This question comes up increasingly in our discussions with clients: “Does Microsoft Project Online integrate with [fill in the blank with whatever Agile tool your organization happens to be using….TFS, Jira, Rally, VersionOne, Excel, etc.]?” The answer is invariably “Yes, and….”
Given that it came up again this week, I figured it was probably worth a blog post to review the options available. First, we looked at the technical options for integration in the last post. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at specific scenarios that we see come up most often in this post. (Yes, I realize I should be doing it the other way around, but to be honest many organizations haven’t identified the specific scenarios they’re trying to support yet, and are really just looking to keep their future options open when standardizing on an overall PPM platform.)
For prior postings on how to integrate Agile processes with an overall portfolio management mindset, please take a look at some of our old blog posts here.
Scenario 1: Portfolio Management
Portfolio management is probably the biggest aspect of using Project Online and an Agile tool. The project is proposed and selected within the boundaries of the Microsoft platform. Once the project has been chartered, a high level schedule is generated within Project Online, and the development efforts are pushed to the Agile tool.
In this example, the integration scenario is that once a project has been chartered, the same project must be created within the Agile tool (presumably with the help of a project identification number). This allows us to ensure that all work has been properly authorized and prioritized against other work.
The reality in this case is that the Agile work is bookended by the portfolio management processes of the organization as well as the high level project execution activities…the user adoption, training, initial planning, etc.
Scenario 2: Resource Modeling
In this scenario, which is probably the most common scenario, the organization is seeking to develop a comprehensive view of resource capacity and demand. Projects are chartered and work is managed within the framework of the Agile tool. How does the organization gain an overall view of resource commitments?
In theory, this is quite simple. To perform true Agile, your development staff is dedicated to the project, i.e. no more of that nasty task switching that causes delays in a traditional waterfall model. Hence, you follow the same process as above, and when it comes time to allocate resources, you simply calculate the duration from the beginning of the first sprint to the end of the last sprint, and assign your development staff full time.
The details are then managed in your Agile tool of choice, and “integration” simply consists of comparing the finish date for the last sprint with the finish date estimated in the schedule tool. There may be some reporting requirements, but these are easily handled by aggregating the data from the two systems into the same data model within Power BI.
Scenario 3: Task Scheduling
The final scenario usually involves scheduling of the specific sprints in the Agile tool. As Microsoft Project is the preferred scheduling engine for many organizations, the overall schedule is modeled in the Project Online tool, and then specific dates are pushed into the Agile tool.
This gets a bit more vague, as the trick here is to identify specifically which data is being pushed into the Agile tool. If really we’re managing the development activities in that tool, then the only dates I really need are the dates when I kick off my first sprint…..and when my final sprint completes. Potentially, I may use this to schedule around release windows, i.e. to model release windows and blackout dates in my schedule, and then use that to assess impact on the sprint schedules.
Those are my scenarios. Did I miss any? If so, let me know in the comments below.