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Manage Site Creation

Introduction

Since the release of Project Online as an Office 365 Service, we’ve had the ability to control how all project sites (sometimes also called collaboration sites or project workspaces) were created through a PWA Settings page called ‘Connected SharePoint Sites’.  On this page, in the toolbar, was a button that was simply labeled ‘Settings’.  The ‘Settings’ dialog allowed us to choose whether sites were created automatically on first publish, allow users to choose (only when publishing from Microsoft Project), or to not create a site at all.  It also allowed us to control whether we wanted to sync the tasks from the project schedule to the tasks list on the project site for team visibility.  These settings, as well as one other, have been moved to a new location, providing much more flexibility and control in managing projects and their corresponding project sites.

Figure 1: Dialog for Settings

Microsoft first announced these changes were coming in a recent blog article.

Note – these changes currently are impacting only ‘First Release’ customers, and will be rolled out to the rest of Project Online subscribers over time.

Updated Enterprise Project Type Configuration Page

If you’re looking for the old ‘Settings’ button in the ‘Connected SharePoint Sites’ page, you’ll no longer see it there.  Also, if you’re looking to manage your ‘Enable Project Site Sync’ setting from the ‘Manage User Sync Settings’ page under ‘Security’ in PWA Settings, you’ll no longer see that option there either.

If you navigate to ‘PWA Settings > Enterprise Project Types’ however, you will see new options in each Enterprise Project Type configured for your PWA Site Collection.  Let’s discuss them one at a time.

  1. Site Creation: We should be familiar with this setting by now: this option controls whether sites are created automatically or not.  It used to be that by setting the radio button to ‘Automatically create a site on first publish,’ the system would behave in the following ways:
    • When a project is created in PWA using the ‘New’ project menu in ‘Project Center,’ it will automatically have a site created for it based on the site template that is associated to that particular project type.
    • If a new project is created and published from Project Professional, it will end up becoming classified as the default project type. When ‘Publish’ is clicked for the first time in Project Professional, a dialog will appear prompting the user to create a site. The site template that will be used is the template associated to the default project type.

Now you need to be aware that the verbiage and meaning of this setting has shifted.  Note that the setting to “auto-create” now says ‘Automatically create a site on next publish’.  This actually allows for more flexibility.  Moving the setting here to the Enterprise Project Type (EPT) page means the following:

  • We can have certain EPTs that get project sites from the beginning, and others that do not.
  • We can publish from Microsoft Project, creating a project that is classified as the ‘default’ project type, and choose not to create a site until the EPT is changed later.
  • If we want to get around the fact that users would still need to create the project and then publish the project to have a site created automatically, we can build the ‘publish’ step into a project workflow, still giving us the results that we want (automatically creating sites when projects are created). This also ties into the point above, because when we change an EPT for a project, the new workflow is then started, so if ‘next publish’ is built into this workflow, the project site will then be created. Note – the action that should be used in a project workflow to automate this is the ‘Publish Project’ action.

Figure 2: Site Creation

One more quick note about site creation and workflows – we can still leverage the ‘CreateProjectSite’ method in the REST API to have the project site created at an alternate point in the project life cycle as documented here.

2. Site Creation Location: This was/is part of the original ‘Connected SharePoint Sites’ configuration options, however the ability to change the ‘Web Application’ had been and is still grayed out.  Now on each EPTs configuration page, we have the ability to specify an alternate location for our project sites.

Figure 3: Site Creation Location

There are a few details that you should know about this:

  • It was our experience as a first-release tenant for these changed features that a new EPT had to be saved once before being able to edit the ‘Location URL:’.
  • If you have a CUSTOM site template specified in the EPT configuration that needs to be used with an alternate site collection, that template solution must be added to the solutions library of the new site collection. If you don’t do this, you will get a queue job failure similar to the following:

Figure 4: Site Template Doesn’t Exist

  • If you have created a model site for project site template development in which you have activated the ‘Project Web App Connectivity’ site feature, and you wish to use this site template in an alternate site collection, then that site collection MUST be PWA enabled. If you do not want a PWA-enabled alternate site collection to house these project sites, you won’t be able to use this ‘migrated’ template; instead you’ll need to create a new template in the alternate site collection based on a project site created there without activation of the ‘Project Web App Connectivity’ site feature. Otherwise you will get a queue job failure message similar to the following referencing site collection feature 697c64b9-3dff-4981-9394-0a62632120ec:

Figure 5: Missing Site Collection Feature

  • You must have created your new site collection in which you wish to create your project sites prior to configuring the URL as the Site Creation Location. It may seem obvious, but just to be clear, SharePoint won’t create a new site collection for you automatically just based on the address you enter in the ‘Location URL’ field.

3. Synchronization: These settings work as they always have for sites created in the same site collection as the project, but permissions sync and task list sync settings do not work for project sites created in alternate site collections. See the below screenshot for a clue to how a non-synced task list is shown on the tasks list for a project site in a site collection outside of the PWA site collection where its corresponding project is contained.

Figure 6: Non-Synced Task List

4. Finally, the last new setting added to the EPT configuration page is the ‘Site Language’ setting. In order to leverage various default site template languages, your site template must support it.  If you select a certain language from the ‘Site Language’ menu and the site template that you select does not support that language, the EPT configuration page will show “The operation could not be completed” and prevent saving of the EPT.

A few other noteworthy points:

  • If you utilize the ‘Project Sites’ web part within your PWA site collection, it will correctly show any connected SharePoint project sites that you have access to EVEN IF they exist in alternate site collections.
  • Project site Risks, Issues and Documents all sync back to the projects PWA, and icons will appear in Project Center representing this site content.
  • The data stored in the default columns for project site Risks, Issues and Deliverables will also still sync to the ProjectData OData Reporting Service even when these project sites are created outside the PWA site collection where the project exists.

Conclusion

These feature changes open up new and exciting possibilities around managing project sites for collaboration both from a PPM process and technical (Application Administration) perspective.  Hopefully this article will give you enough information to get started working with your Enterprise Project Types and associated SharePoint Project Sites.  First release subscribers will see these changes now, and organizations on standard release (or Current Branch for Business) will see them soon!

Additional Reading/Resource:  Please review the article here for additional insights and best practices to tune Project Online performance.

Update 7/7/17 – As of a few weeks ago, Microsoft has changed the ‘Automatically create a site on next publish’ setting, so that now Project sites are automatically created when a project is created in PWA, and it doesn’t require a subsequent publish of the project schedule to create the site.  This is the behavior that we’ve all come to expect from this setting, so it’s convenient that Microsoft provided this update.

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 Nate Auchter, MCSE MCT

 

 

 

Principal Consultant

Nate has been working with Microsoft’s cloud productivity and communications solutions since their initial release, and prior to that gained much of his expertise configuring, administering and developing solutions on the on-premises SharePoint, Exchange and Project Server platforms.  With a strong background in enterprise reporting, business process automation through SharePoint workflows, and project management using Microsoft Project, Nate helps Sensei’s clients realize significant benefits from the Microsoft business toolset.  Recently earning the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Office 365, Nate is certified in the installation, configuration and architecture of the SharePoint and Microsoft PPM platforms both online and on premises, leveraging his proficiency to assist clients in their move to the Microsoft cloud. With dozens of successful Microsoft PPM implementations under his belt, Nate is an expert at distilling how Microsoft’s suite of products and features provide value to Sensei’s customers. He regularly presents at Microsoft and Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG) events.

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