A week of Ignite in Chicago is coming to an end and I thought it is about time to share some of my thoughts and discoveries over the last week, firstly though it’s been great to see a lot of familiar faces amongst the 23,000 or so people here in Chicago!

I’m not going to do a full write up of every session I’ve seen, the great thing about the blog-o-sphere is I can point you to the great write-up’s done by others (@PWMather‘s posts herehere and here are a great place to start!). What I will do is focus on some of the details that have interested me most.

New Project 2016 features

First up of course is what can we expect from Project 2016 / Project Server 2016 and Project Online in the next release; hmm how do I say this diplomatically? –  Not that much.

 

Write support in MS Project client side API

I really really wish this feature was available six months ago considering the work I have been doing for customers lately! Good riddance VSTO I say! :)

 

Resource Engagement – Request / Review / Approve resource assignments

This is a long awaited feature for Project Server, however for some reason it didn’t get much air-time here at Ignite, fortunately I’ve had a chance to see most of during my day job working with some TAP customers and it goes a long way to addressing the typical need for managing / controlling and monitoring resource usage and over-allocation in a typical organisations.

I have to say though, with a major disclaimer (as I am an employee of TPG – The Project Group), that this new feature doesn’t quite come close to what is available in TPG’s TeamManager App, but then again I think that’s great as it really shows the the benefits of the App Model that Microsoft has created!

 

No more Project Server database – Project database to merge with the Content DB

This is already happening in ProjectOnline, but the interesting thing is what does this mean for reporting directly from the RDB as it is not supported to report from the SP Content DB’s? Well the good news is that according to at least one MS product manager for Project it will still be supported, so allow me to quote @mikemcleanlive; “You will be able to report directly against the new consolidated db if it’s on a dedicated server” (I’m just going to ignore that little “if” in there for now)

 

Other improvements

  • OData limit changes are good to see, specifically for Timephased data the max rows per request has been increased to 2,000, apparently this can improve performance by 10x, but more importantly however it will make it possible to actually report on timephased data via OData. (No sorry 2-3hours to wait until Excel times-out or crashes when loading those datasets in the past was not a viable solution)
  • Zero-downtime patching, this is a great and very well received new feature on the SharePoint side.
  • PowerBI, PowerBI, PowerBI, seems to be a popular topic here this week. Well seriously seeing what can be done using it connected to OData from Project is pretty cool, shiny responsive dashboards are cool (excuse my hint of sarcasm).
  • No more Project Service Application – goodbye one more configuration step – details TBA. :)
  • Small API changes previously announced (but now documented!) include BulkCustomField updates and ProjectCreate methods enabling faster custom field updates and controlled Project site create via workflows.

Final thoughts

I was really hoping to see more cool new features both for Project and SharePoint, much of the latter focused on Delve and Office Graph API which I have yet to see any relevance in the Project space. Additionally the push to be mobile first, cloud first for most of Microsoft seems to have been neglected in parts of SharePoint and especially Project Server, I expect it will be a very long time before we see PWA usable on a mobile phone for instance! :(

Having said that, the good thing about Microsoft’s online story with Office365 and Project Online is that all that hard work MS have put into making the software fast, responsive, stable and fully integrated across the full stack of MS products are all now going to be available on-premises as well, so this might mean Project Server 2016 is not going to be a major release (2003 -> 2007 or 2007 – 2010 for example) but it will be a solid upgrade for existing and new customers.