As SharePoint has evolved into a platform for business, it’s often necessary to create diagrams to represent business rules, as well as a place to track project statuses. I had a chance to sit down with Chris Crane, Microsoft’s Project and Visio marketing director, to discuss changes to those products and how they impact on integration with SharePoint.
Project, he said, takes full advantage of what has been done in SharePoint, namely the ability to follow people and documents (in SharePoint 2013). “All that is equally relevant to project management,” Crane said. “It’s about connecting with people.”
While Project is fully integrated with SharePoint Server, Crane said SharePoint Online has lightweight project-management functionality only. “You can manage tasks, but not really a project. It’s more for the accidental PM,” he said. He did note, though, that users can grow up from a single task list and move into Project Online, which has full project portfolio-management capability, “in just a matter of clicks.”
Project users will be able to take advantage of a new workflow model, particularly around demand management, Crane said, as well as having full business intelligence capability through Excel Services, Power View and OData.
Further, he pointed out that Project has integrated its software with Lync, which enables such things as alerting about tasks, for example. And, through integration with Exchange, tasks can be passed through to the devices of those team members who need them, Crane explained.
The Team Mailbox in SharePoint 2013 has a lot of value in project management, Crane said, such as being able to look at an Outlook calendar and get a popup about a team member’s vacation so you don’t schedule that person for tasks during that time.
As for Visio, Crane said Microsoft has made a big investment “in making diagrams look great” through updated shapes and stencils that offer better quality. By connecting Visio diagrams to data sources through SharePoint, he said a dashboard can be created, and the Visio Web Part can be used to create mash-ups. A new diagram format in Visio 2013 (.vsdx) enables you to save Visio diagrams to SharePoint and have others interact with it, such as by commenting on a shape. Also, Visio 2013 diagrams can be connected to external lists using BCS in SharePoint Server 2013 or SharePoint Online.
Crane added, “Diagrams are more important, with so much data coming at us. Often, it’s the only way to explain complexity. Visio fits the need for business users today.”