In mid-2010 Microsoft upgraded their Office productivity suite along with their family of products, which include Microsoft Project and Visio. Microsoft Project is the company’s industry leading project management solution which helps companies and individuals track and manage projects of all sizes. In this review, we take a look at the new version, its features and capabilities.
What is Project Management?
Project management software is a program used to plan, schedule, and control resources – people, cost, and equipment – required to complete a project on time. Two important tools available in project management software are Gantt charts and PERT Charts. A Gantt chart uses lines and bars to indicate the duration of a series of tasks. The time scale may range from minutes to years. The Gantt chart allows you to see whether tasks are being completed on schedule. A PERT chart (Program Evaluation Review Technique) shows not only timing but also relationships among the tasks of a project. The relationships are represented by lines that connect boxes describing the tasks.
Just like Microsoft Office, Project 2010 uses the familiar setup experience, just insert the disk, launch setup, enter your product key, accept the End User License Agreement and Project 2010 will be installed in a few minutes.
One of the significant changes to Project 2010 the program now adopts the Ribbon user interface first introduced in Office 2007. For Microsoft Project users, this might take a bit of getting use to since version 2007 never implemented it. There is a rearrangement of familiar elements of the interface such as Gantt Chart which is now situated in a tab named Task in the View Group. Because Project 2010 uses a Tabbed interface compared to drop down menus in previous releases, these have been consolidated into five main tabs, which are very familiar and logical revealing more tools while presenting the right tools for the right task:
So what’s new in Project 2010?
Based on the philosophy of Outlook Calendaring with the familiarity and power of Project’s Gantt feature, Team Planner provides deeper insight into how a Teams project is setup, with the ability to quickly find and resolve problems. You can quickly access it from the View Menu, when you open this view each team member’s work is represented in a single row, this makes it easy to efficiently and quickly view the timescale and see who does what and when, over allocations are also highlighted in red. The drag and drop capabilities makes it surprisingly easy to adjust any changes between team member schedules, the power here is how easy it is to reassign tasks on the fly and able to see in real time how it affects the integrity of the project.
For Project Managers, Project 2010 makes it so much easier to assign schedules using the manual schedule mode (please note, you can always set it back to the default Auto-Schedule mode from the options window > Schedule tab), giving you better predictability in addition to the ability to override calculations based on dependencies, calendar, constraints. Part of the benefits here is the chance to manually setup schedules before you officially start assigning them, so things like the date a particular phase of your project won’t be determined by Project itself.
Improvements to Auto Filter
Auto Filters sees some significant improvements in Project 2010, from the column header you can sort, filter on, and group by the field. This is setup into four zones:
One of the most commonly used functions of Project 2010 also gets some welcome improvements, Copy and Paste now lets you copy data from Project or another program such as Word or Excel into either product which will recognize the data and preserve its formatting. So if you want to email your resource schedules, simply highlight a portion of the tables you would like to email, click copy and paste into the email form and that’s it. Say you start fleshing out some ideas in Microsoft Word organized as a bulleted list of information? Project will instantly format the information when you copy and paste into it its Task grid immediately recognizing sub bullet points as hierarchies in Project 2010.
Project 2010 finally removes the 16 color limit giving you an endless rainbow of color options to choose from, 16,777,216 to be exact. What this means is, you can apply any color type you find desirable to elements of your project such as the Gantt bar, cells in the sheets, and bars in both the Timeline and Team Planner views. Project 2010 also includes a gallery with several Gantt chart styles to choose from, if your organization is still using older versions of Project and you apply these to your 2010 project, they won’t be available in the older version but will instead revert back to the 16 color format.
Working with Text
There are several improvements to working text in Project 2010:
Project’s default view contains the most commonly-used columns, like Task Name, Duration, Start, and Finish. But we wanted to make sure it was straightforward to add additional columns that are meaningful to you, whether you’re adding a built-in Project field like % Complete, or your own custom field like “Open Issues” or “Review Date”.
There are a few ways to add a column to your plan:
Just type directly into the column labelled Add New Column to the right of your other existing columns. You are likely familiar with Microsoft Excel’s autocomplete feature, well Project now supports that too, so repetitive entry of the same information can be reduced with simply pressing the enter key when a suggested word is displayed in a field, Autocomplete also works both in the grid and in column headers. Project 2010 automatically increases the height or individual rows to accommodate wrapped text, you can control the setting for manual height adjustment by right-clicking on the column header.
For the Project 2010 Professional edition, there is a new feature called Inactive Task that allows you to cut tasks in your projects, while maintaining a record of these cut items. The benefits are the ability to add flexibility and scalability to projects that might get out of hand at times. Some key benefits include:
In Task Sheet views, an inactive task will appear crossed-out in semi-transparent gray text. In the Gantt Chart, the task will be outlined and filled with solid white. The task will retain its original duration, start, and finish values. If you do not want your inactive tasks to appear in the task sheet views, you can filter them out. To do this, in the Views tab of the Ribbon, select the Filter “Active Tasks”.
Inactive tasks will no longer be taken into account by the scheduling engine. Assignments to inactive tasks do not roll up to the task or resource summaries. Inactive task do not affect resource availability and will not be taken into account by Leveling. Baseline values that have already been taken are retained, but any new baselines taken will not include data for inactive tasks. Tasks with actuals cannot be inactivated.
Project Server and Inactive Tasks
Inactive tasks will appear in the Schedule WebPart on PWA, however they will be read-only. Inactive tasks are not published, so inactive task assignments will not appear on a team member’s task list.
What happens when you share projects with Tasks set to inactive with Project 2010 Standard and previous versions?
Project 2010 further solidifies Microsoft as the premier vendor for project management solutions. The new improvements help to ensure projects are better managed and kept under control while reducing cost and improving productivity from the Project Manager to the Team Member. I personally like the synergy and application of some functionality long available in Office products such as Excel. The ability to start out simple with list of bullet points and pull that into Project and have it immediately recognized for you is definitely a great way to get things running quickly. Another key benefit with Project 2010 is the Ribbon interface making its way to the product, it’s a bit different, but will definitely keep things consistent and familiar without the need to shifting between two interface paradigms. Some features though like the inactive tasks could have been made available in the cheaper SKU. The prices, while high to an individual, are not so high to a business that has a lot of projects that require centralized project management. Overall, this is a great and significant upgrade for any organization that are heavy on project management.