As much as Project Server is packed with out-of-the-box features, there’s a lot of work involved in configuring Project Server for a specific business. To do it correctly, and without missteps, you must follow a structured implementation approach. If your goal is to have a corporate or even departmental portfolio management system, you should approach this implementation as a project and work through the following implementation phases:
These phases apply to implementations that are limited to customization through configuration and not by applying custom coding, which would require additional development and quality assurance phases. I recommend that all companies first implement and learn to use the software based on the standard capabilities tailored to the business through configuration only. Approach this by first implementing in a pilot scenario before devising and committing to code changes. A pilot phase is beneficial as it allows you to become familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the software process and reconcile it to your organizational process.
Each of these phases, with its respective activities and deliverables, is important to a smooth and effective deployment. The assessment process is an opportunity for project therapy. It works best when it includes a large cross-section of managers, team members, and stakeholders. The goal is to identify and limit deployment risks, particularly human factors that may affect your ability to implement, while getting a preliminary feel for how to configure your system.
Whether it’s the way the finance department likes to see project data, how your team members will interact with the software, or what business stakeholders want from the system, it takes time to methodically identify and respond to these requirements. Because you must make many decisions during installation and setup, and because the output of the system depends so heavily on custom field configuration, it’s important to make a thorough effort at requirements gathering and documentation.
Project Server installation is a tedious task with many opportunities for missteps. However, the instructions provided in this book will take the pain out of it for most installers. You must allocate adequate time and attention to platform choices and setup.
Preparing the initial data load for Project Server can take some time as well. These can be more or less trivial pursuits for those who have up-to-date project plans and existing resource pools structured with accurate and consistent data. Alas, this sadly is more often the exception than the rule. You should plan on spending time hunting, gathering, and prodding project and resource information from your enterprise.
Training is necessary. Project Server and Project Professional 2002 together present an entirely new way of working for most project professionals and project teams. You’ll need to support the learning curve by properly preparing everyone in your business who will be involved in using the system. Beyond training your project managers, team members, and stakeholders on the tool, most businesses will benefit from project management training. As Microsoft Project and Project Server together support accepted professional standards in project management, project managers using the tool should have experience in the essential disciplines. If your organization is at the bottom of the learning curve, make project management training a prerequisite for Microsoft Project training.
Microsoft recommends rather strongly that companies engage Project Partners, consulting firms that specialize in the Microsoft Project platform, to assist with deployment. As I’m someone who earns his living this way, it may seem self-serving to endorse this recommendation, but it’s a wise choice. After working through the life cycle of Project’s predecessor product, and after a year of working with Project Server, I’m continually challenged in the field with new surprises. If you follow the recommendations of this book, a do-it-yourself approach is possible, but be prepared to spend more time tackling the learning curve when you take this route.