REDMOND, Wash, July 10, 2002 — As companies grapple with tight economic times, demand is rising for a new generation of tools to help manage projects and budgets more efficiently and effectively across an enterprise. Savvy business people recognize that such project management solutions can help them recognize what’s driving costs throughout their organization, and provide the tools to contain those costs.
Solution providers and independent software vendors (ISVs) will be showing off their enterprise-scale project management solutions at the upcoming Microsoft Project 2002 Business Value Solution Challenge (BVC). Part of the Microsoft Fusion 2002 worldwide partner event held July 12-15 in Los Angeles, nearly 40 enterprise project management solutions will be on display in the BVC Partner Pavilion.
Microsoft sponsored the BVC competition to help industry partners take full and early advantage of Microsoft Project 2002. Released in June, Microsoft Project 2002 is a robust, scalable and extensible platform on which developers can build enterprise-class, customer-centric project management applications designed to deliver tangible business value. Participating in the BVC has also enabled providers to build solutions in advance of the product family’s public release, apply the new products and features to their business structure, and have fully functioning solutions available for customers upon product release.
The BVC will award US$50,000 in prizes for the most innovative project management solutions. The eight prize-winning solutions will be announced on July 12, 7:00 pm in the Gold Lunch Room on the Expo floor at Microsoft Fusion 2002.
The call for entries to the Microsoft Project 2002 BVC garnered solutions that covered an impressive breadth of industries, including manufacturing, professional services, financial services and energy. The following profiles of three compelling BVC entries illustrate the diverse set of needs that enterprise project management solutions can address and the business value they deliver to customers.
Elsinore Targets Enterprise Issue and Incident Management
Imagine that you’re charged with building a project plan around an event like Microsoft Fusion, and you’ve decided to use Microsoft Project 2002 to pull it off successfully. You know which vendors need to be invited, what sorts of materials need to be shipped, which suppliers you’ll need to coordinate with, and so forth. But chances are, it’s something you don’t know that has the most potential to make project plans go haywire.
Elsinore Technologies Inc., a software-development firm based in Raleigh, N.C., understands that the best way to keep a project on track is having the ability to respond proactively to unforeseen issues. So the company created Visual Intercept Project (VIP), software that can quickly assign, manage and alert project stakeholders appropriately on those issues.
Elsinore’s submission to the BVC competition targets enterprise issue- and incident-management by addressing concepts such as assignment, workflow, e-mail alerts for core project team members and peripheral constituents, escalation procedures and a best-practices knowledge base.
“As we migrate out of the software development space and into enterprise issue management, Microsoft Project 2002 is an ideal platform for our growth plans and business extension,” says Jim Goldfinger, vice president of sales and business development at Elsinore. “Microsoft Project 2002, in combination with Visual Intercept Project, creates a framework around Elsinore’s Visual Intercept issue management system that emulates the corporate or executive planner’s direction. Our system manages unknown issues at the task level in the same way that Microsoft Project manages the known events of bringing a project to fruition. In other words, Microsoft Project helps you move a project forward, and Visual Intercept is how you keep the ball from dropping.”
Interest from Elsinore’s customers, who represent 2,500 companies in 35 countries and span a variety of industries, shows that Visual Intercept Project is already in demand.
“Working in conjunction with Microsoft Project 2002, Visual Intercept Project provides a highly robust framework, allowing us to implement organizational and process efficiencies throughout the company,” says Brian Boyd, Sr., director of strategic planning at iN DEMAND, which bills itself as the nation’s largest provider of pay-per-view and video-on-demand programming.
Conchango Helps Customers Take Their Projects on the Road
The increasing mobility of today’s workforce poses challenges for busy researchers, repair technicians, consultants, construction engineers and other professionals who work away from the office, and find it challenging to track the hours they work on a project. But what if access to Microsoft Project 2002 time entry was as convenient as reaching for a PDA?
That vision was the impetus for Pocket TimeSheet, a mobile time-entry solution built by Conchango Inc., a consulting firm serving the entertainment, travel, industrial, retail, manufacturing, energy and financial-service industries. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Conchango helps clients, from blue-chips and multi-nationals to niche-market enterprises deploy cutting-edge technology solutions for competitive business advantage.
Conchango’s approach to Pocket TimeSheet — its entry in the BVC competition — recognizes Microsoft Project Server 2002 as a technology platform for workgroup and enterprise project management with the flexibility to fit a company’s project management office (PMO) methodology and the scalability to empower mobile workers.
“We looked at the fact that Microsoft is now providing a truly enterprise-wide solution, and real-time timesheet entry seemed like a logical progression,” says Patt Brotschul, managing consultant at Conchango. “With Project 2002, Microsoft has brought it all together, from project management, to time tracking, to all the reporting tools, to the ability to do ‘what-if’ modeling. You can even do OLAP cube analysis so your data is ready and accessible for data mining.”
Brotschul says the Pocket TimeSheet solution builds on Microsoft’s commitment to the enterprise space and is designed to help project managers easily deploy a mobile time-entry solution that synchronizes with Microsoft Project Server. Pocket TimeSheet establishes a wireless connection over the Internet to transfer data between a mobile user’s Microsoft Windows CE-based PDA and an employer’s Project Server database. Users simply select a project on the PDA and enter pertinent data, such as changing or updating the hours spent on a particular task, from any location.
In turn, fresh information becomes available to project managers as soon as it’s entered. Data from multiple projects can be viewed across the enterprise, depending on access rights, to facilitate business decision-making.
“That’s the value of having time-sheet entry be practically real-time,” Brotschul explains. “At the end of the day, a manager or high-level executive can say, ‘Where were all my researchers on this project? Where were all my consultants on this other project? Where were my contract construction workers, and what task did they finish today? How many projects were over cost or over time? Which of my people are underutilized on projects?’ And managers can write any kind of reports they want against the system, because live data can be entered by team members as tasks are completed.”
Brotschul adds that Conchango sees a great deal of interest in Pocket TimeSheet from customers across industries. Customers easily grasp the business value of a mobile and wireless solution for time entry, she says. They also understand the cost-effectiveness of supplying workers with PDAs when they don’t need PCs, workstations or laptops and the applications typically installed on them.
Capstone Solution Addresses Needs of Manufacturing Industry
In the current business climate, manufacturers face tremendous pressure to reduce costs and shorten product development cycles. But the crunch to become more efficient often results in missed launch dates, cost overruns, poor initial quality and lingering concerns over warranty as products age.
Many of these issues can be traced to poor pre-production planning. But to improve planning, manufacturers must first resolve a handful of problems common to their industry today. These include a heavy reliance on spreadsheets and antiquated checklists; suppliers who work in isolation, their status not integrated into overall program management; and the manual consolidation of data, which leads to errors and outdated reports.
Manufacturers also tend to lack integrated views for entire programs and reliable tools that management can use to make timely and informed decisions. Consequently, they often incur premium charges for late or overlooked items.
To help solve these and other issues, industry partner Capstone Planning & Control Inc. developed a Pre-Production Process Management System (PPMS), based on Microsoft Project 2002. The Colorado-based company — which has more than eight years experience in project management consulting and systems — entered PPMS in the BVC competition as a vertical market solution. Capstone serves customers in a variety of industries, including construction, manufacturing, telecommunications, utilities, software/high technology, automotive, pharmaceutical, government and environmental.
According to Walid Mourtada, enterprise project management consultant at Capstone, the PPMS capitalizes on Microsoft Project 2002 and Microsoft Project Server technology to provide enterprise customers with a holistic approach to pre-production process management.
The Web-based solution captures and schedules all the steps leading up to production, such as setting up tools and presses, as well as any facilities work that might entail, and generates information for each part at every manufacturing plant. Using the built-in hierarchical reporting structure, company executives and program managers can get a consolidated program view that spans all plants and functions, from engineers to press operators to suppliers.
“We chose Microsoft Project 2002 for our pre-production process management solution due to the ease of use, the cost relative to other products and the integration with other Microsoft products that are widely available, plus the fact that it runs on a SQL platform,” Mourtada says. “The benefits of using Microsoft Project as a platform for our PPMS solution include ease of customization, ease of deployment and the ability to incorporate our clients’ manufacturing processes into the product.”
Early versions of this solution have already demonstrated significant return on investment (ROI) to Capstone’s clients in the manufacturing environment. Capstone firmly believes that effective pre-production planning is crucial to product delivery, and the company’s offerings provide an innovative solution to help ensure a successful product launch.
BVC Solutions Reflect Broad Scope, High Caliber
Other noteworthy submissions from the 2002 Business Value Solution Challenge:
Aurora Consulting Group Inc., Spokane, Wash.: Aurora designed its entry, myGroupWorks, to be a complete organizational management solution for the professional services and manufacturing industries. The solution integrates all project and client-based information through Microsoft Project 2002 and Microsoft Exchange. myGroupWorks is in deployment with three companies, including Coffman Engineers. The multi-disciplined engineering firm sought an affordable EPM solution that enabled project teams to work more collaboratively between it’s offices located in four cities.
BST Software, Tampa, Fla.: BST’s customer solution integrates the enterprise-level project accounting and financial management capabilities of BST Enterprise with the project and resource management capabilities of Microsoft Project 2002. Features of the solution include integrated project creation, streamlined time entry and approval, seamless invoice creation, and comprehensive project status tracking. BST’s solution is designed to support various professional services organizations, including accounting, IT services, legal, management-consulting and architectural/engineering firms. It is expected to be available to the general market in October.
CMD Corp., Addison, Texas: CMD integrated its Synergy 2002 product suite with Microsoft Project 2002 to provide a single multi-project environment for end-to-end management of project processes. CMD’s modular, integrated solutions – for methodology and process authoring, project estimation and metrics, deliverables management, and project collaboration – are suited to any organization that runs projects, including corporations, government agencies, non-profits, IT firms and vertical professional services providers. CMD’s new product, Symphony, embeds process management capabilities — including conversion of best practices into Project Guides, customization, best practice improvements, deliverables definition, role and responsibility definition, and estimating — directly into the Microsoft Project 2002 user interface. This innovation removes a barrier for organizations seeking to define and improve their best practices because users of Microsoft Project 2002 no longer need to learn a different product: The extended functionality is built into Microsoft Project Professional and Web Access.
Galorath Inc., El Segundo, Calif.: Galorath’s SEER-SEM Client for Microsoft Project 2002 allows software developers to obtain accurate, fully realized development plans. Available now, the plug-in transforms Microsoft Project 2002 into a dedicated software project planning tool for large development shops. The commercial solution is designed to save software development managers and planners time by automatically laying out highly tailored plans in Microsoft Project, and to improve project plans by connecting planners with enterprise information.
Immedient Corp., Dallas, Texas: Immedient’s enterprise project management and collaboration solution capitalizes on Microsoft’s .NET Server family and focuses on integrating all key business information to provide full-scale portfolio and program management. This approach delivers a single, complete overview of all initiatives in progress, allowing enterprise-managed organizations to make informed business decisions quickly, using real-time data. The solution is expected to be available this month.
QuantumPM LLC, Englewood, Colo.: Already released, Quantum’s Project Initiation Process solution enables project concepts to be generated in the field across various professions. It lets an organization’s employees submit project proposals directly into the Microsoft Project Server database, using standardized processes and predefined project templates, even if they don’t have Microsoft Project 2002 installed. Project managers can track time and cost data on proposed projects prior to approval, and keep rejected proposals in the database for future reference.