Milestones – a new Dataverse for Teams ready-to-use template application

If you have taken a look what new apps there are in Teams application store from Microsoft you may have seen Bulletins and Milestones. My good friend Chris wrote an extensive article about Bulletins so I am focusing on Milestones on this post.

Blog post updated 22.2.2021

Milestones app highlights itself with this text:

Stay on top of your work with efficient tracking, team status, and activity log
Plan, track, and prioritize team’s work capacity across projects in a central place. See team status and work item updates to become aware of how’s the work going today, and react with any needed actions. Easily manage several projects in the app to avoid switching platforms. App can be easily extended with Microsoft Power Platform to meet your org’s need.

In short: while the Milestones is a application in Team’s store what it does is that it deploys itself to a team of your choosing adding all Power Platform (Dataverse for Teams) components and thus “building” the Power Apps experience as a Team’s tab.

Since this deploys the Power Platform / Dataverse for Teams components to the team it makes it possible to also edit the application and tailor to team’s unique needs in a very easy way – directly via Teams user interface. This is similar like adding new applications to the team with the new Power Apps app in Teams.

Both Milestones and Bulletins are added to the team in the same way as Employee ideas, Inspection and Issue Reporting are – but the installation begins from app store instead of Power Apps. It would make perfect sense for Bulletins & Milestones to be number 4 & 5 in the list inside Power Apps. Perhaps one day they will appear there since Employee Ideas, Inspection and Issue Reporting are found in Teams App store also.

Since these ready-to-use “Power Platform / Dataverse for Teams template” apps are customizable easily it makes these really different from Teams Application Templates (especially those deployed to Azure) or usual application is Teams App Store: team owners can make & publish customizations. This brings the power to the people understand needs of the team and allowing agile & quick edits.

When you click on Add to a team you get to choose the team and channel where Milestones will be deployed to and after that it is just a Save away.

Depending if you have the Dataverse for Teams environment already in the Team this can take a bit longer as the environment is created automatically. Pay attention to the advancement bar at the bottom – or you can go ahead and do your other work. It is ok to close the tab since the app is being installed in the background.

After the installation is done you get a notification and email about it.

And you can navigate to the team and start using the app! When you open it you are greeted with a reminder that you can customize/extend the app to your team’s needs.

In the main screen (you can see I have already modified it a bit) you can do lots of actions:

Of course you want to

  • create new projects (top left) or find a existing one
  • You can change the settings & background image (top right area)
  • You can add new work items to the list, assign information, priority, responsible person and target dates.

First – let’s focus on changing the picture:

By clicking the image you get to choose the background for that area. A nice touch to easily personalize the project.

And yes – you can add your own photos as well.

The Settings part (the gear) is the gold mine here for lots of customizations:

You can change the project name, add team members, set milestones and then you have access also to Global settings.

What is also great that controls are rich (well – it is Power Apps so no surprise there!)

When you add a new project you can set these same properties as in the Settings screen for the current project

And when you add a new work item you get this on default:

And when you get to a long list of work items you will be happy to see the filter:

And the search that works like a charm / quick filter.

There is also a activity log on the right pane to keep the team aware about what’s happening in the project. Activity log is tied to a work item.

Activity feed is also updated when you add updates to a work item using the item screen

You can also choose to view team member’s overall status of work items

And when you mark tasks done you get a nice overview at Milestone status

Get started with customizations

Clicking either the info button (between theme image selection & Settings) or hitting the Customize (bottom left in the main screen) you get on default to the screen that provides you resources how to get started with editing the Milestones app in Power App.

Clicking that “Customize using Power Apps” takes you to the Power Apps application where you can get started with changes.

Click on the Milestones in Recent apps and accept permissions (if asked)

And then you are in Power Apps where you can start making changes to the app and customizing it to your team’s unique needs.

On default you see Data like connections and Data Sources.

In the left if you choose the “layers” icon you get to jump between Power Apps Canvases

And if you choose for example the About screen (remember you got Customize and I-button that took you here) to provide information to your users this is one option to start adding training materials and team practices how to use this app.

Using Settings you can do edits for the app name, icon and colors and you can republish your changes back to the team when you are happy with them.

And if you want to get back to the app later you can also find it via Power Apps team’s application by navigating to the environment (team name) and choosing Installed apps to start making edits

Just by clicking the Milestones in the middle will get you back to the editor.

Part of the customization may be just adding some company/project/team theme there with logos or other means. Don’t be afraid to experiment if the app is not in the production use – it may be a good idea to install it to a channel where you can test it freely first.

And yes – you have a wide array of available options to add

And all this is just a weak scratch on the surface what you can do to these apps! You can go ahead and edit table designs (columns), add new tables and of course add integration to the backend system! While some options may be limited at first with some good designing it can be possible to use SharePoint lists, full Dataverse or even other data sources. Using Azure Logic Apps may be a good idea to extend integration and governance beyond Power Platform level in Microsoft 365.

As always: it depends (on the requirements, needs, budget, lifecycle, etc…)

Conclusion

Milestones is a great example what you can do with Dataverse for Teams and as a template application is also gives a great starting point for teams to start using it even without changes. Of course you need to consider things like

  • Milestones can be opened in Mobile Teams! Do you need Mobile Teams support? This is important since currently Milestones don’t appear in Mobile Teams
  • Why Milestones instead of Tasks (Planner)? What is the benefit? It is richer yes but does your use scenario meet this one?
  • Are you using Project or some other tool for these needs
  • If you are.. design the integration to those!

You can open Milestones in Mobile Teams using … menu on the right. Clicking on the Milestones name tries to open it in Edge / PowerApp app. However using … + Open will open the app in Teams corrently. This is probably a glitch since other Power Apps like Inspections don’t require this step. But in case you run into this use … + open as a workaround.

Of course if you need to be able to customize the app to your needs easily then Milestones provides a much better platform for that compared to “heavy apps” where every configuration changes affects everyone.. For changing needs or customizations Milestones deserves a test.

And one big advantage: these are (well – Dataverse for Teams is and it brings on these capabilities) included in Teams license.

You can start experimenting without extra costs!

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