The Microsoft Project 2003 solution is a role-based application suite. Almost any business role in the organization can be mapped in the system. Out of the box, Project 2003 defines seven default roles and permissions based on those roles. Under these conditions, some users will have access to Project Web Access (PWA) only, whereas other users may have access to Project Professional, as well. For instance, a project manager may access and change project schedule data in Project Professional, but a programmer who has been designated as a team member cannot. Your organization may choose to use all or some of the roles, define additional custom roles, and also define what security permissions these roles have when accessing or viewing enterprise project data.
The general interface to PWA and Project Professional reflects the style of other Office applications, such as Word, Excel, or Visio. This makes Project 2003 more intuitive and easier for people to learn and use.
Project Professional gives users the flexibility to use the application for development of nonenterprise project schedules, as well as development of project schedules that will be part of the organizationwide repository of projects. Project Professional allows you to perform the following tasks:
Naturally, Project Professional offers backward compatibility, allowing users to read .mpp files from previous versions and formats including Microsoft Project 98, Microsoft Project 2000, or Microsoft Access database files.
It is worth mentioning that the SQL database structure has been changed to provide for better scalability and enhanced storage to support new features.
Project Professional comes with an updated and improved access point for Help and training. You can now search for topics either locally, on your machine, or on the Web.
Project Professional now offers the option for using the Project Guide, which provides a step-by-step process for creating schedules, managing resources, tracking, and reporting on projects. An important feature is that this Project Guide can be easily customized to reflect the project management methodology for use in your organization.
Scheduling with Microsoft Project Professional
Project Professional is the tool that project managers will use to do most of the detailed work on their projects such as planning new tasks, tracking status, and assigning new resources. As a project manager, you will be entering the scheduling information in Project Professional and keeping it updated.
It is important to remember that one of your duties as a project manager is to ensure accuracy and integrity of the schedule data. You can then review the project-related data from different perspectives using available reports. Although PWA enables the communication between project managers and team members, Project Professional is the application used for project schedule development, update, baseline, and review.
As a general recommendation, only portfolio and project managers should have Project Professional installed on their desktops.
Project Professional helps users integrate their project schedules with specific methodologies for use in each organization. Usually, developing a project schedule is an iterative process, especially until the project manager sets the baseline.
With the introduction of the Project Guide, Project Professional can help you with initial steps to create a schedule:
After a project is defined and scheduled, you must track your progress to know how the project is doing and make decisions regarding the execution of the project. Tracking is an iterative process. You constantly track progress, make decisions based on the actual data, and update the schedule until project completion. Project Professional interacts with PWA so that project managers will receive information regarding progress on the tasks directly from resources assigned. This is important because the overall status of the project is determined by the progress of each individual task.
Finally, Project Professional can help you generate meaningful reports that present project information based on the parameters you want to see or analyze. You can generate a variety of reports based on the data you enter while creating your project plan, enabling project managers to develop more realistic project schedules.
Reviewing Portfolio Schedules with Project Web Access
One of the most important features of Project 2003 is the Project Center in PWA. This is the place where project and portfolio managers, as well as executives, get information regarding the status of their projects and the overall portfolio.
Tracking and measuring the work results is an essential part of portfolio management. Various views in the Project Center can generate a wealth of information regarding the status of a project portfolio as well as information regarding individual projects. The Project Center provides project managers and management personnel a way to analyze variances and trends to easily view details on various projects, including a quick view for earned value and plan variance.
The Project Center provides excellent portfolio management capabilities through Portfolio Analyzer and Portfolio Modeler. Through the Portfolio Analyzer, executives can see graphical and chart reports regarding projects and resource utilization. Using Portfolio Modeler, users can build models that involve multiple projects and perform "what-if" analysis using various scenarios.
The Project Center in Project 2003 can be customized to respond to almost all reporting needs of an organization. It can be configured to present a variety of reports, including the project schedule and status at any time in the project life cycle. Some of the most common reports that can be easily generated using Project Center capabilities are
It is important that you understand that the Project Center elevates the visibility of your project at the enterprise level, and you need to keep your project's status and data up-to-date and as accurate as possible according to the processes set up in your organization to generate the correct portfolio reports.
Centralized Storage of Project Schedule Data
The Project 2003 solution leverages Microsoft SQL database functionality to store all project information. With versions previous to Project 2002 it was difficult for portfolio managers and executives to store, retrieve, and share information regarding project schedules because these files were stored on different local or shared drives.
With the introduction of the EPM solution, project schedules are now centrally stored in a database repository that can be easily accessed by anyone with sufficient rights and permissions. This database now stores information about project tasks, resources and their assignments, and custom fields and outline codes.
The centralized storage of project schedule data means that users no longer have to save the project schedules on their local or shared drives. Centralized storage of project schedule data allows users to have access to the most recent project schedule, thus eliminating the possibility of confusion and versioning problems.
Resource Management and the Enterprise Global Resource Pool
One of the most important features of Project 2003 is the resource management capability. Project 2003 uses a single Enterprise Global Resource Pool that allows project and resource managers to easily share resources across the enterprise, check their availability, and forecast resource demands.
With the release of Project 2002, and continuing in Project 2003, Microsoft introduces the concept of generic resources, which allows assignment of tasks to unnamed resources. By doing so, project and resource managers can forecast the demand based on availability of specific skills rather than on availability of named resources.
Equally important, Project 2003 enables a better synchronization of resources with the enterprise project portfolio, which permits identification of potential resource bottlenecks long before they occur. Early identification of a potential problem and assessment of its impact on the project portfolio drives better decisions when trade-offs are being considered.
Raising the visibility of resource allocation at the enterprise level facilitates the collaboration between project and resource managers and provides for a fact-based dialog between the two groups.
Centralized Storage of Risks, Issues, and Documents
A common reason that some projects fail is the lack of communication within the project structure. Development of a good Communications plan is key to ensuring project success, and Project 2003 supports many information distribution methods based on the requirements of your Communications plan, such as the following:
Risk management is the art and science of identifying, analyzing, and responding to risk factors throughout the life of a project and in the best interest of its objectives. Project 2003 allows managers, executives, and team members to share information regarding project risks to minimize their potential effect on the project and provides ongoing management of identified risks through use of the Risks page in PWA.
The Issues page in PWA allows you to document and easily communicate new issues, issue updates, and resolutions with all project stakeholders.
The Documents page in PWA allows you to keep project documents in one place, in logically organized folders, and provide version management with check-in and check-out capabilities.
Also, PWA facilitates communication between project stakeholders through use of status reports. The Status Reports page allows you to create status report templates for your team and allows your team to easily respond to your status reports.
The Project Workspace
In Project 2003, each project may have its own project workspace. A project workspace is created for each project schedule in the form of a project website. Project workspace leverages the Windows SharePoint Services technology, and it is a way to enhance communication between project team members. Usually in the Project workspace, project managers may list announcements and events; store a project's documentation; and also navigate to the Issues, Risks, and Documents pages for the project. Included in the events section is the capability to establish attendees, determine objectives, and use templates to create a meeting agenda. Many more features are similar to this events feature, which you and your project team will want to explore.
A useful feature available is that the project manager may insert additional web parts from PWA or from other areas, and you can also insert links and pictures, as needed.