Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan
Project Server 2003 is the answer for your customers that need to manage large-scale projects.
- By James LaTour
- January 01, 2006
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
- Web-based Project Web Access
- Enterprise-wide resources
with central management
- Portfolio Analyzer and Modeler tools based
- Rational from IBM
- Niku from Computer Associates
- 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
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