Microsoft spruces up Project

Microsoft spruces up Project

Reinforcing its longer-term plans to more tightly integrate the features and functions of its desktop applications with those of its server-based applications, Microsoft has unveiled a new family of Project offerings at the ProjectWorld conference in Boston.

Improvements made to Microsoft Office Project 2003, expected to be delivered this Spring (Southern Hemisphere) along with the company's Office 2003 desktop suite, are intended to both enhance the standalone capabilities as well as improve on the company's Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Solution. The EPM Solution consists of Project Professional, Project Web Access, and Project Server. The latter product was the first server-based version of Project introduced in May of last year.

"We are generally moving towards this integrated system that we think will provide users with a lot more productivity," the general manager for Microsoft's Project group, Chris Capossela, said. "Project is a good showcase for this because we are taking what used to be just a desktop tool and introducing a new value proposition for users that involves a server at its core,"

One of the major improvements to the new version is its integration with the upcoming Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 that will now make it possible for Project tasks to appear automatically in the calendars of those team members working on specific projects.

"With (Project) 2003 we have done a deep piece of integration with Outlook's calendar so that Project server can push tasks directly into a user's calendar on those days where team members have things to get done. Users can click on that on that calendar item and get a status report on where things are," Capossela said.

Other improvements, according to Capossela, include better integration with Windows Share Point Services, that makes it easier for executives to assess project risks and issues, better resource management so that project mangers can have a wider range of tools that help them locate resources based on their availability, and an expanded set of APIs for the server-based version of the product that helps corporate developers create more refined custom solutions.

Microsoft is also taking the wraps off new desktop versions of both the Standard and Professional versions of Project. One of the improvements in both versions is allowing users to now create and print documents more easily, thereby allowing project-related information to be shared more efficiently in hard copy among team members.

Another improvement allows users to better disseminate project-related information through other Office System applications including Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio, a company spokesman said.

Microsoft Office Project 2003 product line consists of Office Project Standard 2003, the core offering aimed at project managers; the Enterprise Project Management Solution, that contains the core scheduling tools in the Microsoft Project Standard edition; Office Project Server, that supports the complete portfolio of management, resource management, and collaboration capabilities of the EPM Solution; and Office Project Web Access, that connects team members to the project and resource information in Project Server.

Pricing on all versions would be set as they get closer to general availability sometime this fall, a company spokesman said.

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