Thursday, January 18, 2018

Microsoft Project 2016 Brings New Agile Features

Finally, Microsoft Project 2016, a popular project-portfolio management software, has decided to bring Agile features. With this addition, if you are working in an Agile Project and using MS Project, you can apply various agile features to manage your project/iterations/sprints. 

It’s a very welcome addition by Microsoft Project Team. In fact, I would say a long awaited one.  

I noted in my earlier post in 2015:
"Scrum is the most used one; Kanban is being used more now; however, organizations mostly follow their way of Agile implementation. The last one is interesting! Few follow Agile or Scrum or Kanban practices by the book per se, rather it is mostly customized as per the need of the organization. "

As of 2017 end, I see the same two methods (or frameworks) are mostly used – more compared to other Agile methods. Hybrid methods, in fact, have gained more momentum. This is based on the feedback when I engage with Agile practitioners in my classes.

It’s great to see Microsoft Project supporting both – Scrum and Kanban.

How to Have Agile Features in MS Project 2016?
This feature has been released for Project Online Desktop Client – one that comes with Project Online Professional Edition. This is noted here. 

Also, to have the agile features in your MS Project 2016, you need to have the right build. 
Ensure that you have this build: build Version 1710 (Build 8625.2121)

This build supports Agile Features: 

If you don’t have this build, the Agile features may not work.

Getting Started with Agile Methods in MS Project 2016
To get started, go to the backstage view, from where you have 3 templates.
  • Scrum Project template
  • Kanban Project template
  • Waterfall Project template

As we are talking of agile, you will choose between Scrum Project or Kanban Project.

Working with Scrum
In the above figure, click on Scrum Project template.
It will open up a "Sprint Planning Board" view (a new view in MSP 2016) with backlog state and other 3 default workflow states or columns.

Creating a Product Backlog
To add items to the backlog, simply click on “+ New Task” under the Backlog status. I’ve added 7 product backlog items (PBIs) into the backlog and it comes as below. 

You can arrange/order the backlog items in the Sprint Planning Board. 

Every iteration in Scrum is known as Sprint. At the end of a Sprint, you deliver an incremental and potentially shippable version of the product. To see the Sprints in your Scrum Project, go to Task Board Tools – Format tab – Customize – Columns: Sprint. 

By default, you will have 3 sprints for your project – each with 2 weeks of duration. The current date will be taken as your start date, which you can change. The Sprints in your Planning Board will come as below.

Managing Sprints for Your Scrum Project
You can add/remove Sprints or change the duration of your Sprints. To do that, go to:
Agile Tools  Scrum tab – Views group – Manage sprints command. This will pop-up the “Manage Sprints” box.
The "Manage Sprints" box is shown below.

To add more sprints, you can give a "Custom Date". The sprints will be auto-calculated and populated in the table. To change the duration of the Sprint, use the "Length" field in the above table – to increase or decrease the length of the sprint. For this article, we will go with 3 Sprints. 

Planning Your First Sprint
Next, you need to pull up the items from the Product Backlog into the Sprints. 
For example, I’ve pulled 3 items from the Product Backlog and put them into Sprint 1. Both Scrum and Kanban, have just in time(JIT)/pull approach.

Resources For Your First Sprint

Next, we will have our resources for the project, which can be done with the existing commands available. To assign the resources, you have to switch to another view, i.e., Sprint Planning Sheet View. To have this view, go to:
Agile Tools – Scrum tab – Views group – Planning command. 

From there, select “Sprint Planning Sheet” view. This is another new view in MS Project 2016.

After you add few resources, the view will come as shown below.

You can change the dates with start and end dates (if you need), can change the start and finish dates of your Sprint (with two new fields – Sprint Start, Sprint Finish), as well. 

From the Sprint Planning Board view itself, you can directly assign resources, too. After assignment of resources and movement of the PBIs as they are executed, your “Current Sprint Board” view will look as shown below.

“Current Sprint Board” view is another new view added to MS Project 2016 to have Agile/Scrum management. 

Reporting For Your Scrum Project 
After you have tracked your project (you have to move the PBIs, across the columns, as you complete the items), you can generate reports. A number of reports are newly available in MS Project, which are from Reports tab. This is shown below.

From there, I’m taking the “Sprint Status” report to generate the task and work related status of Scrum Project spanning across the sprints.

I also tried with a Kanban Project and it works fine. I would expect these enhancements first.
  • Breaking the PBIs into tasks.
  • Limiting the upper work in progress limits (and lower limits) for the items in the Kanban board (or Backlog Board as MS Project calls it) for the Kanban project.
  • Ability to see the progress for the Backlog Items on the Sprint Planning Board (Scrum Project) and Kanban/Backlog Board (Kanban Project). Don't want to see in Timeline view - though it is helpful, too.

Nevertheless, addition of Agile Features is a great addition to MS Project. As I long time user of this software, I would say – an excellent start. Well done, MS Project Team!

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