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MS Project 2010 – Review by a Project Manager

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In this article I will cover a few of the major changes of MS Project 2010, for a more in-depth view, and a chance to download the beta version of MS Project 2010 visit the Microsoft site.

Let me start by saying that I have been using MS Project for over 10 years now. It’s always been a love hate relationship. Often for smaller projects I would turn to using Excel, its flexibility gave me be ability to quickly organize and change project tasks.

So when I had a chance to talk to the Microsoft Project marketing team, and they remarked that the improvements made were as a result of integrating Excel like flexibility, they had my full attention. In fact did you know that the number one competitor to Project is Excel. The guys at Microsoft finally figured out that they were their own competition, and after more than a decade decided to do something about it.

Project Server 2010, a quick side note.

Collaboration seems to be Microsoft’s new favourite word. You cannot talk to one of their PR people without it being mentioned at least a dozen times in 5 minutes. Not having much experience with this product I will leave its review to those more qualified, I will touch on a couple of key points.

Integrating Project Server with SharePoint allows easy publishing and sharing of Project Plans. Equally important is the ability for project staff to update the plans with new tasks as well as their progress. For many this can be a useful feature, especially when dealing with teams that are not all at the same location.

The Review

There are two versions of MS Project 2010: Standard and Professional. Let me start by saying – if you are Project Manager, or work in such a capacity, get the Professional version. Many new innovative and useful features are in the Professional version. The official Microsoft line is that the Standard version is for project managers who don’t need collaborative tools. All I can say is that many of the new features are equally useful as standalone features, and while I don’t want to accuse Microsoft of a bait and switch, in my eyes they lose a few good will points on this one.

The New Look

The first thing that will strike most users, who have used the previous version of MS Project, is the new Ribbon toolbar, keeping with the UI changes across the MS Office suite, Project 2010 has joined the ranks.

The introduction of the ribbon tool bar has been the subject of many debates, so I feel there is no reason to start another one here. Suffice it to say, lover it or hate it, it’s here and it’s here to stay.

Excel like Flexibility

When they spoke of more Excel like functionality, what struck me as the closest link is the ability to switch to Manually Schedule mode. You can create tasks without duration or dates, filling in the required fields as the information become available. Microsoft also refers to the top-down approach to creating tasks. Allowing you to create a Parent task first, adding subtask and milestones which may have dates that do not match, but you can adjust at a later time.

This feels more natural to the way most people organize their projects. Allowing for easy shifting of tasks and associated information will give most Project users the ability to work easily with large and small projects, especially if using methodologies such as RUP or Agile.

It should also be noted that the copy and past functionality has been enhanced. Now when you copy and paste your information into a spreadsheet, the formatting such the indentation of sub-tasks will remain. However, when using the Save As – Excel file option, the formatting will not be transferred.

I should add here that I was also hopping Microsoft had found a way to copy the Gantt chart view as well, however this functionality will not be available, and there are no plans in the foreseeable future to do so.

Inactive Tasks

Professional version only, flag tasks as inactive and still keep them in your project plan. Should you have a task that is currently not required, but it or its associated information may be of use at a later time, flagging a task as inactive gives you the best of both worlds. Project will ignore the inactive task, until you decide to reactive it.

Team Planner

Professional version only, simply put it’s a manual resource lever. Unlike the Automated Resource Lever (which still exists) in previous versions, you can drag and drop tasks to different resources as required & ensure that no one is over/under allocated as you see fit.

TimeLine View

(Correction: I had previously, stated that the TimeLine view was in the professional version only. However one of the internal Microsoft people had pointed out to me that this feature is available in the standard edition. After double checking the information this article now shows the updated information as of: April 16th, 2010)

Probably one the most striking features of the new MS Project. Certainly it’s one of the first things that the Microsoft’s marketing team is always quick to point out. The other handy feature of the time line is the View Slider. A portion of the Timeline view is highlighted, by moving the highlighted section, your Gantt chart will move with it. As well you can expand or contract the Gantt chart as you expand or contract the View Slider across the TimeLine view.

It’s easy to export, or cut and paste, into your e-mail, presentation or whatever your needs may be. And the formatting, such as the color pallet or size, can be modified even after pasted into another application. I have heard many project managers comment that this option alone is worth the upgrade, and yes next time I have to show a quick timeline of the project this will come in handy.

What was taken out

A few items were removed, Microsoft’s reasoning was these were outdated & rarely used features that caused made the software unnecessarily big and slow.

  • Custom Forms – the ability to create and use custom forms through the user interface.
  • OWC resource availability graphs
  • Some – Add-ins, sample macros, and project guide>
  • Pert Analysis
  • Copy picture (no longer automatically creates an Office document and cannot export to the JPG format)
  • Format Duration
  • ResMgmt Task Entry
  • Rollup Formatting
  • Toggle Read only
  • Update File

I have no doubt that someone resourceful will create a third party add-on to put this functionality back in, so if you are one of the few that relied on these features in the past, don’t lose hope.

The Final Word

Most of the previous features work as they have before, the new ribbon bar may make this easier to find, but the nuts and bolts are still the same. The Automated Levelling Resources option, which we all love to hate, will still push task out to infinity. And sharing resources from a pool is still requires a creation of a separate project file with resources to link to.

It should be noted that any Schedule you create with MS Project 2010, can be opened with Project 2007, some formatting may be lost, but for the most part the information will be all there.

A word to Microsoft. Thanks, just one thing, I don’t know many professionals that switched to Project 2007. It really had no significant upgrades, majority of Project Managers I know of stayed with 2003, which is not compatible.

Inside source say that MS Project 2010 is ready to go now, however it will not be release until Office 2010 is ready to ship. So expect it in the third quarter of 2010.

Unconfirmed reports tell me that the price for the Standard version will be around $250.00 while the Professional version could run as high as $750.00 per copy.

Finally, despite some of my reservations, as someone who relies on MS Project as part of his everyday job I am looking forward to the new release and will probably get it as soon as it comes out.

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Source by Jason Freih

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