Insight from Agora Consultants

It’s Still an EPM Implementation

We continue to see clients moving to Microsoft Project Online as their Enterprise Project Management (EPM) solution.  As I’ve written in a previous blog we see trend continuing and we believe it is the right direction for most organizations.

There are new SaaS solutions being introduced to the market every day, addressing a wide variety of business scenarios. These SaaS solutions excel in removing the need for internal hardware and system support while still providing the same user experience and rich functionality of previous versions. There is a perception in the market that, because it is a cloud based solution, it’s quick to deploy. While quick to deploy or “stand up” the work to turn the system into a solution remains very much the same.

In the Project Online space the myriad of Quick Start offerings including our own further foster this thinking. The truth is, we’ve had Quick Start offerings for past versions with the most uptake of the offering occurring back in 2003. Many other Microsoft partners have offered similar scenarios long before Project Online came along. Microsoft offers their Partner-led trial program today where they make a Project Online tenant available to the customer for 90 days. They had a similar program back in 2003 when Partners could use their license at a client site for up to 90 days. Quick Starts are not the product of the introduction of a cloud based offering.

Project Online implementations are implementations of Project Server. Our clients ask us to solve the same business challenges as they have in previous versions. While the effort to perform an install (often multiple installs for various environments) and the need to work with IT on extensive architectural design and documentation is removed from the project, most other tasks remain essentially the same. It’s still an implementation of an Enterprise Project Management solution.

Looking at our list of key deliverables and tasks we see two that are excluded when we go to Online. This comprehensive list is not to say that all implementations need all tasks to be done, only that there is little difference between two projects of similar scope with one being on premise and one being Online.


This list does ignore the need to configure ADFS (a requirement for single sign-on for Project Online) as we see this task already having been done in an increasing number of clients. We envision a time in the relatively near future where the need to introduce ADFS will be virtually eliminated in the same way that we are no longer asked to implement Active Directory before performing an implementation of Project Server.

So, while the act of spinning up an EPM environment is now simplified to the point of being almost instantaneous (within a day), the work required to make it a valuable enterprise tool is still very much the same.  As with any new technology introduction, we are in a period of learning for everyone.  Project Online is bringing access to a robust Enterprise Project Management solution to a much broader range of clients – clients who previously would have found the burden of hardware and licenses to be too great to bear. These new audiences and new implementation scenarios are challenging us to be crisp in how we conduct an implementation. We are finding ways to go faster, to pre-define more of the configuration and leverage pre-built solutions including our Enterprise Apps to provide value quickly. That said, Enterprise clients with large user communities, complex migrations and rich reporting requirements should view this implementation as they would any other business system with the benefit that they don’t have to purchase hardware and work through an installation. There will still be a need for requirements sessions, design reviews, configuration, customization (yes, customization is almost certainly needed and shouldn’t be feared) and training. A successful Enterprise Project Management implementation will continue to be dependent on much more than simply the installation and configuration of the technology.  Frankly, the install and configuration was always the easy part.

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