by January 2, 2003 0 comments



MS Project Professional is the latest version of project management software from Microsoft. There are two desktop versions of the product: MS Project Standard and Professional. One of the biggest advantages of the new version is that it has an MS Office-like interface, so even new users won’t find too much difficulty in getting familiar with it. Building new projects with it is very easy. There’s a toolbar labeled Next Steps and Related Activities, which gives a drop-down menu view of what all to do when creating a project. There’s a separate column that lists down instructions for performing each task in the drop-down menu we just mentioned.

A drop-down menu lists all the common tasks that need to be performed when creating a project

Most activities in MS Project are wizard driven. You can define everything about a project’s properties right from defining the start date to the working hours to entering a list of all the tasks to be accomplished. What’s more, you can import tasks list from Excel worksheets using a wizard. While defining tasks, you can also define whether it’s uncertain or not, simply by adding a question mark. You can also do task splitting, which basically indicates the periods of inactivity in a task.

Once the tasks have been defined, resources have to be defined and assigned to them. The resources are defined in an Excel worksheet-like interface, and can either be entered manually, picked up from the company address book, from the Project Server, or some other directory. You can define people and material as resources, and also attach a cost to each.

Unfortunately, all costs are shown in dollars. If you want to use Indian currency or any other for that matter, you have to import an extra plug-in called the Euro Currency Converter from Microsoft’s website. This has an Import Currency Wizard to do the task, but we found it a little cumbersome to use. Once the resources have been defined, they can easily be assigned to different tasks in your project. 

There are multiple views for every project to make it easy to track and also generate reports. The new ones include network, usage and timescale views. The network view gives a diagrammatic view with all the linkages. In this, you can link various tasks by simply dragging and dropping. The usage view shows all tasks according to the resources used in each. It also shows how many hours is each resource being used for. By default, you can view the task name, duration, start/finish dates, predecessors and resource names when managing a project. There’s also an indicator view, which gives important points about each task. You can also add your own custom columns to this view or choose from the default ones given with the software. Some of additional default ones include %complete, actual cost, assignment, and multiple baselines. 

While defining tasks, you can give the start and end date from a drop-down calendar, and the corresponding Gantt chart gets automatically created Task splitting is useful in giving breaks in particular tasks. This is visible on the Gantt chart

Another useful feature in Project Professional are the Smart tags. These are useful queues that keep popping up whenever you perform a task. It provides alternate actions that could be performed. 

The bottomline Project Professional has an extremely easy to use interface and provides very powerful features. Another feature that we couldn’t test out this time was collaboration. You can now publish all project information on the Web so that it’s visible on a web browser. This feature is available with the MS Project Server 2000 version of the product, which is meant for large enterprises having lots of different projects to manage. In conjunction with the server version, you can share documents, view multiple projects, and view all resources assignments cross the organization, and much more. 

Snapshot

Meant
for
: for Medium to large organizations
Price Rs 50,000 for one client
Key
specs
: Tight integration with MS Office, easy to use interface, collaborate using MS Project Server
Pros  : Very easy to use, task splitting
Cons  : Multiple currency management is cumbersome
Contact : Microsoft, Delhi.
Tel : 26294650
E-mail : tarunm@microsoft.com 

Anil Chopra

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