Customizing Project for the web

Project for the web (P4W) is growing by leaps and bounds. However, it still is in its adolescence regarding features. In Project for the web, we don’t have the same quick customized access we found with Project Professional, where a right-click or double click on just about anything you saw on the screen could modify or format it.

Microsoft intends to initially provide little, if any, customizing of P4W, at least for now. It was designed to be quick, easy, and have end users up and running while not requiring much setup, configuration, or customization. Files are organized in a series of loose collections of files stored in your Microsoft 365 Project tenant.

They are not connected or standardized with custom enterprise-level fields (natively). So if you are looking for a more Enterprise experience, then that is where you would utilize Power Apps to assist in creating that structure. Or you would use Project Online or Project Desktop.

However, if you like the experience of using Project for the web, then don’t despair. You do have the ability to customize it. To do more enterprise-level customization with P4W, you can use Power Apps. Microsoft has provided a free Power App, sometimes referred to as the Project Accelerator or the Project App. It provides a first pass at delivering the Better Together Story, where you can create enterprise structure, processes, and fields while still using Project for the web. I will explain where to get this later in this post.

But going back to the buzz over Microsoft’s latest and easiest to use Project Scheduling tool, you do have some flexibility around local customizations. Remember, the goal of the Microsoft Project Product team was to give the easy to start, edit and build schedules and assign resources, all without a lot of setup.

The trade-off, at least today, and until Microsoft continues to release new features, is a more limited level of customization options. Now I know that many of you love using Excel (infinitely customizable), but we are working with a scheduling engine available for connection with Power BI and Dynamics.

In this post, I will cover the options you have to continue customizing Project for the Web. Both natively and the option for creating enterprise-level customization through Power Apps.

Customizations in Project for the web

In Project for the web, you have three key views. Grid View, Board View, and Gantt View. Here are some of the customizations you will find in each of the types of views.

Customizing Project for the web in the Grid View

P4W has a grid view that allows you to work like in Excel. What’s nice about this is that you can easily move your columns around to order them. While there aren’t too many columns available, you can now add custom columns (shown later below) and organize what you see in the order you want.

The Key is to hover your mouse between the columns and the double line, and the split arrows will appear. Then, just drag and drop to widen. Or, if you want to move the column, just put your mouse directly over the column and drag it to where you want it to go.

Another common trick for customizing and creating visualizations is to insert symbols and icons to emphasize or draw your teams’ attention.

By making sure that you are sitting on a text field, press the Windows Key + the Semicolon (;) or period (.) keys. This will pop up a list of options you can choose from different categories and symbols.

This works great in most Windows 10 environments, and if you wanted to try this in your Office 365 Browser Views of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, they will show up there in the tabs and other structure or text objects.

Customizing Project for the web in the Gantt View

Most of the time, the basic columns will work just fine. However, there are times you want to add more information or structure to your project schedule. I always love to ensure that I “Tell the Story,” so having the ability to add additional columns is very helpful.

Just scroll to the end of any of the views. Typically this will happen in the Gantt View but remember you can add custom columns to any view.

Find the Add Column Plus and select New Field.

Once selected, you are prompted for the field type.

  • Text = Free Form Text
  • Date = It’s a Date Field
  • Number = For Numbers
  • Yes/No = A Boolean Field
  • Choice = Lookup up or Select Choices you can add.

A common option is to leverage the Choice Field to create a KPI view. First, add your field choices, then use the Windows Icons key to find the symbols you want to use. In this case, Red, Yellow, Green are standard stoplight reporting, but you aren’t limited to them. Just remember to erase the default text that Project puts in there.

Customizing P4W in the Board View

For those who haven’t worked with Planner, you haven’t used the ability to customize the Board view by grouping the information differently by the columns you have in your tasks.

To customize the Board View, view the right of your screen and find the “Group by Bucket” Option. Click this and select how you want to group or line up your tasks.

This will let you quickly organize or re-organize the work.  Buckets are commonly organized by phase, priority, sprints, etc.

Custom Reporting Options for P4W

Many people ask, what about reports. Microsoft uses Power BI to connect to the data and provide a rich environment to allow for reporting. Microsoft has built some Power BI Report Packs for you to use. Just download and plug them right against your Projects.

To get these reports, you will need to download them from Github or call us for the most updated and free versions. We keep them updated and have improved them for our customers.

I always recommend checking the Project Blog. Here is a good post on this found: A new Project Online Content Pack for Power BI – Microsoft Tech Community

Also, you can download it as an App from Power BI here.

Advanced Customizing for P4W

Many organizations are looking for the simplicity of Project for the Web (P4W) but also need to book resources, do demand and capacity planning, and manage programs and portfolios. To do this, Microsoft has provided the Power Platform to help you extend your P4W experience.

You would leverage both Power BI and Power Apps, possibly even Power Automate, to help create workflows, custom columns and establish a Project Lifecycle process around managing, starting, and delivering projects.

Microsoft has also deployed a quick custom App (Called the Project Accelerator or the Project App) for you to get started with.

If you wanted to go beyond the basics, you would start building and customizing this with Power Apps. A couple of key points:

  1. You will need a Power App License if you want to use the Accelerator or configure this beyond five lookup fields/tables
  2. If you get the Project Accelerator and decide to customize it, you will need to do so in Power Apps
    • There are two types of Power App Approaches
      • Canvass Apps: you design the layout, look, feel, and all the moving parts
      • Model-Driven Apps: the application will generate the functional elements you need or configure and you design where they will appear in the form interface. As a reference, Dynamics is a Model Drive Power App

This Power App (Model-Driven) allows you to start with an Intake Process and organize projects by programs. It extends the ability to organize costs, budget, resources, and bookings for projects.

Remember Microsoft still has Project Online, which is fully formed and has strong resources, costs, portfolio selection, and prioritization capabilities.  However, its scheduling tool is much deeper and heavier, which may be more than you are looking for.

Where is Microsoft Going with Project for the Web:

Microsoft has big plans for this young and growing tool. Here is just a small subset of things you can expect to see with P4W.

  1. Grow Up Story from Planner to Project for the web

Microsoft realized that Planner is wildly successful, but migration from Planner to Project for the web would need to be the end-user experience.

Typically, people who want to migrate are needing to add more time-phased or cost-based information, resource effort, and graphical indicators of progress. All of which are not found in Planner, but are currently found in Project Desktop, Project Online, Project Operations, and of Course Project for the web. Microsoft will be adding the native ability to grow up your planner board directly into Project for the web here in the near future.

  1. Migrating Project Desktop to Project for the web

They now have currently added a grow lateral option where you can take an existing Project Online, Project Desktop schedule and migrate that over to P4W so that you can begin using it there. NOTE: when you migrate a Project Desktop version into P4W, you will lose much of the functionality in Project Desktop.

  1. Project Operations & Using Project for the web

Project Operations, which is part of the Dynamics suite of modules, uses Project for the web for its scheduling engine. Historically, Project Service Automation (PSA) in dynamics provided this functionality, but Microsoft migrated this application into its flagship set of tools. Even Dynamics Sales (Dynamics CRM) will allow you to generate a Project for the Web schedule to help you build an estimate or timeline for making a proposal for a customer.

As you can see, Microsoft intends to continue to expand the channels where P4W is used. Even if the current version of Project for the Web is limited and not as comprehensive as Project Online or Project Desktop, both of these applications will be around for a long time. Many customers use these both in the cloud and on-premise. And Project Desktop is a staple of project managers with roughly 30 million licenses out.

Need more?

I hope this was helpful for you. Keep looking for further articles on this topic as we discuss building, coding, and setup approaches for the Model-driven applications through Power Apps for P4W.

Look for more on this topic from our YouTube Channel and also from our Free Learning Management Channel: Advisicon Academy.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. We love hearing from you, and we openly take suggestions for new or exciting topics.