Top 5 Reasons to Deploy Project Online / Project Server

<San Servolo, Tanqueray & Red Wine – this has been written over a long duration of time!>

I was thinking about the top 5 Reasons why my customers, over many years, have deployed Project Server.  Just as every organisation needs standardised ways to perform HR, Payroll etc, they all need (but not necessarily desire) a standardised way to manage projects; in truth some desire, but have no propensity to change (but that’s another story)!  So, what are the top 5 reasons (and benefits) I’ve seen behind a Project Server deployment. 

<drum roll>

  • A single location for all projects
  • Resource Management
  • Standardising the Project Management Processes
  • Organisation-wide reporting
  • Communication & Collaboration

I’ve purposely used a bulleted list, rather than a numbered one, because I don’t think any one reason is better than any other; it all depends on where you are starting from.  The great news about Microsoft solutions is the partner eco-system that exists around them, and so when we have a look at the pro and cons of Project Server/Project Online, I’ll point out any partner solutions that help solve any shortcomings.  If you notice any omissions please email me and I’ll look to include the link in the future edit of this article.

A single location for ALL projects

This is a great idea, but it’s not sufficient to drive a Project Server deployment.  These days of course you could just have an Excel Spreadsheet and publish that via Excel Services, or alternatively, a SharePoint List containing  project names and data.  Pros and cons as follows;

Pros for Project Server/Project Online

  • It’s a great starting point; you can use the base deployment to move onto bigger and better things
  • It provides a Gantt Chart for all projects
  • With some simple enterprise custom fields, you can easily group, sort and filter the projects

Cons for Project Server/Project Online

  • It’s a rather expensive tool just to use for this functionality alone

Alternatives

  • SharePoint lists, Excel Services, any simple webpage!

Resource Management

I see this A LOT.  In fact, I see it in 90% of all my deployments.  Everyone these days is busy and the efficiency drive over the last 25 years of my working life aided by technology has ensured that any “fat” in organisations is long gone.  Every organisation now needs to be lean and mean and aided by technology (the internet, mobile technology, collaboration tools etc), improvements in the supply chain and a whole host of other things, it means that most organisations have got rid of any fat they once had, and had the ability to carry.  All of this is great, but I do miss going to the pub at 2pm EVERY Friday afternoon.

Pros for Project Server/Project Online

  • You get resource supply and demand as a happy consequence of a well formed, “resource loaded”, Microsoft Project schedule
  • Project Server has some simple web pages and graphs that graphically display the supply and demand – these are great pages!
  • It’s simple to pull off reports to display who is working when

Cons for Project Server/Project Online

  • Project Server is a scheduling tool 1st and foremost, if you need to do resource management exclusively, then it’s not that easy
  • There is really very little, to none, “What if Analysis”.  For sure the portfolio management feature has some built in, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to get it working successfully for Resource Management

Alternatives

  • Perhaps the best known alternative is ProSymmetry’s Tempus Resource which appears to have been designed from the ground up to fix all of the cons that exist in Project Server.  It can either integrate with an existing Project Server deployment or run “stand alone”. 

Standardising the Project Management Process

Standardisation of anything will generally save you money and time, but standardisation of the PM process gives a higher degree of confidence of delivering on time, to budget etc.

Pros for Project Server/Project Online

  • The ability to provide default Project schedule templates and collaboration site templates when you create a new project.  Now all of your HR projects can follow the same type of Project Schedule
  • Customisable workflow allows you to implement your PM process and ensure that projects do not pass through gates until certain criteria are met
  • Standardised reporting is only a click away

Cons for Project Server/Project Online

  • You need visual studio development skills, or buy a 3rd party solution such as Nintex to implement the workflow, although simple workflows can be done with SharePoint Designer  
  • Creating reports requires a high degree of skill (more below)

Organisation wide reporting

In some ways this is complementary to standardising the PM Processes, but it goes beyond that.  I read a study once that stated that 20% of a Six Sigma Black Belt’s time was spent creating reports; let think about that – 20% is a day a week!   If you can remove that burden from a PM suddenly you free them up to be an additional 20% productive. If you’ve got 5 PMs, suddenly you’ve got 6!

Pros for Project Server/Project Online

  • Project Server data is kept in a database, and if you are on-premise, then effectively you can do anything with this data.  The reporting options are limitless.
  • Time-phased and aggregated data is simply available using OLAP cube data, and this is “inbuilt” into Project Server (not Project Online alas).
  • The data is generally viewed using Excel, Excel Services, or SQL Server Reporting Services.  All well known and understood technologies.

Cons for Project Server/Project Online

  • A mixture of technologies is used , and getting these to work together takes some skill – it’s not for the uninitiated.
  • Access to Project Online is via oData, and the oData protocol is less well understood, and perhaps less rich, than standard SQL-T statements.  Combined with a lack of OLAP cube online there are reporting limitations here.  However, as usual, parties have stepped in here to help.  Fluent Pro come to mind with their EPM Pulse products, and Paul Mather has implemented the “old” project server reporting soln pack in Project Online.

Communication & Collaboration

Good Project Management isn’t just guaranteed (if it ever can be) by a nice Gantt Chart, it’s the sum of a whole set of skills, including of course good communication and collaboration.  With SharePoint, Lync and Exchange, Windows Phone and a few other technologies, Microsoft have some of the most used collaboration tools on the planet!

Pros for Project Server/Project Online

  • Project Server is built on SharePoint, and each project gets it’s own SharePoint site, allowing the storage of documents, issues, risks etc per project. 
  • Inbuilt integration to Lync, allowing real time instant messaging and video chat with project team members.
  • With Project Online, it’s easy to share sites with users WW, whether they are part of your organisation or not (but for sure, you have to pay for it!)

Cons for Project Server/Project Online

  • Navigation between the Project Site and Project Web App can be confusing at times, but this isn’t really a collaboration con, just a usability issue.
  • Permissions between Project Sites and the Project Server are set by Microsoft and inflexible, but not something that most people can’t live with.

 

Conclusion

Personally, I think there are more pros than cons, but I’ve tried to give a balanced view.  The market thinks so too, otherwise I wouldn’t have been implementing Project Server for the last 12 or so years!  As with everything in life, the key is having the knowledge to understand those things that you can change, and to accept those that you cannot.  Technology solves nothing in itself, but it can be an enabler to change, and Project Server is no different.

Enjoy,  Ben.

Share

Comments are closed.