Office 365, Project Online

Project Online: An Overview

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In the first of an occasional series we will be providing an introduction and overview to popular Microsoft enterprise products. In this post we look at Microsoft Project Online.

Microsoft Project Online is the cloud version of Microsoft Project Server and available as part of Office 365. It offers a flexible Project Portfolio Management solution, supporting users who need insights in current and upcoming projects. It allows organisations to prioritise projects based on business values, governance requirements, and priorities from senior stakeholders. It also provides resource and task management to maximise the efficiency of a particular project team.

An established product

Back in 1984 Microsoft released the first version of Microsoft Project. At that time it was a client application without any server side software element. In 2000 Microsoft released the first server version called ‘Project Central’. Project Online quickly followed. The 2007 version of the main server product offered the first integration with SharePoint Server. The latest versions are Microsoft Project Server 2013, for On-Premises solutions, and Project Online for Office 365.

Built on SharePoint

Since the 2007 version, the full Project Server product has offered seamless integration with SharePoint Server. Project Server 2010 even made it mandatory to install a SharePoint instance, though this is no longer a requirement in Project Server 2013.

Integration with SharePoint brought with it many advantages, such as using SharePoint task lists for project tasks and document libraries for project documentation. A project can be defined in Project Server, and then daily project management tasks can be executed using suitable SharePoint related features.

Moving to the cloud

Just like SharePoint Online, Project Online is the cloud version of the related server product. The big advantage of Project Online is that it is cloud software with no need for a client application, or a locally hosted server. Everything can be done from the browser, and functionality is accessible from mobile devices and tablets. Project Online brings Project Portfolio Management to a whole new audience, working anywhere, anytime on almost any device.

Another big advantage of cloud software like Project Online is Microsoft is constantly updating and improving functionality automatically. Updates are delivered down to users on a regular basis, improving stability, features and performance. Project Online is a constantly evolving product.

Project Online is available in two main forms in the cloud: Project Online and Project Pro. Project Online offers all functionality in the browser, where Project Pro uses the client application Project. Project Online can be quicker to set up and is available across devices, whereas Project Pro offers the most functionality, but it’s limited to certain operating systems and it requires client side software. Get in touch with one of our experts and we can talk through the options in more detail.

A typical use case

Project Online can be used in many different ways. Let us look at just one example.

Company x wants to better understand the roadmap for a product it is developing. There are multiple teams working on the product, all geographically disperse, and all with their own project plans. Project Online can be used to easily create a project road map accessible by all:

  • Each project is submitted to Project Online, along with effort estimates, business values in different areas, and required resources.
  • Other data is also factored in, such as priorities from management level on certain product features. Every team also has their different priorities, which need to be understood
  • Using Project Online to aggregate all these disparate plans, a single roadmap can be arrived at. The total budget required to get to each release can be calculated, and costs projected into the future.
  • Individual product features, with their own plans, can be individually assessed and suspected if they don’t deliver the required business value.
  • The ‘Point and Click’ Analytics features of Project Online can help senior management understand the business value of the product, when set against cost and time outlays.

Enterprise class Project Portfolio Management

Many organisations run multiple projects at the same time, but do not have enough insight into the business value of those projects and/or are struggling with creating a long term holistic view. Project Online can have huge business value in this context. Being a cloud product it is super simple to get started with, requiring little in the way of IT expertise or involvement. All in all it is an exciting, and ever improving, product from Microsoft and we look forward to helping many more clients get the most out of it.

To find out more about Project Online get in touch with one of our experts.