Collaboration makes projects happen. Recognizing this, Microsoft Corp. has striven to meet collaborative needs in its Project 2000 suite, including the outstanding new Project Central, one among a slew of added and improved features.
Server-based Project Central displays key project pieces (new tasks, reports and so on) on a Web page, simplifying access to project data for all team members. Managers decide which projects will be available under Project Central and set team member access. Users can then view their personal Gantt charts (showing assigned tasks with timelines), delegate tasks to coworkers, and perform many other functions. Project managers can consolidate status reports into a tidy summary report and make it available to everyone. Microsoft markets Project Central for use on intranets; if you plan to use it remotely, you'll have to deal with access speed constraints. Project Central requires both Windows NT 4 (with Service Pack 4 or better) and Internet Information Server; clients must run Internet Explorer 5.
On the desktop, Project 2000 now lets you constrain tasks to particular times.
The new Outline Codes feature allows you to set reporting hierarchies and customize fields to see when certain conditions are exceeded -- for example, when tasks go over budget. But the customization isn't easy: Microsoft should think about copying Excel's effective conditional formatting technique.
Project 2000's HTML-based Help enables even novices to set up and manage a project by providing step-by-step directions and clear examples. Ten new industry-specific templates make starting from a blank Project workspace far less intimidating than in previous versions. You can also easily create your own template and save it for later use.
Though Project 2000 uses a new file format, it can read and write Project 98's .mpp files. Unfortunately, it can't write the older .mpx format.
Though the price may be a bit steep for some, anyone who wants to effectively manage a project -- whether simple or complex -- will be well served by Project 2000.
Microsoft Project 2000
PRO: Improved graphical display and control of project data, more extensive task organization.
CON: Project Central requires NT 4 and Internet Information Server.
VALUE: Powerful features for professional planners and novices.
Street price: US$499 ($199 upgrade), with one-user Project Central license.
PRODUCT INFO NO. 709