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A New Feature in Microsoft Project 2016 That You Might Not Know About

By Dale Howard, MVP, Sensei Project Solutions

Background Information

Three years ago, Microsoft introduced a new feature in the 2013 version of Microsoft Project called Lync integration (now known as Skype integration), which displays a “presence” indicator for each resource in your project team. Microsoft introduced this new feature to foster communications between the project manager and team members. For example, the project manager can use the Skype integration feature to quickly initiate an instant message session with a team member.

This feature is also included in Microsoft Project 2016, but the latest version includes a hidden feature you might not know about. More about that shortly; first let’s make sure you understand how the integration works.

Before you can use this feature in either Microsoft Project 2013 or 2016, you must meet several requirements:

  • Your organization must use Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync).
  • You must have the Skype for Business client software running on your computer.
  • You must enter an e-mail address in the Resource Information dialog for each of the resources in your projects.

In the following figure, notice that I entered an e-mail address for Mickey Cobb in the Resource Information dialog. Because our organization uses Skype for Business and I am running this application on my computer, I will now be able to see the “presence” indicator for Mickey Cobb and all other team members for whom I supply an e-mail address.

Figure 1: E-Mail Address Entered for Mickey Cobb

Figure 1: E-Mail Address Entered for Mickey Cobb

The software displays the “presence” indicator for resources in multiple locations, such as the Resource Sheet view, the Resource Usage view, the Team Planner view, and the Assign Resources dialog. The following figure shows the Resource Sheet view for my project. Notice the “presence” indicator (colored box) to the left of each resource name in this view.

02 Resource Sheet view

Figure 2: Presence indicators in the Resource Sheet view

If you hover your mouse pointer over a “presence” indicator, the software will display a floating Skype dialog for the selected resource, such as the one shown in the following figure. The floating dialog displays the name of the resource, their job title, and their current status according to their Outlook calendar. Along the bottom of the floating dialog, the software displays buttons that will allow you to initiate an IM session with the resource, initiate a Skype phone call with the resource, initiate a Skype video call with the resource, and send an e-mail to the resource.

03 Skype dialog

Figure 3: Floating Skype dialog

If you click the Send an IM button in the floating Skype dialog, Microsoft Project opens an IM session dialog, such as the one shown in the following figure. Notice at the top of the Skype dialog that the software displays the name of the project from which I started the IM session (the Roll Out Microsoft Project 2016 project).

04 IM conversation with Nicole Ulrich

Figure 4: Skype for Business IM session

Revealing the Hidden New Feature in Microsoft Project 2016

Now that I introduced you to this new Skype integration feature that was introduced in Microsoft Project 2013, let’s talk about the new features offered in the 2016 version of the software. Most people assume that the only new features in Microsoft Project 2016 are these two well-documented features:

  • The multiple timelines feature allows you to create multiple timelines in a single Timeline view.
  • The improved Office apps feature can now both read and write data in project file.

Beyond these two well-known features, there is a third new feature that is not nearly as well-known. This third new feature allows you to disable the “presence” indicators for the resources in all of your projects. Although I personally love the Skype integration feature and find it very useful, I realize that not everyone wants to use this feature and would like to disable it. To disable the Skype integration feature in Microsoft Project 2016, complete the following steps:

1. Click the File tab to display the Backstage.
2. Click the Options tab in the Quick Launch menu on the left side of the Backstage.
3. In the Project Options dialog, click the Display tab as shown in the following figure.

05 Project Options dialog

Figure 5: Project Options dialog

4. In the Show these elements section of the dialog, deselect the Online status next to name checkbox option. This is the third new feature, by the way.
5. Click the OK button.

Because this option is an application-level option, Microsoft Project 2016 will stop displaying the “presence” indicators for all resources in all of your projects. The following figure shows the Resource Sheet view of my project with the option deselected. Notice that the software no longer displays the “presence” indicators for any of the resources in this project.

06 Resource Sheet view - Presence indicators removed

Figure 6: Resource Sheet view – Presence indicators removed

About Sensei Project Solutions
Sensei Project Solutions, a Finalist for the 2015 Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Partner of the Year, focuses on bringing Instant Productivity to your team. Our mission is to help individuals and organizations be more productive so that they can achieve their greatest potential. As a Gold certified Microsoft Partner and Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) with the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Sensei offers a complete set of services and products for a successful Microsoft PPM deployment. Our guiding principles for Proactive PPM follow best practices and industry standards aligned with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and Gartner, enabling organizations to manage resource demand, obtain business intelligence that facilitates better decision making, increase business effectiveness by easily connecting people, and become self-sufficient with PPM processes and solutions. In short, Sensei helps organizations achieve Instant Productivity.

About Dale Howard, Director of Education, Sensei Project Solutions
Dale Howard is a seasoned training professional who is approaching 30 years of technical training experience. He has taught students how to effectively use every version of Microsoft Project beginning with version 4.0 for Windows 95, and every version of the Microsoft EPM tool beginning with Project Central in the year 2000. Dale possesses the coveted Project MVP title and is one of only 64 Project MVPs in the entire world. He is the co-author of 20 books on Microsoft Project and Project Server. Dale is known for high-energy, highly interactive style of presenting and teaching. He was voted the “Best Presenter” by conference participants at the Project Conference in 2012.

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