Project Online: A PSA Tool Product Review Part 1
As we embark on a bright new year, I wanted to provide some feedback on the Microsoft Project Online platform and its capabilities for professional services automation (PSA). This will not be an exhaustive review but look for sequels to this post coming soon that cover other areas of the tool.
Microsoft has done an admirable job in terms of allowing for one-stop-shopping when it comes to capacity management and planning. By taking advantage of the enterprise calendars (you can make as many as you like to assign to different resources of varying FTE commitments) it’s easy to see what the overall ‘empty buckets’ of resources look like. Take that and throw in the published project plans that call for said resources and you have a great looking tool that shows either at a high or detailed level, what your resource capacity is for a desired timeframe (and time scale). Out of the many products I have worked with, the Capacity Planning module in Project Online is definitely one of the better ones out there.
Project Online has deep roots into the SharePoint platform, which at its heart is a highly configurable collaboration platform, and Project Online is no different. While there are boundaries of what can and cannot be done, Project Online serves up a modest amount of configurability. As with any project management tool, there needs to exist a certain level of conformity between project plans to allow for consistent reporting (i.e. using the same fields for the same purpose) but this cannot be done at the expense of hand-cuffing the project managers who are responsible for ensuring the project plan meets the specific needs of the project and the customer. Project Online boasts the ability to create enterprise-level custom fields, customized project intake forms, custom template project plans and enterprise project types (more on that in a post coming soon!). Project Online offers a nice balance of configurability while maintaining a perimeter around core functionality.
I’m a data nerd at heart plus my job requires me to quickly see at a glance how all of our projects are doing. Project Online being a Microsoft product has deep ties into the Power BI platform. There is a canned dataset that Microsoft provides in the Power BI Desktop platform that can quickly be customized to meet your reporting needs. The canned dataset also comes with some powerful out of the box reports which if they do not meet your immediate reporting needs, can easily light the way to illustrating how to build the reports that you do need. From resource allocations and assignments to project financials to schedule oversight, the reporting capabilities of combining Project Online and Power BI are bound only by the data contained in the solution. Overall, the reporting features of this solution are very strong.
Project Online is a solid PSA tool, offering PMO managers and organizations a good degree of configurability while reinforcing good organizational practices. I’m looking forward to providing more updates on this tool coming soon!