The Newest Agile Features of MS Project

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By Tim Runcie, PMP, MCT, MCTS, MVP & Advisicon President

As a Project MVP, I am able to help customers globally, and review approaches for MS Project and other scheduling technologies, including Agile, Waterfall, Prince2, and other methodologies.

Today I want to cover a few of the latest and soon to be released features that support Agile in MS Project. These are just some of the features, and there will be more to follow as the Microsoft Project engineering team continues to innovate their tool. In short, I’ll be covering the following points:

  1. Switching easily between Sprint, Kanban, or Standard Views
  2. New Agile Reports in MS Project
  3. Some of the Most Recent Updates
    1. Resource Information Added to Cards/Tasks
    2. Right Click Speed Menu
    3. Adding % Complete for Progressing Kanban and Sprints
    4. Quick Filters
      1. By Summary
      2. By Text
    5. Quick View by Sprint
  4. Telling the Microsoft Project Team what you think
    1. User Voice
    2. Instant Feedback

Agile Updates for MS Project Professional

What I truly enjoy about leveraging Microsoft’s PPM engine is that it not only can be used locally but also as part of the Enterprise Project system in Office 365. These features are found in the desktop product, but you can also build reports, as well mine the information, in an Enterprise environment.

Agile, as we know, is growing and isn’t just considered a product for IT or strictly technical projects anymore. Planning views like Kanban or Scrum can be used to help organize or speed up the initial planning of a project.

Ensure You Have the Latest Version

Before we get started, many people have asked how to make sure that they are getting the latest features with MS Project.

You absolutely want to make sure that you are using Project Pro for Office 365 and are leveraging the “Click to Run” version. This will allow the Microsoft Office update engine to continue to roll these updates to you automatically.

As shown in the image, Current Version of Project, you can easily check to see if you are using a version of Project that will allow these updates to be passed to you.

Current Version of ProjectImage: Current Version of Project

Switch Easily

If you are using the latest version of Project, you should be able to easily switch between the Standard, Scrum, or Kanban views. The database elements have been there, but you can use this new interface to quickly and easily organize your task information.

As shown in this image, Switching Between Agile & Standard, you can do this when you start a Project or at any time while you are using the software, making it easy to navigate to the views that provide you with the best value.

Switching Between Agile and Waterfall

Image: Switching Between Agile & Standard View

New Reports

Of course, what good would database engine be without adding reporting and reporting capabilities to leverage these new features, fields, and functionality?

In MS Project’s Report tab, you will now find the addition of an Agile Category (on the ribbon) with five new flavors of reports. What I like about this is that you can quickly copy or leverage these to build other reports. This helps to expand the report canvas as you need or depending on the type of Agile project you might be managing.

As you see here in the New Agile Reports 1 image, you can click the drop-down and choose which report style you want to use.

New Agile Reports

Image: New Agile Reports 1

Mix and match tables and charts or add additional filtered views based on the Kanban or Scrum fields that are now available in Project.

As you see here in the image entitled New Agile Reports 2, you can click on each one and either copy to another application or continue to modify or edit them.

New Agile Reports

Image: New Agile Reports 2

Most Recent Updates

Here are some of the most recent updates that you will have for the Agile features in MS Project. These are just some of the latest released features and there will be more, as well as visually helpful changes, which I think people will appreciate.

What I really like is how responsive the Microsoft Project team is to the feedback they are getting. I’ll detail this out more at the end of the article, so you can also help provide direct feedback, too.

Quickly Filtering by Sprint

Quick filtering is one of the key new features that we find most helpful, especially when you have larger projects and you may want to quickly narrow the large number of activities down to just a single Sprint.

This feature helps quickly manage many tasks, that usually would have to be managed in a sheet view, but that are now graphical cards, which take up much more space. By screening out the other Sprints, you ensure nothing is missed.

As you can see in the image Quick Filter by Sprint, you can choose from the ribbon to select and filter out items to ensure you are managing the essential details. In this view, you can also easily drag between the Kanban custom fields to help organize the work you are managing.

Quick Filter by Sprint

Image: Quick Filter by Sprint

Resource Information Added to Kanban & Sprint Tasks (cards)

Another area that is a helpful feature addition to the Kanban or Scrum views is the ability to see actual assignment information on the task. Now if we can just get Microsoft to add an “electric shock” feature to help keep our teams on track.

Seeing the assignment information really helps to quickly identify who is working on the task and what level of assignment has been allocated. As you can see in the screenshot, Resource Information Added, you can quickly identify one to multiple resources and their % of allocation.

Resource Information Added to Kanban & Sprint Tasks

Image: Resource Information Added

When you are working in a team setting, you can quickly validate the level of effort at a glance across a Sprint, and you can quickly adjust the resource allocation by double-clicking on any of the tasks to address resource assignments or effort on tasks.

Right Click Speed Menu

Don’t forget that you can continue to use your shortcut or “speed menu(s)” by right clicking on a task in a Scrum or Kanban view and moving it to the next Sprint, as well as normal functions like Assign Resources or Mark 100% Complete.

As you can see in the image, Right Click Speed Menu, you don’t have to go up to the ribbon to make these changes. This is very helpful if you are using a mobile device or perhaps on a tablet that doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Right Click Speed Menu

Image: Right Click Speed Menu

Adding % Complete Progressing

Now, this new feature has a lot of people talking. The essence behind it is that you can use your Kanban views to define not only what category, bucket, or state a task may be in, but also to define a percent complete for a task associated with the column it is moved into.

This really speeds up the tracking and progressing of schedules that are not being managed through timesheets or external users progressing tasks.

If you look at the image, Adding Task % Complete, you can see each column has a Set % Complete field that you can click on and type in the percent you want a task to be progressed to.

Adding Task Complete

Image: Adding Task % Complete

If you were to switch back to the Gantt view or a task sheet, that percent complete carries from any view regardless of where you progress a task. And now you can do it automatically in the Scrum/Sprint or Kanban views.

Active Filtering

Now adding active filtering to the Agile views in Project was a huge usability enhancement. The goal was simple: allow the Project user to filter activities by key summary tasks, resources, or by the text that is in a task. That means the resource, level of effort, task name, etc. can all be searched and filtered in the view.

In the image, Active Filtering 1, you can go to the upper right corner of the Scrum or Kanban views and select the active filtering features you want to use.

Active Filtering

Image: Active Filtering 1

You have two options when choosing the filter icon. You can filter by summary task or resource.

In the image, Active Filtering 2, I am viewing the summary tasks, which includes both the Agile or non-agile summary tasks (and the Agile yes/no field associated with tasks).

Active Filtering Using MS Project
Image: Active Filtering 2

This feature will give you the ability to see across multiple associated Sprints according to how you have grouped your tasks. Some organizations do this by epic, user story, feature, Sprint, or lifecycle phase. Whichever is your preference, you can continue to manage your tasks in these new agile views and quickly focus on what is being done.

The second field is filtered by resource, which focuses on quickly selecting all the tasks that have that resource assigned to it.

Finally, my personal favorite is that when I select the magnifying glass and type in any text that I’m looking for that can be found on the task, the screen instantly filters the tasks or task cards that contain that information.

If you look at the image, Active Filtering 3, I have typed a “5” in the field, and it is giving me all tasks/cards that have “5” contained within them, including percent of allocation, the task name, etc.

Active-Filtering-3

Image: Active Filtering 3

You can mix and match using the Summary Task, Resource Filters, and the Text filter all in the same view.

Quick Delete for Sprints

One area that end users sometimes need to change is when they have spun up more Sprints than what is necessary. For example, organizations may suspend work and restart all work in later Sprints. This can happen when other higher priority projects pull all the resources onto another project for a period of time or for an emergency.

As seen in the image, Deleting Sprints, you can now quickly remove the Sprints if you created a whole ton of them and your project doesn’t need to go that far. This option appears when you open the Manage Sprints icon on the ribbon and will be rolling out with the Office Insider Channel release or shortly thereafter with the Monthly release cycle for Office 365.

Deleting Sprints

Image: Deleting Sprints

Tell Us/Them what you think (User Voice)

Finally, even though this technically isn’t an Agile Task feature, it still fits with the operating approach that the Microsoft Project team is working under, which is to “Delight and Excite” the end users and do so in an Agile fashion (as we are seeing all of Office 365 doing). We no longer have to wait three years to get features released, or to go to a Project Conference or find that the only way the “User Voice” can be heard is to call a partner or a Project MVP. Now you can share your thoughts and feature requests directly with the Project team!

To help make this better, here is the home phone number of one of their engineering team members… 503-123-4567. I’m just kidding!

What you can do is provide feedback from within all Office 2016 or Office products, so not just MS Project. This feature is new but has been used by Power BI and other Office 365 applications very successfully. In fact, this will be one of the prime ways you can register new feature requests and allow for global end users to vote on them.

If you look at Project or any Office 365 or Office 2016 product, you will see a smiley face in the upper right-hand corner, as shown in the image, User Voice 1.

User-Voice-1

Image: User Voice 1

Simply click on the face. Alternatively, you can find feedback in the File Tab towards the bottom of the list of options. Choose to send a smile, a frown, or provide more suggestions on Project User Voice website as seen in the image, User Voice 2.

User-Voice-2

Image: User Voice 2

Remember, if you want the engineering team to provide you with direct feedback or to ask questions, you will need to give them your thoughts and provide an e-mail address.

As seen in the image, User Voice 3, you can enter your email address directly on the screen along with the active screenshot of what you are working on in MS Project.

I do want to state for the record that Microsoft may reach out to you with questions about what you are stating, but they will NEVER EVER ask you for credit card information or personal information, so please note that there are scammers out there that are always trying to find things like this out. Don’t be fooled.

The engineering team at Microsoft takes your feedback very seriously and will only ask questions about what you are suggesting.

User-Voice-3

Image: User Voice 3

Summary

As you can see, the Agile capabilities of Project are continuing to grow. These new additions will be very helpful, and I encourage you to continue to reach out to the Microsoft team or anyone at Advisicon with suggestions or questions. We want to keep the pressure on for better and better features and capabilities!  😊

I hope you enjoyed this discussion on Agile and MS Project features. I encourage you to check back for more or reach out with any questions to me directly via email. Tim.Runcie@Advisicon.com

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