Category Archives: Microsoft Project

Q3 Newsletter Out Now! Covering Microsoft 365, Project Online Updates and More!

 

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Microsoft Announces Office 365 is now Microsoft 365

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Recently at Microsoft Inspire, Satya Nadella unveiled Microsoft 365, which brings together Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security, delivering a complete, intelligent and secure solution to empower employees. It represents a fundamental shift in how we will design, build and go to market to address our customers’ needs for a modern workplace.

Microsoft states “the workplace is transforming—from changing employee expectations, to more diverse and globally distributed teams, to an increasingly complex threat landscape. From these trends, we are seeing a new culture of work emerging. Our customers are telling us they are looking to empower their people with innovative technology to embrace this modern culture of work.
With more than 100 million commercial monthly active users of Office 365, and more than 500 million Windows 10 devices in use, Microsoft is in a unique position to help companies empower their employees, unlocking business growth and innovation.”

I really support this change in branding. So many existing and potential customers were confused by the concept of “Office 365” as they assumed it meant only traditional Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.). With “Microsoft 365” it indicates you are accessing a store of products. This is very similar to how people buy applications for their phone. You go to the appropriate store (Google Play, Apple App store, etc.) and select what you want. Now, if you are looking for licenses for Project, OneDrive, Visio and many other products, you simply access Microsoft 365.

I’m also happy to announce that I am able to help customers buy their software from a Microsoft Certified Provider as an alternative to directly purchasing from Microsoft. This allows the customer to choose more personal and premium support as an alternative to the standard Microsoft support queue. Current customers have the option to switch to a certified provider as well. Personally, I have chosen this approach as it ensures I still get the same quality Microsoft products, but my business contact is just a different organization. I’m happy to answer questions about this approach.

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Project Online Update July 2017

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An important note for users of the Project client connecting to Project Online — as you will need a ‘2016’ level client to connect starting at the end of June 2017!

This is very relevant for customers who own a desktop client. I know the Microsoft website initially indicated this would happen at the end of June, but I didn’t notice this impacting customers till the second week of July. If you own a subscription version of Project “Project Online Professional” or “Project Online Premium” you have nothing to worry about as you already have the latest version of the desktop client as part of this subscription.

For the last several years, the option to force a specific version was left up to the organization based on a version number restriction. Now I see that this has changed for Project Online users. My personal feeling is that a number of support issues will be solved immediately by eliminating issues with the wrong version connecting. In discussions with clients who still purchase desktop software by a traditional license agreement with Microsoft, they have discovered that they can upgrade to the 2016 client at no additional charge.

Users of project desktop will notice only minor differences in their user experience when switching from 2013 to 2016. I frequently teach classes with students using 2010, 2013, 2016, and Project Online subscription users, all in the same classroom without any difficulties.

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TIP CORNER: How to Disable Auto Brightness on Windows 8

Throughout the workday and based on your background lighting, Windows 8 automatically adjusts the brightness of your laptop. Initially you might think this is your eyes getting tired, but it actually might be the screen brightness dimming. It is very frustrating when it dims and you don’t want it to. I found this useful tip and am so happy I changed my laptop!

1. Head to the Desktop of your PC by pushing Windows Key + D or clicking on the Desktop icon in the Start Menu.
2. On the bottom right of the screen, locate the battery icon.
3. Right click the battery icon and select More Power Options.
4. Select Change Plan Settings on the currently selected profile (by default it’s set to Balanced).
5. Click the Advanced Power Settings link.
6. Scroll down to Display > Enable Adaptive Brightness.
7. Change it to Off for either or both “Plugged In” and “On Battery”.

Source: https://theunlockr.com/2012/04/20/how-to-disable-auto-brightness-in-windows-8/

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Cindy 3 PMI 12-12-16

Where in the World is….. Cindy Lewis?

Sept. 27 – WMPMI (West Michigan Project Management Institute) Professional Development Day (Sponsor)
Oct. 20 – PMI-GLC (Project Management International Great Lakes Chapter) Professional Development Day (MPUG Booth)

Follow me on Twitter to Stay Up to Date!
@LewisCindy

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There’s a lot to Love about Skype!

In Skype for Business, a PSTN conference – commonly known as a dial-in conference – is any conference in which at least one participant dials in to the audio portion by using a PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone. The ability to use a phone to access a meeting is useful for individuals who are on the road or otherwise cannot attend a meeting using a mobile device or PC. Using a phone also can be a better option in other scenarios, such as when internet connectivity is limited or when a meeting is audio only.

The default SKYPE for Business calling uses your internet line for both the screen sharing and the voice sharing, but I’ve found this is sometimes problematic. If someone is at a location where the Internet goes out, the individual has no way to stay engaged in the meeting if you do not offer a dial-in number. Sometimes people are traveling during the meeting and need to join by phone until they are able to get to their computer and participate in screen sharing. I have personally decided to purchase the PSTN conferencing option so every time I hold a SKYPE meeting individuals can choose to join with a computer headset or with their cell phone or conference phone. It’s only about $4 a month, and I do not have to worry about the costs associated with international charges as the system provides alternative numbers based on the country of the attendee. This has saved my meetings and training engagements numerous times when the person who was disconnected by their computer could dial-in by phone and let us know they would be back online soon!

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I’d Love To Hear From You!

Did You Like This Newsletter?
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cindy@4pillarsofsuccess.com EMAIL
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The Inside Scoop on Being a Microsoft MVP – From a 5-Year (and counting) MVP – Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this post, I gave you some insight into what the Microsoft MVP award is and how it is awarded. This post will focus on the unique benefits to actually being an MVP.

Quick Answers to Tech Questions

Being an MVP means I can get answers to technical issues almost instantly from the community.

I can pick up the phone and call another MVP or even participate in a private forum to see if someone else around the world has experienced the same issue. Clients are often amazed that I can get the answer they need faster than their own IT departments!

As an MVP, I have had the opportunity to create a mental rolodex of the most qualified tech professionals in business today.

Access to Microsoft

Being an MVP means I share what I hear directly from clients to individuals at Microsoft who can truly make a difference.

Recently, while at an MVP feedback meeting, and with my client’s consent, I was able to show someone at Microsoft my automotive client’s instance, describing what they wanted to do and their pain points with the software. Microsoft was eager to receive this feedback as they continue to improve their products.

Another example is that of one of my retail clients, who was having an issue with a specific Project Online resource feature. I was able to reach out to someone at Microsoft who was involved in the development of this feature. My contact suggested that I have the client submit a proposed change to Microsoft backed by a business case. The feature was reviewed by Microsoft, which then decided to make a change to the software. With the power of Project Online, the customer was able to see the change within a few months of it being rolled out.

Serious Network Benefits

Being an MVP means I know the best of the best around the world. It’s a real kick when a customer says they read an article from another MVP, and I can often comment that I know the individual personally and that we recently chatted on the phone or participated in an event together.

An MVP might call me about a challenging timesheet/task update question, while I might call another MVP to get advice about integration with another Microsoft product. As an MVP, not only can I call people in my software area of expertise, but I can get connected to other MVPs in other areas when needed. This is very powerful and gives me a huge network of resources across all Microsoft products.

Also, MVPs in my software specialty have become friends for life. Sometimes in our forums we share stories about weddings, babies and life-changing events like floods, terrorist attacks, and even war. This is not a news report, this is someone sharing personal feelings of things they are experiencing right now, and I’m honored to be there for them when they need me.

Nonstop Learning & Sharing

Being an MVP means I am passionate about what I do and helping others get more from their software.

Being a frequent (okay….constant) traveler, I get to meet lots of people all over the country at all levels of ability and in all industries. I learn from them all. Novices help me to see pitfalls to software usability and experts help me to see the range of ways technology can be used. My head and my heart are in this business together because every time I travel I feel grateful for my unique opportunity to learn, grow and share.

One thing an MVP is not, is someone who knows the answer to every question. However, I continue to learn and gain knowledge every day and customers help me in that growth.

Are you interested in becoming an MVP? Or do you need the kind of help only an MVP can provide, specifically for Microsoft Project or Project Online? Please feel free to contact me to start the conversation!

 

 

Photo Credit http://www.motophotoknappscorner.com/

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The Inside Scoop on Being an MVP – From a 5-Year (and counting) MVP – Part 1 of 2

Five years. Half a decade. So much can happen in that amount of time yet it often feels like it was just yesterday. At a recent event I was asked by a friend about my Microsoft MVP status and when I told her I’d been honored for the fifth consecutive year, I realized I might be able to offer my readers some education about my MVP journey.

What is the MVP Award?

Microsoft describes the award as their way of saying “Thanks!” to outstanding community leaders. The contributions MVPs make to the community, ranging from speaking engagements, to social media posts, to writing books, to helping others in online communities, have incredible impact. Key benefits to MVPs include early access to Microsoft products, direct communication channels with our product teams and an invitation to the Global MVP Summit, an exclusive annual event hosted in our global HQ in Redmond. They also have a very close relationship with the local Microsoft teams in their area, who are there to support and empower MVPs to address needs and opportunities in the local ecosystem.

There are only about 4,000 MVP’s worldwide. The MVP award is active for only one year. As a Quora poster informally describes, “It’s a private club…It allows you to have tons of connections with people resolving problems with their technologies.”

How is it Awarded?

There is no “one path” to achieving MVP status. There isn’t a test to take, a course to attend, or a how-to guide to become an MVP. Proving yourself worthy isn’t a solitary endeavor, nor can it be done quickly. Microsoft lists a few qualifiers on their site. These include:

  • Contributing code to projects
  • In-person speaking
  • Helping others
  • Creating content
  • Providing feedback

Based on my experience of being an MVP for five years running, there are three phases of becoming an MVP: being identified, demonstrating your worthiness, and being able to document everything.

Identified

MVP’s must be nominated by a current MVP or by a Microsoft employee. You are able to nominate yourself as well, but based on my own and others’ experiences, it seems to hold more weight if the nomination comes from another.

Demonstrated

In the letter I received announcing my award, the phrase “willingness to help others” was used more than once. I believe the fact that I’m consistent and active in the Microsoft community has helped to prove my commitment to education and learning.

Documented

After the nomination process, candidates for the award must provide documentation to help the decision panel evaluate your worthiness. This might be social profiles, articles you’ve written, excerpts from topics you’ve presented at conferences, etc. I’ve always included anything that will help illustrate the positive impact I make upon technical audiences at all levels.

What it Means to Me

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog, where I’ll break down the unique benefits of why it’s so special to be an MVP. Believe me, it’s well worth the effort!

Are you interested in becoming an MVP? Or do you need the kind of help only an MVP can provide, specifically for Microsoft Project or Project Online? Please feel free to contact me to start the conversation!

Photo Credit http://www.motophotoknappscorner.com/

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Project Licensing Changes within Office 365

At the end of the year many organizations are working on their budgets for 2017 and one of the expensive items that companies deal with is software. By choosing cloud options available within Office 365, you now have more options related to Microsoft Project and less expensive ways to add users. You may also completely eliminate buying expensive licenses that are tied to one computer. I would personally hate to spend over $1,000US for software that I would lose if my computer hard drive fails.

Licensing graphic
Licensing graphic

With Office 365 your licensing is based on users and you can easily activate or deactivate computers that your users might be using. In fact, one of the pluses of Office 365 is you can provide each user a license for up to 5 devices. Now your users can have the same software at home that they use at work and provide even more value to your organization. You may choose to purchase these licenses on a month-to-month basis with no commitment or commit to one year for further discounts.

Here are the new options in Microsoft Project licenses:

Project Online Essentials – In conjunction with a Project Online system, this license is optimized for team members who need limited features such as completing timesheets or task updates. Since this provides web browser access, there is no limit on devices.

Project Online Professional – Contains all the features of stand-alone Project Professional but includes features related to managing projects in a Project Online system. Schedule owners and project managers are recommended individuals who need this license. Includes installation of Project Professional on up to 5 devices per user.

Project Online Premium – Contains all the features of Project Online Professional but also includes portfolio management, resource management, administrative functions, and reporting functions. Program managers, portfolio managers, administrators, and members of the project management office typically need this license. Includes installation of Project Professional on up to 5 devices per user.

View this link to see a list of all features including pricing.

https://products.office.com/en-us/project/compare-microsoft-project-management-software

Stand-alone licenses are still available if desired:

Project Standard – Desktop scheduling tool that does not have the ability to connect to Project Online and excludes advanced scheduling features.  Limited to 1 installation.

Project Professional – All the features of Project Standard plus advanced scheduling features and the ability to connect to Project Online. Limited to 1 installation.

View this link to see a list of all features including pricing.

https://products.office.com/en-us/project/compare-microsoft-project-management-software?tab=tabs-2

Don’t be surprised if you hear these new licensing choices in your organization or from messages delivered by Microsoft.

I’m happy to discuss these options in person if you have further questions. Contact me to request a personal appointment.

 

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Getting Rid of Resource Overallocation Indicators in Project

For schedules where you display the Indicators column, you might be unhappy to see a column filled with Overallocation Indicators (looks like red stick figure people). Even if the issue is only with one resource on one day, all tasks during that timeframe display an indicator. When I show my schedule to others, I find that missed deadlines indicators or note indicators are extremely useful but the overallocation indicators can be very distracting to the viewer. This blog focuses on getting rid of those overallocation indicators in a quick simple fashion without spending too much time in the tool solving all the causes of the overallocations.

Resource Overallocation Indicators

Recommended features to assist you are available when you right click in the indicators cell. Tip – A very fast way to get rid of the indicator is to simply choose “Ignore Problems for This Task” and it goes away!

Right click option

Tip – Another very fast tip to get rid of these indicators is to simply increase the overallocation threshold for the resource. That threshold is the Max Units on the resource sheet. Increasing the number to a larger number will eventually get rid of the indicator.

Resource sheet with max units

Both of these tips are fast ways to hide the indicator if that was your goal but the negative behind these techniques is you might need to do this a number of times across multiple tasks and resources  to get the results you want.

A hidden option that many users are not familiar with is you can change the timeframe sensitivity of the overallocation. What this means is you can instruct Project to identify when any one day on a task exceeds the threshold (typically an 8 hour day) or you can instruct Project to evaluate when one week exceeds the threshold (typically a 40 hour week). Tip – A task where you are scheduled to work 10 hours on Monday and zero hours the rest of the week would appear as overalloacted by day but not overallocated by week since you are within the 40 hours available for the week. Resources are typically very skilled at balancing out their workload even if the resource assignment isn’t scheduled this way. To make this change on the Resource tab, click Leveling Options and find the section Look for ovallocations on a _____ basis. Switch Day by Day to Week by Week and then click OK.

Leveling Options

Tip – Even if you never use Level All, the settings you select in Resource Leveling are being applied. In my experience, this one change alone will reduce the number of overallocation indicators in your schedule without a lot of effort on your part. Now you can focus on the critical overallocations that can’t easily be resolved by the individual. This should also make you feel better when reporting to others as the long list of overallocation indicators has been reduced.

Less Resource Overallocation Indicators

If you have tried any of these techniques, I’d love to learn what worked well for you.

 

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Deciding When To Upgrade Your Microsoft Project Software

I receive a lot of questions from customers asking if they should upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Project.

As of right now I am working with customers who have all of these versions: Microsoft Project 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and Project Pro for Office 365.

Making the Case for the Upgrade

Here are some reasons why you might want to upgrade:

  • You have experienced a software bug that is fixed in a later version.
  • Your company has software assurance and upgrades are included with this service.
  • Your current version is out of the support period by Microsoft and service pack updates or bug fixes are no longer available.
  • You feel a new feature could solve a problem you are having or could add business value.
  • You have Project Server or Project Online and you need to keep your Microsoft Project versions aligned with your enterprise software.

Here is an example in Excel showing what you might find regarding Software End of Life:

End of Life Example

Reference obtained from: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle?p1=11381

Making the Case for Staying with the Same Version

Here are some reasons why you might want to keep the same version:

  • Lots of larger corporations upgrade software only every three years.
  • If you are not using Project Server or Project Online, you may not need critical updates to continue running your projects.
  • Software bugs have workarounds that you are satisfied with.
  • You would have to incur an additional software or hardware expense to deploy the update.
  • You have budget restrictions.
  • You do not have software assurance and you are trying to get the most out of your existing purchase.

The next time you have this discussion internally, I hope you will think about these points.

Cindy

 

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Events and Articles Featuring Cindy (Jan 2015 – June 2016)

I am on the road frequently doing a number of different speaking events and contributing to the community. Please find below a sampling of these events.

I look forward to seeing some of you at events over the next few months.

Most Current at the Top

June 16, 2016 – MPUG Detroit What’s New and Tips & Tricks – Speaker

May 26, 2016 – PMI-NEFL Best Practices in Microsoft Project Seminar – Seminar Leader

May 25, 2016 – PMI-NEFL Project Portfolio Management Strategic Thinking in a Cloud – Speaker

May 24, 2016 – PMI-NEFL Best Practices in Microsoft Project Lunch & Learn – Speaker

May 23, 2016 – PMI-NEFL Agile in Action – Speaker

May 1, 2016 – A New Way to Contribute to Project Online Improvements – Article Author

April 12, 2016 – What is Agile Project Management – Article Author

February 23-24, 2016 – Microsoft Project Virtual Conference hosted by MPUG

February 2016 – MPUG Speaker Sponsor

January 2016 – WMPMI Sponsor – Grand Rapids

November 2015 – WMPMI Chapter Donation to Support Education Programs

November 2015 – MVP Summit – Attendee and Contributor

October 22-23, 2015 – Project Virtual Conference hosted by Prasanna Adavi and The Community www.projectvirtualconference.com – Speaker Customer Story: Whiteboard & Excel Scheduling to Enterprise Product Launch Management with Project Professional Register for free to view the recording.

October 2015 – PMI Global Congress Microsoft Project Booth Support

September 2015 – Cindy joined the MPUG Detroit Board

September 17-18, 2015 – Oceans of Opportunity Conference – Speaker multiple days

  • Resource Management with MS Project and Project Server/Online
  • Key Agile Concepts Illustrated

September 15, 2015 – MPUG Detroit – Using Resource Allocation with Project Server – Speaker

May 13, 2015 – MPUG Global – Highlights From Microsoft Ignite – Co-Presenter

May 12, 2015 – What’s New in Project 2010 & Project 2013 – Speaker Register for free to view the recording.

May 2015 – WMPMI Director of Public Relations appointed to another chapter season

May 2015 – Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) Ambassador at Ignite Conference

March 17, 2015 – PMI-MCAC Key Concepts of Agile Methodology – Speaker

February 2015 – WMPMI Sponsor – Kalamazoo

January 2015 – WMPMI Sponsor – Grand Rapids

January 2015 – Project Scheduling with Agile & MS Project at Davenport University (instructor, 300 level course)

 

 

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Postponing a Microsoft Project Schedule – 2 Techniques

When I observe individuals using Microsoft Project, I sometimes see them using techniques that do not optimize the features available. An example of such a technique is when someone changes the start date of the first task when they really wanted to move the entire project. This typically leads to adding a task constraint and locking in a date instead of letting the software calculate the date. As many of you know, locking in a task limits the ability of flexible adjustments later on in the software.

What I recommend instead is choosing between one of the two built-in options to postpone a project. Before I explain these options, let’s explore a few reasons why you might postpone a project.

Funding delay – If an internal approval is delayed or if a business has not raised enough funds to start the project, a delay may be needed.

Decision delay – If a key sponsor or stakeholder on the project has not made a decision that is critical to the project following a specific path, this may delay the project.

Agency delay – If an organization is involved in any industry with regulation including construction, health care, finance, and film, there are often certifications that must be obtained to authorize work. If the individuals, businesses, equipment or facilities are not able to obtain these certifications, this may delay the project.

Available in the last few versions of Microsoft Project, you have two ways to postpone a schedule. Both of these options are available on the Project tab of the Ribbon.

You may choose to:

  1. Move scheduled start date only
  2. Move scheduled start date and incrementally move deadlines and constraints

Move Scheduled Start Date Only

Project Information button

Project Information Dialog Box

This option shifts the start date of all tasks scheduled to begin the day the project starts. It also dynamically shifts any tasks that are linked together. Deadlines and locked in constraints on the schedule do not adjust.

Move Scheduled Start Date and Incrementally Move Deadlines and Constraints

Move Project button

Move Project Dialog Box

This option shifts the start date of all tasks scheduled to begin the day the project starts. Deadlines and locked in constraints on the schedule move the same distance. If the project start date moves 30 days, all deadlines and constraints on the project also move 30 days.

Tip – The dialog box does not specify constraints are moving, but they definitely do. You may want to test this yourself.

While many of us hope our projects start on time, it is good to know that we have options available if they don’t.

Many of you probably have specific business reasons for choosing one of these options. Please feel free to share those in the comments section.

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Contribute to Microsoft Project/Project Online Improvements

As many of you know, it is often the user of a great product who has the best idea for improvement.  A Starbucks employee told me one of their customers suggested the plastic drink stopper to keep you from spilling coffee on yourself. While in reality it may not have been a Starbuck’s customer, I’m sure it was a hot beverage drinker out there somewhere who came up with the idea.

I recently read a book called Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. In that book, it talked about Lego’s plans to go after a new industry for them at the time – online gaming. It seemed like every time something was shown to management, the team would be sent back to the drawing board. Continuing to invest money and time in a game whose release date was forever being postponed did not prove to be the best approach. Lego’s initial attempts at an online game were finally released and titled Lego Universe, but it was eventually shut down at around 18 months.

In an effort to release the nearly perfect game, Lego lost their potential market share to a company that did something different.  That company was Minecraft which started out with a simple game, relatively low price, but immediately went to the marketplace. The concepts of the game were similar to what Lego was trying to produce, but Minecraft didn’t wait until the game was perfect. Minecraft decided to evolve through user feedback. The game began to improve based on what the users actually wanted, not what someone thought they wanted. As of 2016, Minecraft has been purchased by over 23 million users. This is really a testament to user feedback.

On a future project, Lego decided to use the concept of user feedback and they had one of their most successful new product launches ever. According to Brick by Brick, Nothing beats the feedback you get when you put the product in the hands of the kids. The kids can’t tell what you need to fix in the design, but people watching them can figure it out.

Microsoft is definitely a company that believes in feedback from the users. Now as a Project Online user, you have the ability to suggest and vote on feedback for new product changes. You can do this through something called User Voice.  The concept behind User Voice is any number of ideas maybe posted, but you are given a finite number of votes; in this case 10 votes. Since you have a limited number of votes, the most desired changes receive the highest number of votes.

Quite a number of years ago, select individuals (e.g. MVPs, Microsoft employees)  were invited to contribute to suggestions related to anything Microsoft Project. I participated in the User Voice that was available at that time.  Unfortunately there was a period where it really wasn’t being used or viewed and of course many of us dropped off. I’m happy to see that it has returned and even customers have the ability to contribute to User Voice. Since this is truly open to all users, I’m excited to see the great ideas that rise to the top.

Note – For those of you who remember a long time ago there was something called the Microsoft Project Wish List. I know I had customers who were complaining about that going away. Finally, it has been reinstated in a new way.

Here is how to access User Voice via Project Online:

  1. Login to your Office 365 account and navigate to Project
  2. In the Settings menu drop-down, click on PWA User Voice
  3. From there follow the instructions to get started

PWA User Voice Screen Shot

One of the greatest takeaways I want to give you is you can use User Voice to determine if there is a shortcoming in a feature before you spend hours upon hours trying to solve a problem or search out a solution. I’m often pleased to see a suggestion improvement idea because I can now share that with my customers and basically say “Microsoft already has that suggestion and you can view it here.”

Please let me know if you have found User Voice useful.

 

 

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