PM Tech Corner
Business Intelligence (BI) Tools Expanding Availability for PMOs and PMs
By Tim Runcie, PMP, MCP, MCTS, V-TSP, MVP
My name is Tim Runcie and I have spent the last 20+ years supporting customers and software development companies (like Microsoft, Oracle, etc.) in building and utilizing methodologies and technology that supports Project, Program and Portfolio management. You can say it is a passion at our company Advisicon, to helping our customers, community and practice practitioners achieve better ROI through a blend of both tools and technologies.
As a Gold PPM partner with Microsoft and a member of the Advisory Council for Project, I welcome requests from you on features to add and requests for improvement on Microsoft tools that support the Project Community.
I personally hope you enjoy this and want to encourage people to reach out directly to me for follow up, questions around this and any other technology and methodology topic. I can be reached at Tim.Runcie@Advisicon.com
This month’s article is about the new features that Microsoft has just released for Project Professional 2016 desktop or Project Professional for Office 365.
If you are part of the update cycle from Office 365, then you will see these updates rolling out shortly. Project now has Agile functionality baked into the MS Project Client version. If you are looking to see if you have the current update the product version for this release is 1710, Build 8625.2055.
Let’s take a look at some of these cool new features and what you can do in managing your projects with these updates available to you the PM community of practice practitioner.
Turning On Agile Capabilities in MS Project
When you first start MS Project, you can choose an Agile Template.
You can also directly from the Project Ribbon, turn on the interface for managing schedules in an agile manner.
These new features leverage the existing structure (database) of MS Project and have some new native fields added that help you organize and manage tasks in either a Kanban interface or a scrum interface.
Remember, this is not designed to be the end all, be all for agile methodologies, but provides the most common manner in which to organize, manage and progress tasks within MS Project.
You can mix and match both waterfall and agile projects using the views, filters and grouping just as you do your regular schedules.
In this screenshot, Agile Introduction 1, you can easily click the Projects tab and turn on the agile interface.
The agile functionality hits you straight way in terms of 3 new templates you can use
- Scrum Project
- Kanban Project
- Waterfall Project
Once you click on the Agile button, you can easily select which approach you want to use. As seen in screenshot Agile Introduction 2, you can choose either Kanban or Scrum or to use the normal version of Project.
In this image Agile Introduction 3, you can choose between the layout interface you want to manage your agile project in.
The agile interface/tools in Project allow you to track your projects using Scrum and Kanban methodologies, including viewing task boards, creating backlogs, and tracking sprints, as well as viewing reports on agile statistics as I will detail out further in this article.
When you choose Agile, the Scrum Project templates and Kanban Project templates open up in their relevant views. You can also mix and match between different methodologies in a single plan, so it easy to switch between Agile methodology views allowing you to combine plan and track relevant parts of your project using both Waterfall and Agile methods.
Again, if you don’t already see these in your MS Project, those who are in the Office Insiders channel – and the features are released monthly, and for those of you who are on the deferred channels you will see these features rolling out early next year (2018).
This new feature is a client-side feature only. This capability is not available in PWA (Project Online) as of yet. All of the new fields in Project such as Agile, Sprint and Board Status are in Project only, but will be in the Enterprise (PWA) environment.
Using Kanban in MS Project:
For those who like the simplicity of organizing and manage work in a Kanban view, which typically is organized by functional phases, steps, features or releases you can easily setup your schedule to have this information readily available to drag and drop tasks between to manage the state they are in or where the activity is being actively worked at.
As you envision setting up your project schedule, the best way to think of these new features is as a new set of fields, views organized as a template that allows you to leverage these views and columns to allow more provide a more flexible option for managing your work.
If you were going to use the normal Gantt chart view, you can add the column ‘Agile' which is a Yes/No field. When set to ‘Yes’ then these tagged tasks will show up when you switched over to one of the new agile views – Scrum or Kanban. It’s the same data, just filtered for to be displayed in a different view.
In this view, Agile Introduction 1a, you will see the ribbon tabs available for managing your tasks. For those familiar with the Team Planner view, this is the same concept for dragging and dropping your activities and having them automatically update the meta data information behind the scenes quickly and easily.
In this view, Kanban Planning 1, you can see several different ways for organizing your work, including different waves, releases or even different parts of an overall epic.
Using Scrum in MS Project:
In the Scrum views, you can set a task to be delivered in a specific sprint – in Kanban you would choose to categorize the task as Backlog, Next up, in progress – or your own categories.
You can also show the columns such as the sprint or spring start/finish dates in the other project views – but be careful when looking at dates. If you are planning in scrum, then best to use manually scheduled tasks and not use (or at least don’t show in your working view) the project start/end dates.
In this view, Sprint Planning 1, you can see a series of tasks organized by sprint and if desired you can list work scheduled in the backlog.
One key feature I like about the sprint planning is that you can organize your tasks into different sprints, while each also has its own configured date range which isn’t tied to any of the scheduling dates. If you entered scheduled dates, then these would not affect the sprint. This gives you the ability to integrate, link and create dependencies outside of tasks within the sprint dates. Some schedulers will use manual tasks and ignore the overall dynamic schedule for details within sprints.
If you also like managing tasks in a details sheet view, you can easily switch and manage them with duration, start and finish dates in a planning window vs. the more Kanban-like visual scheduling window as seen below in this Sprint Planning 2 picture.
Using Agile in Older version of MS Project:
If you want to leverage Project PPM (MS Project, Project Online or Project Server), the key component to views, filters, groupings, even the Dashboards and reporting will be in leveraging fields or creating the custom fields that you need to support you or your stakeholders needs.
Typically, I would start with common fields, like Sprint, Iteration, Story Points, Function, Customer Priority, or other related fields that at a task or work management level you will want to showcase.
Here is an example of an Agile MS Project Template with the view filtered to show only the agile tasks. The key here for project managers is that they often times have an agile component as just part of their schedule, or perhaps the development work is only a part of the larger project as a whole.
Either way, having or applying filters, groupings by key fields will help you not only manage, but also report, (as shown in this next diagram, where the rollup values of cost, work, story points roll up based on a burn down or a summary view of the agile tasks.
In this view, you will see a rollup of tasks across a much larger schedule or series of schedules that provides a group total for any numeric field, like work, costs or story points.
All of these agile views or configurations roll nicely to the Project charting and graphing engine as seen in this task by board status image “Agile Conclusion 1”, allowing you to always summarize details in a visual charting view.
So, the wait is finally over for these Agile Options within the MS Project desktop (professional 2016 or the Project Pro for Office 365).
I know this opens up the world for easier scheduling of agile methodology within projects
If you saw an example or template that intrigues you or that you find useful, please reach out to me directly at Tim.Runcie@Advisicon.com. I’d love to share these with you and help your continued journey with Microsoft PPM and Agile disciplines.
I hope this was helpful for you and that you enjoyed this month’s article on Agile Project Management with MS Project and some of the great new capabilities just released.
You can find more on our YouTube Channel covering PM tools, methodologies and best practices, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzcAEnYWfm14KhSv4Y6H3bA, or check out our live webinars on Wednesday (called Webinar Wednesday at www.Advisicon.com/webinars ), where we present training with free PDU’s on technology supporting Project, Program and Portfolio management. You can also find other more advanced events and activities around the globe on the events page: www.Advisicon.com/events
Again, our goal for the PMI Tech Corner is to supercharge your ability to produce results with tools, processes or a combination of both for optimization of your project management experience.
Warmest wishes for your work and do reach out to me at Tim.Runcie@Advisicon.com for questions or other techniques/tools and blended methodology approaches.
About the Author
Tim Runcie is the president of Advisicon (a Gold PPM Company), a 20+ year project, program and portfolio expert and member of the Microsoft Advisory council. Tim is also the author of over 36 books on technology and project management and a 12+ year nominated and awarded MVP at Microsoft. Tim and Advisicon offer webinars, classes and customized training for all your project management needs.