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Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Project Server 2003 is the answer for your customers that need to manage large-scale projects.

There are always several solutions to any problem. The trick is to find the best one. Microsoft Project 2003 is an excellent tool for stand-alone or small-scale project planning. Larger, more complex planning efforts, however, demand greater support -- especially in an enterprise environment where your customers need to coordinate multiple groups across multiple projects.

Project Server 2003 is Microsoft's enterprise-scale project management solution. It helps your customers in midsize and large organizations share project plans and resources across the enterprise, while helping them create and enforce standards.

The Web-based front end -- Project Web Access -- is the interface through which your customers will work with Project Server. Your customers can get at it through any modern Web browser with an ActiveX plug-in. Project Web Access provides task-level, project-level and resource-level functionality, as well as risk, issue and document management.

Users at your customers' organizations can view tasks assigned to them and enter time-tracking data in the Tasks section of Project Web Access. Project Managers can use the Project Center to modify projects and monitor project status.

Project Web Access is highly customizable. Your customers can create reports and views to suit their needs. They can also customize the level of available functionality and the look of the interface itself.

Taking on the Enterprise
The most notable aspect of Project Server 2003 is how it facilitates project planning at an enterprise level. Define an enterprise object once, and a user can share it and make it available for any enterprise project. The three most important enterprise-wide components are Enterprise Outline Codes, Enterprise Base Calendars and the Enterprise Resource Pool.

Microsoft Corp. Project Server 2003
Release: Aug. 18, 2003

Base Price: $1,499

www.microsoft.com/business/
epm.aspx

Enterprise Outline Codes are perhaps the most useful component of Project Server 2003. By defining outline codes, planners can apply descriptive attributes to their projects, resources and tasks. One "reserved" Enterprise Resource Outline Code is called the RBS, or Resource Breakdown Structure. The RBS helps define an organization's hierarchical structure. It's similar to an organizational chart in that it properly models security, flow and chain of command for an organization.

Project Server 2003 also supports Enterprise Base Calendars, which are templates that specify business work hours and vacation dates. On the enterprise level, however, they serve a more useful purpose. By creating variations of a base calendar across an enterprise, your customers can assign specific calendars to their individual workers or projects. They can also define region-specific holidays or different working hours for different project plans, which can be helpful for global organizations.

Project Server 2003 supports an Enterprise-wide Resource Pool, which is helpful for larger enterprises and global organizations. Instead of creating a new set of resources for each project plan, an enterprise-wide set of resources is available for all new and existing projects. The resource pool helps expedite project planning, as your customers can initially use generic resources to complete a project plan, then substitute specific resources later.

Manage Centrally
Your customers can use Active Directory to synchronize Project Server 2003 security group membership and the resources in the Enterprise Resource Pool. By linking an AD security group to these objects, an administrator can easily maintain access to the AD Users and Computers snap-in.

To give Windows users account access to Project Server 2003, an administrator simply adds them to the appropriate Windows security group. After the synchronization process, users can access any appropriate Project Server 2003 resources. This makes adding and removing resources much easier.

Project Server 2003 also builds on SharePoint Services to track and manage risks, issues and documents. Including SharePoint Services in a Project Server 2003 installation is optional, but since that component is a free download from Microsoft, you might want to recommend it to your customers.

Project Server employs a threaded, discussion group concept -- familiar to most SharePoint users -- for tracking risks and issues. Document tracking takes a similar approach and includes document versioning. SharePoint Services can also create a SharePoint site for each project published to the Project Server, useful for organizing related project documents and collaboration.

Analysis and Reporting
SQL Server is an extremely powerful database to have as the Project Server repository. Installing SQL Analysis Services also lets Project Server 2003 tap into the power of Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes, which let your customers look at data from different points of view.

Customers can use the Portfolio Analyzer view in Project Web Access to connect to the OLAP cubes as a data source. They can add dimensions and measures to a Portfolio Analyzer view as data fields, categories, series and filters to help predict changes in cost, work availability or other factors over a period of time.

The Portfolio Modeler performs similar functions, letting customers produce what-if analyses of changes to the project. Settings in the Portfolio Modeler are not saved and no changes are made to project schedules. The modeler helps customers see the impact those resources can have on a project's progress.

Competitive Landscape
Your customers have many choices when it comes to choosing an enterprise project management solution, including Oracle and PeopleSoft, Rational from IBM, Niku from Computer Associates and Primavera. All have comparable, enterprise-grade offerings.

All of these project management solutions provide access through a Web-based interface, similar to Project Server's Project Web Access. Many of them provide capacity and resource planning, resource leveling, time and risk management and customizable reports. Some tap into OLAP cubes and pivot tables for advanced analysis and planning. Most of these other solutions -- either as part of the base cost or for an additional fee -- let planners export or open their planning documents with Microsoft Project.

Project Server 2003 may not be the least expensive solution among its competition, but IT managers must also consider issues like ease of integration and ease of use.

Customers who have already purchased SQL Server and are looking into enterprise project management solutions will likely find Project Server 2003 hard to pass up. The cost and effort required to implement Project Server is minimal.

Spotlight Highlights
Key Features
  • Web-based Project Web Access interface
  • Enterprise-wide resources with central management
  • Portfolio Analyzer and Modeler tools based on OLAP

Competition

  • PeopleSoft/Oracle
  • Rational from IBM
  • Niku from Computer Associates
  • Primavera

Opportunity Assessment

  • Ideal for midsize and large organizations (20-plus users)
  • Best-suited for organizations utilizing Microsoft Active Directory but offers limited functionality without Active Directory
  • Requires additional SQL Server software and access licenses

Marketing and Sales
Microsoft provides a plethora of marketing and sales information through numerous sources on its Web sites. There are webcasts, whitepapers, online demonstrations and resource toolkits. Live and on-demand webcasts cover topics from increasing revenue and improving project workflow using an enterprise project management solution to enterprise project management best practices.

Some of the whitepapers Microsoft has produced cover a variety of issues around planning, deploying and administering Project Server 2003. Either you or your customers can download them separately or as part of the Microsoft Office Project Server 2003 Resource Kit. There are also several case studies and EPM Solution overviews to help shed light on various topics. There's even a return-on-investment calculator.

The Final Word
While the full solution requires a number of components, they work well together as a project management suite. Integration with AD for synchronizing user groups and the Enterprise Resource Pool, and for managing and maintaining Project Server 2003 couldn't be easier. Customers can quickly and easily establish enterprise-wide resources once, and make them available across all projects and project managers.