To accommodate the needs of companies that require a strong level of project management, a tight integration between Eralis Job and Microsoft project has been developed. The overall solution allows a company to use Eralis Job to monitor and control the cost aspects of a project, while Microsoft Project creates the ability to maintain strong project management controls over projects. Integration of the two solutions offers a clear picture of the task allocation assigned to each staff member or company resource, to achieve greater utilization of those resources.
The integration between Eralis Job and Microsoft Project has been broken down into two phases:
- Phase 1 focuses on taking the structure of a Job inside Eralis Job and generating a project plan from it.
- Phase 2 of the integration will focus on amending the project plan inside Microsoft Project,
and having those amendments flow back into Eralis Job.
The current release of the integration includes only the Phase 1 functionality. As development progresses with the Phase 2 integration, more information will be provided.
Structure of the integration
It is important to understand the background of the integration to get the best results from the integration. There are two primary concepts that impact how to best structure your Jobs, and how to get the necessary reporting out of the solution:
- The manner in which the resulting project plan is structured.
- The links and ties between the resources used on projects.
To push information from Eralis Job through to Microsoft Project, a specific hierarchical structure needs to be established. This will map the different elements of a Job in Eralis Job to the various levels of a project that can be created in Microsoft Project. The following hierarchy is used when a project is generated in Eralis Job:
|The top level of the project plan in Microsoft Project links to the Master Job in Eralis Job.
|Activities that are attached directly to a Master Job will flow through to the project plan as tasks are assigned to the top level of the project plan.
|Subjobs for the second level task headers in the project plan.
|Activities linked directly to the Subjobs will flow through as tasks against the level 2 header.
|Quote lines on a Subjob form the next level down. However, the quote line can either be a level 2 task or a level 3 header, depending on whether there are activities linked to the quote line.
|Any activities linked to a quote line will flow through as a level 3 task in the project plan.
The resulting structure can be represented as a project plan as per the image below:
A key objective for carrying out the integration development is to provide a consolidated view of tasks that have been allocated to staff members or company resources, in order for a company to easily establish work shortfalls or over-allocated resources.
This objective is achieved through the use of the Resource Pooling functions within Microsoft Project. The concept behind Resource Pools is to create a central project plan which contains all the available staff members and company resources, and share these staff members and resources with the project plans that are created for individual jobs. From within the Resource Pool, a consolidated view can be obtained which shows all the assigned tasks for each staff member or resource.
Resource pooling is a standard function of Microsoft Project, with additional information being available directly from the Microsoft Office website.
Installation and Configuration
The Microsoft Project integration is installed as a standard part of Eralis Job and as such, there is no additional software to install. However, by default the functionality is not enabled on a company database. Before the functionality is enabled, there are certain requirements that need to be met.
To use the integration functionality, a user must be licensed and have access to SAP Business One and Eralis Job. The only additional requirement is to have Microsoft Project installed on the client machine where the integration will be used. As part of the installation of Microsoft Project, the necessary SDK components are installed which are used when generating the project plans from Eralis Job.
The Microsoft Project integration is not compatible with versions of Microsoft Project earlier than
the 2007 version.
Three different licensing elements are required in order to make use of the Microsoft Project integration:
- Eralis Job licenses: Every user that requires the integration functionality must have an
Eralis Job license assigned to them.
- Eralis Microsoft Project Integration license: This is a company-based licensed that provides
access to the integration functionality. This particular license differs from the Eralis Job license in that it does not need to be allocated to users. There only needs to be a valid license on the system and then any user who has access to Eralis Job will be able to use the integration functions.
- Licensing for Microsoft Project: The licensing for Microsoft Project is outside the scope of Eralis documentation and is the responsibility of the company using the application.
Demonstration licenses can be enabled for Microsoft Project in a similar manner to generating demonstration licenses for Eralis Job. After the integration functionality has been enabled in the Eralis Job System Initialization screen, a new application (Eralis Microsoft Project Integration) will
become available in the Eralis License Administration screen (Administration > License > Eralis
License Administration). To generate the necessary license details, click on the License tab, select the Eralis Microsoft Project Integration application, then click on the Demo button. Demonstration licenses for Eralis Microsoft Project Integration will allow for the creation of 5 project plans.
Enabling Microsoft Project Integration in Eralis Job
Before the integration to Microsoft Project is enabled, the following elements need to be configured.
- A folder to contain the project plans: When a project plan is generated from Eralis Job, it is automatically saved in a central location. This location will also contain the global resource pool project plan. As such, a folder location needs to be established which all users of the integration will be able to be access. It is recommended that this location is on a shared network resource such as the standard B1_SHR folder.
- A document group to link the project plan to: When a project plan is created, the system will link the plans to the Job as an attachment. All attachments against a Job need to be assigned to a group to make it easier to retrieve the relevant files. Documents groups can be setup under Administration > Setup > Job > Document Group.
Once the above two options have been defined, the integration functions will be available in a new tab in the Eralis Job System Initialization screen (Administration > System Initialization > Job). The tab contains the following information.
|Integrate to MS Project
This setting controls whether or not the integration functions are enabled in Eralis Job. Additional licenses are required to operate the
Do not activate the integration functions within a live database unless you have tested the functions and intend to use the integration. The integration creates additional fields and buttons which cannot be removed and can create unnecessary additional complexity for companies not requiring the integration.
|Project File Folder
This allows the user to indicate the save directory for the global resource pool project plan, along with any project plans generated by Eralis Job. This folder needs to be accessible to all users who intend using the project integration.
|Create Pool Project
This function automatically creates the global resource pool project plan within the specified project folder.
|Global Resource Sync
The global resource sync can only be carried out once you have created the global resource pool project plan. It will copy all HR records and job resources through to the global resource pool project plan.
You have the ability to control which records are copied to the global pool project plan through the Schedulable toggle, which is available on both the Employee Master Data and the Job Resource Setup grid. The global resource sync can be run multiple times if required. The system will go through an add new staff and resources to the global pool and will not duplicate records that have already been added.
Buttons have been added to both the HR Master record and the Job Resource grid to allow you to synchronize new records as they are created.
|Document Group for Project Plans
|A drop-down list of all the standard document groups that are configured for Eralis Job.
All the project plans that are generated from Eralis Job are automatically attached to the job using the standard document attachments function. The project plans will all be assigned to the selected group.
Using the Microsoft Project Integration
Creating a Microsoft Project project plan is a simple process that can be carried out from the Project Plan tab on the Planning screen of a Master Job. However, before getting to the point of creating the project plan, there are several elements that need to be taken into consideration.
Job Management and Job Structure
The structure of the job is extremely important as it is the template for the project plan. In order to make the creation of the job structure a more streamlined process, several changes have been made to certain job management features to provide greater efficiency in generating the various components of a job.
Historically, creating new Subjobs or editing existing Subjobs from the Master Job involved
opening up the Subjob screen to make the necessary adjustments. Where several Subjobs were involved, this became a lengthy, time consuming process. The Subjob tab of the Master Job is now an editable grid and the creation process no longer opens the Subjob form. This allows a user to more quickly create and update Subjob header information directly on the Subjob grid with no need to open the actual Subjob.
Activities can be linked to:
- A Master Job
- A Subjob
- An individual quote line
The introduction of the Microsoft Project Integration has placed a greater emphasis on the use of activities as they relate directly to tasks in Microsoft Project. For this reason, several enhancements have been made to make working with activities more efficient.
The changes can be broken down into three categories:
- The ability to create activities in bulk, rather than a single activity at a time.
- The ability to copy activities when copying a Job.
- The ability to adjust dates on activities based on a change to the job dates
Bulk activity entry
At each area where activities can be created, a new entry grid has been introduced to allow multiple activities to be added on the fly. The grid provides all the standard information required for creating activities, allowing the user to create the activities more efficiently. The standard defaults which are applied to new activities will apply to activities created from the grid.
Additional features have been added to the grid to provide more feedback to the person creating the activities:
- On the header of the grid, the user is able to see the Job, Subjob and, if applicable, the quote line details related to the activities. Where the activity is linked to a quote line, the system will display the quantity that has been assigned to that quote line, which reflects the total number of hours available to complete all the required activities. On the footer of the grid entry, there is a running total of the duration of all the activities that have been entered and a value of the unallocated time available. This unallocated time is made up from the total quantity on the quote line, less the total duration of the entered activities, and represents the number of hours which still have to be assigned to that task.
- Where a number of instances of the same type of activity need to be created, the user has the ability to select a source activity and copy it. Once copied, the user can then make any
necessary changes required. When the user updates the grid the system will create or update the individual activities in SAP Business One for each instance.
The ability to copy activities was introduced in Eralis Job version 8.00.253 and can be accessed from the Copy button on the My Jobs screen. The function allows the user to create a new Job based on a template or source Job. When creating a new Job, the user has the ability to determine which parts of the source Job structure should be copied, including any linked activities. When the activities are copied, the system will adjust the start date of the new activity to fall in line with the start date of the new Job and will retain the difference between the start date of the source Job and the start date of the source activity.
Activity Adjustments Based on Date Changes
The system also allows you to adjust the start dates of linked activities based on a change to the circumstances of a Job. The adjustments can be triggered in the following manner:
- By changing the start date on the Master Job
- By changing the start date on a Subjob
- By changing the date field on a quote line
In each of these situations, an option will be provided to adjust the dates on linked activities.
If the user chooses to adjust the dates of the linked activities a new screen will open which provides a list of all the linked activities, along with a new, calculated start date. This calculated start date is based on the difference between the original value of the date field being changed, and the new value. The user has the ability to change the calculated date to a date of their choice.
Generating the Project Plan
Project plans are generated using a new Planning button on the Master Job screen. This button opens a window where you can enter more specific planning information relating to the project. The window contains three tabs.
The Project Teams tab provides the ability to identify all the parties that are involved in the Job and allocate their specific roles. This can include any company staff or resources, along with any customer or supplier business partners.
The project team members can be linked to a specific Job Type, so that default staff and resource project team members can be assigned to a job when the job type is changed.
The project team structure forms the foundation for future development in the area of job specific price lists, along with greater security restrictions.
This tab is not restricted to Microsoft Project licensing and forms part of the core Eralis Job functionality.
The Project Plan tab outlines all the project plans that have been generated from the Job, providing a history of the changes that have been made to the project structure. New project plans can also be generated from this tab.
Each project plan generated is saved in a directory specified in the system configuration, and is linked to the relevant Job to allow for easy access. Double clicking on a plan will open the plan in Microsoft Project.
The Create Project button will generate a new project plan for the Job.
Where there is an existing project plan, the user will receive a prompt asking whether they want to make a copy of the existing project plan. If the user chooses to do so, the system will rename the current master file and add the next incremental version number to the file name, then generate a new master project plan.The system uses the following naming convention when creating the project plan files: <jobid> - Project Plan - <version number>.mpp. The current master project plan does not contain a version number.
This tab is only available if the Microsoft Project Integration is enabled and licensed.
The View tab provides an embedded view of the current master project plan, displaying a GANTT chart view of the activities that need to be carried out within the project.
The view provided is for display purposes only. Although the user can make changes within this screen, the changes will not be saved back to the project plan. Any changes required must be made by either changing the underlying object in Eralis Job, or by using the Launch Project button to open the master project plan inside Microsoft Project.
This tab is only available if the Microsoft Project Integration is enabled and licensed.
Maintaining the Synchronization of Resources
When enabling the Microsoft Project Integration, a global synchronization can be run for all staff and company resources, which will copy through or update their details in the resource pool project plan. For ongoing maintenance of the resource pool, a new button, Send to MSP, has been added to both the standard Employee Master Data screen and to the Job Resource Setup screen.
With the Employee Master records, the button will post the details of that employee through to the resource pool. With Job Resources, the button will post any changes through for all resource
The ability to post a record through to the project resource pool is controlled by the Schedulable field on each record. This has to be set to Yes to have the record posted through.
The global resource synchronization can be run multiple times against the database in situations where large numbers of changes have been made to the staff or resource records. The global resource synchronization will merely update existing records or create new records if the source cannot be found.
In the Employee Master Data screen, a new User Defined Field has been added which holds the Reference ID of the staff member inside the global resource pool. This ID is used to establish if the record exists or if it is a new record. If the value inside the field is deleted, the system will treat that staff member as a new record within the resource pool, resulting in a duplication of records.
Viewing Resource Allocations
Part of the stated objectives of the integration was the ability to provide a consolidated view of all tasks assigned to an employee. This can be done by opening the resource pool project plan and viewing the resource assignments.
Opening the Resource Pool
The resource pool project plan is saved in the projects directory defined in the system initialization, labelled JCPROJECTPOOL.mpp, and can be opened in Microsoft Project the same way as you would open a standard project plan. When the resource pool is opened, the user is presented with the following options:
To view the consolidated resource schedule, the third option needs to be selected. Once the project plan has been opened, Microsoft Project will display a blank project plan. It is important to
understand that no project plans or tasks should be entered directly into the resource pool project plan.
To view the resource allocations, the Resource Management toolbar must be enabled in Microsoft Project. To verify that the toolbar is enabled, right-click in the toolbars and make sure that the Resource Management option is ticked in the list.
If the toolbar is enabled, you should have the following icons available:
The first icon on the toolbar is the Resource Allocation View, which provides the consolidated resource allocation.
Resource Allocation View
Within the Resource Allocation View, each resource is listed with their assigned tasks and the total allocated hours each day. In this view, over and under-allocations against resource can be identified and changes made accordingly. The values and tasks can be altered in this view to allocate a task to a new staff member or change the date that the activity will be carried out. At this stage the changes will not be posted back to the source objects in Eralis Job. Posting back these adjustments forms part of the intended Phase 2 development.
Adding the Resource Pool as a Menu Item
Using the reports setup function for Eralis Job (Administration > Setup -> Job > Reports), a link to the resource pool can be added to the Reports item on the Eralis Job menu. The image below illustrates how this can be achieved.
Note: Microsoft Project Integration is not supported on HANA Platforms.