Tag Archives: Microsoft Project

Recent Travels & New Ideas

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting at the annual meeting of PMI (Project Management Institute) Great Lakes chapter. The meeting took place at the Management Education Center in Troy, Michigan.

The topic, Agile in Action, was one that I know well, as I’ve presented it at the PMI-NEFL Oceans of Opportunity conference in September 2015 and online at the Microsoft Project Virtual Conference in February 2016.

So what does “Agile in Action” mean?  Let me ask you this first: Are you using Agile in the workplace?  Yes?! Well…maybe; well, we use it …sometimes. Agile is one of those methodologies that seems to make sense on the surface but does not always translate easily into real-life situations. This presentation took the audience from Agile ground zero to using actual Agile techniques that could be taken back to work immediately.

As part of my presentation, the following Agile topics were discussed, and included lots of hands-on exercises.

  • Agile approach versus traditional scheduling
  • What is a User Story and how is it used?
  • What is Planning Poker and how is it used?
  • Risk vs Value management
  • Advanced burndown chart interpretation

Those of you who know me well, know that I’m never in one place for long. Next I’ll be presenting Agile in Action and Best Practices in Schedule Development for the PMI Northeast Florida Conference on April 7th and 8th, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Did you see me at the PMI Great Lakes chapter event? Drop me a line and let me know what you found most valuable!

Or are you planning to attend the PMI Northeast Florida event? I’d love to hear what you most want to learn about.

 

 


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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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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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MVP Summit

Once a year all of the awarded Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) are invited to Redmond, Washington for a free event in November (excluding air travel) to connect with other MVPs and Microsoft. This event is unique because you get to connect with other MVPs around the world. During the business day you connect with individuals in your specialty. During breakfast, evening, and other social events, you can talk to anyone. If you opt-in for a hotel roommate, your room is 100% paid, otherwise you pay 50%. This event means a lot to me because you truly feel honored for all that you do throughout the year and you feel that you belong to a family that cares about its software users and evangelists.

MVP Summit welcome sign
MVP Summit Welcome Sign
Rainbow on Arriving Day
Rainbow on Arriving Day
Picture of Cindy in MS Project shirt
Cindy in a Microsoft Project Shirt Ready for Day 1

Just in case you didn’t know, Microsoft is headquartered in Redmond, Washington and the meetings during the business day are held on campus. To get from your hotel to your meeting room is quite an adventure as you bus from your hotel to a central bus terminal and then change buses again to get to where you are going. When people say Microsoft campus is HUGE, they really mean it. One of the most popular stops for the buses is the company store. You can buy trinkets, swag and other items made available to MVPs each year. This store is so popular that they frequently run out of things. I think I got one of the last of these geek stylus/pens this year.

Geek Stylus
Geek Stylus and Pen Sold at Microsoft Store
Xbox Game Heros
Xbox Game Heros Next to Microsoft Store

People always ask me two questions about MVP Summit –

  1. What do you guys talk about in those business meetings? – Well, I am sorry to say that everything they tell us or we discuss in covered under our non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and I really can’t disclose any specifics. However, you will be happy to know that collectively MVPs and Microsoft use this time to share what we have all learned over the year. And yes, customers will be interested to know that we talk about them and their problems when we think it will benefit the group. By the time the week is out, we have exchanged ideas, taken an action list, and look forward to what is coming next.
  2. How do I become an MVP? – Another good question – there isn’t really one magic formula but there is a process. The first step in the process is to be nominated – usually by another MVP or by someone at Microsoft. The second step in the process involves something that occurs behind closed doors, but you are notified that you have been nominated and are asked to submit documentation that would support being given this award. As an example, when I provided documentation it was about 20 pages long and covered over 10 years of my efforts in the community. The third step is everything is evaluated and if you are lucky, you receive the MVP award. The final step is the fun part – receive your award package, sign your NDA and begin using all of your benefits.
    1. You might get nominated numerous times and never make the initial cut.
    2. This is an award that must be “earned” each year and no one is guaranteed a renewal.
    3. You are always compared with other MVPs in your specialty. This keeps the bar set high for accomplishments.
    4. A majority of the things I do that contribute to my MVP renewal are unpaid things (e.g., working on professional association boards, giving free demos, working booths, and sharing knowledge).
    5. There is always room for an MVP to be creative and come up with something new that benefits the community. Shout out to Prasanna Adavi for creating the first ever Project Virtual Conference.

If you are interested in learning about some of the things I do as an MVP, check out my profile at: http://tinyurl.com/mdnsp8j.  Note: Confidential entries are only available to Microsoft.

US MVPs in Photo at an Evening Event
US MVPs in Photo at an Evening Event

Personally I feel extremely honored to have been given this award 4 years in a row. I continue to value the knowledge and networking with other MVPs and Microsoft.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

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