An Introduction to the New Microsoft Project Service

An Introduction to the New Microsoft Project Service

Overview

The new Project Service, officially called Project for the web, is an offering delivered via the Microsoft Office 365 platform. It is designed for anyone and everyone, whether in a small business or a large corporation, who serve as ‘occasional’ or ‘accidental’ project managers. In almost every organization, there are employees who are often thrust into the role of Project Manager, but rarely have Project Management in their title, background, or formal responsibilities. People like this need to capture and organize information on work outside of the formal project management process. In response to this need, Microsoft just introduced Project for the web, a tool designed to capture ad-hoc project work quickly and easily. This tool empowers employees to work more effectively and improves collaboration and productivity.

The new Project for the web service fills the gaps between Microsoft’s current work management tool named Planner, which enables visual task and light project work tracking, and Microsoft’s current enterprise project management tool named Project Online, which supports formalized portfolio, program, and project management. A good way to think of Project for the web is as a complementary technology to the current work management and project management tools offered by Microsoft, as outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Microsoft’s project management tools

Figure 1: Microsoft’s project management tools

Accessing Project for the Web

Project for the web is available via subscription in a license called ‘P1’ in Office 365. Once enabled and licensed, you can access this new tool by clicking the Project icon in your organization’s Office 365 web portal, such as shown in Figure 2. This is similar to how you access Project Online.

Figure 2: Click the Project icon

Figure 2: Click the Project icon

As a ‘born on the web’ application, there is no need for a desktop scheduling tool, since Project for the web is completely driven by Office 365 web technologies. It is also available to any of your users that already have a license for Project Online Professional or Project Online Premium.

Using Project for the Web

When you click the Project icon, the system displays the Project Home page shown in Figure 3. This is where licensed users can access their Project-based services from Microsoft, including Project for the web, Project Online, and the Roadmaps feature. Notice that the system displays a The new Project is here message in the upper left corner of the page.

Figure 3: Project Home

Figure 3: Project Home

To create a new project using Project for the web, click the + New blank project button. When you initially create each new project, the system labels the project with the name, Untitled project, such as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: New project created

Figure 4: New project created

To begin using Project for the web, the first step is to click the project name so that you can rename the project and modify the project properties. The system displays a project sidepane on the right side of the page. In the sidepane, you can rename the project, select a Project Manager (the default will be the person who created the project), and select a Start date (the default is today’s date). Notice in the sidepane shown in Figure 5 that I named my new project, Bahamas Tunnel. Close the sidepane when finished.

Figure 5: Project sidepane

Figure 5: Project sidepane

Once the properties have been updated, you can then start building out the tasks in your project schedule. In my sample project, I decided to model the building of an undersea tunnel to connect Miami to the Bahamas. Adding tasks is very easy. Click the + Add new task button, enter the name of a task, and then press the Enter key on the keyboard. You can use “drag and drop” to move tasks up and down in the task list. Figure 6 shows my project after entering a number of tasks.

Figure 6: Task list in a new project

Figure 6: Task list in a new project

To update the properties for any task, click the information icon to the right of the task name. The system displays a properties sidepane on the right side of the page, such as shown in Figure 7. You can update an extensive list of task properties in the sidepane, including entering information such as the Duration, Start date, and/or Finish date for the task, along with adding task notes as well. To specify task dependencies for the selected task, click the Add dependency button in the Depends on (before) section of the sidepane. Close the sidepane when finished.

Figure 7: Enter the properties for a task

Figure 7: Enter the properties for a task

When you finish setting up the schedule of each task in the project, you are ready to assign resources to each task. To start assigning resources, float your mouse pointer in the Assigned to column to the right of the task name, and then click the Assign Resources icon, such as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8: Click the Assign Resources icon

Figure 8: Click the Assign Resources icon

When you click the Assign Resources icon, the system initially displays a dialog with only your name displayed, along with a field in which you can enter the name of any other resource you want to assign. When you enter the name of a resource, the system searches for their name in your organization, and then displays their name in a pick list. When you select the user’s name from the pick list, the system displays a dialog that indicates you need to connect your project to an Office 365 group, such as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Connect to an O365 group

Figure 9: Connect to an O365 group

The dialog allows you to either create a new O365 group with the same name as the project, or to add the user to an existing O365 group. To create the new group, click the Create and assign button in the dialog. Adding resources to the O365 group will give you access to a specific set of resources for your project. I decided to create a new O365 group with the same name as the project. Keep in mind that you cannot assign a resource outside of your organization.

To assign a resource to a task when the resource is already a member of the Office 365 group, click the Assign Resources button and select the resource’s name in the pick list. To add a new resource to the O365 group, type the name of the resource, select their name in the pick list, and then click the Assign and add button in the Add member to this project dialog (not shown).

Using Project for the Web Views

Project for the web offers three views for each project you create:

  • Grid view (the default view)
  • Board View
  • Timeline view

The Grid view is the one I have been using to build my project schedule. It is a great view for entering tasks, linking tasks, estimating durations, assigning resources, etc.

The Board view is great for your Kanban or agile users, and is very similar to Microsoft Planner. When you initially apply the Board view, Project for the web groups your tasks by progress, which gives you three buckets named Not Started, In Progress, and Completed. If you want to create your own custom buckets, click the Group By pick list and select the Bucket item, and then click the Add bucket button to create your own buckets, such as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10: Create your own buckets

Figure 10: Create your own buckets

You can create any type of buckets you want. Typically in a Kanban environment, you would create buckets named To-do, Ready, In Progress, and Done. As you can see in Figure 11, I added those four buckets easily. Drag and drop each task to its appropriate bucket.

Figure 11: New buckets created

Figure 11: New buckets created

The Timeline view shown in Figure 12 is a really nice way to view your project with the familiar Gantt Chart view. With apologies to Henry Gantt, Microsoft now refers to the Gantt Chart view as the Timeline view. It is a great view to see all of the tasks, the resources assigned to each task, and the progress on each tasks. You can also drag and drop tasks to adjust dates, duration, and effort. You can even link tasks using drag and drop as well. Use the Zoom slider at the top of the page to zoom the timescale shown in the Timeline view.

Figure 12: Timeline view

Figure 12: Timeline view

When you float your mouse pointer over any task, Project for the web displays a floating tooltip that displays the time span of the task, from its Start date to its Finish date, such as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 13: Float your mouse pointer over a task

Figure 13: Float your mouse pointer over a task

Entering Task Progress

You can update progress on any task by simply clicking the task. Project for the web displays a floating dialog, such as the one shown in Figure 14. In this dialog, you can adjust any of the task properties, including the % Complete value.

Figure 14: Enter task progress

Figure 14: Enter task progress

The fastest way to mark a task as complete is to click the radio button to the left of the task name in any of the three views. When a task is marked as complete, you hear a most satisfying ‘Ping’ sound. In my opinion, this is a really nice feature.

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading. You are now ready to start using the new Project for the web service from Microsoft. For a visual overview of this solution, you can watch our video.

Reach Out to Us

We hope you enjoyed this Introduction to the new Project for the web service, which is being made available by Microsoft via Office 365 subscription. For more information, or to solicit our assistance in setting up Project for the web or Project Online based upon your organization’s specific needs, please contact us at: info@projility.com.

About the Author:

Tom Henry
Tom Henry has been involved with Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) since graduating from Bournemouth University in the UK. Working first in London and then moving to the US, Tom has seen how project managers interact with Microsoft Project and Project Online from using different methodologies such as Prince 2 in the UK to PMI in the USA. Tom has also worked with Agile teams looking to utilize Microsoft Project to manage projects using Scrum, Kanban, and other iterative methods. Tom prides himself on being able to understand his clients’ needs and to translate those needs into simplified PPM solutions.

About Projility

PROJILITY is a Microsoft PPM and CRM services leader and product innovator. Our Hammerhead products have helped organizations around the world save hundreds of thousands on Microsoft Project Server training, customization, and support costs.

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