOTH answers at once – the real one that the Resource is not overallocated and that the Resource is overallocated. In fact, hovering over the red man indicator gives us the expected message of “This task has resources assigned which are overallocated. Right-click for options.”
But, we know that it is not over allocated!
After searching Bing and Google we discovered that there may have been some sort of bug prior to SP1. The bug was that if a Work value is less than 1% of the duration of a task, the system wouldn’t correctly calculate the allocation and would end up showing that the Resource was overallocated even though it wasn’t. However, changing the work above the 1% threshold didn’t affect this for us (and, we were on a post SP1 version) so we set it back.
After more searching and experimentation we discovered that the error is related to the Leveling Period for the Project. NOTE – we in no way wanted to or used the leveling from within Project. We merely changed the settings. When you go into the Leveling Options in the Resource tab the default setting looks like this:
The only item that we changed was the “Look for overallocations on a…” basis.
We changed it from “Day by Day’’” to “Week by Week”. AGAIN – we did not actually click on “Level All” or actually ran any sort of leveling! We only changed that drop down setting and clicked on OK.
And, with that one and only change, suddenly, the overallocations disappear!
No assignments changed, nothing else was changed. But, the over allocations went away immediately:
It removed the overallocations in Team Planner as well:
It is all about the calculation method. I don’t think that I would call this a bug. I think this is a bit of weird math that happens when you have certain settings and views combining.
BY: Collin Quiring
In a previous blog we mentioned different versions of Project and Project Server that a new version of Project Online was coming out (http://dld.bz/dh2wF) . That has been released as of today, May 1, 2014. This version is called Project Lite and is for those Team Members that do not need full Project Online functionality. This is only $7 a month per user right now.
Here is the functionality that a Project Lite user is allowed to do in each of three areas:
- Create New Tasks or Assignments
- Reassign Tasks
- Self-Assign Team Tasks
- View and/or Edit Tasks in Task Center
- View Timesheets
- Enter Hours
- Add or Remove Task from Timesheet
- Turn in Timesheet
- View or Update Status, Issues and Risks
- View or Update Project Documents
- View Project Center
- View Project Schedules
- View Project Details
- View Project Summary
- View Resource Assignments
- Create/Modify/Delete links between tasks and items in Project Site (Documents, Issues, Risks)
By: Collin Quiring
For those using or setting up PWA task updates the question often comes up as to whether or not the Team Members should be updating by percentage or by entering work. There are a couple of questions that come up in relation to this to help decide which to use.
The first question is:
Do you care about hours of work or do you just care about how long the job took?
As in, does it matter that a job took 10 hours to do? Does it matter for your organization’s needs (for projects or accounting or pay or billing) that you know how much time it actually took to do the work? Or, do you just care that a task took five days to complete? Whether the person(s) assigned to the task worked for 1 hour or 100 hours, do you still just want to know that it took a certain number of days to complete?
The answer to the first question will determine the accuracy of hours that you are trying to track.
If you just care about how many days a task takes to complete, rather than the exact hours, then you want to enter the percentage. And, more specifically, you want to enter the % Complete field. There is also a % Work Complete field that is available but that is in relation to hours and so that wouldn’t apply to your need. The % Complete field would be the easiest to use because it is based on Actual Duration divided by Duration. So, if a three day task is one-and-a-half days into the schedule, then it is 50% complete. And note, that is 50% complete whether one minute of actual work is done or not (although we would hope that folks are only updating tasks that have work completed against them.
If you care about hours, and you care about getting accurate hours, then you should have the % Work Complete and % Complete fields where they can’t be edited by Team Members. You should allow the system to calculate those fields for you. What you should have Team Members update is the Actual Work and Remaining Work fields. When the Actual Work field is updated, the Remaining Work field will be calculated. If the Remaining Work field doesn’t match the work that the Team Member thinks it should, then they should update it so as to allow for the dates to better align with the amount of work.
And, the second question is:
Do you care when the work is done?
If your organization has accounting, billing, pay or other reasons to know when work is occurring (whether you are tracking in duration or hours) then there is one other update the Team Member should do – enter the date.
If your organization cares about when work happens, BEFORE entering hours the Team Member should enter the Actual Start Date. Entering the Actual Start Date will set the timeframe properly. Then, the Team Member should enter the % Complete or the Actual Hours – depending on the method you are using. If the Team Member only enters the % Complete or Actual Hours then the Actual Start Date will be calculated for you. Which, in most cases, will be the date was assigned. And, that is where you can get Actual Dates that are nowhere near the real calendar date – because it uses the originally assigned date (whether that date is in the future or in the past).
BY: Collin Quiring
When installing Project Server 2013 in house and installing all the required components (like SQL Server 2012 and SharePoint Server 2013), a Web Application and a Top Level Site and Site Collection have to be created along with the Project Site (PWA). While other documents exist to explain the how to part of the installation, this article is about the definitions for SharePoint web and sites and how Project ties into them. Definitions and then some examples are provided below.
For those using Project Online the ability to modify and setup Web Applications and Site Collections is different and in the SharePoint administration it is slightly different wording. That is outlined at the bottom of this article.
First, the definitions:
Web Application: In SharePoint Server 2013 a Web Application is the container (I am trying to avoid the word “site” since it is sometimes used incorrectly here) that holds the Top Level site and any Site Collections and corresponding Sites. The key parts to the Web Application is that it is the IIS Web Site; which for those like me who aren’t extremely technical is where the main URL comes from (yeah, I know you can do things with Alternate Access Mapping and I know that a fancy-pants IIS/Networking guru can use all sorts of things like bindings to make URL’s other things but for our purposes, this is the URL).
Site Collection: This is the place that has the Top Level Site and any other Subsites. The key point here is that the Site Collection has a Content Database. You can use one Content Database for multiple Site Collections but the important piece to remember is that a Site Collection must have a Content Database.
Top Level Site: This is the site at the top of the site collection. It is the first site in the collection and it may or may not have subsites. (Often, but not always, during setup, this site is just given the “/” designation by the administrator. The other common designation is “/sites/” for the top level site.)
Subsites (often just called Sites): This is a bit confusing because Top Level site and site may be used interchangeably because the Top Level site is a site by itself. But, a subsite is a site below a Top Level site.
Content Database: This is the database that holds the SharePoint information for a Site Collection. It has both the documents and the setting customizations for that Site Collection.
Project Web App Site: For our purposes, Project Web App Site is often called PWA, sometimes also called the Project Site and is a subsite below the Top Level site.
Instance: In the Project Web App Site each site is called an Instance. Many organizations have at least two instances in their production environment, a production level development/testing instance and production version on the same web application (this is different than a development or test server or a separate system for development). Commonly, the main production instance is called just “PWA”. Each instance has a separate database table structure, separate schedules on the site, separate resources and so on. For example, an organization that has an IT department that runs projects totally differently than a PMO department may have two instances – one called “IT_PWA” and the other “PMO_PWA”.
Now for some examples:
The first one is a basic example – a Web Application, Top Level site, and two subsites with the Site Collection in the red boxed area.
From the perspective of Project Server this is what that diagram might look like.
One more example diagram – this time with sample URL’s for two separate PWA instances. The first instance is just called “PWA” and the second one is for a separate department called “ITPWA”. The Web Application is often just the servername so it would be something like http://servername. The Top Level Site in this example is just “/” and therefore the two PWA instances would be: http://servername/PWA and http://servername/ITPWA .
In the Project Online, Office 365 and SharePoint Online world the terminology is a bit different because the setup is a bit different. The main terms to know here are:
Tenant: This is your online (or cloud version) subscription of the service you have purchased. It can be a bit confusing since context is everything. You can have a SharePoint Online Tenant or an Office 265 Tenant or a Project Online Tenant. In our case, thinking from the Project Online perspective, you would most likely have a SharePoint Online Tenant and Project Online would be a part of that Tenant. In a non-techy description, basically it means that Microsoft has the uber-Wep Applications and they give us a small piece of the pie. I am not sure who to credit this to since I see lots of websites that explain it something like this – In the United States a person can rent an apartment in a large apartment building. They are a “tenant” of that apartment building. They can modify their own apartment as much as they want but they can’t modify the common areas of the building that are outside of their apartment.
The default in the SharePoint Online administration screen for those of using it only for Project Online purposes is to have three Site Collections – one for the Website (usually the Tenant), one with the Project Web App Site and one for search. (And, apparently, they use the “/sites/” for the Top Level site for the PWA and “/” for the Search site). And, for the MY Sites (if being used) portion of the SharePoint Online it is using the Site Collection with a “-my” in the URL. In the My Sites section, you would have many potential subsites – one for each person that creates one.
For example, my Project Online Tenant using SharePoint Online administration looks like this:
Based on this information, this means that I have three Site Collections and PWA is a subsite in the sites Top Level site. Using the type of diagram we have above for the On Site version, this means that the Site Collection piece would look similar to this:
I hope this helps to clear up some of the definitions!
BY: Tim Gryder
Practical use of Microsoft Project Server or Project Online 2013 for Issues Management and Collaboration
If you’re a project manager running any project of scope, duration and complexity then you know that much of project management constantly deals with Murphy’s law…”What can go wrong will go wrong and at the worst possible time”. These events or “Issues” are often documented, assigned, and managed by the project manager in order to address the issue and keep the project moving. But how can we really drive issue resolution and ensure that nothing is falling thru the cracks?
A simple solution to keeping up with, and collaborating on Issues can be found in the Microsoft Project Server Platform
Take for example the image below…a simple project managed in Project Server (PWA-Project View), to build a storage building. As is typical, as tasks are being completed, I have now run into an issue related to the “Budget” task…More funds must be Secured!
Use Project Server (or Project Online) to document; assign the issue to a task and person, against the task “Budget”. Here is how to assign an Issue to a Task!
Open the Projects view in PWA and select your project and then Select Issues from the Project tab for the Project.
Select New Item and create your issue.
Fill out the issues form to define due dates and assignments and dialog on the issue etc.
Then Save the Issue.
Navigate back to your project site and select Tasks and then select your task “Budget” to open.
This is where we now associate the Issue we created above with the task from the project.
Select “Show More” and then “Add Related Item”
Select Issues from the left side of the assets available to add which will be underneath your project.
Take note that each project has its own list of objects that can be associated with a task…
I could also associate Deliverables and Risks etc…
Choose the Issue you created from the Issues List and then select Insert.
We now have a Task with an issue assigned to it. This can be seen in the task details view in PWA.
We are also now made aware at the Projects Portfolio View in PWA that this project has an unresolved Issue.
So now instead of collecting issues into a spreadsheet and hoping you have the latest issues and their status…You can manage these issues in an environment that is collaborative, real time and reportable.
If this doesn’t get your cats walking in a straight line then I don’t know what does!
Connecting Excel 2013 to Project Online using Odata
By Collin Quiring
We have seen issues for some folks when connecting Excel 2013 to Project Online using an Odata connection. This blog is to give an example of how to get data from that connection without ever connecting to Project Online directly.
Start by opening Excel 2013 and going to the DATA tab. Then, select From Other Sources in the ribbon. On the drop-down, select From Odata Data Feed.
This will bring a Data Connection Wizard popup. Put in the Link to your Project Online site followed by
THIS IS CRITICAL. So, in our sample, with our Project Online site being at “https://PMPSpecialists.com/sites/Demo7PWA” the link to enter in the Link option is: “https://PMPSpecialists.com/sites/Demo7PWA/_api/ProjectData/ “ You may or may not need to enter a sign-in at this point, in this example, we do not need one.
NOTE: Be careful when copy/pasting the URL link. We have seen where the link will duplicate in the Link of File box (it is hidden at first so we recommend you place your cursor at the far left of the box and do NOT select the entire box but use your arrow key and scroll over to confirm that the URL is only in place one time).
If the URL (URI) is incorrect, or you don’t have permissions, you may get any of the following error messages:
(We couldn’t get data from the Data Model. Here’s the error message we got:
Invalid URI: The URI Scheme is not valid.)
(Unable to obtain list of tables from the data source.)
(We couldn’t get data from the Data Model. Here’s the error message we got:
The remote server returned an error: (400) Bad Request.)
(We couldn’t access the data feed server because the URL is invalid.)
Once you have connected, after entering the link in the Data Connection Wizard, the second popup titled Data Connection Wizard with the option to Select Tables will appear.
For our example, we scrolled down and selected Projects as the table to bring back.
The third box for the Data Connection Wizard appears that allows us to Save our Data Connection. Note – we are not saving the results, we are saving the .odc file only. Results are saved from Excel as you would normally save any file.
gives us the option of which type of Excel workbook we want (Table, Pivot, etc.). And, we can select the Existing Worksheet or a New Worksheet.
Clicking OK brings back the Excel file and the data.
And, here is a small piece of one item from the Project file in a normal worksheet from our Project Online instance:
And, as an example, the Data Source we saved earlier, is now sitting on our PC for us to be able to use in the future. The default location is “This PC / Documents / My Data Sources”
As further proof that the Data Connection now exists, the next time you want to use it, Select the DATA tab from Excel, the Existing Connection option in the ribbon and the data connection you created will be there for you to use!