PM Tech Corner
Maximizing MS Project’s Newest Agile, Kanban, and Scrum Features
By Tim Runcie, PMP, MCP, MCTS, V-TSP, MVP
Welcome to the Technical Corner for PMI Portland Chapter. Today I will answer some of the most common questions on the new Agile capabilities in MS Project. The how-to’s and tips posted here are designed to help Project to Portfolio managers leverage tools, technologies, and methodology best practices to deliver a stellar value in daily work activities, including for those who are involved in Agile project management.
If you don’t know already, Microsoft has just released an update 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. Check and see if you have the current update. The product version for this release is 1710, Build 8625.2055. Let’s take a deeper look at some of these great new features and how you can leverage them to manage your projects.
Quickly Turning on the Agile Project Capabilities
MS Project has several launch options. Choose the Agile Style/Template that fits your needs when starting a project, or launch in and out of the Scrum or Kanban views while using MS Project.
Turn on the interface for managing schedules in an Agile manner directly from the Project Ribbon.
These new Agile, Kanban, and Scrum Boards leverage the existing structure (database) of MS Project, and have some new native fields added to help organize and manage tasks using Kanban or Scrum interfaces.
Remember, this is not designed to be the end all, be all for Agile methodologies, but provides the most common manner to organize, manage, and progress tasks within MS Project.
Mix and match both Waterfall and Agile projects using the views, filters, and grouping just as you would for regular schedules.
Image: Agile Introduction 1
In the image above, Agile Introduction 1, click the Projects tab and turn on the agile interface.
The three new templates available are:
- Scrum Project
- Kanban Project
- Waterfall Project
Image: Agile Introduction 2
Click on the Agile button and select a template. As seen in the image above, Agile Introduction 2, choose either Kanban, Scrum, or MS Project’s canned version.
Image: Agile Introduction 3
Choose the desired layout interface as shown in the image above, Agile Introduction 3.
Use the ribbon to toggle between Scrum, Kanban, and Waterfall views as seen below in Agile Introduction 1a.
Image: Agile Introduction 1a
Customizing the Kanban Board in MS Project
Many Agile Project Managers ask about how much customization can be added when using a Kanban Board view. Of course, continue to add categories based on project needs, but the standards (Backlog, Next Up, In Progress, and Done) are, and will remain native and unchanged.
Build and quickly add additional fields in the Kanban view from the Agile Tools Tabs.
Image: Customizing Kanban
In the image shown above, Customizing Kanban, click Add New Column to add columns.
The image shown below, Customizing Kanban 1, shows how to order columns for ease of use or by a lifecycle planning process.
Image: Customizing Kanban 1
Click on any column and choose to reorder, either left or right.
To plan the work by sprint versus by category as in the Kanban view, switch by clicking on the Format tab and choosing the Columns to display (Board Status or Sprint) as seen below in Adding Sprints.
Image: Adding Sprints
The Kanban view is not limited to just a few columns. Organize the work based on the project’s schedule by simply dragging and dropping the tasks to the correct status or sprint.
Customizing Sprint Boards or Scrum in MS Project
With the new Scrum features in MS Project, set a task to be delivered in a specific sprint even if planning by Sprint or Kanban. This is helpful since high-level statusing is independent of managing Projects by Waterfall or Scrum.
Image: Sprint Planning 1
In the image Sprint Planning 1 shown above, a series of tasks is organized by sprint and, if desired, list work scheduled in the backlog.
One key feature to like about sprint planning is that tasks can be organized into different sprints, while each also has its own configured date range not tied to any of the scheduling dates. Scheduled dates choose the desired layout interface if they are entered. This gives 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 managing tasks in a details sheet view is important, easily switch and manage them with duration, start and finish dates in a planning window versus the more Kanban-like visual scheduling window.
Click the Agile Tools Tab and select the Agile Button (then select Scrum) to toggle back and forth between Kanban planning boards to Scrum planning.
Image: Switching to Sprint Planning
The image shown above, Switching to Sprint Planning, demonstrates how easy it is to toggle between planning boards.
One of the most common questions for Project Managers using these new features to manage scrum planning is how to generate or spawn additional sprints.
Image: Generating Future Sprints
Enter a future date or existing date into MS Project to generate future sprints as shown in the image above, Generating Future Sprints.
This is different than adding additional columns in the Kanban view. Microsoft recognized that there could be many more sprints than typical process steps. Typing each one in would be very labor intensive.
Scrum planning in MS Project is simple and speeds up the end user’s ability to seamlessly switch between Scrum, Kanban, and Waterfall planning.
Agile in MS Project, Versions 2013 or Earlier
Don’t have the latest release of Project, but still want to leverage Project PPM (MS Project, Project Online or Project Server)? Use MS Project as the database it is to leverage custom fields, groups, filters, and views.
Common fields to use are custom text fields. Name them Sprint, Iteration, Story Points, Function, Customer Priority, or other related fields to showcase at a task or work-management level. It is recommended that these fields are created as lookup fields for anything that is a drop down to maintain consistency in views, filters, and groupings.
The image shown below 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 oftentimes 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.
Image: Agile MS Project Template Filtered for Agile Tasks
Either way, having or applying filters or groupings by key fields will help you manage and report where the values of cost, work, story points rollup based on a burn down or an Agile tasks summary view.
In the image shown Rollup Tasks image shown below, 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.
About the Author
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