The following list shows some of the augmentation areas that have been noted in the client community. Many solutions exist for each of these areas, and the "right" solution must be selected on a case-by-case basis. The intent of this chapter is not to solve your particular need but rather to identify the common augmentation areas, give you a little background on each, and provide you with one of possibly many alternatives that exist. Using customization instead of a third-party product is also an option in each of these areas and may in fact be the right option for your case. It is recommended, however, that you check out the third-party products before beginning customization as a matter of due diligence. The augmentation areas and issues are
Each of these areas is further touched on in the following paragraphs. Some of the third-party applications mentioned here are also discussed in Chapter 10, "Creating Project Web Access Project and Resource Views."
The third-party add-in world is continuously changing. Because of the openness of the Project Server EPM solution, it is possible for outstanding ideas to be implemented by small as well as large companies. For more information about the third-party products mentioned here, or to see other third-party products, go to http://www.quantumpm.com, a site that will be updated regularly.
Project Timesheets Versus Labor Timesheets
Timesheets are generally thought of as an extension of punch clocks, used for checking into a job and checking out of a job. They are usually thought of as determining pay and vacation. These are labor timesheets, and they support payroll and finance. Project timesheets are used to track the status of tasks. This is a totally different concept. Capturing project time and labor time through one input mechanism (to avoid dual entry) is what many companies strive for. If both project and labor concepts are to be supported, project timesheets (out of the box) can be used to capture all time (including vacation, sick, and other administrative time) and the data then aggregated to support payroll and finance needs.
In most cases, labor timesheets cannot practically be the single entry point because they don't easily support time collection at any more detail than the project level. Project timesheets support a much lower level of detail that can be used in support of actual effort and task status for use in earned value and other calculations. On the other hand, the drawbacks to using project timesheets are in the discipline required of the team members and the extra work necessary for categorizing the information and aggregating it for fiscal/financial reporting needs. Team members must have a clear understanding of their scheduled tasks and the discipline to track them because they must enter time at the lowest level tasks created by their project manager. This level of understanding and tracking discipline is not necessarily as easy to achieve as it sounds. The project manager creates these tasks (usually for effort estimation purposes), and a common issue is that the team member does not understand the task breakdown or perform the work in the same breakdown manner used by the project manager. Both of these cases lead to incorrect input, frustration, and pushback from the team members.
A simple measure of this is the surprise initially reflected by team members when they see the number of tasks they have been assigned on the project timesheet. Many companies manage this with a combination of process and training, and for many companies this level of detail is exactly what they want. However, other companies find it easier to use a third-party product that addresses this in a more direct way. EPK Timesheets is a third-party add-in that allows you to plan to whatever task level you want and designate where (and at what level) you want to collect team member effort hours while still allowing the capture of percent complete on the remaining tasks. (This neatly supports the varying levels of detail desired for both project and labor time collection in a component that cleanly replaces the out-of-the-box project timesheet.)
Many timesheet vendors say that they have integration with Microsoft Project. Be careful to evaluate them against the concepts discussed here and your particular needs.
Resource Commitment Management Versus Usage Management
Project Server provides excellent mechanisms in support of individual team member utilization and management across all projects. However, some companies want an additional, higher layer of resource management referred to here as contract commitment. In fact, many products don't directly support contract commitment, and it is frequently accommodated through totally separate mechanisms. Consider the case where you require a contract resource to perform two duties (one on each of two independent projects). Each project manager is told that she has a commitment for the resource for 20 hours a week (and the project will be charged 20 hours a week for that resource). This is a resource commitment. The project manager then manages the resource at the hour level within that 50% utilization commitment.
If project manager A is using the total of 50% commitment, but project manager B has the resource assigned to tasks totaling only 25% of that resource instead of 50%, Project Server's total utilization reporting will show 25% availability of the resource, when in fact that resource is fully committed. In many companies this "commitment" concept is handled completely independently (outside the scheduling tool). This is an area in which standalone spreadsheets or customization and process are frequently used. Third-party applications such as EPK Resources and components of ProSight can also be leveraged.
Budgeting and Forecasting Concepts
Budgeting and forecasting can be accommodated in the out-of-the box solution but are frequently customized to support individual company needs. This is because many companies have a yearly budgeting and forecasting process that occurs prior to detailed schedule-based effort estimates and is more in support of staffing prediction at a functional department level. Customization and third-party add-in applications such as EPK Resources and ProSight provide great benefits.
Departments are formed in companies for different reasons. Functional departments are formed to isolate and manage specific skill sets more efficiently across the company. An example on a highway construction project would be an environmental department. Such a department would supply trained resources in environmental impact assessments. These resources would be leveraged at specific times and locations during the project. Managing the hiring, training, and availability of these resources is a function of immediate and predicted need.
Strategic Portfolio Support
Project Server provides project level attributes and display filtering and grouping on these attributes for reporting purposes. These mechanisms provide basic portfolio support. More advanced management can be set up simply by using the Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) project subwebs, in combination with Microsoft SharePoint Portal and some web part customization. This can create more advanced, company-specific solutions. If an organization requires more strategic/analytic capability to support its governance and portfolio management processes, products such as ProSight and EPK Portfolio provide different and more general packaged solutions in this area.
Project Professional and Project Server (with its WSS project subweb support) are excellent tools for team development and collaboration, but what about supporting standardization on a project life cycle methodology? Project Professional has the feature-set called the Project Guide, which can be designed like a series of web pages with phase gates to lead project managers through a methodology. Microsoft does not promote any specific methodology out of the box. Microsoft leaves that for clients to incorporate either by using their own methodology or by using a methodology provided by the Microsoft partner community.
CMD's Symphony is a third-party add-in that provides methodologies and an infrastructure for accessing these methodologies. This add-in embeds an infrastructure into both Project Professional and Project Web Access (PWA) that directly supports knowledge base definitions around specific roles, tasks, and deliverables, as well as standard document libraries available to prepopulate project templates or pull in as needed. CMD is tightly integrated with WSS. In addition, CMD has prepackaged methodology-specific support (role definition, document templates, project and task knowledge base, and so on) that can be used immediately or customized for your methodology.
Standardization Validation and Support
Companies trying to get a handle on and report consolidated status across multiple projects sooner or later must achieve some level of standardization within and across those projects. Comparing the status of a project in which every task is three months long with a project in which every task is 20 hours long is misleading and can lead to poor executive decisions. Project standards are created to address this inconsistency. As soon as a standard is created, compliance checking should follow. Tools to check compliance are rare or one-of.
Two are available from QuantumPM: Quantum Schedule Auditor (QSA) and Quantum Portfolio Auditor (QPA). QSA is a Project Professional add-in that allows the project manager to self-audit his own schedules. It comes prepackaged with a set of configurable tests but can be extended as needed. QPA performs similar testing across designated project sets within the Project Server database repository.
Interdependency Management (Vendor Management)
When implementing Project Server, a fundamental question of what is a project arises. In many instances, wrapped up in this question is who is responsible for the planning and status of this set of work. The sets quickly become the de facto definition of a project.
This is a tremendous oversimplification, but it speaks to the fact that at some point you will make a decision as to whether to have large projects with few or no interdependencies between them or small projects with many interdependencies.
A highway project can be a single project plan with thousands of tasks. The project manager becomes more of a vendor manager, requesting and getting individual task sets and status from various road crews, material vendors, environment assessment, regulation impact teams, and so on. It can also be many individual project plans, each maintained by the most appropriate responsible party, with the interdependencies and higher level critical paths managed in an integrated plan by the overall project manager.
Many variations are within and around the spectrum defined by these two scenarios. Each variation is caused by the current mechanisms and requirements used by each company and vendor. Microsoft Project provides some of the functions necessary to handle these scenarios (inter-project dependencies and master projects for rolling the information up). However, Microsoft Project does not have simple, rigorous process that (out of the box) combines these easily together for handling program level critical path and interdependency planning, management and reporting. We have frequently encountered this and the best solution is to define the process that best fits your needs or current practice. This is often enough. A small amount of customization can support the process that you define and re-enforce collection, handoff, and reporting if required.
Lightweight Project Management Support
Few organizations truly have project management skills and processes infused through their organization at a consistent level. This is because most companies rely on individual project manager skill rather than a standardized skill (supported through training) and standards. Most, if not all organizations, have individual project manager skills that range from highly technical and tool savvy to nontechnical but people savvy. This spectrum encompasses managing hundreds of thousands of tasks within a technical tool to napkin-based to-do lists. Both skill sets have their places.
Project Professional is a tool with capabilities to accommodate large, complex project rigor and smaller, softer management efforts. The range of project management skills supported by Project Professional can itself be an issue, analogous to wanting to build a bird house for the first time and going to a hardware store and getting confused by all the tools and materials that could be used for your project. Tool and process training is required to keep focus on the aspects of the tool you want to use. When the number of project managers or their role changes, it can cause consistency issues within an organization. Training and discipline can be augmented by customization or third-party tools. The reason that third-party tools such as EPK Time are helpful is because they let you tailor the level or resolution you acquire information at on a case-by-case basis. This allows some project managers to go deep into the science, whereas others can support their current processes and depth, providing the opportunity to grow the latter into the former over time. Customization is usually helpful because it helps to remove the distraction of the bells and whistles that are not used.
Governance and Project Initiation
Governance is the name of the function that, through visibility into current activities and knowledge of corporate goals, provides prioritization of ongoing activities, approval of new activities, and validation of old or ending activities. A prime governance point is project initiation. Initiating projects and governing them differs from company to company and is mostly a process. Technical pieces available for incorporation into the process may come from various areas. Microsoft has a project initiation example available for free download. EPK Portfolio has a project initiation component available with it as well. Other third-party solutions have their own style of support for project initiation. Usually, some small level of customization is required. Report visibility into governance is typically covered for the processes that the third-party tools incorporate, but most require some tailoring or customization to fit your needs.