What’s new in Microsoft Project Server 2013?

More articles about: Project Server

In this release, the improvements emphasize making it easier for you to manage your work and get things done in an easy and efficient manner. Improvements were made in Project Web App for Microsoft Project Server 2013 for project managers, team members, portfolio managers, and site administrators. In addition, features were introduced in Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2013 that integrate closely with Project Web App for Project Server 2013. This article describes each of these areas of improvement.

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Time and task status reporting and approval

Team members will see a noticeable change in the timesheet user interface (UI). Options available on the ribbon have been split into multiple tabs, with the most commonly-used functions grouped on one tab to simplify the reporting process. Adding lines to a timesheet has been simplified, and administrative lines are carried forward from one timesheet to the next. In addition, administrative, non-project work data is available for consumption by third-party applications and internal reporting, but it does not track back to the team member’s tasks or projects.

Those who are in line to approve time and task status submitted by team members will also notice improvements. Changes that were made to the approvals process enable organizations to better align with existing business processes. Specifically:

  • Events can be added to the approvals process that allow for potential third-party applications to implement a timesheet approvals workflow.
  • Checks of timesheet totals can be further refined to take part-time employees into account.

Also new in Project Web App, historical timesheet data can be kept indefinitely. This enables organizations to maintain old timesheet records for compliance and other reasons, without significantly affecting performance.

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Improved functionality for managing projects

The Schedule Web Part in Project Web App has been improved to provide faster access to data and greater parity to the scheduling engine that is used in the Microsoft Project 2013 client application. Updates include the following:

  • Schedule the entire project plan, instead of only the current task, without clicking Calculate or pressing F9.
  • Cost and material resources can be assigned to tasks.
  • Tasks can be assigned deadlines.
  • Formula custom fields are updated immediately while you work with them in Project Web App.
  • Tasks can be Fixed Work or Effort-Driven, with full functionality.
  • When you are editing a project, if no actions are taken for a set amount of time, the editing session will time out to preserve valuable memory. Timeouts are also necessary to be able to recover from things such as power, network, or disk failures.
  • A visual timeline of project tasks is included in the Schedule Web Part.

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SharePoint task lists in Project Web App

Project Web App can now include SharePoint task lists in the Project Center, to support a transition from lightweight project management to a more mature enterprise project management solution. As soon as a SharePoint task list is connected to Project Web App, users can view the task list as a project in a primarily read-only state. You can include SharePoint task list projects in reports, and the assignments in SharePoint task list projects are taken into consideration when reviewing resource availability.

As work on the tasks progresses, you may determine that the project would benefit from more the robust planning and tracking features in Project Web App. You can change the connected task list into an enterprise project, and it becomes editable in Project Web App and read-only on the SharePoint site where it originated.

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Integration between Microsoft Exchange Server and Project Web App

Exchange Server integration is enhanced in Project Web App, so that team members can report task progress by using Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Web App, or even using an Exchange-connected mobile device. This helps to make reporting time and task status easier by integrating Project Web App with a tool that many users have open all the time.

In addition to this task-level integration, Project Web App introduces Out of Office Integration. Now, Project Web App can be set up to account for out-of-office times on a user’s Exchange calendar, when scheduling project work. A user’s Outlook calendar is synchronized with his or her resource calendar, so that when that user has marked time as out-of-office in Outlook, the Project Web App scheduling engine plans his or her task hours around that out-of-office time. That means no more duplicating schedules to account for planned vacation time!

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Mobile access to project data

A new addition in Project Web App is support for mobile access to your project data. A Web-based mobile site is now included, enabling team members and project managers to view project status at a glance on a mobile device. Using the touch-enabled mobile site, you can access and edit relevant project documents and do lightweight editing of project plans, all from your Windows Phone 7.5 (using the Internet Explorer 9 browser), Apple iPhone, or Android device.

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Enhanced BI Center and report availability

In Project Web App, reporting in the Business Intelligence (BI) Center has been improved to streamline the user experience with a better user interface and a visually enhanced new set of reports and dashboards. The new reports are highly customizable, and they use the new OData service to enable ad-hoc online report creation.

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Demand Management

Demand Management features were introduced in Microsoft Project Server 2010. Demand Management is about capturing all work proposals in a single place, taking these proposals through a multi-stage governance process, making decisions on which proposals to approve, and tracking progress on their execution until the work is complete. A key improvement in Project Web App for Project Server 2013 is the ability to use Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013 to create Project Web App workflows for Demand Management.

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Project Web App for Microsoft Project Online

The release of Project Web App for Project Server 2013 is paired with the release of a new service in Office 365, Project Web App for Microsoft Project Online. With Project Web App for Project Online, all operational maintenance is handled through a hosted service, leaving only project management office (PMO) administrative tasks, like setting up users, timesheets, custom fields, and views. Portfolio managers, project managers, and team members can access Project Web App for Project Online from anywhere with an Internet connection. Project Online can also include Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365, which is a downloadable, subscription version of Microsoft Project Professional 2013.

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Project sites and My Tasks in SharePoint Foundation 2013

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2013 has several new features that provide lightweight project management functionality without Project Web App installed. When Project Web App is also installed, these SharePoint features are enhanced to incorporate the more complex project management features of Project Web App.

A driving goal behind this SharePoint integration is to enable all of a single person’s work to be consolidated in one place. Within SharePoint Foundation 2013, that “one place” can be a project site (most useful for a team working on a project) or a user’s personal site.

Project sites

Project sites enable people in an organization to effectively collaborate on lightweight projects. Project managers can quickly get a sense of what’s going on in a project, and team members can quickly see how their work fits into the overall context. Project sites also enable teams to access and share relevant data, documents, and communication.

A project site provides the following:

  • Visual timeline of the project’s tasks
  • Complete task schedule for a project
  • Library for storing relevant project documents
  • Notebook for quickly capturing and organizing information about the project
  • Shared calendar for team events
  • Ability to connect to the Project 2013 client application
  • Ability to connect to Project Web App

When SharePoint Foundation 2013 is connected to Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, a project site can also include a team mailbox for unified communication about the project as it progresses. When a project site is part of a site collection that is associated with Project Web App, it can also be used to capture issues, risks, and deliverables.

As highlighted in SharePoint task lists in Project Web App, the task list on a project site can be brought into the Project Center in Project Web App, for inclusion in reports and resource availability analysis. As a project grows in complexity, the task list on a project site can be converted to an enterprise project and managed by using Project Web App.

My Tasks on a user’s personal site

A user can choose to use the My Tasks page within his or her personal site to see an aggregation of tasks from SharePoint task lists, Outlook, OneNote, and Project Web App in a single location. Instead of navigating to different products, lists, sites, and site collections to view and edit tasks, a user can simply go to his or her My Tasks page to see a collection of all the things she or he needs to do in a single location.

The My Tasks page enables you to update existing Project Web App tasks, and the results are synchronized to Project Web App. For example, if you change the task status of an active Project Web App task to “Complete” on your My Tasks page, the change will be forwarded to Project Web App.

The My Tasks page includes many useful features to better organize your tasks:

  • Timeline    The timeline provides a visual representation of recent and upcoming tasks that are assigned to you. By default, it provides a view of all tasks one week into the past and three weeks into the future. The timeline is fully customizable, and it is designed to help you view your tasks in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
  • Important tasks    You can use the Important flag to specify tasks that are high-priority or that have special significance to you.
  • Views and filters     Tasks can be viewed and filtered several ways, enabling you to view the tasks you want to see, the way you want to see them.

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Applies to:
Project Web App for Project Server 2013