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<earl grey tea>
When I talk to customers about Project Server and task management, one of the things that really catches their eye is the ability to synchronise tasks to Outlook, and this is certainly one of those marketing ideas that looks a great idea. So, let’s drill into this a bit more.
History Lesson Ever since I’ve been involved with Project Server, users have generally wanted to synchronise their tasks into Outlook (and it’s not just project users who want this, think of the synchronisation built into SharePoint). In PS2007, a COM add-in was written that allowed team members to synchronise from Outlook to Project Server. There were pros and cons to this approach, namely
1. Pro – Being a COM addin, each user had complete control, so you could choose whether to synchronise your PWA tasks into either your tasks or calendar. Most users I saw synch’d into their calendar.
2. Con – Being a COM addin, it was difficult to deploy, configure and was prone to breaking.
3. Con – The tasks were synch’d to Outlook. so there is no access via Outlook Web Access or mobile device (unless of course you had synched via Outlook already)
In truth the COM addin was unstable and unliked by large organisations
Project Server 2010 Here’s what Microsoft have to say about Exchange Integration;
“Project Server 2010 connects with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 to ensure that team members can conveniently receive and update their project tasks in Microsoft Outlook® 2010 and Outlook Web App”.
Exchange Server Integration
- Choose to receive and update your project task status in Microsoft® Office Outlook.
- Project tasks are shown as Outlook tasks grouped by project name. No Outlook add-in required.
- Stay connected with notifications and updates through Outlook and Outlook Web App.
These are all good things, but to me, the Exchange Integration has several shortcomings…
1. There is no option to bring your PWA tasks into your calendar
2. The data you can update is not timephased, therefore you can only update the %complete or actual work.
3. Unlike the task statusing, you don’t have the option of saving the information and sending it out later, Exchange will sync the data there and then.
4. Within Outlook, you can group the tasks by Project, but there is no task hierarchy shown, so users have to spend some time finding out the relationship between this task and others within the same project, and therefore each task in a project must be uniquely named.
and finally, it should be a little easier to technically configure. BTW, you need Exchange 2007 SP2 or Exchange 2010. If you outsource your Exchange System (paying per mailbox per month), you probably won’t have the ability to configure the Exchange system to support synch.
In truth these items are documented on MS.com and elsewhere, but sometimes it’s as well to shout them out.
So who will use Exchange integration?
Those users who do not use Timephased tracking (and they are probably in the majority), who also use and are familiar with Tasks in Outlook. I suspect it will be used for fairly simple plans, and perhaps as a service engineer/road warrier type solution (e.g., in order to schedule resources to fix photocopiers etc, the engineer can just check their tasks each day which are automatically synch’d onto their favourite Windows phone (can Blackberries/iphones synch tasks? – let me know?)).
So, what are the work arounds if you do not fit the user profile above? Well there aren’t many, this is one of those areas you need to put down to training and dev.
1. You can add a shortcut to the PWA my tasks homepage within Outlook.
2. Get the users to use the Calendar view within PWA which at least gives a time related view.
Setting up Exchange integration – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee782548.aspx
Time tracking in 2010 – http://blogs.msdn.com/b/project/archive/2009/11/23/time-tracking-in-project-server-2010.aspx
Project 2010: Introducing Exchange Integration http://blogs.msdn.com/b/project/archive/2009/12/11/project-2010-exchange-integration.aspx
After presenting and helping co-ordinate MPUG (Microsoft Project User Group) meetings in Manchester and London, UK, we’ve decided to widen our potential audience to WW by presenting the next two topics over the internet as part of MPUG’s WebNLearn series.
The two sessions being delivered are as follows….
WebnLearn UK: Using Microsoft Project to provide pragmatic monthly reports
22/7/2010 13:00BST for an hour.
Generating useful reporting information in Microsoft Project can be complex and time consuming. In this session Ben Howard will show you how to build a pragmatic weekly or monthly reporting solution in Microsoft Project, that allows you to update information on the reporting tasks and take the information and paste it directly into a Monthly reporting template in Word.
Presented by Ben Howard
WebnLearn UK: Using Microsoft Project to effectively manage resources
12/8/2010 13:00BST for an hour.
Managing resources using Microsoft Project can be a very complex and timely process. Dharmesh Patel will be demonstrating the different options on how resources can be managed and progress can be tracked efficiently.
Presented by Dharmesh Patel
We’re looking forward to delivering them, hopefully you’ll be able to join us and ask some “interesting” questions.
This is off-topic for my normal postings, but I just wanted to congratulate MS on the ease, over the last year or so that I’ve migrated my laptop to from Vista etc…
I’ve currently got a Dell Latitude D830, which is 2.5 years old. I originally bought it because I needed something with a bit of beef to run the PS2007 image.
It came with Windows Vista 64 bit, and when the Windows 7 release candidate was available, I upgraded to this, and when Windows 7 RTM’d, I upgraded to that. Note that this wasn’t a wipe and install, it was an upgrade each time.
I’ve just upgraded from Office 2007 to office 2010, and that went fine. I’m still running Project 2003, 2007 and 2010 on the lappy too.
The original spec was a 160GB hard drive, I added a 500GB SATA drive into the CD/DVD bay for better performance when running VMs, (total capacity now 660GB), and 8GB RAM (not officially supported by DELL, but it works fine). The 160GB drive became a little limiting, so I just bought another 500GB drive, and using the built in tools in backup/restore created a system image of the 160GB drive, and restored it to the new 500GB drive (total drive space now 1TB). I suspect I’ll get another 2 years life out of this laptop now.
All of the upgrades have been achieved with none of the usual hassle that is associated with upgrading PCs and laptops.
For those of you who went down the route of buying an SSD and installing Windows Server on your laptop to run PS2010, I didn’t bother with any of that, instead installed PS2010 on a run of the mill 2U rack server, and enabled remote access to that via the ‘net. I run all my training and demo’s on that system, and I’ve only met one customer who couldn’t give me access to it via their network. This was easily solved by using a mobile WIFI dongle, and using MSTSC to connect to the server – it all works fine.
Anyway, I’ll be posting on PS2010 soon, so life will be back to normal soon.
<Pinot Grigio – it’s been a long day!>
As previously blogged, I was recently invited to speak on Project 2010 at the Microsoft UK TechDays event in London. The video of this even it now available on the web, so I’ve linked it in here – http://www.microsoft.com/showcase/en/gb/details/87773848-1cd2-4104-9545-ef5fea84edd7
Sharing the session with me was David Parker. David, like me, is an MVP, but his expertise is in Visio, which is a fabulous tool for developing and displaying the status of various project stages and tasks etc. David’s video is directly after mine, so please watch it all. David also post videos on You Tube and they are available here. 60 second preview…. (blimely, he talks fast!)
Regards, Ben [MVP]
<cup of tea>
MS UK recently held a week long series of events here in the UK called techdays – http://www.microsoft.com/uk/techdays/. I was given the opportunity to present on Project 2010 (what else!), and I gave a cut down version of one of Eric Zenz’s presentations. I’ve uploaded the presentation here, and when the video is out, I’ll post a link to that too. The feedback was excellent, plus the questions after the session just show how much mis-understood both project and it’s licencing (Project Server CALS that is) are.
The comments from twitter came thick and fast too, including one I really liked…
· Ben Howard just started a project by determining the scope – wish a few more projects I’ve worked on did that 😉 #uktechdays
The slides are here… Using Project 2010 to manage your IT Projects