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Microsoft Unveils Project Management Effort

Program is newly opened to U.S. partners after trials in Europe and Australia.

Microsoft in June announced a program for its U.S. partners working with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 called Project for Workgroups.

The program features a Web portal where partners can share workflow processes and report templates, project methodologies and other project-management assets associated with Office Project Server 2007.

Project for Workgroups provides solutions built by Microsoft's partners to create enterprise project management systems. The aim is to reduce deployment costs associated with project management implementations.

Three solutions-EPM Live, Project Connect Online and Virtual EPM-are currently available in preconfigured or configured-to-order offerings from Microsoft's partners.

The U.S. partner effort likely followed trials conducted earlier in Europe and Australia, according to B. Robert Helm, vice president of research at the Directions on Microsoft analyst firm.

"The program promotes partners who sell solutions built with Project, Project Server and Portfolio Server with an emphasis on partners who host and manage some of the components," writes Helm in an e-mail. "Hosting partners can really help move the Project lineup, especially to smaller firms, because the products require a lot of infrastructure and ongoing administration that smaller firms might find challenging. Microsoft seems to hope that the partners will fill the gap for those midsize companies."

Helm notes that hosted project management is gaining traction with the success of vendors such as Basecamp and Clarizen Inc. He says a particular focus is in Europe, where there are numerous engineering and consulting firms that have global customer bases but only limited IT resources.

"For the moment, Microsoft is relying on partners for hosted project management solutions," Helm says. "If the partners don't seem to be able to compete, it's conceivable that Microsoft could itself start hosting project management solutions as an extension to its Microsoft Online services, as it has done with Dynamics CRM-but the company will probably go slowly in that direction, if at all."

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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