Improving project execution and predictability

Building revenue and capitalising on available resources are increasingly demanding challenges for enterprises. It's not just managing the details of an individual project that really matters but also understanding how a myriad of projects interact. That's where desktop project management applications typically fall short, requiring a patchwork of add-on packages to consolidate projects and deliver summary data to executives. Project management software solves the project-tracking problem by keeping track of schedules, budgets, and personnel.

One such solution, Primavera Enterprise 2.0, is targeted at enterprises that deliver engineered products and processes. In addition, it manages numerous projects individually and together. Version 2.0 permits project managers to view resource, costs, and performance details, gives individuals ownership of their tasks, and provides executives with an enterprise-wide view of their project portfolios. Primavera Enterprise's distributed architecture results in a consistent method to prioritise and plan budgets with the greatest ROI potential.

A full deployment of Primavera Enterprise 2.0 would include the principal Primavera Project Planner program. New features include an enhanced interface and coding structure to better model large businesses, an analytical application to help spot project trends, and two Web-based applications for executives and users, respectively, to interact with the project database. Overall, the entire Version 2.0 suite consists of these four integrated applications, each tailored to a different role within the enterprise. Because Primavera Enterprise does these jobs so well, this solution scores very well.

New features aside, Primavera is not the only company to offer a project management software solution. Other competing products in the same price range include Artemis Management Systems Views 4 and Planview Enterprise Planview 6.0. And if you already use Microsoft Project, useful enhancement products are Pacific Edge Software Project Office 3.0 or eLabor.com Enterprise Project. But we believe Primavera's solution is easier to implement, the modules are more tightly integrated, and the information presented is more complete compared to the competition.

Important role

Each of Primavera 2.0's applications plays an important role in the overall solution. First, there's an updated Primavera Project Planner for the enterprise (P3e) that is the suite's high-end multiproject planning and control core package. Because it provides a complete picture of all projects, from cost account summaries to resource issues, managers can proactively deal with issues that might affect on-time and on-budget project completion.

Also included is the Portfolio Analyst, a module that provides project summary and tracking information to managers and project analysts. With this information, they can see how scheduling delays might affect product delivery to customers. Primavision, for executives, is a Web-based program that provides an enterprise-wide view of project portfolios, giving executives insight into problems that could put pressure on cashflow. Last, the Web-based Progress Reporter, for project participants, allows team members to check on their assignments and provide feedback.

Uniting technologies

To begin testing, we built a fairly common enterprise test bed of Microsoft SQL Server 7 and Microsoft Internet Information Web Server running on Windows NT. Alternately, Primavera Enterprise works with Oracle databases, on Windows NT or Unix, and Netscape Web servers.

Right off, we took note of the single database in a three-tier design, which allows applications to work together. To discover the benefits of this new architecture, we developed an enterprise project structure (EPS) that modelled a large corporation and then built projects for several different divisions. We found that managers in each organisation could view their discrete projects, because EPS controls access to data. Next we inter-linked projects managed by different managers so they could each see how their work was dependent on co-workers' schedules.

You won't see many changes to P3e's core capabilities because the predecessor, P3 Version 3.0, was so complete. P3e offers everything from unlimited calendars and top-down project budgeting to dynamic levelling, which allows you to interactively shift user assignments. We were impressed that even with this depth, user interface improvements make it easier to reach data. For example, a tracking view allowed managers to compare budgets against live data.

At the next level, when executives and senior managers need to study multiple projects in detail, the new Primavera Portfolio Analyst module will be especially helpful. We created a custom project portfolio of several individual projects and then used charts to view summary data, including overall resource use. When we saw an aberration, such as a schedule delay, it was easy to drill down to find the origin of the problem.

Application features aside, Enterprise 2.0's database design is also an important aspect of the product. Whether you use P3e or another Web application, multiple people can simultaneously perform real-time project updates. We could immediately view the effects on schedule and resource listings. This is a significant accomplishment, given that competing systems, such as Project Office, sometimes require complicated import and export routines to pass information among different client applications and back-end databases.

Unlike products that treat projects in the enterprise individually, Primavera Enterprise 2.0 provides an efficient environment for full-time project managers, front-line workers and corporate executives to share project information. With that heightened visibility, you'll have a better chance of reducing financial risks, assigning the right resources, and helping managers spot trends in time to respond appropriately.

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