With Microsoft Dynamics 365 we now have the “Project Service Automation” App. (PSA for short!) This is great but what if you are more familiar with updating plans directly in Microsoft Project? In this post, I will look at the capabilities of the newly released Project Service add-in for Microsoft Project.
Download & Install the Add-in
Firstly, you’ll need to download and install the Microsoft Project add-in. You can download the add-in from the link shown below.
When you download the add-in you’ll need to select either the 32 or 64 bit version. Obviously, you’ll need to select the one that matches your version of MSOffice / Microsoft Project.
Once the download is completed you can run the installer you’ve downloaded. This is a pretty standard process, simply clicking next etc!
When you open a blank Microsoft Project plan you should now notice that a “Project Services” option has been added to the toolbar.
Your first task will be to use the connect option to link up with your instance of Microsoft Dynamics 365. Clicking connect will prompt you for the url of your Dynamics organisation.
You’ll then need to enter your credentials to log into Microsoft Dynamics 365.
And then there will be a short pause whilst it connects! (Despite the screen shot below saying “Not Responding”, this process only actually takes a couple of seconds!)
Assuming this process has worked correctly the “Publish” and “Read” icons will now be enabled and you’ll be read to start using the add-in.
Incidentally, if you do need to alter your login details you can use the “Clear saved credentials” option, which you can find in settings.
Using the Add-In
You can simply download a copy of your plan from PSA in to project, if required. You can also link a Microsoft Project to allow you to maintain it in Microsoft Project and see your changes directly in Dynamics 365. And you can even load you plan into SharePoint linked to your PSA plan.
I have been experimenting with the different ways I can use this project add-in, I will describe some of them below.
Read Project Plan into Microsoft Project
The first option I tested was the ability to simply read an existing PSA plan into Microsoft Project. For this you simply open the Read option and select “PSA Project”.
You will then be presented with a list of projects that exist in PSA.
Notice that there is an option to link the project plan to Project Service Automation. I will discuss more about the implications of this later in this post.
But to simply read a copy of the plan into Microsoft Project, just select a project and click Open.
Creating a new project plan
I have found it really useful to create plans in Microsoft Project and then once I’d entered the main details entered upload them into PSA. I am guessing that many Project Managers, familiar with Microsoft Project, will find this a useful approach to creating a plan.
Simply start off creating a project plan. I did mine without resources initially, as I’d build the team in PSA later!
Below you can see that I have created a simple plan and next I use the “New PSA Project” option to create my plan in Dynamics 365.
Next I give the plan a name and optionally associate it with a specific customer.
Notice that the link project plan option is selected. If I simple wanted to use Microsoft Project to cerate the plan I could leave this option unselected. But in my case I want to resource the plan using PSA resources and also maybe make amendments, so I have opted to link the plan.
Having clicked Publish you can see that Microsoft Project “talks” to PSA and creates the plan.
After a few seconds, back in Dynamics 365, I can see my newly created project plan.
Create a team in PSA, then use in Microsoft Project
Having created my draft project plan in PSA, I wanted to build a project team.To do that, it felt most natural (to me) to build the team in Dynamics 365.
Below you can see that I have added several team members to my project.
Notice that I have been also added as Project Manager. This happened automatically, I guess as I created the plan!
Having created my team in Dynamics 365, I returned to my plan in Microsoft Project. After refreshing my plan I was able to add the resources from my team onto tasks with Microsoft Project.
Once I’d finished assigning resources to tasks in Microsoft Project I used the publish icon, from the Project Service tab. After a short pause, I returned to Dynamics 365 to see that PSA now contained the resource allocations.
Amending a project plan in Microsoft Project
When amending a plan, you need to first consider if it is linked or not.
Once a Microsoft project plan is linked to PSA you cannot edit the work breakdown structure in PSA. (As all changes will need to be made in Microsoft Project.)
You can unlink plans as required using “Unlink” option in the Project Service tab.
Having unlinked a project plan, if you wished to link again you can use the Read option and select to link. But be aware that any changes entered in Microsoft Project whilst unlinked would be overwritten.
Whilst a project is linked, clicking publish will write any changes made in Microsoft Project back to PSA.
Upload a Microsoft Project file into SharePoint
A really neat feature is the addition of SharePoint / Office Groups integration. I think it will be very common to want to access any related Microsoft Project plans directly from Dynamics 365.
NOTE: Before using this option, you will need to ensure that SharePoint integration has been enabled and document management enabled for the Project entity.
But once enabled simply use the Upload option.
You will get the following prompt, say “Yes”!
Then back in PSA, you can see that my Microsoft Project file is now available in the documents option.
I hope you can see that it is easy to read, created and amend plans in Microsoft Project. Plus the ability to resource plans is a neat feature. As is the ability to quickly load your plan into SharePoint.
I did find some challenges when using the “Find Resources” option with Microsoft Project. But I found the best way around that (for me) was to build my project team in PSA. (As I have described above.) I also found that actuals recorded in PSA didn’t seem to show in Microsoft Project. But I’d probably be using Microsoft Project to initially build the plan and then I’d use the timesheet functions in PSA to record progress. So this didn’t worry me!
All in all, I found the Microsoft Project add-in to be a useful addition to PSA. One that will hopefully make the process of creating and updating plans much faster and user friendly. Enjoy.