Agile Project Management

Posted By Posted by: Derek Halawa on December 13, 2017

If you are in the project management space of any industry, size, or complexity, then you must have heard of Agile. In fact, you may have heard it in other contexts such as adaptive strategy or innovative workspaces. Indeed, as project management consultants, we are increasingly hearing from our clients agility-related requirements and expectations. Those range from being the full governance methodology to compatibility with Jira for sprint management. Agile principles, applicability, and methodology are elaborated in the literature. This blog will focus on Microsoft’s Project and Portfolio Management’s (PPM) newly released agile features.

In the past, we helped clients stretch MS PPM to support agility features. This included adjusting the schedule to reflect sprints, adding custom fields to mark user stories, adding agile-related generic resources (e.g. Product Owner, Scrum Master), and creating the corresponding views and reports. However, Hammad Arif and Khurram Jamshed reported from Microsoft’s Ignite conference (Sept 2017) the release of a few agility features that we will discuss here.

 

The New Features

Note: the below features apply to MS Project Build 8625.2055 Click-to-Run or later. To check the version of your MS Project, launch MSP, go to back stage (by clicking on File), then selecting Account.

A detailed description of the features and how to use them can be found in Microsoft’s support page here. Here is a summary:

  1. Choose to run your project as agile or waterfall. You can switch between the two without losing information entered in either mode
  2. Add tasks to the backlog and break them down into sprints (if need be)
  3. Move tasks across the board according to progress and status. This is a key aspect of simulating the typical agile stand-up experience. A simple drag-and-drop
  4. Generate agile reports

In the backend, Microsoft added new views, fields and reports to deliver the above features. Below are the newly added ribbons to support Scrum and Kanban agility:

 

Limitations

The release of those features has been anticipated for a while and we expect them to grow in number and maturity. The following are highlights that Khurram and others raised about what to expect when using the features:

  1. The above features are client (MSP) related and are not extended to the cloud (server). For example, the new agility fields cannot be reported on using OData
  2. These features, as they stand today, work only with Microsoft Project Online and not with the 2016 version. If you have 2016 installed, then you have to uninstall the whole MS Office and install the Online version
  3. Task completion progress is marked by the classic % Complete field and does not correspond to the board columns. Additionally, the overall % Complete of say a sprint is not rolled up from the % Complete of its activities
  4. In projects with a long list of activities, scrolling vertically can be a bit annoying to find a task to move across the board
  5. The user has to use Microsoft Project to show the board and is not web-based to share. This contradicts the whole concept of having the board available to anyone at any time to view progress and status
  6. Work is still calculated based on resource allocation and calendar settings

 

Conclusion

Agility is gaining ground and we can expect Microsoft to overcome limitations and deliver more features.

Note: you can read more about Microsoft’s own journey to switch to agile internally here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/10/27/surprise-microsoft-is-agile/#5f42a9482867


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