As you might imagine we are all very excited to be able to talk about the new features coming in Project Server 2010. One of the areas where we’ve made huge investments is in Time Tracking where we’ve had a huge amount of feedback from our customers. The feedback has been immensely valuable in helping us deliver a richer experience and I hope that you’ll be as excited by the upcoming features as we are.
Given the size of the investment we’ve made it’s is going to be hard to squeeze a full description into a single blog entry so I’m going to point out the highlights and then we’ll follow up with some more detailed posts over the next few weeks, specifically:
1. Task Statusing and the new Grid (Pat Malatack will do the honors)
2. Timesheets and Single Entry Mode (my next article)
3. Approval Center for integrated approvals (Pat Malatack and Nicolae Rusan)
4. Exchange and Outlook Integration (Chris Boyd)
5. Why Track Time? (my final (planned) article in this series)
We’ll also be posting on the new Administration Blog, with a deep dive into the rich Time Tracking configuration options (my 4th article); and on the Programmability Blog, with two posts: one on extending the UI (Pat’s 3rd) and the other on reading/writing data in single entry mode (my 5th).
As we post each article I’ll update this entry with links so you can quickly navigate around all of the posts
Finally, as ever, if you have time tracking questions feel free to post them in response to our blog entries and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.
I’m going to talk briefly about each of the areas above to give you a taste of what is coming over the next few weeks. Before I start with the new grid I just want to point out that we’ve deliberately minimized the changes we’ve made to our back end api (the Timesheet and Statusing Web Services), so those of you with customizations can relax!
The screenshots below are from a post Beta2 build, so you may notice one or two differences from the Beta – let us know if you can spot them!
One of the areas of feedback was that the move away from Project Server 2003’s ActiveX grid was a good thing (no install on to Team Member’s desktops) but that the replacement grid had some missing functionality. The good news is that we have a spiffy new grid that makes the Team Member experience richer than ever, here is a screen shot:
Figure 1 - Tasks Page
Pat will talk more about this in the next post but first notice the client-like ribbon, we’ve done a lot of work to make the experience more document-centric than in the past, it tested well in the usability labs and I hope you’ll find it easy as well.
Now notice the clean left navigation menu, again we’ve reworked the grouping a little (and this isn’t the final version, we expect the “Business Intelligence” option to move soon) to balance
In the grid itself we’ve brought back the ‘splitter bar’ (so the right “pivot” grid can be pulled over the left grid’s fields) which will really help folks with lots of columns to add to the grid but who have smaller screen resolutions make better use of their real estate.
The left grid is also a lot smarter, with the ability to reorder columns, hide/reveal columns and do custom sorts – and the bonus is that we remember these settings across sessions for each view that you select! There are many other improvements here that I’ll leave to Pat’s post where he’ll really exercise the grid’s capabilities for you.
The first thing you’ll notice is that we’ve moved the old “Timesheet Center” down to “Manage Timesheets”, so when you navigate to the Timesheet page we’ll create/load the timesheet for the period for the current date, allowing you to get in and out with a minimum of clicks.
You’ll be pleased to discover that the Timesheet page has adopted the same grid technology as the Tasks page, so you get all the benefits of efficient use of screen real estate and more. The two grids behave a little differently due to the nature of the data:
- Timesheet shows only late tasks and tasks with work planned in the period;
- Tasks shows all of a Team Member’s tasks plus those tasks where they are the assignment owner.
They also behave differently due to the differences in workflow between task update approval and timesheet approval. Despite these difference we hope that they will behave closely enough for the Team Member to move easily between them.
Here is a screenshot of the Timesheet:
Figure 2 - Timesheet Page
Notice the Status Bar (the blue bar below the Ribbon) – this is where we tell the team Member what to do next as well as displaying some global state such as the total hours and the period range.
The big functional change is the introduction of “Single Entry Mode” (SEM) – it can be set on or off by the Administrator and governs the integration between timesheet and project task assignment data. When SEM is on the task update data automatically flows into the Timesheet and onto the Project wherever it is edited, until such time as the timesheet is sent for final timesheet manager approval.
If SEM is on, then changes to task assignments are sent for approval to the Task Status Manager, and you can optionally hold back timesheet approval until all task updates are approved.
There is a lot more to talk about that I’ll cover in the Timesheet post.
We reviewed how people did approvals in Project Server 2003 and 2007 and decided that we would make the process faster if we presented all the approvals in a single dialog, this is shown below:
Figure 3 - Approval Center
Note that there is a Timesheet approval mixed in with task updates. Again we’re using the new grid technology for a familiar look and feel as well as the splitter bar to make the page more scalable. We didn’t get round to integrating Workflow Approvals in this release, and this will be a separate menu option for those using Demand Management workflows.
Pat will take more time to show you around the grid and to show you the history pages in a future post.
In previous releases we shipped an Outlook add-in that collected timesheet data – this was nice but had limitations including the need to install client-side code as well as functional limitations that meant that Team Members had to head to PWA to do many things.
We’ve now focused on connecting through to Microsoft Exchange™ and for our first revision we’ve targeted basic task assignment updates – using % complete or total work/remaining work – so it’s ideal for customers with basic progress tracking requirements.
The Team Member uses an Exchange client (Outlook or Outlook Web Access) and updates their tasks – any work entered is auto-submitted to the Task Status Manager, making this the simplest of the Time Tracking options.
Using Import or Single Entry Mode the data will arrive in the timesheet where it can be tidied up and then sent for approval. Chris will talk about this more in an upcoming post.
This will be our final post in in the initial series where I’ll take some time to guide you through the reasons for choosing each time tracking method, with the aim of helping you be successful from the get go.
I know that the whole team is excited about sharing the new functionality in public for the first time and we are all looking forward to your feedback on what we did well (and what we may have missed)
Patrick Conlan Project Development Team, Redmond.
Have you ever wanted to make edits to a project plan far away from your desktop installation of Project? Perhaps you were in a meeting and pulled up Project Web Access to show project status but hoped to capture updates directly in PWA as the meeting progressed. Maybe you have multiple stakeholders on a plan who want the ability to add tasks even if they aren’t responsible for the entire project schedule and don’t have Project on their desktop.
Hi, I’m Pat Malatack and today I’ll be introducing you to a new feature in Project Server 2010, web based project editing in Project Web Access (PWA). With this feature, these requests and many others will become a distant memory. Project Server 2010 enables the ability to create projects, edit the plan, assign resources to tasks, and publish the plan, all from the comfort and convenience of your browser. In Project Server 2010 you can expect to edit projects large and small on the server. Additionally, you can move effortlessly back and forth between editing projects in the browser and in the desktop client. This allows users to have the convenience of a browser based project editing solution together with the power of the desktop client.
Now I know what you’re thinking “Do I need some fancy plugin for this?”, “How does it work?”, “How well does it scale?”, and “How does it differ from Project Professional?” Let’s answer each one of these questions and hopefully many more today.
How does it work? Performing edits to projects in your browser is simple and easy to use. In PWA you can expect to find many of the same great features you are familiar with in the Project desktop. Although we don’t have time in this blog post to walk through each and every feature, I will walk you through a few by starting off with a brand new project plan that I have just created in the web as shown below.
The first thing to take note of here is the user interface. There are 4 core interface elements that should capture your eye. First, you will see the Fluent User Interface at the top of the page (expanded in the screenshot below). Here you can manipulate the project plan. You are able to perform actions like linking, indenting and marking tasks as complete.
Second, you will see a blue information bar. This “status bar” displays information about the current project plan you are working on. In the example below you will see the project was checked out on 10/28 and that I am viewing a “Draft” of the current project plan.
Next you will see a grid. The grid is composed of two panes (our final two core UI elements). The left-most pane we will refer to as the “grid pane”. The grid pane is where the end users will complete actions on task level information. Users will be able to edit task names, assign resources and enter various project fields like start date & end date from this pane. As task information is entered we will begin to see a Gantt chart taking shape in the right half of the grid, we will refer to this as the “Gantt pane”. The grid, complete with both panes, is pictured below.
For this particular example I will build a project plan for the launch of a new product. I will begin by defining some high level phases. In order to create each task I will start by typing a task name in the empty row on screen with the indicator.
When I press ENTER on the keyboard or move to another cell the “new row”, as indicated with the icon, will move down one row, giving me another location with which to enter a new task.
After a few more edits I begin to see the high-level structure of the plan taking shape. Unfortunately, I have made a mistake while entering the start date of one of my phases. Thankfully PWA has detected this typo and informed me of this error while continuing to allow me to make edits.
Once I get a free moment I can click on the error. PWA will do its best to inform me of the problem and allow me to resolve the issue. In this particular case I have entered a value that is not a date for a date field.
After resolving the typo I hope to insert some sub tasks in Phase 1. At this stage in the project, Phase 1 is the only phase I have sufficient information for which to plan. All this takes is a simple press on the “Insert” Button in the ribbon or the “Insert” key on my keyboard.
After inserting each of my tasks I have a plan that looks something like this.
Next I want to indent the newly inserted tasks under Phase 1. To do this I will click in the “row header” region on the far left of the grid pane. I will select each of the rows and press indent in the ribbon (or Alt+Shift+Right on my keyboard if I prefer to use the Keyboard Shortcut Support). This demonstrates the use of full Task Hierarchy and Indent/Outdent support in the browser.
Now that I have created a summary task I want to establish dependencies on each of the subtasks. To do this I will select all of the subtasks and link them. In the screen shot below you will note that the tasks have been linked (which can be seen visually in the Gantt chart) but they have not been scheduled. The behavior is similar to that of Project Desktop if “calculate project after each edit” is turned off.
Finally we will press calculate which is located in the ribbon and the tasks dates will be updated. You should also note in this picture that the items that were changed as a result of the calculate operation are highlighted in blue. This demonstrates the use of Change Highlighting in the browser.
Some other notable features to call out here are support for Multi-Level Undo as well as Cut/Copy & Paste right in your browser (both are shown in the ribbon screen shot earlier in this post). If I had made a mistake in anyone of these edits and wanted to undo it or I wanted add a list of work items copied somewhere like Excel, I would effortlessly be able to do this in PWA.
Now that I have some tasks created and scheduled I want to go ahead and make some resource assignments, before I do this though I want the resource column to be placed right next to the task name to make assignments easier to see visually. To do this in PWA I simply drag the resource column by clicking down on the column header and dragging with my mouse. A “ghost image” will appear so that a user can see where my column will be positioned, demonstrating the intuitiveness of Flexible View Manipulation in PWA.
Together with my colleague Heather I will be “Identifying the Launch Team” as well as “Defining Launch Goals”. This demonstrates browser based support for Multi-Resource Assignment. Heather will be responsible for “Determining Sales Objectives” and I will be handling the other tasks defined. Making the assignments is depicted below.
A few more items of interest to mention in PWA are high-fidelity (and colorful) Gantt charts, support for Grouping (as you would expect from Project’s desktop client), and support for User Controlled Scheduling in the browser.
How well does is scale? Editing projects from small to the very large is supported in Project Server 2010. There are no explicit size limits for browser based editing. Coming soon – a video with a 6,000+ line project.
How does it differ from Project Professional?
Project Professional will continue to be your one stop shop for great project planning/tracking features like baselining, leveling and task warnings and suggestions as well as some of the new 2010 features like Timeline View and Team Planner. Features like defining work breakdown structures will only be available in the desktop client, which will continue to be the premium project editing experience. For basic project plan editing and manipulation though PWA will serve as a great compliment to Project Professional for traditional Project Managers and help to expand the use of Project to people within your organization whom traditionally did not use Project Professional.
To recap here are just some of the features you can expect with web based editing in Project Server 2010.
Remember everything demonstrated in today’s post was done in a browser and is included as part of Project Server 2010. We hope you are as excited for web based project editing as we are and be sure to download the beta when it is made available in November.
In Project Server 2010, a rich set of new Portfolio Strategy features are now available in the core Project Server product serving to more closely unify project and portfolio management. Those familiar with Portfolio Server 2007 will recognize many of these features, but will appreciate the enhancements made possible by rebuilding them on the Project Server platform. Highlights include:
· UI is now SharePoint-based, making these features easier to use and provides visual consistency with the rest of the app
· A gateway linking the Portfolio Server product is no longer required, everything resides with one product
· Full API support now available for these features via the Project Server Interface (PSI), and some integration with the Reporting Database (RDB).
This seamless unification of two products into one consolidated offering makes end-to-end project and portfolio management easier than ever. In addition to the core platform integration highlights, we’ve adding a brand new Resource Analysis feature that enables portfolio-level project scheduling and analysis based on organizational resource availability.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Portfolio Strategy feature set, it essentially allows organizations to methodically select projects that will yield the most value for their dollar. By adding intelligent structure to how project investment decisions are reached, executives can minimize the irrationality and fog that comes from making “gut feel” disposition decisions based on limited data and analysis, or based on unqualified or unclear business goals. At a high-level, the feature set works as follows:
· Organizations define and prioritize their strategic objectives, or business drivers.
Drivers can be prioritized using the pair-wise comparison method to reinforce objectivity.
· Costs and resource requirements are assigned to each project proposal, and a proposal’s impact on each business driver is rated, generating relative project value/priority score across a portfolio.
The Resource Plan feature can be used to specify high-level project resource requirements to be fed into the new Resource Analysis feature.
Portfolio analysts can review the project-to-driver impact ratings assessed by the project owners and make adjustments if necessary.
· Portfolios are constrained by cost categories, time-phased resources requirements, and project schedule. The Portfolio Cost Constraint Analysis engine selects projects that yield the most value with the lowest cost, while the Resource Constraint Analysis feature chooses higher priority projects based on resource availability within a planning period’s timeline.
Given a limited budget, the Cost Analysis algorithm will select a portfolio that maximizes strategic value while minimizing cost.
The new Resource Analysis feature helps you identify gaps in demand vs. availability, favoring higher priority projects for selection.
· Portfolio analysts can override the software’s decisions, and pull a variety of constraint levers to maximize value based on a given organizational reality. Projects can be forced in, cost reduced, dates moved, resources hired, etc., all in an effort to achieve a plan that maximizes strategic value based on dollars/resources consumed.
The tool suggests project selection, but ultimately you are in control and can force in projects for specific user-defined purposes.
One of the way the Resource Analysis feature allows you to resolve resource availability gaps is by moving project dates.
· Final project investment decisions are reached and communicated to stakeholders via reports or through the web interface.
New “Committed” fields help communicate the results of selection decisions to stakeholders.
Again, all of this is done on the shared extensible Project Server/SharePoint platform in the 2010 version, and integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Project features, including the Demand Management feature set and project scheduling/execution.
From strategy, to selection, to project planning and execution, Project Server 2010 unifies the end-to-end Project and Portfolio Management experience.
Demand Management is about capturing all work proposals in one single place, taking these proposals through a multi-stage governance process, making decisions on which proposals to approve and tracking progress on their execution until the work is completed. A key component within Demand Management is the Workflow governance model we have now implemented within Microsoft Project Server 2010.
The "Proposals" feature in Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 helps capture demand in one place, but is not flexible enough and does not have a full-fledged governance workflow behind it. The "Builder" module in Project Portfolio Server 2007 is a flexible demand management paradigm, but does not have a familiar Project Server/Office SharePoint Server look and feel and also has some usability, scalability problems. The Demand management functionality in Microsoft Project Server 2010 is designed to be both flexible and usable.
In project portfolio management (PPM), a project lifecycle is a long-running process that spans various governance phases. Typical demand management phases are create, select, plan, and manage (customers can create their own).
The "Plan" phase is accomplished by the more familiar project management processes using Project Professional and Project Web Access. Workflow models the governance processes and provides a structured way for projects to proceed through the phases. Workflows, along with other key concepts, are captured and integrated within the demand management feature set, providing a rich and dynamic platform on which customers and partners can build custom solutions.
The figure below shows the four typical phases of demand management and how they fit together. Within each phase are stages such as propose idea and initial review. Each stage can have an associated project detail page (PDP) in Project Web Access (PWA). The entire collection of stages represents a single workflow that can be linked to an enterprise project template (EPT). More details about these concepts given below.
A governance workflow is all about creating a rich life cycle for any proposal/demand that comes into the system. It includes defining the various stages through which the project goes in its lifecycle (for example, Proposal Creation, Proposal Initial Approval, etc), determining what information is required or locked at what stage (for example, budget cost should be locked down after the project is approved), including any manual approval/notifications steps as necessary and adding any business logic to update other Line Of Business Systems (for example, update the SAP system when the proposal budget gets approved).
The Project Server workflow platform is built on the Windows SharePoint Services 2010 workflow platform, which in turn is based on the Windows Workflow Foundation. Workflow is a key component of demand management.
Project Server 2010 workflows use the Site workflow paradigm, which removes the restriction that a Windows SharePoint Services 2010 workflow can be started only on a list item. Project Server workflows are deployed to Project Web Access, and workflow instances can be run only as a project entity.
The figure below shows the high-level processes for workflow creation, administration, and use.
Note: Project Server workflows must be created in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Project Server workflows cannot be created from Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010.
The administration of Project Server workflows is identical to managing any other Windows SharePoint Services 2010 workflow, thereby providing more consistency between Project Server and Windows SharePoint Services 2010 and reducing redundant work. Workflow instances are created when a project is created and are deleted when the project is deleted/completed/rejected.
Unlike in Windows SharePoint Services 2010, a user does not start a workflow instance from the administration page that lists all the Project Server workflows.
An enterprise project type (EPT) represents a wrapper that encapsulates phases, stages, a single workflow, and PDPs. Each EPT represents a single project type. Normally, project types are aligned with individual departments, for example, marketing projects, IT projects, HR projects, and so forth. Using project types helps to categorize projects within the same organization that have a similar project life cycle. For a user, the EPTs appear in a drop-down list of project types when the user clicks New Project in Project Web Access.
Phases represent a collection of stages grouped together to identify a common set of activities in the project life cycle. Examples of phases are project creation, project selection, and project management. Phases do not have any direct technical impact on the behavior of an EPT. That is, changing the order of phases does not affect how the system reacts. The primary purpose of demand management phases is to provide a smoother user experience where users have the option of organizing stages into logical groups.
A stage represents one step within a project lifecycle. A stage is composed of one or more project detail pages (PDPs) linked by common logic or theme. Stages at a user level appear as steps within a project. At each step, data must be entered, modified, reviewed, or processed.
At a technical level, each stage represents a step where data is manipulated before the workflow can move to the next step. For a single-stage workflow, very little programming is involved. The user enters all of the data in one PDP, and can then work on the project as she normally would. For a multi-stage workflow, each stage is separated by an activity (SetProjectStage) within a Visual Studio workflow diagram. The actual SetProjectStage activity acts as a marker between stages and sets default properties of the next stage. The activities that follow SetProjectStage outline the actions that must take place within the next stage.
Note The actual stage itself is not created within Visual Studio. The stage must first be created in Project Web Access. After the stage is created, you can link to that stage within Visual Studio.
A PDP represents a single Web Part Page in Project Web Access. PDPs can be used to display or collect information from the user. You can create PDPs in much the same way you create any Web Part Page in a SharePoint site, where you can add Web Parts that provide the experience you want. You can add individual Web Parts from the standard Web Part galleries to create custom Web Parts.
Project Server Web Parts and custom Web Parts used in demand management all contain custom fields. Web Parts can make calls to the PSI, query the reporting database, or integrate with external systems.
The figure below shows the general hierarchy of the parts of demand management in Project Server 2010.
Workflows are associated with the stages. From a programming standpoint, PDPs are not actually referenced within the workflow. The PDPs simply act as containers to hold or display data. The workflow can however, references custom fields in the Web Parts.
A typical work week is rarely typical. Yet, you can plan for this with a Project 2007 feature called “work contours.” If you discover that there is a consistent work pattern in your organization where people are assigned to work more hours at the beginning of a task than at the end, you can have Project account for this using assignment contours. Or, perhaps a task requires more work in the middle of it than at the beginning to account for ramp-up time.
No problem. After assigning a person to a task, switch to the Task Usage view from the Tools menu. The tricky part is double-clicking the person’s name assigned to a task and not the task itself. This brings up the Assignment Information dialog box (which is what you want since you’ll be adjusting an assignment and not the task itself).
In the Work Contour list, select the type of work assignment pattern that makes sense for the work that will be performed on the task. Now, in the list of patterns, you may not know the difference between a “Turtle” and “Bell” contour, so it’s best just to apply different contours and see how the hours automatically “shape” themselves in the timesheet portion of the Task Usage view. The view should now look like this:
In the image above, two different contours are used: a “Bell” contour and a “Front-loaded” contour, as you can tell by the icon on the left.
On the right side of the view, Tom has his work hours shaped, or “contoured,” to reflect a front-loaded work pattern.
It’s been great to see how many people have downloaded the Project 2010 Beta so far! Keep the feedback coming in the forums and through Send a Smile. I wanted to post to clarify a few of the most common issues people have been hitting so far.
Connecting Project 2010 client to Project 2007 Server – This is not supported. Project 2010 client can only connect to Project 2010 Server. You can connect the Project 2007 client to a Project 2010 server if the server is running in Compatibility Mode.
Unable to connect Project 2007 client to a 2007 server after installing Project 2010 client – This is an issue in the Beta. To fix this issue, go to the Control Panel – Add/Remove Programs and repair your installation of Project 2007.
Where is the Pert Add-in – This was removed from Project. Brian Kennemer has blogged about a macro he wrote to replace this functionality. Check that post out here.
Where is Copy Picture – It is on the Home tab – Copy dropdown.
Remember, if you are using Send a Smile, please include your email address and put the text “Project” in your comments. This way we can find your feedback and follow up.
You’ve heard the buzz, seen the posts, now check it out for yourself – the Project 2010 Beta is now available!!!
To download: Click here for Project. You can download the other Office applications from here
To send feedback: Use Send-a-Smile. When you install Project 2010, you’ll notice that a smiley face and frown now appear in your taskbar. You can use these to send feedback on your experience with Project. To help us out make sure to use the word “Project” in the comments section and include your email address so we can follow up with you if we have any questions.
To get help: Visit the Project 2010 forums
Thanks all for your insightful questions on timesheets and task status in Project Server 2007! Project PM Patrick Conlan has some answers for you in this video:
Many thanks to Patrick for a well-versed interview. Watch for another topic next week!
We are pleased to announce the availability of the following Microsoft Project 2010 technical resources, save these bookmarks!
TechNet Project 2010 TechCenter
At http://technet.microsoft.com/projectserver/default.aspx the following areas are covered for IT Professionals:
MSDN Project 2010 Developer Center
At http://msdn.microsoft.com/project/ developers will find growing list of resources including Project 2010 Beta Software Development Kit (SDK) as we move closer to Project 2010 Beta in November.
Project 2010 Forums
Get all your Project 2010 end-user, IT Professional and Developer questions answered by product experts from Microsoft and the community (Project MVPs):
Please not this is the first milestone of a journey, new content will continuously to these sites.
Announcing the Admin Blog! Coinciding with the release of Public Beta, we are aggregating all Project Administrator / Implementer content into a TechNet blog located at http://blogs.technet.com/projectadministration
The content of this blog will cover setup, upgrade, performance, backup/restore and planning topics for Project Server 2010/Project Client 2010. We will also have Project Server 2007/Project Client 2007 and Project Portfolio Server 2007 related topics as needed. We will also use this blog to announce patches, administration best practices and temporary issues with installs/upgrades.
Please find below the list of Project 2010 sessions that will be delivered at Tech Ed Europe 2009 in Berlin in November. We will also have a Microsoft Project 2010 booth staffed by product experts in the Microsoft Product Pavilion so please drop by and ask plenty of questions!
Microsoft Project 2010 Overview
This session provides an overview of the key investment areas and capabilities of Project Server 2010 and Project Professional 2010, including demand management, portfolio analysis, time tracking, and reporting.
Jan Kalis, Christophe Fiessinger
11/9/2009 13:30-14:45 New York 3 - Hall 7-1a
Microsoft Project Server 2010 for IT Professionals and Developers
This session provides details of what Project Server 2010 offers IT professionals and developers, including new features for easier deployment and management, and developer-related enhancements across Server and Client.
11/13/2009 10:45-12:00 London 3 - Hall 7-1b
Additionally, if you have not done so yet register for these: