Microsoft Project 2013 review
With the new Project 2013 version, Microsoft has completed its full integration with SharePoint Server, providing a new infrastructure. The focus of the upgrade was on improved collaboration within project teams and a more efficient use of the client and web application.
With the launch of the new Project 2013 version by Microsoft, an improved tool for planning, collaboration and communication is available to project managers and team members. Administrators and decision makers can avail themselves of Project Online, the new offering in the cloud that presents an alternative to any self-installed infrastructure. Beyond that, it makes cross-company collaboration easier.
Project Server – fundamental renovations of the basis
Microsoft has continued to pursue the integration of Project and SharePoint with the latest version. For the user, this becomes most apparent in his personal working area – MySite. It doesn’t matter whether he is allocated as a user in a SharePoint list or as a resource to an event in the project plan. All his tasks and events are now shown in a shared overview; the user can access them. Time recording is also accessible this way. Likewise, time sheets can be retrieved and updated via MySite.
SharePoint is therefore more than just a basis. The area of project work becomes a central communication and project management tool. Target dates and milestones from the project plan can be presented in an overview in conjunction with target dates from the project calendar. The planning of events is now also supported in the project work area through the display in the timeline.
Simplified - Access for new users and workflow maintenance for administrators
Two new functions of the new Project make work easier for the mapping of workflows such as project proposals. For one thing, it’s now possible to use a SharePoint list as an ideas pool and to generate projects from it through import. In the process, list fields are allocated to the master data in Project Server.
Workflows, on the other hand, are now possible on a cross-SharePoint and cross-Project Server basis. They are created with the aid of SharePoint Designer, a visual editor. This greatly simplifies the creation and maintenance of workflows for administrators.
The integration for SharePoint-based project planning is quite sophisticated. Small and mid-sized project organisations in particular now have the option of starting with a SharePoint-based project work area and importing these pure SharePoint projects into the Project Server later. Shared reporting is also possible from now on. In the previous version, one still had to make up one’s mind whether to plan in Project Server or SharePoint. Now both are possible concurrently and can be opted for on a case by case basis for each project. Thus access to company-wide project management solutions is made easier, for new users in particular.
The new system architecture of Project Server will look familiar to experienced administrators. While the data was distributed across several data bases before, Microsoft has now returned to the principle of one database per Project Web App (PWA) instance. This database can also be used for reports and evaluations.
Project Client – distinct look and effective planning
In Client, the most major change becomes apparent as soon as one opens the program. Project Professional blends in seamlessly with the new and distinct look of the Office 2013 family. While the tried-and-tested concept of menu navigation (ribbon) was retained, Microsoft mainly overhauled the start screen and backstage area. The user now has direct access to the project plans opened last; or he can choose from an overview, including content preview, of project plan templates that are provided.
The Report Tools are also new. The project manager can opt now to create extensive reports and analyses directly in Client, furnishing them with comments and notes and ultimately use them in Word, Excel and company via the integration with the Office family. While the preparation of reports was limited to templates and required Excel or Visio in prior versions, project managers now have functions at their disposal already in Project, which are similar to those of Excel and Word.
One needs to look closely to discover more innovations. By dint of the Lync integration, now it is also possible in Project to view the information on the presence of resources and team members and contact them by means of SMS or VOIP call. Another rather inconspicuous change that is of great importance for major projects, however, concerns the date limit. The new Project allows for scheduling beyond 2049, all the way up to 2149. With major infrastructure projects, some users actually did hit the limit when working with the previous versions. With the new version, the population of the planet Mars could be theoretically planned in great detail. More users will benefit from the visualisation of event mapping. While previously only the entire critical path in a project plan could be highlighted, now it is possible to select any of the events and mark critical and less critical events with different colours.