|Following the recent worldwide Project Ignite tour my colleague Jan Kalis organized as well as presentations at events like SharePoint Conference 2012 last week, please find below a summary of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Microsoft Project Online I have been asked by customers and partners. Before I start please note that this is a journey and I’m sure you have plenty more questions and yes we will have plenty more answers and content to help you understand the value of Project Online and how it can bring value to your organization. Also please note that the 8 questions below are not sorted in any specific order, and yes if you have additional questions please leverage the Project Online forum on TechNet.|
Delivers full Project Portfolio Management (PPM) in the cloud
Yes Microsoft Project Online delivers full project portfolio management capabilities in the Office 365 cloud. Project Online delivers all key scenarios/functionality expected from a PPM solution such as demand management, resource management, financial management, time management, collaboration & social, etc. As mentioned during the Ignite tour the product team only built and shipped one product called Project Server 2013 which gets delivered in different channels like online in Office 365 or on-premise like TechNet & MSDN subscribers. So yes there is full PPM functional feature parity in Online and on-premise whether you want to be firing on all 12 cylinders with a maturity level 3 or if you are just starting with a PPM system. We are also working on document that will be published on TechNet that describes some of the technical differences.
Achieve on-premise to Online migration
A very common request from many customers, how can I move to Project Online from my existing PPM system whether it’s an older version of Project Server or whether it’s from a online competitor? Again we will provide guidance, but at a high level you can either do it manually once depending on the amount of data, or you can automate the process using third party tools such as: FluentPro Cloud Migrator Pro (Want to test-drive Project Online? How to migrate data from on-premises to Online? ); please also remember that you will also have to migrate the SharePoint content to SharePoint Online (plenty of tools available today to help you achieve this, BING them!).
Connect Online to on-premise Line Of Business Apps
Moving to Project Online does not isolate you from your mission critical on-premise line of business applications such as an ERP, CRM, ticketing, etc. SharePoint Online and Project Online provide a very rich extensibility model to help you connect the two world regardless of your needs. It could as simple as leveraging existing API such as OData or CSOM, or you could leverage Business Connectivity Services for instance. We are working on whitepaper that will get published early next year that will demonstrate the integration (how to push data from on-premise to Online and how to retrieve data on-premise from Online) and provide starting points to enable it.
In an Online world we cannot give you direct database access for obvious security reasons! and hence the protocol/mechanism to access all your beloved PPM data (yes including timephased data) is via the OData protocol. To build apps and do any custom code the API of choice is CSOM, please check the Project & SharePoint Software Development Kit (SDK) on MSDN to learn about each.
Preview is for temporary use only (see Preview FAQ)
The preview has been available since July 16th 2012, when Steve Ballmer disclosed the new version of Microsoft Office (which Project desktop, Project Server and Project Online is part of!). The Preview is free but it’s for temporary use only until the commercial service is available, you read the Preview FAQ and navigate to the very end which says:
“the Preview will expire approximately 60 days after the next version of Office becomes available in your market. As the date approaches, you will receive notifications in the Office applications alerting you to the pending expiration. Once the Preview has expired, the applications enter read-only mode, which means that you can view or print documents only, it isn’t possible to create new documents, edit, or save them. You must uninstall the Preview version of Office before installing a newer version of Office.”
So yes, please kick the tires, try it out, check out some some of the cool new scenario and features (I love this one …: Microsoft Project Online on Xbox) but please remember that at the end of the Preview all the data will be lost unless you save it locally. With that in mind and specially with a PPM system, a lot of learning and processes needs to be put in place before a production rollout, so treat this as a free proof of concepts environment!
Office 365 is an evergreen service. Customers need to stay current
What started with a Preview in our Office 365 worldwide data centers (aka a beta/pre-released version of Project Server 2013), and since the RTM announcement last month and the availability of the products on TechNet/MSDN/Volume Licensing/Trials, the online service has been updated with the RTM products during the past month. So yes it’s a Preview offer but with the latest version of the product! Yes we are still all learning and we are continuously updating the services until it’s ready for general availability (GA). So back to my point earlier, please try it out because it contains the latest fit and polish not to mention the latest bug fixes. In the end, one of the key value of online is that it will always have the latest and greatest version of Microsoft’s PPM, and that includes Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, Office, hence think of the “evergreen PPM”!
Azure VM (IaaS) vs. Project Online (SaaS)
Azure Virtual Machine (VM) which a preview was disclosed last May, is an upcoming offer from the Windows Azure team which will give you the ability to purchase CPU, memory, and storage in the cloud to run your application in a virtualized environment such as SharePoint and Project Server for instance. As announced last may, SharePoint 2010 is supported on Azure VM (see SharePoint Deployment on Windows Azure Virtual Machines), and yes Project Server 2010 will also be supported initially and later 2013 will be. The question one need to think about is whether to go with Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or other options such as software as a service (SaaS) or partner hosted or on-premise. In Azure VM you are still in charge of managing the operating system (and updating it) as well as installing and configuring both SharePoint and Project Server, so it comes down typically to one question: do you want to be in the business of managing servers and apps or do you want others to do that for you? Bottom line, Microsoft PPM is about choice and we will provide plenty of options to deploy and use it! Again we are working on a white paper and guidance on these options and how they can fulfill your needs today and tomorrow.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve only covered a few question above and I’m sure you have a few more based on some the answers provided above and also based on other Project Online questions you might have so from this point forward I want you to start leveraging the following resources to get answers:
- Project Online forum, yes it’s monitored by Microsoft product experts, by Microsoft support personnel, by Microsoft Project MVPs and many others so don’t be shy, it’s free!
- Project Online Preview Wiki Portal, going forward our wiki will get richer and richer with key service information.
Other valuable Microsoft Online resources: