Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Review on Microsoft Project 2010

Microsoft Project (MSP, MSOP or WinProj) is a project management software program, developed and sold by Microsoft, which is designed to assist a project manager in developing a plan, assigning resources to tasks, tracking progress, managing the budget, and analyzing workloads.
When Microsoft first released MS Project on the windows platform in 1987, their projections for market share were probably underestimated compared with the success they had. MS Project Standard and Professional have a significant share of the desktop scheduling market even with some highly capable competitors promising stiff competition.

The Microsoft server based product suite has not achieved the same level of market penetration as their desktop offering and their PPM Solution has been out competed by other product sets such as Primavera, HP-PPM and Clarity in many larger corporate environments. This is due in part to the earlier server based products having no real portfolio capability. Prior to the 2007 release Microsoft acquired UMT’s Portfolio Management Software and integrated it loosely into the 2007 offering. This however had little uptake and still left the Microsoft suite far behind its competitors in portfolio capability.
Microsoft’s 2010 release promises much, and current talk suggests the latest product will go a long way to challenging Primavera, HP-PPM and Clarity in some of the larger corporate environments they have missed out on to date.
Microsoft Word 2010 is a similar product to past Microsoft Project releases; this version includes updates to both the desktop products and the server.
The desktop products continue to be offered as a two tier stack with the option of the Standard version and the Professional version. As per previous releases the Professional version offers enhanced features in comparison to the standard version and enables connectivity with the server product suite and also directly with SharePoint.
The core in this article will be the Microsoft Project Professional.

Changes from Previous Versions
Project 2010 offers some changes to both desktop users and server users. The following is a quick summary of key changes of each product set.
Project Professional edition offers the following key changes / enhancements:
  • Top Navigation Ribbon that is reflective of other MS Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • New Timeline representation of the schedule. Can provide a handy snapshot of the schedule.
  • Team Planner – Resource Management function allowing drag and drop resource allocation and timing. Supports resource leveling but needs to be used very carefully
  • Excel based data entry – more flexibility in entry of plan / schedule information but reduces data validation.
  •  Manual / Auto Scheduling – When set to manual schedule it allows tasks to be scheduled by the operator regardless of logic conflicts, etc. This is possibly the most controversial change for past users of Project.
  • Sync to SharePoint – allows a direct synchronization between Project Professional and SharePoint for schedule information. This results in a fairly basic representation of the schedule within a SharePoint site.

The release of Project Standard and Professional editions will have only a minor impact on businesses and users of the product. It is unlikely current users of the equivalent 2007 products will scramble to update their products since the difference in functionality is moderate. Power Users will require a few hours or days to adjust to the new navigation ribbon and probably won’t enjoy it initially. While the ribbon may improve productivity in the long run, (according to Microsoft), initially it will slow down users familiar with the current navigation.
The timeline view can provide a simple and flexible visual representation of the schedule. This will save time and effort for those users who have been exporting projects data to Visio to produce a timeline view.
Power users will most likely set their installation to Auto Scheduling and avoid the challenges Manual Scheduling may bring to reliability of the schedule dates and float calculations. Intermediate and beginner users of the desktop products will possibly be challenged by manual scheduling. An unreliable schedule may result if manual scheduling is supported beyond initial high level planning stages and the user lacks the experience to identify and resolve planning conflicts. PMO’s may find this feature undermines attempts to improve Scheduling Standards.
The team planner view and function will aid project resource leveling. However, users will need to be careful to ensure reassignment of a resource doesn’t also result in realignment of dates. While drag and drop seems great, it does have its dangers.
With the exception of the value of a timeline view to aid communications, Project Standard and Professional offer schedulers and their organization little tangible benefit over current versions.

Microsoft Project and Project Server 2010 appear to be a solid product family that will have an impact on the EPM/PPM marketplace. As a result of increased capability, we expect to see Microsoft EPM erode some of the market that has traditionally gone to the likes of Primavera, Clarity and HPPPM. This may also result in lower maturity organizations engaging more readily with other SharePoint based solutions.
This release will offer organizations an opportunity to formalize and improve their Portfolio Management model and deliver portfolio planning and control more efficiently and effectively. This should result in significant benefits for organizations that do it well.
The new features of Microsoft Project 2010 desktop will make developing and managing a project more intuitive for Project Managers new to the tool, and will provide many new tools that will enhance the experience for existing Project Managers.

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