Microsoft Project Online – Your Questions Answered

Our recent article on what will become of Microsoft Project Online raised a series of questions regarding it’s future and what steps you can take to transition on from this staple platform for project management. In this blog we’ve provided answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What is the future of Project Server and Project Online?

Over recent years Microsoft has been very public with their intention to focus all future investments on Project for the web and the use of the Power Platform to create PPM solutions going forward.

See the Project Announcement here for details on Microsoft’s future Project strategy. This means that you need to consider a Power Platform based solution which could be Project for the web, or something like Altus, or both as Altus can integrate to Project for the web (which focuses on task management while Altus also includes all of the PPM functionality).

How are Microsoft Project Server, Project Online and Project for the web-hosted?

Project Server and Project Online are built on Microsoft SharePoint while Project for the web is built on the Microsoft Power Platform.

These are within your Microsoft tenant. Sensei’s own Altus is like Project for the web within your Microsoft tenant. This allows all of your existing security and policies to apply and enables integration into your other Microsoft solutions.

What is the recommendation for someone who is on legacy Project Server and wants to migrate to SaaS based PPM Solution?

Migrating from a legacy project server to a cloud based solution will benefit your PMO – and bottom line – for years to come. We encourage you to take the time to do it right by performing a thorough discovery process to identify your key objectives and goals with the migration.

We would look at refreshing your functionality and what out of the box functionality you can take advantage of. We configure the new solution accordingly.

Then we will plan how to move your data, and where to, as it may not all go to one tool.

Can I integrate Project Online with other third-party apps?

Yes, you can. You can integrate Project Online with various third-party or customised apps to further streamline your project management operations. Integrating it into your ERP, for example, will help simplify your financial process and reduce the amount of time needed to input timesheets as a basis for invoicing. Connecting it to a BI solution will help ease project reporting and analysis for bespoke reports.

Let’s look ahead though as we know that Project Online is not going to be around much longer and you need to consider moving to the Power Platform. Once you are in the Power Platform integration becomes much simpler. The technology is easier, everything is generally in your own environment, and Microsoft provides many out of the box connectors and tools to help.

Can I customise reports on Project Online?

Yes, you can. There are out of the box project reports available on Project Online such as Project Overview Dashboard, Project Overview, and Resource Overview – all designed to provide you with basic project management reports. But if you feel the need to customise one that’s unique to your business needs, you can do so easily by using Power BI or SSRS.

But you should look beyond Project Online as we know it isn’t going to be around much longer. And you can definitely use Power BI as part of the Power Platform, and other BI tools as the data is in the Dataverse, Microsoft’s cloud based datastore. It will be in your environment and easy to get to. And you can still use standard paginated reporting such as SSRS.

Can all P3 records in an enterprise MS Project 2016 on-premise solution, skip Project Online, and be migrated to a Microsoft Power Platform solution?

Yes, they can.

We do need to look closer at this though, as Project Server and Project Online have essentially the same data model and the same features. So migrating from one to another is simple and there are tools that do this for us.

When we move to the Power Platform we are moving technology, but also into a different approach for how work is managed. Microsoft has not rebuilt Project Online but re-imagined how work is done. Therefore not everything fits in the same way, and there is new functionality as well.

The most obvious is the change in schedules. Project for the web is not the same as MS Project, and Project for the web does not have all of the features of Project Online.

Therefore migration needs to be planned out and should include migration but also a strategy for taking advantage of new ways of working and new features, and for more teams than just those that used to use schedules.

Can Project Online have a chatbot?

Yes, but it is a lot easier to set up a chatbot in a Power Platform based solution. You would not add it to Project Online itself but rather think of how to re-imagine collaboration and communication in Project Online.

You should consider using Teams as part of your solution. This can be integrated with Project Online, and integrated really well with a Power Platform solution which includes Teams by default. And chatbots are very much used in Teams.

Can you manage a project in Microsoft Teams through Project Online/ Project for the web?

Yes. One of the most compelling features of Project Online and Project for the web is the integration with Microsoft Teams. When using Microsoft Teams to manage your projects you get a centralised space for the team to collaborate.

Can I use Power BI reports to report on data across Project for the web and Project Online?

Yes, you can use the Power BI Desktop template file which has reports that aggregate data from both Project for the web and Project Online.

What is essential for a successful Project Online deployment in schedule centric organisations?

This question really deserves its own webinar, but in brief focus on the processes. Scheduling, resourcing and cost are integrated together in a schedule but don’t have to be tackled at once. Get the basic process in place and slowly improve the maturity.

Is Microsoft Project suitable for small global business teams?

Microsoft Project is a scheduling tool and is intended for a single user. If you need an enterprise solution you would look to Project for the web but in the past could have looked at Project Online.

With Project for the web, you use the inbuilt scheduling tool. This is not MS Project or as advanced but is growing in features. The advantage is that it is cloud-based and much more suitable for people globally to all use.

If you do need to specific advanced features of MS Project you can look at Altus which can integrate in MS Project, or you can wait for Microsoft to further develop their approach to integrating in MS Project.

What are the migration options and cost (licensing) associated with moving from Microsoft Project Server/Project Online to Microsoft Power Platform?

The costs depend on the approach. And the approach depends on how you work now, what you have done in your existing solution, and how you may want to take advantage of different ways of working in Project for the web and the overall Power Platform. Sensei will guide you through workshops and planning to come up with the most effective way to migrate.

Migration could be automated, manual, or both.

What level of vendor support is required to operate off the Microsoft Power Platform?

Once your system is in place you will be able to maintain it yourself, as it will largely be self-maintaining.

To enhance it requires some level of Power Platform experience, and you will likely find that your IT is growing in this area.

Dashboards using Power BI is likely the area you most want to enhance, and you probably already have Power BI skills.

So you can maintain it yourself. There will be cases where you do need a vendor as part of the solution are complex or you don’t have the skills, but many of our clients are successfully taking care of their own future with their own Power Platform skills. And since it is all in your own environment you can do this.

Looking for more information?

We have a team of experts who are happy to assist you with other questions you may have around the most effective ways to combine Microsoft applications for a more collaborative and efficient approach to work. Be sure to get in touch with us if you have any queries!

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Marc Soester

Passionate work and PPM Visionary, industry practitioner and technology specialists who enables a modern way of working. Obsessed with advancing our Industry and improving the way you work. It's all about productivity and work Zen.