Remarks by Steve Ballmer
COMDEX/Fall ’99 – Project 2000 Announcement
November 15, 1999
Las Vegas, NV
MR. BALLMER: Well, it’s my pleasure have a chance to chat with you today. I have to admit that that when the guys suggested doing a product launch in the middle of the booth at Comdex, I thought it was purely insane. I actually now think it may be crazier yet than that. (Laughter.)
What I’m going to try to do in the next 15 minutes is give you a sense of the project management category and some of the new things that we’ve got coming. And for me, it is a particular pleasure, because in some senses I would say project management is probably the least well-understood category of software, at least that we participate in. Project management software is over a billion-dollar business. Most people would be surprised to learn that Microsoft Project is actually the fifth largest-selling software product at Microsoft. It’s a substantive business for us, and I think there’s a lot of important and interesting change coming in the project management category that I want to summarize for you.
The first thing that’s important to highlight is, for many of us, that project management remains an unknown category. Project management has become kind of the purview of the elite, the project managers who sit there and print out huge PERC charts and CAD charts and other kinds of charts that none of us really understand and love in the same way as the project managers. But even with that fairly narrow focus, this is a business that’s been growing about 25 percent a year.
We think, though, that the big opportunity, in addition to providing more capability to the project manager, is to be able to enlist more and more people into the project management process; to make project management accessible to mere mortals; to give mere mortals the tools that they need, the input status about their project and to get back the kind of simple, clean, status reports that people will want on a given project.
We have over 5 million Microsoft Project users around the globe today, and for that community and all of the people that they reach and touch, but can’t reach and touch directly, I do think that this is an important, important day.
We’ve done a lot of work over the last several years to really integrate Microsoft Project in the fabric of the rest of what we do in Office and in Back Office to store project summary information inside to SQL Server database, to make sure that it’s easy to extract information on a project scheduled for analysis in Excel or reporting in Access, but really, the next step is opening this up to a broader world.
There’s been a lot of work done to integrate Microsoft Project in with the kinds of Web applications people are building. The projects people are deploying, in IT the ERP applications in which essentially much of the line of business data is stored; but we’ve got to unlock that and open that up for a broader community of users.
If you track the history of Microsoft Project, and I think it reflects the project management category, we started out very focused in on the needs of the power users, much the way spreadsheets and word processors did. With Project 98, which shipped a couple of years ago, we went through a transformation in which, at least in small ways, you could get information out of the project management package and integrate it with the task list, the to-dos could get sent and mailed and notified by people through the email system. But still, it’s just a casual connection between what the project management people do and the overall knowledge that most people need to get their job done.
Virtually every one of us is part of a project. Very few of us, though, ever interact with a project management system, and you could say, “Do I need to?” And the answer must certainly be “Yes!” — (laughter) — and it’s only the interference from the gods that is getting in the way! (Laughter.)
So the real question is, what can we do to open that information up to people in a very, very reasonable way? This whole focus on knowledge workers — people who use their brains, people for whom information is the critical resource that they use to do their jobs effectively, is a huge focus for us at Microsoft. We find most workers in most companies think that it’s too hard to find the information people need to do their jobs. It’s very hard to filter information so that people get the right information at the right time to make a decision. And it’s also nigh impossible from time to time to easily share the information that people need on a project. And when you throw in the fact that people more and more want to be able to do this on any device, including pocket-size devices, any time, you get a whole new and important set of needs.
So if you take these key things in the project management category and you say, what does it take to make it very easy in a certain sense to focus in on finding information, we’ve got to make it easy enough to collect that information. How many resources — how many people are available to work on a project in a given department? How many people have already been applied? How much work is left to be done? That information must first be sourced in some original way. Then you want to give people the tools to analyze it: What are the costs really going to be? Geez, this department is way behind schedule, what are we going to do to allow them to catch up? Is there a way to fit that into the overall project schedule? How do we share the best practices from these two departments? And how — perhaps most importantly — do we keep people informed about project status, budget status?
And it’s this set of problems that we’re really trying to attack with Project 2000 and the newly introduced — the product we’re introducing for the first time today, Project Central, which is a companion product to Microsoft Project 2000 that is for the rest of us. The project management elite may continue to use Project 2000, but Project Central will help the rest of us with these tasks.
So Project 2000 then becomes a tool that makes it easier to collect information with integrated emails, a fundamental funnel into the data collection project for Microsoft Project. We’ve taken some things that we know people want to do and built very explicit templates that will help people with a prescribed set of tasks build the project that they want in Microsoft Project. We’ve made it easier to analyze information inside Microsoft Project databases using Access. We’ve improved the formula support in the product. And as we’ve already done in Excel and PowerPoint, Word we have a variety of new tools for grouping and outlining that let you collapse information and expand it so that you don’t have to weed through copious amounts of information which simply aren’t interesting to you.
Many people don’t understand all of the chart types, which are important to the project manager. The new network diagram approach that we put at the center of Project Central makes it so that most people will have a very good, integrated view of their project with new graphical indications and the ability to share that information out to people through this new Project Central offering.
Project Central itself, the product for the rest of us, makes it easy to do the things we all do: create and delegate tasks; have that integrated with the task list in Microsoft Outlook; tracking actual reported hours and status; grouping; filtering; looking at task and project data to find out where things are, and at least if I speak for myself, I like to be able to track things that I delegate, and we give tracking functionality back to the average user.
So today we’re announcing the availability of the Beta release of Project 2000 and the new Project Central. We’re announcing a specific template that we know will interest anybody who sits in this theater, which is a project template designed to help people who are going to do Windows 2000 deployment. And we’re announcing a technology guarantee so that anybody who buys Microsoft Project 98 between now and the end of April next year will have an automatic guarantee of an upgrade up to Project 2000. The final Project 2000 product will be available by the end of the first quarter of next year, and really the star of the show today will be the product itself. I’ll invite Todd Warren and team to come back up and show you Microsoft Project 2000.
I’m super excited. I will admit that I have not been an active project management user. With the new Project Central extension, with the work I think our team has done to really make project management more accessible, we’ll really take a step forward into giving all of us better visibility and some of the most important information we need to do our businesses. And certainly, I think, today we’ll sort of mark as the day where — hopefully you’ll agree with us — we make project management better available for the rest of us.