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Project Online: Notifications and Reminders

Project Online: Notifications and Reminders

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Project Online does have a slightly different feature set than Project Server 2013 – and one feature that I know many of you are missing is the task notifications and reminders.  As we now replicate the tasks from the plan to the Project site there are some ways to get some of this functionality back via that list – and one of our Virtual Technical Specialists, and Partners, Ray Letts from Arbutus Solutions, has shared some details of how he achieves this for his customers.  Also Doug Welsby – one of our Senior Solution Specialists – has shared some extra steps to ensure you can get these alerts to the right e-mail addresses if you do not also happen to use the associated Exchange Online domain for e-mail.

But first, I wanted to give a little insight to why that feature isn’t there.  With any software release we have choices to make on where we invest – and for that feature there were some challenges that it didn’t already use the same notifications infrastructure as SharePoint, and the existing architecture would have given us some performance concerns – particularly in a multi-tenant environment.  I know plenty of you are reading and thinking – yes, but we wanted that feature.  Unfortunately even Microsoft has limited resources – and the challenge is that I am sure all of you would have chosen to sacrifice some different feature to get this one – you can’t please all of the people all of the time…

On to the other ways of achieving similar results – first from Ray Letts:

Introduction

This article will show how we can enable notifications on task changes to team members for Project Online.

Installation Steps

Project Online has a lot of great new features. That and being ‘married’ to SharePoint 2013 as an underlying platform brings along even more functionality.

One of the new features we can use in Project Online is the new SharePoint feature that alerts can be triggered off of a view. Previously alerts were based on changes to items in the list or library as a whole. Now by having views in the mix we can have smarter alerts that trigger based on a variety of conditions that fit your business process.

By default Project Online does not send emails to resources when they are assigned to a task. Some people want this feature on and some do not want to read the many emails that can possibly come in. So we can be a little creative and use this new functionality to give people what they want, notifications or not, in a self-serve manner that will make everyone happy.

One new feature essential to this is that Project Online synchronizes tasks for a project to the project site Task list (as well as Outlook tasks but that is another storyline.) With this great new feature and SharePoint’s alerts based on a view we can send email alerts to resources for their tasks only. To do this we just have to perform a couple of steps.

  1. Create a view based on your business requirements or use the existing ‘My Tasks’ view.
  2. Either the Project Manager sets alerts if they want to force notifications or as team members get added to the project and thus get permissions they can ‘self-serve’ and subscribe to alerts they want.
  3. Finally you can save custom views into a site template to be used in a project type so whenever a project gets created these views come along ready to be used by the PM when the project is first kicked off.

Steps in detail:

  1. Create or use an existing view for the notifications.

a.  Go to your project site tasks list.

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b.  On the Lists ribbon select ‘Set alert on this list’.

c.  Choose the options you like on this page to get notifications immediately as you please. The important area we are discussing is what changes to send alerts for. Choose the last ‘view’ option and select the ‘My Tasks’ view.

d.  Note I had to ‘Modify’ the My Tasks view to get it to show up here. Just go in and immediately save it with no changes.

2.  Test the alert

  1. Assign yourself to a task. 
  2. Save and publish.
  3. You should receive an email if you set the alert to send immediately.

d.  Above is the email alert I received by just adding myself to the task. You can see what fields were changed and all

3.  Save as template (optional)

    1. Once you have your project site template the way you want it with views, custom lists and fields you can save it as a template.
    2. Then in the PWA settings you can edit an EPT (Enterprise Project Type) and associate your new template with that EPT.
    3. Now when you create a project and associated site the custom views will come along for you to set alerts to.
    4. Alerts do not come along with the template. This makes sense in that you may not even be on the project and thus would not want to receive alerts.

Conclusion

In this short blog we’ve seen how new features and functionality in both SharePoint and Project Online (2013) can be used together to allow notifications on tasks to the team involved. Now that Project Online synchronizes tasks in a schedule to the project site tasks list and now that SharePoint allows views based off of alerts we can be creative and link the two features to send alerts that match your business to the right people.

Good luck and all the best in the New Year!

Ray Letts,   MCTS, Arbutus Solutions

Now for some extra points contributed by Doug Welsby around setting the right e-mail address for your notifications:

On my Project Online demo site, my user account has a default domain name of @<mytenant>.onMicrosoft.com.  I had to modify this domain name in my email address attribute in order to start receiving alerts at my @Microsoft.com account instead of the Project Online domain.  It’s not obvious where to do this, but here you go:

  • From the Office 365 site top menu navigation, select Admin - SharePoint
  • In the SharePoint admin center, select “User Profiles” from the quick launch menu on the left
  • Under People, select “Manage User Profiles”
  • Search for the profile by entering the name and clicking “Find”
  • Select the appropriate profile, and just to the right of the Account name, select the menu arrow and click “Edit my profile”
  • On the edit profile screen, scroll down to locate “Work email”, and change the address to the appropriate email name where you want alerts directed to.
  • Select “Save and close”.

Thanks again to Ray and Doug for sharing.  I am certainly anticipating that I might get quite a few comments on this topic and we certainly welcome the feedback.  I’m not aware of the future direction of this feature – but having good constructive feedback certainly helps us make decisions on feature choices.

Comments
  • Laand nai chal rha

  • It'd be nice if we had a "Test" button for mail setup.

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