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Handling a Project Curveball with Project Service Automation and MS Project

Today's blog post was written by Nick Costanzo, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

For the last several months, Dynamics 365 has allowed project managers to use the MS Project Add In to link project plans to Project Service Automation (PSA) and manage their projects. The instructions here walk you through how to install, configure, and manage your WBS in MS Project while syncing it back to the linked project record in PSA. This works great if all projects run smoothly and everything stays on track. But what if your client throws you a curveball and the project hits a delay? We’ve all dealt with this, and the broad impact it has on the project team, resource managers, and financial forecasts.

Today I am going to cover how to leverage MS Project and PSA to address these challenges.

If we manage each change correctly, we can avoid striking out when we are faced with that hot, stinky, cheddar pitch.

1. First, let's start with our baseline project plan to create the project record in PSA and link them up by going to the Project Service tab > Publish > New PSA Project:

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2. We’ve also gotten our resources booked, so now let’s fast forward to the completion of our Discover phase and our planned kick-off of the Iteration 1 Define phase on 5/29:

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3. Let’s take a snapshot of our booked resources for reference. You can see the detailed view from the Bookable Resource Booking (BRB) records related to the project, which I’ve added as a navigation tile to the project form. For simplicity, I’ve also filtered the records down to Alan, our PM, and the week of 5/29/17.  As you can see, it’s a bit challenging to summarize the data as there is a record for each day, and the duration is displayed in hours in the view, but minutes in the chart:

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4. Alternatively, once you refresh the plan in MS Project, you can get a much nicer view by going to Resource Usage. As you can see, we had Alan booked for 40 hours this week:

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5. Next we will simulate what would happen if the client hits a delay with the Iteration 1 Define phase, by moving this date out by 1 month to 6/29/17 in MS Project and publishing it to PSA. You could do this directly in PSA, but in order to do so, you would have to unlink the MS Project plan.

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Pro tip, make sure your all of your MS Project tasks are scheduled with Fixed Work, by selecting all, then clicking on Information > Advanced > Task Type > Fixed Work, to avoid unnecessary BRB records remaining with the original baseline dates.

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6. Now you can see that the Iteration 1 Define phase start date and all subsequent dates have been moved out in the PSA WBS:

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7. However we also need to make sure that the associated resource bookings have been moved as well. You can see that the all of the BRB records for the project have been adjusted according to the new schedule from the Iteration 1 Define phase onward. Again this is more clearly displayed in the MS Project, Resource Usage view:

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8. With that complete, you have successfully re-baselined your project! And by keeping your resources in sync with the new dates you gain the advantage of:

  • Giving project team resources an updated view of their project bookings
  • Avoiding extra work for resource managers to change these bookings, and also allow them to book these resources to other projects during the delay
  • Ensuring the financial forecast is accurate for your project

Simple as that, by fighting off those curveballs, you can stay in control of your project and keep everyone on track.  After all, it's a lot easier to lay down a bunch of singles than it is to hit a home run!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics 365