Cost Management for Microsoft Project Server

Microsoft Project Server 2010 provides numerous innovative capabilities across the entire lifecycle of projects to help organizations effectively initiate, select, plan and deliver projects on time and within budget.  It is the perfect tool for managing projects within an organization.  To take a quick look at the top 10 benefits of Project Server, click here.

Now more than ever, organizations are facing the need to tighten their controls over portfolio spending in order to increase their ROI and ensure maximum value to the business.  You’ve heard over and over again the concept of doing more with less, but where do you begin in truly realizing the benefit?  Understanding what needs to be done and where to begin is the first step; however, having the proper tools in place will take you even farther.  So how do you combine the power of Microsoft Project Server and it’s leading project and portfolio management capabilities with the comprehensive financial best practices of a leading cost management technology provider?  WorkEngine announced today its launch of CostEngine, a Project Web App add in that seamlessly extends the Microsoft Project Server solution to enable full cost management controls such as cost categorization, scenario modeling, cost rollups, cost analytics and forecasting.  CostEngine for Microsoft Project Server includes the following capabilities:

  • Full integration with Microsoft Project Server ribbon controls- view
  • Cost visibility across multiple portfolios- view
  • Cost planner with flexible cost category structure- view
  • Cost impact analyzer- view
  • What-if modeler- view
CostEngine gives organizations the tools they need to track ROI by giving them the visibility into both project and portfolio expenditure. With CostEngine’s flexible cost category structure, all cost items can be categorized and accounted for to result in more accurate cost plans and cost forecasts. These cost plans can then be tracked throughout execution to provide valuable insight into cost comparisons including planned costs, forecasts and project actuals. CostEngine aids organizations in greater cost transparency, project control and overall portfolio health.
As with all WorkEngine products, CostEngine leverages a simple, easy-to-use user interface including spreadsheet-like web grids and a complete integration with Microsoft’s PWA ribbon controls.CostEngine promotes better decision making as organizations today are faced with rapidly changing environments; their response to these changes are crucial.  It is critical for management to understand comparisons of quantity and cost value totals for selected projects against targets as well as the effects of cancelling a project or work effort, delaying or advancing it, or the effect of stretching out its duration (thus decreasing the rate of spend).

So as you can see, doing more with less and properly planning and tracking all expenditures is now easier than ever.  To learn more about CostEngine, visit the website by clicking here.

Why Build Your Corporate Website on SharePoint 2010?

The last few years have brought on a whole new set of business challenges for organizations.  Most of these organizations have one consistent challenge among them….the need to do more with less. It is more critical than ever to get the most out of your IT investments.  Leveraging one platform to extend benefits and increase productivity across multiple teams and departments could bring about significant cost savings.  SharePoint 2010 has done just that; offered a platform solution that can be leveraged for all teams and all users across an organization.  What if you could use the same platform to build your corporate website that your PMO uses for project management, your product development team uses for agile development and your service team uses to respond to service requests?  Well, with SharePoint 2010 you can!  Take a look at a few of the advantages that WorkEngine is getting from using SharePoint 2010 as their corporate website platform:

  • Flexible and Scalable- SharePoint is allowing WorkEngine to use the same platform for all departments.  Each department has different types of work, their own methodologies and their own ways of getting that work done.  SharePoint 2010 has the flexibility to easily implement solutions for all work needs without the need to invest in multiple systems.  Not only is SharePoint being used for internal business productivity and running the business activities but it is also being used as an external marketing tool for WorkEngine prospects and consumers.
  • Cost Effective- By utilizing one platform, SharePoint is allowing  WorkEngine to save money on training, IT infrastructure, in-house expertise and all other costs associated with managing multiple systems and silos of data.  The WorkEngine marketing team can now leverage SharePoint to manage campaigns, distribute content, manage messaging and coordinate events all within one system.
  • Easy to Use- Because SharePoint is intuitive and easy to use, website information can be added and modified instantly decreasing production time and allowing the marketing team to focus on programs that will improve business results.

NASA Improves Project Visibility, Reduces Costs, with Enterprise Solution

As a part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is responsible for numerous missions including explorations of Mars and Jupiter. The laboratory employs over 5,000 people and is running a large number of projects at any given time. JPL’s project schedulers were using Microsoft Office Project Professional 2007 to manage project timelines on their desktops. However this meant that the schedulers were creating copies of schedules for other employees to view. JPL also wanted to increase the role of its engineers in managing project schedules and facilitate greater collaboration within project teams. JPL decided to deploy EPM WorkEngine from EPM Live, an enterprise project and work management solution that integrates Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 to achieve improved schedule visibility, greater collaboration, and to reduce costs.

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August 08 EPM Live Launches WorkEngine 2010 Live Built On SharePoint 2010 Enterprise

Since EPM WorkEngine’s inception, EPM Live has continued to align with its vision to evolve the traditional, powerful capabilities of PPM (Project and Portfolio Management) and extend the same value-driven concepts to all areas of the business.  EPM Live continues to ensure that its customers have the tools they need to be productive, achieve maximum quality in their projects and work and do it all within the constraints that affect every executable work item; time, money and resources.

With the recent launch of EPM Live’s 2010 WorkEngine product line, EPM Live committed to delivering a truly revolutionary platform that would change the way organizations manage projects and work today.  In keeping alignment with an aggressive product roadmap and delivering on its commitments, EPM Live has launched it’s 2010 WorkEngine environment built on SharePoint 2010 Enterprise.  Now EPM Live WorkEngine customers can leverage the powerful capabilities that SharePoint 2010 Enterprise has to offer while at the same time realizing the cost saving benefits of an online project and work management solution.

In addition to WorkEngine’s core capabilities and features, take a look at some of the additional capabilities WorkEngine users will experience online with WorkEngine’s new and improved foundation, SharePoint 2010 Enterprise:

My Sites– A My Site is a personal SharePoint site that users can customize. Users can change the content and design of their My Sites and include a public profile, where they can share details like contact information and colleagues. My Sites first appeared in Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and was included in subsequent versions of SharePoint. SharePoint 2010 dramatically enhances My Sites with new social features, including user profiles, newsfeeds, and the “Ask Me About” section.

Excel Services– With Excel Services, users can meet their business needs by using Excel 2010 to create and modify spreadsheets. By using Excel Services, users can now maintain control over the spreadsheets in many ways and provide a single version of correct information.  People can take spreadsheets created in Excel 2010 and publish them to Excel Services in SharePoint 2010.  After defining the trusted location of the spreadsheet, they can allow other SharePoint site users to view the spreadsheet in their browsers.

Visio Services– SharePoint 2010 now includes Visio Services, which lets users render Visio diagrams and charts within a browser. SharePoint 2010 treats Visio files as first-class document types, like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files, so users can easily open a Visio diagram from a document library. Additionally, it indexes the contents of the Visio diagram so they will be fully accessible within search results.

Form Services– With Microsoft InfoPath 2010, business users can design sophisticated electronic forms to quickly and cost effectively gather information required for an immediate business need. It is possible to customize forms with features such as calculated fields, setting default values, conditional formatting and screen tips, all without writing code. When used together with SharePoint 2010, these forms can be used for information stored in SharePoint lists.

Access Services– Business users often use Microsoft Office Access to create data-centric applications using tables, views, forms, and reports. Access applications are often designed for individual use or to be used by only a few people at the same time. These applications gain importance within the company as more people use them. Because Access is not intended to be used by many concurrent users, the applications begin to experience scale-related problems. When the importance and popularity of Access applications grow, companies eventually must redevelop them into Web applications. Depending on the complexity and size of the application, redeveloping applications can become very difficult.  SharePoint 2010 addresses this problem by helping people create applications in Access 2010 and publish them to SharePoint sites with Access Services.

BCS– In SharePoint Server 2007, users could work with external data using the Business Data Catalog (BDC).
With this powerful capability, users gained advanced search solutions and could supplement information in SharePoint lists with data from external line-of-business systems. SharePoint 2010 builds on the BDC and introduces Business Connectivity Services (BCS), helping users integrate external data into SharePoint solutions with both read and write operations.  Users can easily connect a SharePoint Composites application to external data by using Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 to create an external content type, which they can use in SharePoint lists or throughout the application. Users can also use the external data within Office client applications such as Word, Excel, and Outlook.

Performance Point Services– Almost every business intelligence implementation uses scorecards and dashboards. Scorecards are collections of KPIs and objectives that people use to measure multiple performance factors in a business. A dashboard is a group of related objects that help companies quickly understand their performance.  Dashboards can include scorecards, reports, spreadsheets, and diagrams; they may also contain filters that all scorecards and KPIs use to control the context of reports and visualizations. Microsoft PerformancePoint™ Services helps companies view and manage key drivers of the business and tie them to the corporate strategy.

The SharePoint 2010 Enterprise capabilities defined above are only a small subset of those now offered.  If you would like to take advantage of EPM Live’s WorkEngine SharePoint 2010 Enterprise online product offering, please clickhere to create your own SharePoint 2010 Enterprise plus WorkEngine trial environment.

Gartner PPM Maturity Model and EPM WorkEngine- A Roadmap to EPM Success

What is a PPM Maturity Model and why is it so important?  PPM Maturity Models have played an important role in history preparing organizations and IT leaders to better their Project and Portfolio Management processes.  The ability to practice these types of strategic disciplines to better align with your organization’s strategic objectives is called Organizational Project Management Maturity.

In today’s competitive market it is critical for organizations to leverage their IT infrastructure to better these processes and continue to move up the maturity curve.  It is proven that organizations with higher maturity can expect to see better return and performance on their project portfolio and could potentially lead to competitive advantage.  Why?  Because a portfolio that is managed in accordance with a PPM Maturity Model, such as Gartner’s, can help organizations identify their weaknesses, determine and set priorities, and play a key role in establishing goals to better the overall organization.

Does this mean that every organization should set a goal of going from level 0 maturity to level 5 in 90 days? Absolutely not, in fact, quite the contrary.  Moving up in maturity at a rapid pace will only introduce risks and ultimately result in low adoption or acceptance for all those involved.  Organizations must realistically assess where they reside in the maturity model and set practical, incremental goals that are achievable and obtainable through gradual adoption.  The Gartner PPM Maturity Model involves 5 core dimensions and 6 levels:5 Core Dimensions:People- Your most valuable asset on any project is the people.  Their skill set, their involvement or availability and their ability to follow processes and deliver on projects are all crucial characteristics of project management maturity.

PPM Processes- Processes are the activities, tasks, or workflow that is used to establish an end result.  The granularity and complexity of the processes we use through project management disciplines whether it be portfolio management, resource management, time management or task management have a great impact on the end result.

Financial Management- All project related work, in addition to materials, have a direct impact on your projects bottom line.  How you track and manage this information will most definitely play a role in your project’s success.

Technology- This one is a sweet spot for EPM Live.  Technology is critical.  How and with what tool you will manage every aspect of your portfolio will ultimately determine your ability to improve productivity which in turn affects your resources, your dollars, your time and the quality in which you deliver.

Relationships- This one seems to require little explanation.  The relationship we have amongst our stakeholders (project teams, customers, leadership) can make or break a project.  Communication is key and the way we collaborate and nurture these relationships is of utmost importance.

So how does our technology stack up against the Gartner PPM Maturity Model?  EPM Live believes that PPM Maturity is critical for project success.  We also understand that most organizations fall between level 0 and level 1 maturity.  EPM Live’s EPM WorkEngine provides the tools necessary to help organizations improve their PPM maturity while at the same time aligning with the organization’s strategic goals as you transition up the maturity ladder.   For this reason, EPM WorkEngine offers a solution path to success that will help you determine where you are in organizational maturity, where you want to be moving forward and a roadmap to get you there!

Work Management with Microsoft Project 2010 Professional and SharePoint 2010

As we have mentioned in previous articles, Microsoft Project 2010 Professional has many new features that are well worth the upgrade, but along with the powerful new capabilities of Microsoft technology also comes a new way of thinking.  It is no longer good enough to have a centeralized location to manage all project work across your organization. You must also consider that where there is project work, there is always work, non-project related, affecting the same resources.

Common business productivity systems that are critical for projects, such as EPM or PPM don’t always include all other work that affects your project resources making true work management impossible.  It is essential to the management of any project that you properly analyze all work that has any impact on your overall project portfolio.

Microsoft® Project Professional 2010 offers Project Managers a powerful tool for scheduling, planning and assigning project work within their projects and programs.  Microsoft SharePoint® Foundation 2010 provides its users with an easy to use, intuitive platform for effective team collaborationis and continues to be the most widely used collaboration platform on the market today.

Although many organizations leverage both tools for improved business productivity, many times these solutions operate in parallel and therefore aren’t even beginning to scratch the surface for reaching their true potential .

EPM Live’s EPM WorkEngine offers expanded Microsoft Project Professional and SharePoint capabilities that give organizations the ability to manage both projects and all other work with one solution.  By providing the proper toolsets to track and manage all work and associated costs, EPM WorkEngine is empowering businesses of all sizes and types to extend their current project management practice into a full work management discipline.

To join our upcoming webinar to see how EPM WorkEngine combines the power of both technologies to provide a powerful EPM solution for effectively managing project, operational, development and all other types of work in your organization please register here.

With WorkEngine 2010, Microsoft Project 2010 Professional and SharePoint 2010 you can now get more value from the technologies you already own, you can streamline your operations, save money and have direct impact to your bottom line.

10 Reasons for Project Failure

There are no risk-free projects in the software industry. Irrespective of whether you are using agile, scrum or any other development methodology, chances of project failure can not be entirely ruled out. A project’s planning and strategy is only as good as its execution – you goof up at any stage and it can lead to catastrophic effects.

Old school practitioners often argue that success and failure are relative terms when it comes to project execution. What classifies a project as a mediocre success in one company might be treated as a marginal failure in another. The barometer to measure a project’s success is simple – it should satisfy the business requirements of primary stakeholders on time and within the allocated budget.

I believe that the following 10 reasons are the most common causes of project failures in the software industry.

1. Ambiguous Requirements

Ambiguous and unclear requirements are a prefect recipe for disaster for any project. Even worse, the longer it takes to get the ambiguity resolved, the costlier it gets. Ideally, such concerns should be addressed during the project planning stage as any spillovers to subsequent stages can be fatal to the overall success of the project.

2. Poor Stakeholder Involvement

A project’s success is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders. If any of the primary stakeholders shy away from their responsibilities, it can put the project’s future in jeopardy. Stakeholders’ influence on a project is undeniable. If stakeholders only get involved during the latter stages of a project, it can lead to significant delays and additional costs to cater to their change requests.

3. Unrealistic Expectations

While it’s important for stakeholders to collaborate for a project’s success, a “please all” approach which sets unrealistic expectations will only lead to problems. Project Managers are often under severe pressure from clients and senior management to get projects delivered as quickly as possible. Compromising quality to cut down on time doesn’t work and is bound to backfire at some stage or the other.

4. Poor Management

A team is only as good as its manager and vice-versa. If a project is poorly managed, corrective action should be taken or else the project is destined to be a failure. Tasks should be properly delegated and monitored; any delays should be escalated to all stakeholders as soon as possible. Managers should have a contingency plan in place if things don’t quiet go as per the original plan.

5. Poor Staffing

You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole. Resources with inappropriate skills may increase a project’s headcount but they serve as liabilities rather than assets for a project. The 2+2=4 rule doesn’t always work in project management; it can often be 2+2=3 or even 2+2=1.5.

6. Poor Teamwork

Even if you have rock star programmers and best in the class project managers, a project’s fate is uncertain if the individuals fail to deliver as a team. Friction and differences of understanding between team members hamper the overall morale of any project.

7. Forever Changing Requirements

There’s often no end to a customer’s wishlist of features. However, not all the features for a project are equally critical. It is very important that all features for a project be clearly identified as must have, should have, could have and won’t have. The project’s requirements must be frozen during the planning stage and any deviations should follow a standard change request management procedure.

8. Poor Leadership

A Manager should lead by example. If the leadership is poor, it affects the morale of the team. Being a Project Manager isn’t the easiest job in the world, but then that’s why many project managers are well respected and well paid.

9. Cultural & Ethical Misalignment

In today’s age of globalization, having cross-cultural and geographically diverse teams collaborate on a project is more of a norm, rather than an exception. While cultural and ethical challenges can be difficult to tackle, the team must work on the single objective of making the project successful. A time zone, geographical, cultural and ethical differences don’t matter – what matters is the project!

10. Inadequate Communication

It’s often said that no communication is far worse than miscommunication and software projects are no exception to this rule. Communication is the lifeline of any software project – be it between customers and other stakeholders, manager and developers, developers and testers, or the team as a whole. Crisp and clear communication is an absolute must.

A failed project does no good to anyone. With meticulous planning and methodical execution, a company can minimize the risks involved in a project and ensure that it will succeed.

Demystifying Scrum- An Agile Process

To put it in simple words, Scrum is one of the several agile processes available for software development. Scrum is a framework, as opposed to being a process or a methodology. Like any other member of the agile family, Scrum is built on the core principle of providing an iterative and incremental framework for effective software development. Though originally designed for software development, Scrum is equally effective in software maintenance and overall project management.Scrum is different from other agile methodologies as it offers unique empirical process control. It is one of the few agile approaches that rely entirely on facts and real-world statistics rather than on forecasts, guesses and gut feelings.

Work Breakdown in Scrum

Scrum divides a project into sprints, which are succinct word cadences. Sprints are critical in terms of determining the Work Breakdown Structure of a project and determining the overall release plan. Sprints are generally one to three weeks in duration, depending on the complexity involved.

There’s a stakeholder review at the end of each sprint which determines the future course of action for the project and subsequent sprints. Since there’s a regular assessment of the completed work in a project every couple of weeks, it mitigates the risk involved in the project.

Scrum Roles

A crucial component of Scrum is to assign specific roles to project team members. Scrum has three major roles – Product Owner, ScrumMaster and Team Member. These are notoriously known as Pig roles as they represent the people who’ll be performing the actual dirty work on the project.

Product Owner

This role represents the people who are responsible for defining the vision of the product and communicating it to the development team. In a literal sense, they represent the voice of the customer. It is undoubtedly the role with the most crucial responsibilities. If the project goes well, the product owner gets a pat on the back. If a project doesn’t go well, a kick on the butt is not a distant possibility either.

ScrumMaster

Also known as the Facilitator, this role is all about removing impediments that are obstructing the team from achieving its sprint goals. The ScrumMaster ensures that rules are met and acts as a mediator between the Product Owner and Team Members.

Team Members

As the name itself suggests, these are the members of the team which actually does the software development work. The team members deliver the product and are responsible for the success of each sprint. It is recommended that a team be composed of 5-9 resources with varied cross-functional skills as per the project’s requirements.

Flavors

Scrum can be practiced daily (called Daily Scrum) or as per a well defined periodicity for sprints. Irrespective of the chosen model, planning, review and retrospective meetings are a crucial part of Scrum.

Conclusion

Scrum is the perfect agile approach for scenarios which demand rapid reaction to changes in requirements/scope. Each project is special and unique and that’s the underlying philosophy on which Scrum is built.

Microsoft Project Server 2010- Why Should You Upgrade

As a trusted Microsoft Partner and a long time implementer of Microsoft Project Server, EPM Live offers a few valuable tips to aid in your Microsoft Project Server 2010 decision making process.

Is it worth upgrading to Microsoft Project Server 2010? Are there any risks involved in the upgrade? What are the changes in Microsoft Project Server 2010 as compared to previous versions? If these questions have entered your mind at any point during your technology roadmap planning, you’ve come to the right place.

Microsoft will always be a top performer in business productivity applications.  Is it realistic to think that every release will be better than the last?  In this case, yes.  Microsoft Project Server 2010 has topped expectations this time around offering many upgrade benefits to current Project Server users.  Below you will find only a subset of the exciting new benefits that Microsoft Project Server 2010 has to offer.

1. Enhanced and Simplified User Interface
The User Interface of Project Server 2010 is far more simplified and intuitive as compared to its predecessors. For example, the web-based UI for time reporting is now standardized in order to shorten the learning curve and enhance the overall user experience.

2. Unified PPM Capabilities
Project Server 2010 combines best of breed Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) capabilities into a single tool. By upgrading to Project Server 2010, you no longer need Portfolio Server as a standalone system.  Microsoft Project Server 2010 is the only application you need to meet your Project and Portfolio Management needs.

3. Flexible Workflows
Workflows are the USP of Project Server 2010. It’s easy to configure workflows and setup checkpoints in order to encourage greater accountability amongst all stakeholders involved in the workflow process. The tool provides accurate audit records that management can leverage to understand the bottlenecks and performance overheads in any workflow.

4. Strategic Portfolio Management
It is crucial for an organization to adopt a well defined strategy for managing their portfolio and resource utilization. Project Server 2010 helps define business strategies and align them with an organization’s portfolio. It also allows for pro-active rescheduling of Projects in order to derive optimal resource utilization. Project Server 2010 is capable of conducting what-if analysis under varied constraints in order to help an organization choose its best-suited portfolio.

5. Web-Based
Project Server 2010 handles all your project scheduling needs through a web browser interface. Project Server 2010 offers the flexibility of editing and collaborating on all project schedules directly on the web.
6. Enhanced Reporting
Enhanced Reporting is one of the most important features of Project Server 2010. It offers custom dashboards, comprehensive reports and easy integration with leading business intelligence tools.  To ensure you receive maximum ROI, the outputs of the tool are critical.

7. Better Integration with other Microsoft Technologies
Project Server 2010 lets you tap the potential of other Microsoft technologies including Exchange Server 2010, Office 2010 and most importantly, SharePoint Server 2010. These tools help increase the overall productivity of the solution and promote flexibility in choosing alternative tools based on customer requirements. In fact, Project Server 2010 is built on SharePoint Server 2010.

To summarize, Microsoft Project Server 2010 represents the next wave of innovation in the PPM space. If you are not planning to upgrade to Microsoft Project Server 2010, you are missing out on a great opportunity.

Is Service Management Needed in Cloud Computing

The IT industry is changing and it’s heading into the clouds. Organizations are quickly realizing that adopting the cloud computing model is inevitable and represents a classic case of the earlier, the better. However, many critics have underlined concerns over the future of service management in a cloud computing environment.

Does the cloud theory of everything-as-a-service compromise on service management? Does the cloud model adhere to service management SLAs like the traditional on-premise solution model? Let’s find out.

Is Service Management needed in Cloud Computing?

Of course, it’s needed. Cloud or no cloud, service management is a key requirement to ensuring Quality of Service. While the cloud model may offer higher reliability and flexibility than the on-premise approach, it is not 100% safe from incidents.

Therefore, it is crucial to have service management processes in a cloud environment. The principles of Incident Management, Problem Management and Change Management are just as important in a cloud environment as in an on-premise solution.

None of the ITIL best practices get eliminated by moving to a cloud-based model. The organization still needs a service desk and it still requires service level measurement and reporting.

SLAs in the Cloud

Since the infrastructure and computing resources are offered by third-party vendors, the Cloud model is a great proponent of implementing SLA (Service Level Agreements) for effective service management.

It is important to understand the business requirements for performance, availability, scalability and cost in order to provide the cloud infrastructure for an organization. The Cloud model calls for a strong paradigm shift from component level reliability to service level reliability.

SOA offers Endless Possibilities

The Cloud Computing philosophy is built largely on SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) which offers endless possibilities to software development organizations. SOA allows organizations to build a strong focus on high availability and optimal performance by benchmarking the user experience.

SOA is bound to increase the dependencies in an organization; therefore it calls for stronger service management. The SOA model simply shifts some of the service management responsibilities from the organization to the cloud provider. It also calls for a strong centralized policy management service which makes it easy to monitor the health of the cloud and solutions running on top of it.

Service Management is all about monitoring the health of your IT infrastructure. It does not matter if the health check is being done on an on-premise infrastructure or one that’s hosted in the cloud. All that matters is that the health check is crucial and can’t be overlooked by any organization.

Service Management, is after all, the silver lining in the Cloud!