Complexity is something we must always deal with, an undeniable fact that will only slow progress if not accepted. After getting over the chock that complexity will haunt companies of all sizes, we can start seeing the perks of it instead. Truth is, sometimes the tool you have is just not the best for the job. At Projectum, we specialize in Project, but even we must admit, however painful it may be, that Project is not always the answer. Sure, we can put everything from project and portfolio management to collaboration and task management into Project, but that does not necessarily make for the most elegant solution. No, a more elegant solution is to use the functionality of specialized tools and collect the front end in one place.
This blog will guide you into the mysterious world of working effortlessly with multiple tools.
In a world where business processes are getting increasingly more complex, we see more and more companies looking for a simple and user-friendly solution while still having everything in one system. Though it might sound utopic, you cannot blame them. For years, companies have drowned in elaborate IT systems, which, in an attempt to meet all needs, have grown into big hairy monsters. Best case, one or two administrators understand all facets and functionalities of one specific system. Worst case, no one understands the full complexity, and external consultants are brought in by the dozen when changes are planned. What happens then, when two or more systems should interact?
“Consultant A from Specialized Company A must talk to the administrator of System B, who does not have time this month due to internal deadlines, so Consultant B from Specialized Company B is called in, but must talk to the administrator of System A, who is going on vacation in a week…”
By now, most of you will probably feel chills going down your spine just by the mere thought of integrating such systems. There must be a better way!
Though not quite as magnificent as the universe, the Microsoft Office365 Suite is massive, expanding, and no one really knows everything it contains. With the focus being on simplified project and portfolio management, this blog post will only focus on those online apps that the majority of our customers are interested in. From the Microsoft suite, we will look into:
These apps will be supported by Projectum developed apps Team Planner and PPM Butler. The combination of the above enables companies of all sizes to do portfolio, project, resource, and task management in a simple and user-friendly way. Furthermore, it enables file handling, reporting, and private/public conversation – effectively killing the “reply all”-mails.
In short, yes! Most of the things shown in this blog post are things you can do yourself.
Work Management. Getting things done!
Clicking “Reply All” has become a cliché at the same level as PowerPointing things to death. Nonetheless, most of us do it from time to time. Massive mail correspondences, attached files, or using private OneDrives is not efficient work management. To encourage efficient work management, you need a place to store everything – files, conversations, meeting minutes, statuses etc. MS Teams is the place to do so. Other than the obvious benefit of it now being free to organizations with up to 300 users, it is among the best and most serious contestants when considering user interface and integration possibilities.
With an empty MS Teams, try creating a new Team. You will see that a channel named General is created with the tabs Conversation, Files, and Wiki. In the conversation tab, you can tag team members or the entire team. This way, only those tagged are notified, hence avoiding unnecessary content switching. You can create any folder structure in your Files tab, but do consider making a generic approach to help team members working across projects. The Wiki tab can be used for e.g. user guides, but for now try and delete it (don’t worry, you can always add it again). Another important part of efficient work management is immediate note sharing, so go ahead and add OneNote by clicking the plus sign.
Out of the box
Teams comes with a large variety of add-ins both within and outside the Microsoft world. You should take some time to check out the many different options, but for now, let’s focus on Planner, VSTS, and Power BI.
To do task management, you have two Microsoft options; Planner and VSTS. There are pros and cons to both, and to make a decision on which tool to use, you must consider the level of information you will need. If you need basic task management or to get started on the task management journey, go with Planner. Planner has its standard fields, and the only things you can customize are buckets, labels, and team members. Planner is a great tool because it streamlines the work processes across projects. It is simple and intuitive to work with, and many organizations with an Office365 suite already have it at their disposal. VSTS on the other hand gives you the option to create custom fields to e.g. track hourly progress and burndowns. It has a lot of features, but you can get started with only a backlog and some sprints. The tool supports the agile approach fully, and if needed, you can link it to coding and testing as well. VSTS is a great tool because it can provide you with so much more detail, templates, and customized task management, but it does take a license to get started.
Both Planner and VSTS have standard reports available, but if you need more details and filters, Power BI is the tool for you. Power BI is excellent for creating a visual overview that enables drill-down in data. You can create reports on portfolio, project, task, or resource level.
Just like setting up your OneNote, you can add Planner, VSTS, and Power BI directly from Teams. While you can create a Planner board directly in Teams, VSTS and Power BI should be linked to existing solutions. This will, however, help you to not get a hundred different takes on task management and reporting, but it does take some effort doing the initial setup.
To create some automation, try a hand at using Flow. Flow works as an engine connecting your tools making dependencies from one tool to another, e.g. if I create a Project in Project Online, I automatically create a channel/team in Teams. Flow works with triggers and actions (project creation = trigger, channel creation = action), and Microsoft has created a large number of both. You can create flows from scratch, or you can use some of the many templates that are already available.
The ‘Not so standard’
Now, let’s take a look at the features you can have in Teams, but which are not yet out of the box standard functionality. Considering that the entire blog post encourages the team members to only work in Teams, it would be neat for the project managers to do so as well. There is no standard connection for Project Online in Teams yet but remember, with Teams, what is not possible today, may very well be possible tomorrow, as Microsoft is constantly developing new features and listening to user voices. It is, however, possible to connect Project to Teams using the website functionality.
Just by entering the URL of your Project Online environment, you will have direct access to either a specific or all of your projects. The permissions set up in Project Online still applies, meaning that you will only see the project, you are allowed to or none if you do not have a license. This could be the case for team members, who do not need access to schedules and master data. You can navigate through the project or to other projects just like in Project Online, but every time you open the tab in Teams, it will launch the URL you first entered. Now the project managers can do actual project management directly in Teams!
As part of the Project Online standard functionality, it is possible to do resource management, and at Projectum we have created an app building on this, named Team Planner. Using Team Planner, the project managers and line managers have a tool for agreeing on resources and for the PMO to get reports on resource capacity and utilization. The project managers have all of their projects collected in one place, and the line managers are notified when requests are being made in their department. The tool is built to be user-friendly and using the same idea with adding a website to Teams, it is possible to work with Team Planner directly in Teams. You can either set up one tab for both Project Online and Team Planner, or you can create a tab for each, hence always having direct access to both.
One of the things that can truly optimize work efficiency is automating tedious and trivial tasks. In the Project Online world, this can be achieved using the Projectum PPM Butler. The Projectum PPM Butler can:
and it will continuously get more features. Until recently, this was only possible in Project Online, but the Projectum PPM Butler can now also be linked directly in to the chat functionality in Teams.
To sum up, let’s consider the pros and cons of the suggested solution.
There are some downsides to using Teams as the collected platform. Firstly, it is not possible to set up templates for creating new teams. You can copy a project, which also copies the tabs, but you will still need to set up the URL, connect to Power BI, create the folder structure etc. Furthermore, Teams is currently not governed by a thorough permissions structure as seen in Project and SharePoint. If a member is added to the team, they will be able to see everything in all tabs on all channels. This is however not the case for tabs linked to licensed products, where the permissions of said product take effect.
The obvious strength of this solution is that everything is gathered in one place. It uses the best tools for the different disciplines, instead of trying to fit everything into one tool. It is user-friendly, intuitive, and simple to set up. Many of the things shown here are simple things to implement and does not take highly tech-savvy employees.
To get started, you can install Teams for free in your organization. Clicking the +-sign, you can see all of the products, you can connect to, including those outside the Microsoft world. Go ahead, try it out and see what works for you!
This blog post was created as a spin-off from the webinar Microsoft Planner and Project: Better Together. Watch or re-watch the webinar right here:
PPM Consultant at Projectum ApS
Cecilie is a PPM consultant at our Aarhus office, creating cloud solutions in Project Online. Cecilie is very interested in the simple and user-friendly solution, and to put the focus on creating an overview of project, task, and resource level.