Project management software seen at PMI '95
Hey! New Orleans was fabulous! A great PMI Seminar/Symposium (my 18th) in a very unusual city. Where else in North America would they promote drinking in the streets? This is one fun place, even if they are going against the trend toward curbing public intoxication.
One thing that's not going against the trend, though, is PMI: the organization. And we, as project management practitioners, are sitting right where the action is. This is reflected in the dynamic growth in PMI membership, in certification, and even in the size and diversity of vendors of project management products and services.
In years past we often found that the exhibitor hall primarily featured vendors of project management software. The trend toward education and professional associations was mirrored in the exhibit hall at New Orleans. My rough count showed that there were as many exhibitors in non-software areas as there were software producers. About two dozen exhibitors provided services featuring training, methods and process development and benchmarking, plus another half-dozen providing these services plus computer-based tools.
But my beat, as usual, was the project management software area. Was there anything noteworthy or unusual among the products exhibited? Any noticeable trends? Many of us got caught by surprise by the early closing of the exhibit hall (3:00 p.m. on Tuesday); however, I was able to make the rounds. Here is my report on the project management software scene at PMI ’95.
I keep hearing about the impeding demise of project management software vendors. A “thinning of the ranks” is continually forecast, as the industry fears that the market cannot support several dozen primary suppliers. Yet, we are not seeing vendors falling like flies—in fact, most of the established developers continue to provide products and services.
The exhibitors at PMI ’95 included all of the major providers, several less prominent vendors, and a few new ones. Several nonmainstream vendors were not present in the exhibit hall, but, as far as I know, most are still in business.
There are three things that I can think of that contribute to the overall health of the project management software business. One is that there is so much growth in the market that there is still room for the number of viable suppliers.
Second, no project management software product comes close to being the perfect solution for all users. Even within an organization, diverse needs could easily dictate multiple product solutions. Also, as strong as today's project management software products are, in both functionality and usability, all appear to make tradeoffs. My perfect solution would be a combination of features from many products. Therefore, there is still room for the various vendors to attract users to their camp.
Third, many project management software vendors derive a good portion of their revenue from support services (rather than the software itself). Although sales of some of the older, host-based products may have slowed, there remains a sufficient revenue stream to maintain vendor viability, and to enable the developer to maintain the product and clients.
While many of the project management software products can be considered to be general-purpose tools, there are others that aim to address a specific set of needs. These might fall into the category of industry specific needs (such as MIS) or functional needs (such as accounting or risk management). About half the products displayed at PMI ’95 would fit into these latter categories.
Advanced Management Solutions demonstrated Schedule Publisher and AMS Timekeeper. Schedule Publisher is a highly graphical task and resource scheduler with an emphasis on the latter. Schedule Publisher facilitates visual leveling of resources via a multi-resource graphic display, while providing traditional CPM functions. AMS Timekeeper supports time reporting on a client/server platform, and can be integrated with Schedule Publisher. These products support the Windows, Macintosh and Unix platforms.
Dekker, Ltd. has emphasized integrated cost accounting with project management, via their Dekker TRAKKER product line. Dekker announced the pending release of a Windows version of TRAKKER.
ICARUS Corporation provides tools to support project design and estimating. They recently announced a bridge to the Primavera Project Planner scheduling system.
Information Builders, developers of the FOCMAN project management system for IBM System 360 and DEC VAX, now offers a Windows-based system, called Visual Planner.
Mantix, Inc. uses the Unix platform for their CASCADE cost/schedule control system. Data is maintained in Oracle, and can be accessed from X terminals or PCs.
Marshall Technical Services is moving into project management software products in addition to their project management consulting work. They have developed an advanced timekeeping system, Time Wizard, and are a leading distributor for ViewPoint (from IMSI).
Robbins-Gioia, Inc. serves the Information Services segment, as a provider of Structured Methodologies. They also market a project management software system for IS applications, called CAT II.
XPM Partners is providing support for several products, including Enterprise PM (from Protellicess), Multi-Project (from INNATE), and their own XPM Enterprise Work Management. The XPM software offers traditional CPM capabilities, with an emphasis on resource management and support for many Unix and PC platforms.
A significant segment of the project management software market falls into the category of add-ons. Many of these are add-ons for Microsoft Project, but other mainstream scheduling tools are also supported.
There are two basic types of add-ons, with several varieties in each. The first group is designed to either supplement functions that are missing from the base product or to extend the product into special, non-traditional functions. The second group (I call them Consolidators) are designed to bring data from multiple projects into a common SQL-based database for further analysis and processing.
WBS for Project, from Jim Spiller & Associates, is an add-on for Microsoft Project that generates work breakdown structure (or tree) diagrams for MS Project data. The WBS diagram can be designed to display project cost and other data, organized by WBS, and rolled up to any level.
Risk +, from Program Management Solutions, Inc., attaches to Microsoft Project to provide extensive risk analysis and probability data. The program can determine the probability of meeting any completion date and highlight the higher-risk paths (which may not be the same as the critical paths). Risk + also considers convergence bias, which could influence the calculation of most likely times for merge events. Many people feel that such evaluation of risk is essential before betting on a project completion date (see my October 1995 PM Network column). We will have more on this product and subject in future issues.
CMR Publishing, Inc. offers DailyLog and Update Pro. UpdatePro, an add-on for Primavera Project Planner and Sure-Trak, checks for variances between two schedule files. It can generate several types of variance reports and maintain an audit trail of changes. DailyLog is a schedule-driven, computer-based work tracking system. It is now available to run in Windows or DOS, and works with Primavera Project Planner and Sure-Trak, Microsoft Project, Open Plan and Time Line.
Project Partner, from GTW Corporation, generates customized network diagrams (PERT diagrams) from Microsoft Project or any .MPX files. In addition to the network diagrams, you can create “GTW” charts. These can display project information, including resource and cost data, in spreadsheet, bar chart and graphic formats, all on one chart.
This is a fairly new classification of project management products, aimed at consolidating multiple projects and enhancing workgroup communication. There were several products in this growing category demonstrated at PMI ’95.
Micro-Frame Technologies supports this category with Business Engine. The Project Server component consolidates Microsoft Project files into an SQL database. Project Server provides a central SQL repository and multi-project query capability in a client/server environment. Resource Server provides an alternate query system for the repository data, supporting multi-faceted drill down in a graphic format. Data can be analyzed by resource, cost element, project, organization, and several other categories, and summarized to various levels. Microsoft SQL Server, SQL Server for NT, Sybase SQL Server and Oracle are supported. TimeServer provides timesheet functions.
Information Management Services serves this category with Project Exchange. This distributed project management system combines Microsoft Project, Excel, SQL Server, Access, and Mail. Project Exchange relies heavily on e-mail to move integrated information through the system to various enterprise stakeholders and to automate distribution of task data and collection of actual time data.
Multi-Project from INNATE consists of two modules: Multi-Project Manager and Project Leader. Project managers use Project Leader to build projects, and send them to Multi-Project Manager. The latter is used by resource and portfolio managers for multi-project consolidation, analysis and prioritization. Sitting on top of Microsoft Project, Multi-Project also adds timesheet and custom reporting functions.
Time Line Solutions chose PMI ’95 to announce their newest product, Project Updater. Project Updater is a Windows 95-compliant client/server repository for project management data. It uses an Oracle database, on either Windows 95, Windows 3.1, or Windows NT, and will access both Microsoft Project and Time Line 6 files. The interface provides an Assignment View, in a calendar format coupled with an updating section, to facilitate distributed updating of project work.
Five vendors share in the bulk of sales in the mainstream, general-purpose project management software for microcomputer platforms.
Microsoft's booth featured both demonstrations of Microsoft Project and several add-on products (discussed above). Project is now available as Project 95, to work with Windows 95. The latest version addresses communications and usability needs, with improvements in workgroup integration and extensibility. Nothing significant was done to the “scheduling engine” in Project.
Primavera has revamped the old DOS version of SureTrak Project Manager, and has joined this highly competitive group with a new Windows version, aggressively priced at $299. SureTrak Project Manager for Windows borrows several of the features from the high-end Primavera Project Planner (P3), such as extensive coding and a very attractive “organizer” function. STW projects can be saved as P3 files, for full integration with P3 and use by either STW or P3 users. Popular low-end features such as Pivot Table Wizard and Activity Code Wizard have been added to the latest version.
Scitor continues to get good press on their Project Scheduler 6 product. Version 1.5 added resource splitting, recurring tasks, and several filing, reporting, and editing features. The next generation of Project Scheduler is due in early 1996. Scitor also was showing Process Charter, a unique analytical tool for optimizing business processes.
SuperProject has a new update (4.0). This latest release from Computer Associates is more user-friendly, with liberal use of the “tab” format, balloon help, 3-D dialogs, interactive calendars, and multilevel undo/redo. Multi-project support has been improved, as well as support for OLE 2.0 and ODBC. Time$heets Professional (for time keeping) is still bundled with SuperProject.
The project management group at Symantec has been reorganized as a wholly-owned subsidiary called Time Line Solutions. Support functions for Time Line have been significantly beefed-up and concentrated in the Novato, Calif., office. They have just released Time Line 6.5. This latest version claims improved speed performance, and bundles Crystal Reports 4.0 with the product. TL6.5 is the only product in this group to save data directly to a SQL database (Watcom).
For Power Users
Primavera demonstrated their latest release of Primavera Project Planner for Windows 1.1 (P3). Speed has been increased in many areas and there are several small refinements to editing, reporting, security, graphics, and communication. Multi-project scheduling has been improved with the capability to link tasks between master projects. Primavera has put quite a bit of effort into seamless connectivity between all of their products (SureTrak, P3, Parade, Expedition, Monte Carlo) and has designed an integrated methodology, called Concentric Project Management. This connectivity also provides access to ReportSmith 2.5 and Buy The Hour reporting and timesheet programs that are bundled with P3.
Welcom Software Technology was showing Open Plan Professional for Windows. This long-awaited Windows version of Open Plan has been available for limited distribution since early in 1995, with version 1.1 now available to all. OPP combines a very high level of functionality with a modern Windows interface. A reduced function version, Open Plan Desktop for Windows, has been announced. WST's Canadian distributor, HMS Software, has developed a time capture program for Open Plan, called Time Control.
Lucas Management Systems has renamed their product suite Artemis Views. The prestige project management software is now ProjectView. The time management module is now TrackView. the C/SCSC program, formerly called I/CSCS, is now CostView. A new product was announced for resource management, called ResourceView. ProjectView continues to provide a true client/server scheduling capability. ResourceView is comprised of two distinct modules. Requester allows work to be defined. Allocator allows managers to assign approved tasks to resources. Work requests can also be brought in from ProjectView or Microsoft Project. ArtemisViews supports PC, Mainframe, Unix, and DEC VAX platforms.
Project Software & Development, Inc. continues to feature PROJECT/2 Series/X as their client/server project scheduling tool. The client/server functions are now fully operative in the latest version.
Digital Tools, Inc. has continued the development of an open system client/ server capability, using a Unix server and a choice of clients, including the PC. AutoPlan II provides considerable platform flexibility while offering traditional project scheduling features.
Aimed at IT Applications
Information Technology has become the fastest growing application area for project management software. While these applications may be adequately served by general-purpose project management software, there are a few particular capabilities that many IT managers look for that are offered by packages directed specifically toward this discipline. Users also may prefer to work with a vendor that provides other products and services for IT applications.
Applied Business Technology has been a major player in this market, offering Project Workbench and companion products for estimating, metrics and methods. They are introducing a new product, Team Workbench, which will work as part of ABT's new Project Repository Server. In this new configuration, ABT will offer an integrated desktop interface for all of their IS tools optimized in a scalable client/server architecture.
There have been some name changes at another longtime player in the IT market. Protellicess has replaced POC-IT Management Services, and Enterprise PM is the new name for MicroMan II. Enterprise PM has been redesigned for Windows and supports stand-alone and networked environments. Protellicess offers other tools for IT projects, for estimating, metrics and methods.
PlanView, Inc. continues to provide specialized tools and support for IT, including the PlanView client/server project management system.
More on Risk Management
We had quite a bit of feedback on the October column, “Risk Management for Dummies.” Look for a followup in the April issue. There are some very simple and effective computer-based approaches available, using general-purpose software and special risk analysis programs. Even the Sigma-phobic editor of this column can understand them and appreciate their value. In the meantime, don't forget to pass on your comments and advice, via CompuServe 76153,1552. ■
Harvey A. Levine, principal, The Project Knowledge Group, Saratoga Springs, New York, has been a practitioner of project management for over 30 years and is a past chairman of the Project Management Institute.
PM NETWORK • January 1996