To integrate, or not to integrate data (in Project Server or Project Online)

Posted By Posted by: EPM Partners on September 29, 2016

When is it a good idea to follow through data integration ideas with Project Server or with Project Online? Almost every client I’ve worked with brings this topic up after adopting the tool set. Is this a good idea? It depends. In this blog, I will share my rule of thumb to help you make the decision.

The most common integration idea is to import financials from an ERP system into the project web application (PWA). The desired outcome is to keep the PM more informed. PMs want to see the actual costs and forecasted numbers from accounting department in project detail pages (PDP). This is a good thing to have.  However, I do not recommend integration into the PWA.

As a rule of thumb, when the external data is inserted for no other purpose than to display, integration is typically not worth the trouble. The main reason for this rule in Project Server/Online is the side-effects of publishing projects. When a project is published after an update, a lot of jobs get queued for processing, like task synchronization and permission sync, see https://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/9eee3776-87a5-4a70-95f2-40828eb958a8/project-server-2013-csom-save-and-publish?forum=project2010custprog.  Perhaps you don’t care, but if a lot of updates are happening concurrently, you will experience a performance hit and long delay for anticipated publishing to complete, so you should care.

A better solution for simple displaying of external data in project online would be to create a report or integrate elsewhere, just not directly to the project web application. Perhaps into a SharePoint list, perhaps one in each Project’s site. PDP viewing of actuals can still be done via small amount of custom script or even the list viewer web part I made, if in each project site, see https://www.epmpartners.com.au/blog/project-workspace-list-viewer-replacement/.

If your information to integrate into the project web application is used for more than display, than integration may be a good idea. For example, one client of mine wanted the approvals performed in their ERP to determine progression of project workflow. This is an excellent example of when an integration idea is wise. Another potential good idea is if you need to accurately report earned value and update specific tasks with actual and planned costs (outside of resource cost).

Extracting information from Project Server or Project Online is a less common requirement. The rule of thumb I mentioned still applies.  If the other system (i.e. ERP or CRM) is going to produce an output with the input from Project Server/Online, then maybe. If not, look at data warehousing and reports for integrated view.

Of course, how we integrate is another topic altogether. There are a number of services, tools, and techniques out there. If you are looking for integration assistance, we can help.


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