Insight from Agora Consultants

Agora’s Express for Project Online announced as a finalist for the 2016 Microsoft Impact Awards

Agora’s Express for Project Online announced as a finalist for the 2016 Microsoft Impact Awards  [More]

Questions to ask when planning a Project Server migration

Recently, a group of us at Agora sat down and discussed the challenges with migrating from Project Server to Project Online. We’ve recently completed a migration of this type and have talked to a number of other clients looking to perform a similar feat. The conversation led us to develop a list of questions and migration criteria that I wanted to share in this blog. The single most important question that needs to be asked is: is there a need to maintain the current configuration from Project Server? I want to stress the word “need”. There may be a desire but is there actually a need? The features and functionality have changed considerably from some of the older versions (2003 and 2007 particularly) and it may be time for a rethink of the configuration. If the current configuration is being kept with only minor changes then the chosen migration path is likely to upgrade the solution to 2010 if necessary and then move it to Project Online. If the configuration is changing substantially then we recommend looking at a programmatic migration approach, mapping and moving project schedules, project custom fields, resource data and SharePoint content into a new clean configuration. While potentially more costly it results in a cleaner Project Online environment as we are not bringing over unwanted configuration items with a plan to clean them up as part of a second reconfiguration exercise. The next question that we felt was important to ask is: Do all of the old and closed projects in the current environment need to be migrated? Do you really need all of that historical data in Project Online? Everyone will have a different answer to this and for different reasons. For some there are legal retention requirements. For others, the projects are quite long and they need this data to maintain a reasonable trending picture. For many though, there is no value in migrating them. They can be retained in a database back-up or collapsed to a cube of data with the SharePoint sites stored elsewhere. We believe clients should be brutally honest with what they actually need to keep and not migrate unnecessary data. To better understand the complexity of the migration to get a better handle on the risks, effort and costs of the migration we identified the following questions as being essential to ask and discuss. The table below shows the question and why it is important to address it. Question Rationale Are all users in the same domain as Project Server or are some users using forms-based authentication? If users are not in the same domain or are in a mixed authentication scenario (some using forms-based) the migration can be quite complex Are you using timesheets? If so, does historical timesheet data need to be retained? If yes to both then an alternate solution for historical timesheet data is needed because it can’t be migrated into Project Online. There are options but this does add complexity to the migration effort. On the Project Sites, are there any custom Webparts or third party components? These will not migrate and will need to be recreated. In some cases, they are addressed with functionality added to the platform. In other cases there are third party Add-ins available in the Microsoft online store that deliver the same or similar functionality. How many Project Sites/Workspaces do you currently have? The number of sites/workspaces will help to indicate the amount of content that may need to be updated. What size in GBs, are your Project Server database(s) and WSS_Content database? The upgrading of databases uses up a lot of disk space during the upgrade process and the size of the databases will also indicate how long these upgrades/migrations may take to process. Are OLAP Cubes, OLAP views or Data Analysis views in use in Project Server? This functionality does not exist in Project Online. An alternate means of recreating this analysis will be needed. In many cases PowerBI can address this but the views will need to be rebuilt. Are the Project Sites in one site collection? If not, they will need to be migrated to a single collection first. This adds a step and effort. Do the current reports being generated need to migrate? In all likelihood these are built in SSRS and a plan needs to be put in place to either recreate them using third party options or redevelop them using OData and Excel. This will require a case by case analysis to determine the right solution Do you have any resources in Project Server that have a timesheet manager that is inactivated? This will cause resource migration to fail and will need to be changed prior to migration so that an active user account is assigned as the timesheet manager. Is Project Server integrated with any other business systems such as financial systems, HR systems, service desk and TFS? If yes, and these points of integration are needed going forward, then a specific effort will be needed to determine how to recreate this functionality. To integrate with Project Online third party tools will be needed. Are there known issues in the Project Server Queue? These may not be errors that are preventing the system from running. They may be warnings or issues. They may point to a corrupt project or other issue that will not migrate properly. They will need to be addressed before processing the migration. When engaging in a migration we have additional, more detailed and more technical questions that we use to better determine the complexity and challenge of the migration we are about to undertake. We have also developed scripts that we run against the Project Server environment to look for orphaned projects, last check-in status and other key information. As I’ve said in another blog, getting to Project Online means you’ll never have to migrate again. That’s a goal worth pursuing. If you are sitting on a 2007 or 2010 environment and want to get to the cloud, rest assured there is a way. There is a way to get the data into the cloud with complete integrity and there are options for recreating critical business functionality including system integration and custom reports. We’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your migration and give you an assessment of the complexity and recommended approach.

Use short term goals to gain long term success

Keeping your health in check is an investment people are making more and more of every day. Can we apply these best practices to managing projects? [More]

Are your reports hurting project success?

I read a very interesting piece from Harvard Business about blindly trusting reports. I still rememb [More]

Project Management Office (PMO) Effectiveness

I just returned from the Microsoft Project Conference in Anaheim that ran from February 2 through February 5, 2014. At the conference I attended a very interesting session that included Gartner analyst Donna Fitzgerald.  She gave a very provocative presentation about how the PMO needs to change in order to better provide value to their organizations.  Her rallying cry was “from Tactical to Strategic” stating that simply delivering projects on time and on budget was not sufficient now.  It was more important to ensure that all projects delivered value in terms of contributing to the strategic objectives of the organization. I couldn’t agree more.   And it reminded me of a great article written by one of our staff over three years ago that addresses very much the same topic.  In order to provide value to an organization, the PMO has to fully understand this difference and execute on it every day.  In our work delivering project management technology solutions, this distinction is top of mind in all implementations. It’s a joy to work with progressive organizations who embrace this concept. 

Agora presenting at the Microsoft Project Conference

Microsoft held their annual Project Conference last week in Phoenix.  At the event, they invite customers and partners from around the world to attend presentations and meetings about all of the Microsoft technologies built around Microsoft Project and Microsoft Project Server. Agora was invited to give a session called “Be Loved by your Development Team” about the integration between Project Server and Team Foundation Server (TFS).  The audience was mostly project managers and we were helping them understand how software development teams work and how a tool like TFS can help project managers better manage software development projects.  We are uniquely qualified to do this, being one of the few companies in the world that is a Microsoft Certified Partner in both Project and Portfolio Management (PPM – built around Project Server) and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM – Built around TFS). Kevin Walker and Gord Schmidt delivered the presentation and received very strong ratings from the attendees.  To view the presentation slides, please go to the following link: - Be loved by your development teams - March 2012.pdf

Learn about EPM best practices from Ontario Public Sector leaders

Agora and Microsoft were pleased to host a panel discussion on Oct 20, 2010 of PMO leaders from the Ontario public sector including the Community Services Cluster, LCBO and the Labour and Transportation Cluster. These leaders fielded questions about using Project Management tools within their organization and provided insightful discussion on what worked, what didn’t and what they would do differently. Below is a summary of the various themes that bubbled up from the discussion. Why EPM Tools? The panel was asked “why did you embark on an EPM tool deployment in the first place?”. The common answer was “single source of project information”. Prior to EPM being deployed there was no easy way of even knowing which projects were ongoing – let alone calibrating and reporting on the status of each. By deploying EPM not only did it result in consistency of project information but also forced the organizations to align their project processes (which was not easy – more on that later). Resource Management. Many questions from the audience centred around using Project Server to plan and manage resource allocation. Each member of the panel had different levels of maturity in their organization for resource management. One member of the panel had reached the point where resource allocation was fully implemented within the organization. This has led to team members proactively being able to raise awareness of being overbooked based on facts from the project system. As well, it also enabled managers to secure additional resources to meet project delivery deadlines by demonstrating resource gaps highlighted by Project Server. Adoption of the Platform Adoption of the EPM platform by impacted users is key to the long term success of the solution. Not only is it a new tool but there will be process changes as well. Some tips from the panel included: Ensure you have Executive commitment Ensure impacted users understand what is in it for them Word of mouth is a powerful to spread the EPM message – use it to your advantage Difficulties Along the Journey The open and honest approach of the panel members was revealed when they were asked “what were the difficulties you encountered with the EPM deployment?”. There was overwhelming agreement that the people change management portion of the equation was the most difficult – the technical implementation went smoothly. Each panel member mentioned they underestimated the people change management effort. Continued diligence and pressure to ensure adoption must be kept up. As one panel member said, “you can’t just implement it and walk away”. Some other lessons learned from various panel members included: Would have been more forceful and assertive up front about the EPM initiative Didn’t always engage stakeholders early enough Would have had more resources and focus on the project up front Overall Recommendations In summary, the panel had the following recommendations: Get people excited about the system, use white papers and demonstrations to educate them on how it can improve their work Keep up the pressure and have patience from the Executive on down to continue through the difficult portions of the journey Leverage other organizations using EPM. Not only can you learn from them but it helps socialization within your organization by showing proof points from other organizations. Interested in learning more? Please Contact Paul Estabrooks, VP Sales and EPM Practice Lead to learn about Project Server and the work we are doing in the Ontario Public Sector.