long was the development time for Microsoft Project 2000? Did you set any
milestones, or overcome any setbacks? How many people worked were on the
Brett Bentsen: Development of Microsoft
Project 2000 began almost immediately after we released MS Project 98 in
September of 1997. Microsoft generally uses the term milestone to refer
to a development phase. We had three major milestones, each focused on
building a specific set of features, and then spent time stabilizing
those features before moving on. The goal is to limit the number of
moving targets as we are finishing the product and doing final
stabilization. We have about 80 people working on the core product in
Redmond, plus people in East Asia and Ireland creating localized
might businesses want to use Project 2000 instead of Excel or other
programs for their projects?
Brett Bentsen: It really depends on the
goals they have for managing projects. If they have just a few items
that they are tracking against Due Dates, then Excel might work for
them. If they have different people who are responsible for the various
items or if there are dependencies between items (you can't paint
the walls until after you have masked the windows), then they probably
want to look at a project management package. Microsoft Project 2000 is
well suited for a wide range of users. It is the easiest to use of any
of the project management software products, while still having all the
power associated with what people have traditionally called the
'high-end' systems. In addition, Microsoft Project is very extensible,
which enables companies and solution providers to create customized
solutions that integrate with Microsoft Project.
What are the main features this version has over the previous?
Brett Bentsen: Here are a few of the
features that we've received the best feedback on from our users:
Performance. We improved the performance
of database and multi-project operations, such as resource sharing and
Grouping. Microsoft Project 2000
introduced the ability to categorize tasks or resources by just about
any criteria. For example, you could add a field to each task that
listed location. Then you could group on that field to see the tasks
organized by location. Microsoft Project automatically calculates
subtotals for these categories, so you can see the costs for each
Network Diagram. We completely re-wrote
the PERT Chart view found in earlier versions to provide more
flexibility for customizing the fields displayed, the formatting of the
boxes, and the layout of the diagram. Additional Scheduling Features. We
added Task Calendars, Material Resources, and Variable Resource
Availability to allow more flexible modeling of projects.
Custom Field Improvement. Custom fields
can now contain a picklist or a calculated formula. In addition, you can
associate graphical indicators with values or value ranges to create
Microsoft Project Central. New web-based
companion product to Microsoft Project focused on team members working
on projects. I'll elaborate below in your next question.
(Note from Product Management: A comprehensive
comparison of Microsoft Project 2000's new features, improved features
and continued features from Microsoft Project 98 is available on our web
site at http://www.microsoft.com/office/project/features.htm
is the inclusion of Microsoft Project Central Webserver set to aid
businesses? Can employees access project data on the road?
Brett Bentsen: Project management is a
collaborative activity in which a project manager might be the one to
create the plan, but many people contribute to the plan and do work on
Microsoft Project Central supports collaborative project management. A
team member can see the tasks they are assigned to work on across
multiple projects. They can track their time and suggest additional
tasks that the project manager should add to the plan. A team member or
a team manager can also delegate tasks to the appropriate person. Users
can also take the timesheet offline to continue tracking time even when
they don't have network access (e.g., on an airplane).
A project manager using Microsoft Project
Central can review the time that team members have spent on tasks and
automatically update the plan, rather than having to manually re-key
paper timesheets into the plan. Microsoft Project Central also allows
more visibility into the plan. People can view a summary of all the
projects scheduled, as well as drill into the details via the browser.
can developers maximize their use of Microsoft Project 2000 through using
Brett Bentsen: The Microsoft Project 2000
SDK, available through MSDN (http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/sdkdoc/pr2ksdk/default.htm/
and select SDK Documentation and Microsoft Project 2000 Software
Development Kit in the left pane), is our first attempt at documentation
specifically targeted to developers or solution providers. It has a
section that talks about the Microsoft Project database format and
leveraging this open format. Another section discusses using the
Automation capabilities and the COM Add-in architecture. Integration
with Exchange is focused on for both Microsoft Project and Microsoft
Project Central. Finally, one section deals entirely with Microsoft
Project Central in outlining its database structure, describing how the
interface could be extended, and how some of the controls could be used
to display data.
The SDK also includes examples that cross the different sections and can
help developers get started. One example, "Initiate a
project," allows Microsoft Project Central users to propose a new
project with some high-level data (project title, description, owner,
start and end dates, and budget). It adds elements to the Microsoft
Project Central user interface to access this functionality, writes
information to the Microsoft Project Central database, and sends e-mail
to the person who can approve or reject the proposed project. If the
project is approved, it is added to the Microsoft Project database.
the current success of this version anticipated from the get-go? How did
you believe such a significant update would attract new users and make the
current user pool want to update?
Brett Bentsen: For each release, we try
to balance a couple of different priorities. First, we talk to our
customers to understand what is and isn't working in the current release
of the product. Improving key areas in Microsoft Project 2000, such as
database performance, is one way that we continue to try to keep our
customers satisfied with the product. Second, in talking to our
customers, we also discover what they want to do, but can't - i.e.
desired features. Task Calendars is a good example of this. In a usage
study of our customer base, over 90% of those surveyed requested the
ability to associated calendars with tasks.
Finally, we try to observe how customers work
and develop solutions to their unarticulated needs. This makes existing
customers more productive, and hopefully brings new people to the
product who may not have considered it before. Microsoft Project Central
is an outgrowth of this kind of work. We saw how much teamwork there is
in project management and heard how team members wanted access to better
information about what they needed to do and how it fit into the big
picture. If we can hit all three of these aspects by really
understanding the customer's needs, then we believe we'll have a
Microsoft Project 2000 exist with the other office programs in harmony?
Can things be exported into word, excel, etc.?
Brett Bentsen: Microsoft Project 2000 is
a great Office Family member. The menus and toolbars are consistent with
Office, so if you are familiar with an Office product you can find your
way around Microsoft Project. We use shared code for things like
toolbars, the Office Assistant, AutoCorrect, Spell Checking, File
Open/Save dialogs, and the help system. You can use SQL Server or Access
as your storage for projects, which opens up use of Microsoft Access to
reporting of project information.
In addition you can use Access' Data Access
Pages to create reports against our file format (MPP) or the database
format. Microsoft Project can import and export both Excel and Access
formats. In addition, you can create a picture of any view in Microsoft
Project, such as the Gantt Chart, and save it as a GIF image to place on
a web page, or paste it into Word or PowerPoint for reports or
has Microsoft Project 2000 help companies in their deployment of Microsoft
Brett Bentsen: Microsoft Project
2000 ships with a Microsoft Windows 2000 Deployment project template in
the box (available from the File|New dialog box). This helps people
define the tasks they need to undertake before they even start the
actual deployment process. It helps them determine the right people who
need to be involved and organize their work so the decisions are made in
the right order. Plus, with our Save as a Template feature, it's easy
for organizations to use an existing deployment plan that incorporates
the company's own best practices or standards to create a custom
template they can use throughout the organization.
there any features you would have liked to include in Microsoft Project
2000 but couldn't?
Brett Bentsen: There are always
features that we thought about or our customers would like to see that
don't make it into a particular release. We always re-visit the list for
each release and try to add as many as we can in. One feature that we
had wanted to do in Microsoft Project 98, but that didn't make it in
until Microsoft Project 2000 was Estimated Durations. In usability
testing of the product, we often see that people new to project
management are uncomfortable with entering information about durations
and dates - "once I show my boss the schedule they will hold me to
the dates even though I'm still investigating items." So, we had
the idea of allowing people to tag those tasks that are still being
looked into. In Microsoft Project 2000, you simply enter a ? next to the
duration to show that it is estimated or tentative. It's a simple idea,
but with all the features we were including in Microsoft Project 98, we
had to put it off until Microsoft Project 2000.
of the biggest things for new business users is ease-of-use. What makes
Microsoft Project 2000 user-friendly?
Brett Bentsen: One of the biggest
ease-of-use features for new users is the re-vamped HTML help system.
You can see the 'Project Map' that outlines the project management
process via a series of goal-based help topics. For example, the
"Plan Project Costs" area in the Map has 3 Goals: Estimate
Costs, Define and share cost information, and Prepare to manage costs.
Each of these has a Goal topic in the help system. Estimate Costs has 4
steps: Review historical data, Enter cost information, Review planned
costs, and Optimize costs. These then drill down to specific steps you
can take in the product to accomplish the goal.
do a lot of Microsoft development teams use Project 2000? Did you receive
a lot of feedback from other Program/Product Managers of different