This fortnight’s TechNet newsletter technical article comes from Chris Pond, Microsoft Virtual Technology Solutions Professional. Chris has been working with organisations to support improving their project management and collaboration capabilities for over twelve years. During this time he has helped organisations to deploy progressive work management solutions that embrace people, process, technology and strategy. This approach has led to solutions utilising the Microsoft stack of Project Server, SharePoint and Visio to deliver visibility across the organisation and aid decision making.

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Christopher Pond, Microsoft UK

b-chpond@microsoft.com

You’ll find some handy resources at the end of the article.

Project 2010 – Is this the release we’ve all been waiting for?

The Detail

There are numerous differences in functionality between the 2007 versions of the Project family and the 2010 versions, but for simplicity I have focused on a few that I believe are the most significant and will provide users with the most benefit.

Project Professional 2010

Microsoft Project’s biggest competitor has always been Excel so in order to transform the user experience Microsoft has taken Excel’s ease of use for data entry and manipulation and embedded it in the table views in Project. This includes auto complete, text wrapping, filtering and sorting as well as auto column creation based on the information you enter. Taking the Excel interface further, users can now select a manual scheduling mode that ignores traditional critical path analysis and allows users to merely input data as and when they have it. This manual scheduling mode also supports top down planning now as well as the bottom up approach that has always been available.

Completing the enhancement to the user interface, Microsoft has introduced the Office ribbon so that this is now uniform across all the Office products, and a wizard-like Task Inspector that makes it easier to look at different sections of projects without being overwhelmed.

On the functionality front, although there are many changes, the two biggest changes are the timeline view and the new team planner.

The timeline view means users can select key elements from their plan, simply right click and add them to the timeline. Once on the timeline they can be formatted and the whole timeline itself copied and pasted into other Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint for reporting; something that for many will prove to be a real timesaver.

Team planner really transforms the whole planning process and is ideally suited to those organisations that are more resource than task centric by providing a graphical view by resource of all allocated and non allocated work. If you are working with Project Server then this work will be across all projects the resources you have selected are allocated. Once in the team planner users can immediately identify overloads and simply drag and drop work between resources in order to effectively level availability.

Project Server and Project Web Access 2010

Behind the scenes Microsoft has also taken major steps to improve the administration and access control functionality of Project Server in order to simplify and reduce the existing overhead.

The ribbon has been introduced into the web across the board. One of the most long awaited changes is the introduction of true web based planning to the web in Project Server. The new web functionality includes much of Microsoft Project’s Gantt charting capabilities and all of the new ease of use Excel-like manual scheduling. For the first time users can now plan their projects completely via the web browser. It’s only when more complex requirements arise, such as the ability to schedule multiple resources on a task, that a user will need to work with Project Professional instead.

Microsoft has spent time and effort listening to the user community and has implemented a truly usable and functionally rich progress and timesheet solution capable of enterprise level time recording and reporting, including audit trails, comprehensive workflow authorisation and a new delegation model. With the ability to easily plan all work not limited to purely project based work, Project Server is now definitely a complete work and time management solution.

The most important functional change, and indeed licence change, is how Microsoft has combined two tools - Project Server and Portfolio Server - into one: Project Server. Project Server now provides a truly integrated Portfolio, Project and Work management solution.

Project Server allows an organisation to define and prioritise their strategic objectives using an ‘in-built’ pair-wise comparison process and once agreed then allows all projects to be mapped against objectives and then prioritised accordingly. Once the prioritised list is in the system, Project Server then provides an optimisation module that can, on a simple level, (based on budget and the alignment of each of the projects) work out the which projects will deliver the most benefit based on the budgets available. The beauty of this solution is that it is easy to use and takes the subjectivity out of project selection. In an ideal world only projects that provide a high level of alignment would proceed and Project Server provides the objective analysis to support this.

Project Server now has a complete capacity management module built in. The capacity planning module allows the selection of any number of projects and then the viewing of resource demand for those selected projects against availability. The capacity planner also allows the modelling of hiring additional resource skills and its impact on the overall portfolio.

Also new for the 2010 release is a completely integrated workflow solution that makes use of SharePoint’s workflow engine meaning there are almost no limits to how and where you can introduce workflow to the project lifecycle.

For reporting, Project Server 2010 has set the benchmark by making full use of the new SharePoint capabilities. Organisations can now easily create reports using Excel and then render them through Excel services. Additionally for those upgrading from a Project Server 2007 installation it’s encouraging to know that you can run Project Server 2010 in a backwards compatibility mode. This allows users to still operate Project Professional 2007 until organisations are able to fully roll out the new 2010 version.

Summary

Project 2010 is much more than just Project 2007 with a few extra bells and whistles; it’s been developed into a far more user friendly and easily deployed solution for teams and businesses of all sizes. The improvements in functionality and flexibility mean it doesn’t just apply to one or two specific areas any more, it is a solution for the whole business and helps businesses capture, analyse and report information at the touch of a button.

Download the Microsoft Project Professional 2010 evaluation

Download the Microsoft Project Server 2010 evaluation

Visit the Project team blog

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