Microsoft Project 2016 and ServiceNOW Istanbul

In the past week, we have verified the ServiceNOW <-> Microsoft Project Addin works with both ServiceNOW Istanbul and Microsoft Project 2016. Although neither Microsoft Project 2016 nor ServiceNOW Istanbul are widely used in the wild it will not be long before both are commonly used.

Using our Project Addin to integrate with ServiceNOW PPS offers a number of advantages:

  • Fast (>5x faster editing)
  • Familiar MS Project interface
  • Value added project tools
  • Multiple resources per activity
  • Internal and external resources
  • Integrated issue management
  • What if/scenario analysis

For more information or a trial license please email us.


MS Project Addin – Helsinki

There has been additional interest in our ServiceNow Microsoft Project integration Addin! This is good news and if your ServiceNow PPM pilot or implementation is moving along smoothly, please consider deploying our Addin to support your project managers.

With the renewed interest, we will begin updating the integration to support Helsinki. Our testing on Helsinki found at least one change that prevented the Addin from performing as designed. There are currently no issues with Fuji and Geneva.


Do Contract/Talent Agencies Add Value?

I have never understood the value proposition of contract agencies. The market perception and reality are not one. It is costing most businesses more than they realize.

I understand body shops recruit and administer contract talent for their customers and this relieves the customer of sourcing candidates and of administering tax on-boarding paperwork and tax filings. In addition, it provides a contractual distance from the contract worker such that they are deemed contractors and not employees. All this for a small fee.

The fee is not small. In percentage terms, it may be 20 to 50 percent. At the 20 percent rate, I see value for the customer but much above that and I am not convinced it makes sense. For example, let’s say I need a project manager and I agree to pay $110/hr. The “talent agency” will provide a list of their “qualified” candidates who they would likely pay $55 to $65 per hour. At the lowest level fee the annul fee would be $77K per year for a resource cost of approximately $134K (wage plus payroll taxes). That is a 35% gross margin for the agency.

For a company that does not have a robust HR infrastructure and/or uses a small number of contractors, this fee may be acceptable. I argue for companies with significant HR infrastructure and more than a hand full of contractors there is little value in using an agency. The resources to manage the contractors are in place and the additional workload is minimal as there is still a significant and duplicate amount of on-boarding work required by in house HR staff for anyone laboring on the company’s behalf.

The argument is always that it is more cost effective but I have never seen such analyses include the internal cost to on-board a contractor. It is assumed to be zero but contractors need to pass through the same or similar processes before they are authorized to work. Thus the comparison is between the hourly cost and the cost for HR to source and on-board an individual, this comparison neglects to include the internal cost to on-board a contractor.

In my next post, I will share how agencies actually work from the contractors perspective.


ServiceNow PPM ??

It looks like we will be closing down our ServiceNow PPM Microsoft Project Addin product. Although this product achieved its goal of providing bi-directional access to the ServiceNow project repository, the absorption of SeriveNow PPM in the field has been insufficient to warrant further development at this time.

We still believe the ServiceNow PPM will add value to organizations deploying it in the future but it is still not quite ready for prime time. We hope to be able to move forward with the MSP Addin in the future.


Geneva PPM Performance Test

Our development instance was recently updated to Geneva and after learning the performance of the ServiceNow PPM had been improved, we were eager to see how much of a difference it made when saving a file from our Microsoft Project Addin (integration). We did not evaluate the performance using the ServiceNow web UI.

Our integration with Microsoft Project allows us to both Open projects from Project and Save them to ServiceNow from Microsoft Project. We were focused on the save operation which has negatively effected the user experience in both the Web UI and from within Microsoft Project.

Our Test
We have a 198 line work break down structure that we use for testing. This file is actually a template used for ServiceNow implementations and is representative of of a typical MS Project file in size and complexity. Our test is simple, from Microsoft Project we create a new project, paste the template file data into the new file, and then save it to ServiceNow. When the project has been saved, we analyze the local log file and if need be the ServiceNow log file to extract the time for the select operations to complete.

In this case, we looked at the time it took from the time the SOAP message was sent until the response was received. The SOAP message contains all the data related to the project including project information, deliverable and activity data including dependencies and resources. The message is consumed by a Scripted Web Service which uses the glide record interface to update the required tables and returns the status of each delete, insert, or update. The Scripted Web Service and Microsoft Project Addin code were not modified and thus the only change was from Fuji to Geneva.

Our Results
We found a 37% reduction in the time required to consume the SOAP message and return the results. Our testing on Fuji yielded a time of 13.5 seconds while our testing on Geneva yielded a time of 8.5 seconds.

This is a welcome change and will have a positive impact on the user experience!


ServiceNow <-> Microsoft Project Addin Performance Update

We have spent the past two weeks refining and testing our new architecture. These changes, now complete, have the following objectives to improve the user experience.

  • Improve project open and save performance
  • Improve quality and stability
  • Improve installation and administration

In prior versions, the performance opening and especially saving projects negatively effected the user experience. It just took too long and it was just unacceptable to us. In tests with our 200 line test project (PMBOK compliant), save time was reduced from 27 minutes to 28 seconds (98.33% decrease). Although 28 seconds is quite a long time by current standards, it is significantly faster editing a project plan than using the ServiceNow user interface.

Performance is important but not if it compromises quality. The good news is a better design results in both quality and performance improvements. It is a win-win.

Lastly, we changed the installation and licensing models. Installation is now easily accomplished on the desktop and our clearly defined Update Sets make for a reliable and quick install for your ServiceNow administrator. In addition, our new license model maintains the license information in ServiceNow for easy updating and consistency across users.

It has been a busy and rewarding two weeks. The result is a better product and we look forward to sharing the result with everyone in the ServiceNow PPM community.


The Challenge this Week

No one likes to wait and system users expect an almost immediate response. Actions that take more than a second or two add friction and build frustration.

We have heard from ServiceNow PPM customers piloting PPM that they have encountered excessive wait times (20+ minutes, seriously) when saving a single task. As a supporter of ServiceNow PPM, this is frustrating and disappointing. I want people to embrace it and to get value from it as opposed to end up more frustrated than pleased. This has to change!

Our ServiceNow <-> Microsoft Project Addin addresses this problem on the surface by permitting the user to make all their changes in Project and then save them to ServiceNow PPM together. The busy project manager can save the project and walk away until it is completed. This is better but still not good.

So, our challenge this week is to improve performance. Our current typical test project takes approximately 25 minutes (an eternity) to save using our ServiceNow <-> Microsoft Project Addin. Our current goal is to drive that time down to 30 seconds which is still a long time but usable.

Time of Change

Many of you have not heard from us since December, we have been busy rethinking our strategy. Initially, our goal was to simply allow users to manage their projects stored in ServiceNow PPM in Microsoft Project without making any changes to the ServiceNow environment. We achieved this goal almost a year ago but quickly realized it is not possible to effectively and efficiently manage a project within the constraints currently imposed by the ServiceNow PPM.

Our current strategy is to selectively extend the ServiceNow PPM to support the features and functions project managers require. In addition, our plans include work to improve the portfolio management features within ServiceNow. Our hope is to bring value added Portfolio and Project Management to the ServiceNow PPM.

We fully anticipate ServiceNow will continue to evolve their PPM product and we are supportive of their effort. We will continue to work with ServiceNow to improve PPM and evolve our Microsoft Project Addin in concert with ServiceNow.

Stay tuned for our next update in the near future. In it, we will provide a brief description of upcoming enhancements and features (product roadmap).

ServiceNow Project Addin Product Update

A new revision of our ServiceNow Microsoft Project Addin is available for download from our Wiki. This revision includes minor fixes, performance improvements, and additional features.

New Features

  • Set and maintain the task order in both SeviceNow and Microsoft Project
  • Assign both ServiceNow and non-ServiceNow resources to tasks
  • Maintain standard and overtime rates for each resource
  • Assign and maintain resource task allocation
  • Assign multiple resources to a task

If you have additional questions please email

Should I send it?

Every day, we send numerous emails but there are emails we probably should not send. We are all guilty (I know I am and I have received enough email to know others are as well).

The reality is email is a poor communication medium for many things. In addition, we exacerbate that weakness by treating it as less formal and thus often quickly shoot off email with little thought.

So how do you know if you should send the email you have just composed? Ask yourself a few simple questions.

Do I have any doubt? If the answer is “yes”, do not send it. I find myself often wondering should I reply in an email, if you are asking yourself that question you have already answered it.

Am I reacting to the email? If you read an email and feel the urge to reply immediately, you may be “reacting” to the email and paying less attention to your reply. The result may be your reply may cause more trouble than it is solving. Do not send it. One option is to save it in your drafts and review it later, if it is worthy then send it otherwise delete it.

Have you already replied to the email once? If you replied and received a reply reiterating the original email, replying again is not going to move things forward and may make them worse.

Let’s commit to improving our communication and performance today! What rules to you follow in deciding to reply or send an email?

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