Microsoft Project Goes to High Levels with ELabor

SAN MATEO (05/15/2000) - In any large organization, hundreds and perhaps thousands of projects run concurrently. Because Microsoft Corp.'s Project lacks high-end decision-support tools, executives in Microsoft Project shops have a hard time getting a companywide snapshot of budgets, project status reports, or resource requirements -- information necessary for keeping projects on track.

More significantly, Microsoft Project doesn't provide any human resources information to project managers, failing to consider that matching a worker's skills with a task can significantly improve the project's outcome.

Enterprise Project 2.0 from eLabor.com doesn't overlook the need for enterprisewide project summaries and human resources information. But unlike project management offerings from major vendors such as Artemis Management Systems and Primavera Systems Inc., Enterprise Project is tightly integrated with Microsoft Project 98 and 2000. Therefore, project managers gain skills-based scheduling and cross-project reporting without having to change how they plan and track their individual schedules.

Furthermore, Enterprise Project allows high-level executives who previously sat on the project management sidelines to add value to the planning process.

Enterprise Project takes some effort to implement, and it starts at a hefty $2,500 per seat, but it adds important enterprise functionality to Microsoft Project, so it earns a score of Very Good.

Planning at warp speed

Installing Enterprise Project isn't hard, but it does require working knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 or Oracle 8. Managers should then set aside several days defining -- and then entering into the database -- OBS (organization breakdown structure) codes unique to their organization, roles for different people, and project frameworks. However, this preliminary work is quickly rewarded.

Enterprise Project's New Project wizard let me easily select items, such as location, sponsoring organization, and template, from the database, which also brings consistency and structure to all of your schedules. More importantly, I assembled a project team by searching for special skills. Additionally, I could immediately view potential team members' availability before requesting that they join my team.

To test Enterprise Project's integration with Microsoft Project, I opened my new plan in Project 98 and added tasks. After switching to Microsoft Project's Resource Sheet, an Enterprise Project dialog box appeared, allowing me to quickly select additional resources or generic groups stored in the SQL 7.0 database. Jumping back to Enterprise Project, I saw my changes in the Project Register view, which conveniently lists all projects and associated time lines.

What's more, the interface made it easy to gauge costs over time, sort projects by location, or update my organizational codes.

Enterprise Project's Workforce Advanced Resource Planning (WARP) engine improves on Microsoft Project's resource leveling. Not only does WARP run faster in many cases, but it excels in creating "best case" scenarios. For example, a project that required 425 days to complete when scheduled with Microsoft Project required 357 days when scheduled with Enterprise Project.

3-D vision

When executives first log in, they're greeted with the Project Register display, minus some of the administration features that project managers see.

Perhaps you want to view projects by overdue status or group those being worked on in a particular country. Simply select an variable such as a country, from a hierarchical tree list and the spreadsheet-like display re-sorts and summarizes the project list.

Just as valuable is the Vision module, which displays resource cost and usage data in spreadsheet or graphical format.

Enterprise Project 2.0 deserves a close look from organizations wrestling with countless Microsoft Project schedules. It gives high-level managers the ability to track all projects in an enterprise and allows project managers to make the best use of employees' skills.

Mike Heck (mike_heck@infoworld.com) is contributing editor at InfoWorld and manager of electronic promotions at Unisys Corp., in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

Enterprise Project 2.0

Business Case: This project management solution can help organizations that manage multiple projects with Microsoft Project 98 and 2000 complete projects more quickly and at lower cost by improving project planning and control.

Technology Case: Enterprise Project 2.0 consolidates data from multiple Microsoft Project schedules, allowing project managers to match jobs with appropriately skilled personnel and giving high-level managers a real-time snapshot of budgets, costs, and resource availability.

Pros:

+ Data entry in Enterprise Project or Microsoft Project+ Top-down and roll-up budgeting+ Graphical reporting and what-if modelingCons:

- Expensive in small applications

- Requires IT assistance for setup

Cost: $2,500 per user (quantity discounts available)Platform(s): Server: Windows NT Server 4 running SQL Server 7.0 or Oracle8.

Client: Windows 95/98, Windows NT 4, or Windows 2000 Workstation ProfessionaleLabor.com Inc., Camarillo, California; (805) 383-8500; www.elabor.com

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