Tools & Technologies

Microsoft Project Server 2007: Where's the Business Value?

During one of the calls I had with a reviewer of my SharePoint for Business white paper, he asked this question and made the following comment:

How does one articulate the business value of Microsoft Project Server 2007? I have my own ideas, but every time I ask Microsoft about it, they start talking about SharePoint. I haven’t yet heard from Microsoft a decent analysis of the value of Project Server in-and-of itself.

I don’t know whether Microsoft’s failure to explain the value was a purely local phenomena (eg, the people who were asked weren’t schooled up in Project), or a more global problem, but from the perspective of this person, they haven’t received the answers they wanted.

What’s the Business Value of Project Server 2007?
Here’s my articulation of what I see as the three main points of value of Project Server:

  1. Project Plans can be Shared with the Project Team … In addition to all of the planning, forecasting and resource allocation work that a project manager carries out, there needs to be some way of highlighting aspects of a project to those involved. Historically, the project manager would have to email around a copy, and keep doing so whenever the project plan was updated. With Project Server and Web access, project team members can get a real-time reading on what they are supposed to do, and how the project as a whole is going. According to Pillar 1: Shared Access to Team Data within my 7 Pillars of IT-Enabled Team Productivity model, this is a good thing. It stops people from working on outdated plans, and keeps everyone moving toward the same goal.
  2. Organization-Wide Templates of Successful Projects … Learning from past success and failure is a key strategy for future success. In an organizational setting, project managers should engage with team members at the conclusion (or termination) of a project to gauge lessons learnt, and these ideas need to be more widely shared. However, there’s a difference between (a) distributing or publishing a list of lessons learnt as a text document, and (b) embedding those ideas in a template for a future project (as tasks-to-be-completed, or as risks-to-be-aware-of). Project Server provides an “Enterprise Templates” capability to recognize this difference.
  3. Visibility into Projects and Sub-Projects … In the world of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, projects and next actions are managed and tracked at the individual level, and any multi-person coordination happens through meetings or email updates (eg, “how’s that item coming along that I asked you to look into?”). In a world of more complexity, where project managers are intentional about planning out phases and activities and allocating specific people or resources to each, and where people are involved in multiple projects at once, and where some projects are dependent on other projects being completed, and where other projects are sub-projects of a bigger project or program of work, there needs to be some way of making sense of it all. Project Server consolidates a set of project plans into an overall view, so as to provide high-level visibility into the allocation of people / resources, and to highlight the dependencies between projects, phases and activities. From a business perspective, such insight is invaluable in knowing whether go-to-market timelines are going to be met, whether certain people are overloaded, and where staffing levels are inadequate.

And finally, for organizations that have a Project Management Office (PMO) and a complex array of projects, Microsoft now offers Project Portfolio Server 2007 for managing a portfolio of projects. If project managers use the Project client to lay out a project, and Project Server to share that information with others, then Portfolio Server is in theory a good step up for strategically managing a portfolio of projects at the organizational level. Securing an all-of-business project management solution from one vendor is a compelling value proposition.

And You?
What would you add to the above list? What would you remove? How would you describe the business value of Project Server?

Categories: Tools & Technologies