As you might imagine we are all very excited to be able to talk about the new features coming in Project Server 2010. One of the areas where we’ve made huge investments is in Time Tracking where we’ve had a huge amount of feedback from our customers. The feedback has been immensely valuable in helping us deliver a richer experience and I hope that you’ll be as excited by the upcoming features as we are.
Given the size of the investment we’ve made it’s is going to be hard to squeeze a full description into a single blog entry so I’m going to point out the highlights and then we’ll follow up with some more detailed posts over the next few weeks, specifically:
1. Task Statusing and the new Grid (Pat Malatack will do the honors)
2. Timesheets and Single Entry Mode (my next article)
3. Approval Center for integrated approvals (Pat Malatack and Nicolae Rusan)
4. Exchange and Outlook Integration (Chris Boyd)
5. Why Track Time? (my final (planned) article in this series)
We’ll also be posting on the new Administration Blog, with a deep dive into the rich Time Tracking configuration options (my 4th article); and on the Programmability Blog, with two posts: one on extending the UI (Pat’s 3rd) and the other on reading/writing data in single entry mode (my 5th).
As we post each article I’ll update this entry with links so you can quickly navigate around all of the posts
Finally, as ever, if you have time tracking questions feel free to post them in response to our blog entries and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.
I’m going to talk briefly about each of the areas above to give you a taste of what is coming over the next few weeks. Before I start with the new grid I just want to point out that we’ve deliberately minimized the changes we’ve made to our back end api (the Timesheet and Statusing Web Services), so those of you with customizations can relax!
The screenshots below are from a post Beta2 build, so you may notice one or two differences from the Beta – let us know if you can spot them!
Task Statusing and the Grid
One of the areas of feedback was that the move away from Project Server 2003’s ActiveX grid was a good thing (no install on to Team Member’s desktops) but that the replacement grid had some missing functionality. The good news is that we have a spiffy new grid that makes the Team Member experience richer than ever, here is a screen shot:
Figure 1 – Tasks Page
Pat will talk more about this in the next post but first notice the client-like ribbon, we’ve done a lot of work to make the experience more document-centric than in the past, it tested well in the usability labs and I hope you’ll find it easy as well.
Now notice the clean left navigation menu, again we’ve reworked the grouping a little (and this isn’t the final version, we expect the “Business Intelligence” option to move soon) to balance
In the grid itself we’ve brought back the ‘splitter bar’ (so the right “pivot” grid can be pulled over the left grid’s fields) which will really help folks with lots of columns to add to the grid but who have smaller screen resolutions make better use of their real estate.
The left grid is also a lot smarter, with the ability to reorder columns, hide/reveal columns and do custom sorts – and the bonus is that we remember these settings across sessions for each view that you select! There are many other improvements here that I’ll leave to Pat’s post where he’ll really exercise the grid’s capabilities for you.
Timesheets and Single Entry Mode
The first thing you’ll notice is that we’ve moved the old “Timesheet Center” down to “Manage Timesheets”, so when you navigate to the Timesheet page we’ll create/load the timesheet for the period for the current date, allowing you to get in and out with a minimum of clicks.
You’ll be pleased to discover that the Timesheet page has adopted the same grid technology as the Tasks page, so you get all the benefits of efficient use of screen real estate and more. The two grids behave a little differently due to the nature of the data:
– Timesheet shows only late tasks and tasks with work planned in the period;
– Tasks shows all of a Team Member’s tasks plus those tasks where they are the assignment owner.
They also behave differently due to the differences in workflow between task update approval and timesheet approval. Despite these difference we hope that they will behave closely enough for the Team Member to move easily between them.
Here is a screenshot of the Timesheet:
Figure 2 – Timesheet Page
Notice the Status Bar (the blue bar below the Ribbon) – this is where we tell the team Member what to do next as well as displaying some global state such as the total hours and the period range.
The big functional change is the introduction of “Single Entry Mode” (SEM) – it can be set on or off by the Administrator and governs the integration between timesheet and project task assignment data. When SEM is on the task update data automatically flows into the Timesheet and onto the Project wherever it is edited, until such time as the timesheet is sent for final timesheet manager approval.
If SEM is on, then changes to task assignments are sent for approval to the Task Status Manager, and you can optionally hold back timesheet approval until all task updates are approved.
There is a lot more to talk about that I’ll cover in the Timesheet post.
We reviewed how people did approvals in Project Server 2003 and 2007 and decided that we would make the process faster if we presented all the approvals in a single dialog, this is shown below:
Figure 3 – Approval Center
Note that there is a Timesheet approval mixed in with task updates. Again we’re using the new grid technology for a familiar look and feel as well as the splitter bar to make the page more scalable. We didn’t get round to integrating Workflow Approvals in this release, and this will be a separate menu option for those using Demand Management workflows.
Pat will take more time to show you around the grid and to show you the history pages in a future post.
Exchange and Outlook Integration
In previous releases we shipped an Outlook add-in that collected timesheet data – this was nice but had limitations including the need to install client-side code as well as functional limitations that meant that Team Members had to head to PWA to do many things.
We’ve now focused on connecting through to Microsoft Exchange™ and for our first revision we’ve targeted basic task assignment updates – using % complete or total work/remaining work – so it’s ideal for customers with basic progress tracking requirements.
The Team Member uses an Exchange client (Outlook or Outlook Web Access) and updates their tasks – any work entered is auto-submitted to the Task Status Manager, making this the simplest of the Time Tracking options.
Using Import or Single Entry Mode the data will arrive in the timesheet where it can be tidied up and then sent for approval.
Chris will talk about this more in an upcoming post.
Why Track Time?
This will be our final post in in the initial series where I’ll take some time to guide you through the reasons for choosing each time tracking method, with the aim of helping you be successful from the get go.
I know that the whole team is excited about sharing the new functionality in public for the first time and we are all looking forward to your feedback on what we did well (and what we may have missed)
Project Development Team, Redmond.