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May 28, 2021

Let’s Talk About Microsoft Project Server

What is Microsoft Project Server?

Microsoft Project Server is Microsoft’s Enterprise Project Management solution. The server solution provides capabilities for project, portfolio, and resource management and greatly expands the capabilities of the MS Project desktop tool alone.

A central server stores all project and resource data. As projects are created and resources assigned forecasting, tracking, and other related data is stored in a centralized database. This enables robust reporting.

Think across project dashboards and reports…

Sometime in the past few years Microsoft started referring to these capabilities as Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management (Microsoft PPM).

A Powerhouse of a Project Management Solution

Project Server, what is it?

Microsoft PPM is a powerhouse product, providing something for every member of the project team. These capabilities help support every role in the project management office as well as the project team.

Here’s what you get:

  • A centralized enterprise resource pool: A shared resource pool will help organizations better understand their capability to take on new initiatives. The resource pool will also help gain an understanding of why projects are coming in late. Are resources allocated to more work than they can handle?
  • Role-based access: Another critical data-point for a project management solution is access to data. Every role on the project team is provided the appropriate access to only the data and functionality required. This creates a much more cohesive team.
  • Integration with other systems: A robust API as well as a reporting schema in the database both allow the data in microsoft project server to be easily exchanged with other systems.

Let’s talk about the components

An on-premise installation of Microsoft PPM is going to require more up-front investment than it’s cloud-based counterpart. The cloud-based counterpart being Microsoft Project Online. Let’s take a look at just a few of those items required:

  • The Microsoft Project Server software
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Microsoft Project Professional (or it’s cloud-based counterpart)

So Where is Microsoft Project Online in all this?

The cloud-based solution, Microsoft Project Online, provides all the capabilities of the on-premises based solution. Microsoft Project Online, however, offers much more robust integration with the Office 365 family of products.

The Details

Microsoft Project Professional: This is where the heavy-duty project lifting occurs. Microsoft Project Professional may be used as a standalone product or in conjunction with Project Server. The desktop product is what project managers use to create, plan and manage project work. This product installs via local media.

  • Microsoft Project Standard: The “standalone” product does not connect to Project Server or Project Online. It is therefore intended to be used by individual project managers to build project plans as well as manage and track project schedules.
  • Microsoft Project Online (cloud-based) client: The cloud-based version of Microsoft Project Professional can be used as a standalone product or connected to Project Online. The product is installed from the Microsoft Cloud via the Office 365 portal. Microsoft Project Online is regularly updated with new capabilities. You therefore want to use this the version of the Microsoft Project desktop application with it.
  • Project Server: Microsoft Project Server is a centralized solution that provides capabilities for resource planning, portfolio reporting, team collaboration, and more. Resource management is a powerful part of the software’s capabilities. These capabilities provide for a centralized enterprise resource pool which helps organizations better manage their critical project teams. Enterprise Custom Fields allow customers to greatly enhance reporting capabilities by providing customer-centric data points.
  • Project Web App: This is what is accessed while utilizing Project Server or Project Online. It works with numerous browsers. Project Web App also provides role-based access to information and the functions that may be performed on that data.

What makes Project Server so great?

Real-time, accurate data

Microsoft Project Server provides real-time, accurate data

One critical item needed for all organizations is information. It’s information from which decisions are made. Project Server provides information, which leads to transparency and informed decisions.

Power BI may be used to create powerful and robust dashboards and reports. It’s these dashboards and reports that provide management critical information from which to make informed decisions.

The dynamic capabilities of Power BI allows high-level visibility as well as the ability to drill-down into the details. There is something for everyone, including the ability to create well-informed users via detailed status reports. Imagine being able to view the critical details of every high visibility project in the organization…

There is no comparison in this area to the standalone product. Project Standalone provides information on one specific project at-a-time. Microsoft PPM provides the ability to see and report across projects and resources. Elevating the organizations ability to access critical information.

Project Center

In an enterprise environment projects are no longer saved as local files, but rather they are saved to a database. This makes accessing the information on projects much easier. Within Project Web App the Project Center views will provide robust project lists.

These lists can group projects by attributes such as Program, Product, and much more. Project Center will become a one-stop-shop to analyze the organizations most critical projects. If more specific data is required, custom reports and dashboards may be created utilizing tools such as Power BI.

What really makes Project Server and Microsoft Project Online shine is the products ability to become very specific for the customer. Meaning, custom fields may be created in the system that describe projects, resources and tasks.

Example, a program field may be created to tag each project with the program it is a part of. This provides the ability to create views and reports. These items will allow the user to view information as it relates to programs.

The same is true for resources and tasks. Add the appropriate custom fields, assign them in the system and your reporting comes alive.

The common theme in this “Project Portfolio Management” solution is visibility. Being able to identify potential problem areas early on helps drive decisions to implement corrective action that much more effective.

Anybody for a Workflow?

Workflows enhance governance processes in Microsoft Project Server

Envision a project intake process that requires reviews and approvals throughout it’s lifecycle. Imagine this process being facilitated with a level of automation to ensure no steps are skipped or data omitted. These things are possible in Microsoft PPM.

Governance workflows and the capabilities included in the Power Platform help automate robust approval processes. These approval processes may be used for everything from project requests to project documentation.

And with the Strategy section of Microsoft PPM, the organization has the ability to define a set of business drivers. This helps with the selection of project portfolios that helps the organization achieve their business goals. All with a completely objective process.

Enterprise Resource Pool

Sure, Microsoft PPM has many features. It’s the Resource Management capabilities that we find most organizations are desperately in need of. A shared enterprise resource pool at a high-level helps organization with:

  • Understanding of resource availability at any point-in-time.
  • Visibility of all resource work at the project, task or assignment level.
  • The ability to plan and forecast multiple projects based on resource capacity and availability.

And recall the custom fields capability. The creation of resource attributes such as role, department, etc. In combination with other resource functionality help project managers more than ever better manage the organizations resources more effectively.

What am I working on today?

Team members will especially find the functionality in Microsoft PPM very useful in planning their days. Each team member will have the ability to view the tasks they are assigned in each project. This capability is critical to team members being self-sufficient and planning their work in order to meet deadlines.

Team members may also submit progress on project tasks to their project manager. By entering progress on project tasks followed by the click of a button, task updates are sent to the project manager. The project manager may then review and incorporate those actuals into the project schedule. This is an important part of the interactive update cycle that fuels tracking data in reports and dashboards.

Got documents?

Microsoft Project Server provides document management via SharePoint Team Sites

Project Sites are an integral part of Microsoft PPM, and enhances the teams collaboration capabilities of the product. One of the major parts of this Project Site is document storage and lists. All project artifacts may be stored in the site for easy access and retrieval. No more wondering who has the current version of a deliverable because it’s stored in a central repository.

Project sites may also be prepopulated with templates as well. Ensuring the team has the latest of the greatest when it comes to using the correct version of project artifact templates.


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