Top 7 FAQs on Microsoft Project and SharePoint 2013


In November, I got the honour to present the new versions of Microsoft Project and SharePoint to a lot of customers cross-over Germany. I gathered lots of questions that I’d like to share. Here are my top 7 frequently asked questions (FAQ) from these sessions.

General Topics

Is there a summary on what’s new?

Yes. There are multiple summaries. Here’s my personal distillation on The New Project. My colleagues Boris and Markus have been featured in the magazine ComputerWoche on ‘Microsoft SharePoint 2013 – How good is new office collaboration suite?’ and ‘What’s new in Project 2013’.

What’s your conclusion on the new release?

Read more Top 7 FAQs on Microsoft Project and SharePoint 2013

Project Reporting with Burndown Charts

Burndown Chart

Controlling a project might be quite a hassle if you don’t have proper instruments. This article shows how to use Burndown charts for tracking progress and how to model this in Microsoft Project.

First time I got in touch with Burndown charts was back in 2006 at one of my clients. We faced the challenge to integrate the controlling of agile and classical projects. Being new to that topic it was quite hard to read that these charts not to mention making them comparable with classical controlling methods.

First, let’s have a look at a Burndown chart.

Burndown Chart
Burndown Chart used in agile projects

Reading this chart is quite easy. It spans over a dedicated project phase, or even the entire project. We face three important things:

  • Starting point (top left): This number of 18 is the amount of work to be completed within the time-phase
  • Blue line: Optimal progress, called Burndown
  • Green line: Remaining progress based on the actual work performed

Now, let’s interpret this example:

  • Nov 12th till 18th: Remaining work is less than the optimal progress, meaning that more work has been accomplished as planned – which is good
  • Nov 19th will 25th: Remaining work is higher than the optimum, meaning that the project is slowing down – which is bad

Summarizing the interpretation: Green line left of Burndown is good (we are faster), green line right of the blue one is bad (we are slower). It’s just that easy!

This next section explains how a Burndown chart can be created in Microsoft Project 2013. All we need is a project plan with few tasks, a baseline and little progress. All this has been incorporated into the following project plan.

Gantt Chart in Microsoft Project Professional 2013
Gantt Chart in Microsoft Project 2013

What you can hardly notice that everything looks good until task #10 (marked). If you are very familiar with Microsoft Project, you might notice in the Gantt chart that all tasks before #10 are better than planned: Current planning (blue) finished before the baseline planning (black).

Now, let’s have a look at the same situation using a Burndown chart.

Burndown Chart in Microsoft Project Professional 2013
Burndown Chart in Microsoft Project 2013

You can clearly see that everything looks fine until beginning of December. The green line is left to the blue one. After that date, esp. December 9th and later, the project is be out of planning and I need to react. You get everything with a blink of an eye.

And the best of all: everything’s out of the box with Microsoft Project 2013. They introduced new fields called ‘Cumulative Remaining…’ (… Work, … Actual Work, … Baseline Work, …) These fields enable Burndown charts. And you can go further: just create a dashboard and add this Burndown together with a list of late tasks – and you know what to do and where to act!

Ingo Meironke, PMP – Manager at Campana & Schott@meiroTweet

The New Microsoft Project – What’s New?


Last week I got the chance to attend the Microsoft Project Ignite Training in Warsaw, Poland. Christophe Fiessinger and Jan Kalis went over from Redmond to explain the new features and business opportunities of the new Microsoft Project and SharePoint. Here’s an exec summary from my p0int of view:

  • The new version is a landmark release – THE big NEW thing is ‘Project Online’ – the SaaS version of Project that integrates with ‘Office 365′
  • Microsoft pushes it as ‘The new Project’ (and not Project 2013) – compare it to Apple, ‘The new iPad’, or Facebook (no one posts to Facebook 3.5.1, do you?)
  • ‘Project Online’ opens a market with 750 million users, in 88 countries with 32 languages and 24/7 availability at an SLA of 99.9%
  • PPM means ‘Project Portfolio Management’ and is the new term for Microsoft EPM (for those who know what EPM is)
  • The official shipping date is under NDA – but the RTM is signed off (view here) and some versions are available on MSDN (view here)
  • It will be a big-band release with Office, Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Project

And here’s a high level summary of what’s new in version 2013:

  • Project Online – My interpretation of Microsoft’s vision: ‘Everything’ what’s possible on-premise should work online – with multi-browser support
  • Apps – An entirely new way to extend you PPM system – Desktop apps, SharePoint apps, Project apps, immersive-apps + part-apps + extension-apps is all new and brings tons of options
  • Newsfeed – New ‘Work Management Feature’ collects all SharePoint tasks and provides it in MySite – all your tasks in one single place
  • Lightweight PM – Timeline for tasks, due tasks, edit tasks from grid, open & sync SharePoint list in Project Professional brings again lots of options to use collaboration features for project management
  • Integration w/ SharePoint – Create projects from SharePoint, import SharePoint lists as a project, extend imported lists to regular projects givs you the possibility to use the system based on your maturity
  • PWA – Set baseline, Multi-level undo, optimized scheduling engine, tons of changes in backend (due to online)
  • Desktop – Planning horizon till 2149, desktop reporting, burndown charts, same scheduling engine than in PWA, Lync integration
  • Reporting – Project now bases on OData to better integrate, cumulative fields let you create burndown charts, localized reports & templates increase ways to standardize your reporting, PowerPivot/PowerView and a new timeline slicer in Excel let you create immersive reports
  • Extensibility – Microsoft now uses OAuth with a token-based security model, from now on there’ll be only 1 Project Server database (instead of 4)
  • Workflow – Out-of-the-box with Visio increases usability, Loop-backs possible, WF may switch between SharePoint and Project and SharePoint and…, WF are executed besides SharePoint in a dedicated WF management service
  • Time-Sheet – Auto-approvals based on rules with Enterprise Custom Fields accelerates your workflow and increases quality, new UI & Ribbon brings better focus

Let’s have a look at a brand new Project Web App of a Project Online version.

And last but not least: Project Online and Project Server is having exactly the same code base. This means, online issues (usually having a quite high pressure) will be fixed immediately and are going to be distributed with the upcoming CUs. I am looking forward to a quite stable version of PPM.

My personal conclusion on the new Project: The stronger integration with SharePoint as well as Project Online bring up lots of opportunities. This will be a chance for small and mid-sized companies and even for blue-chip enterprises. The big question in the end is, how good cloud solutions will be accepted by the market.

A more detailed overview is available at  ComputerWoche (a German online magazine). My colleagues Boris and Markus published each an article on SharePoint and Project.

Ingo Meironke, PMP – Manager at Campana & Schott@meiroTweet

5 Important Planning Tasks for Programs in Matrix Organizations

Important tasks during planning and execution for each role

Matrix organizations with a strong line organization that are conducting programs are having two key players: program and department managers. Both roles are following competing goals. The program manager is focusing on time, budget and quality – the department manager will look for profitability, team management and corporate strategy.

This article will show how to mitigate the risk of failure in program management by giving an overview on the 5 most important tasks for each role. Before looking at the detailed tasks, let’s break the goals down to objectives regarding operative program management:

Important tasks during planning and execution for each role

The program manager needs to focus on schedule planning – the department manager’s main task is to manage the resource in order to deliver results. Let’s get into the details…

Program manager

  1. Create WBS incl. work packages: Ensure that all tasks have been planned, new tasks will be added and no tasks are missing
  2. Plan schedule and dependencies: Add dependencies to work packages, where relevant and needed, schedule tasks to be performed in the correct order
  3. Add slack time: Remember ‘the project schedule is only valid until the project has been started’ – adding slack time will ensure that only a certain phase/part will move and not the entire project
  4. Establish controlling measures: Add deadlines as early warning indicators – if your schedule is moving, this will ensure immediate information and allows pro-active actions
  5. Add responsible department: Work packages need to be delegated to departments, add responsible department and inform its manager, stick with the highlander principal (only one assignment per work package)

Department manager

  1. Task over tasks: Get information on a task dedicated for own department, add task to department planning, confirm (or discuss) requested planning information, if required detail the single tasks into multiple sub-tasks and create dependencies
  2. Add resources to the tasks: Perform resource planning, add responsible personnel to the tasks who will deliver results
  3. Perform capacity planning: Look at each resource’s capacity, beware of vacations, bank holidays, absence in general, day-to-day activities, and of course planning uncertainty
  4. Resolve resource conflicts: Search for over-allocation, resolve conflicts by extending task durations, adding more resources, changing scope, etc.
  5. Give feedback to program: Double-check the outcome of resource planning and the resulting timeline, give feedback to the program

If each role is following these top 5 tasks, be sure that you are mitigating a full set of risks and pitfalls you otherwise might run into.

Key success factor is the information exchange between both roles. Beware of this very crucial factor – if no communication is performed, you’ll face two independent planning platforms, each telling its own story.

What’s next: Let’s slip into the role of a program planner and look how to managing and control the program.

Ingo Meironke, PMP – Manager at Campana & Schott@meiroTweet

Insights into the Microsoft Project Conference 2012

Few days ago I’ve attended the Microsoft Project Conference 2012 in Phoenix, AZ. This had been a full week of presentation, information, great talks and social events.

Conference Center

Day 0 was dedicated to the partner network. Jan Kalis organized the sessions this day, kicked-off by Chris Crane, Marketing Manager for Microsoft Project. During the sessions, we got bunch of information on partner structures, the quite clear licensing model at Microsoft and business cases of EPM implementations.

Day 1 - Keynote

The day finished up with a great session by Adrian Jenkins and Brian Smith on troubleshooting issues in EPM.

The first official day kicked-off with an awesome keynote of Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate VP Office Division. We got insights into Microsoft’s view on the market and how mobile technologies increase nowadays.

Day 1 - Keynote

Later that day, Eric Schott and I had our session on resource management: ‘3 Steps to Cut the Gordian Knot in Resource Management’. The room had been fully packed with approx. 70-80 participants. Great to see how many people had been attracted by this topic. Even better: All the requests right after the session. It took me about an hour to track all of them down.

Session 1 by Eric and Ingo

After a few other sessions, the evening started with ‘Pool PC’, a social event at the Renaissance Hotel. The DJ ‘The Kameleon’ heated up the crowd and even got some of us to dance (here’s the mix). Later that night we ended up in a restaurant top of Hyatt Hotel with our friends from CPS in UK.

The second day’s keynote was held by Ludo Hauduc, General Manager of Microsoft Project. It featured a great live demo by Pradeep GanapathyRaj and Chris Fiessinger on the integration of Microsoft Project Server with Team Foundation Server. Best of this session: Ludo answerd questions live, asked via twitter with #askludo and #mspc12 hash tags.

Day 2 - Keynote

After the keynote, Eric Schott and I prepared for our next session: ‘Deliver Successful Program Results in Matrix Organizations’. This one had been packed with 40-50 attendees, agian followed by a great Q&A part.

Session 2 - Eric and Ingo

During the rest of the day, I attended few more interesting sessions. Unfortunately it was not possible to watch all speeches and demos. I am really looking forward to watch them online, once they get published.

The day ended up at the Phoenix Science Center – a sponsored event by one of the US partners. While getting back to the hotel, we met a part of the Microsoft Project product team and they invited us for a beer (or two…) We had interesting talks and a great time! Thanks a lot!

The last day had been quite short for me. My plan to stay up quite late last night in order to better sleep on the plane worked out fine – but had one shortcoming: this next morning. However, the exchange with Pradeep on the mobilization of products and his view on future technologies inspired me with lots of ideas! Thanks again!

Goodbye Phoenix

The 18hrs ride back to Germany had been quite long and now, a few days later, I finally got over my jet lag and was able to follow up all contacts!

Thanks to Vincent Capitaine, MVP for taking most of those pictures and letting me publish those!

Ingo Meironke, PMP – Manager at Campana & Schott@meiroTweet

La Tour Eiffel

Few weeks ago I got the chance to get to Paris. A colleague and me took the time and walked around the city. Fortunately I took my camera.

Here are my favorite shots of those days. Unfortunately it is not allowed to publish any night shots of the Eiffel tower (since the tower is not only a piece in the landscape). So here we go:


From the Base

The Eiffel Tower from the Seine

From the Seine River

Impressions at Night

The Moon and the Beautiful Illuminated Seine River (look at the reflections of the boat)

Rising high

Rising High



Guess where?

Guess Where?!

Top Reason for Conflicts in Program Management in Matrix Organizations

Competing Goals in Program Management

Program management in matrix organizations works little different than managing a regular project. While a program owner handles the WBS and the schedule, work packages are delegated to departments with focus on delivery. More background information can be found in my last article.

This article reflects on the two main roles contributing as actors in the planning process and how their goals compete with each other. In the given scenario we are facing following main roles:

  • Program planner: a.k.a. program manager, program coordinator, project manager, etc.
  • Department manager: a.k.a. resource manager, team lead, manager, head of, etc.

Both roles are having competing goals to effectively drive their business (as show in following figure).

Competing Goals in Program Management

The program planner has goals similar to a project manager. This is time, budget and quality. Whereas the department manager has to develop business, drive innovation, manage the team and increase profitability

As you might imagine, those goals compete each other with regard to prioritization. Let’s view an example:

  • A program manager delegates two work packages to departments X and Y. Both tasks depend on each other (X need to be finished before Y might start).
  • Now, department X is having work packages of 6 different programs to be delivered and two key resources fall out.
  • What is the basis for the department manager to prioritize? Maybe it is profitability or team management? Most properly it is not the same that the goal of a single program manager.
  • Let’s assume a prioritization has been done. Who needs to be informed now? Or should I better ask: ‘Who is going to be informed?’

For sure, there are a lot more centers of conflicts. But these competing goals are the top reason for conflicts. It has happened to me in almost every project I have conducted over the last years. And there is only one resolution: Transparency. We need to resolve those independent planning platforms for a program and a department.

If you are interested how to bring up an integrated solution that establishes transparency into each role’s planning and highlight any deviations that might occur, stay tuned here or visit my session on the Microsoft Project Conference (#mspc12) in Phoenix, AZ, March 20th to 22nd (abstract for session #pc310).

You’ve read about the two contributing roles and their competing goals. Within the next article, let’s break down the goals into tasks relevant for program management in matrix organizations.

Ingo Meironke, PMP – Manager at Campana & Schott@meiroTweet