SaaS now an option for project management

Software-as-a-service provider offers project management services

EProject, a software-as-a-service provider, is trying to make inroads into the project management field dominated by such traditional software providers as Microsoft and Primavera Systems.

Rather than purchase software, eProject customers pay a monthly fee to use project- and portfolio-management (PPM) services hosted on the company's Web site.

Project management tools became available in a software-as-a-service model a decade ago, but many companies were uncomfortable with storing data on a remote Web site run by a third party, says George Hickey, director of client technology services for Grubb & Ellis, a commercial real estate services company in New York.

"It's only now starting to catch on," Hickey says. "People have to become comfortable with the concept that they have outsourced the application but they still own the data."

EProject, which was founded in 1997 and has expanded its services in the last 18 months, has 600 corporate customers comprising 95,000 users, company officials say. Although eProject officials say they are adding 2,000 users a month, the company still is a minor player in a market dominated by packaged-software vendors.

"I would say the vast majority of project-management application vendors are packaged software and not software-as-a-service," says Timothy Low, eProject's director of marketing.

EProject formerly marketed its service under the name Enterprise 5, but last June it launched an upgraded version called PPM6, Low says. Every three months, the company comes out with a new edition containing various improvements.

"The nice thing about the whole software-as-a-service delivery model is, we can push incremental improvements and support for new technology in a fairly rapid way," Low says.

The growing maturity of the Internet and companies' desireto staff IT departments with fewer employees havefueled the growth of software-as-a-service, says Daniel Stang, a Gartner principal research analyst who covers PPM.

"The Internet as a computing platform has strengthened in the last five years," Stang says. "We're coming out of an economic downturn, and especially in North America you have leaner, meaner IT departments."

Small companies or a large firm's individual departments may gravitate to software-as-a-service because large vendors often won't pursue deals with fewer than 100 users, Stang says. Buying project management tools from Microsoft or other packaged-software providers can require an initial output of a half-million dollars, he says.

"But eProject says we can provide you with a lot of the basic PPM functionality, we can give it to you at a cost-effective price, and if you don't like it you can cancel," Stang says.

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