Latest PM software releases
variety gives users greater choice
Feature Editor: Harvey A. Levine
LATEST PM SOFTWARE RELEASES: Variety Gives Users Greater Choice
As certain as each spring gives birth to renewed life, and each summer sees our fields blossom forth with fruit, so it is that each season brings forth new and revitalized software for project managers. And “so what” many of you will say. “It's not really new growth. It's just the same old stuff, in new packaging. It's just this years ‘whiter, all-new’ Tide to make our undies even brighter.”
But wait a minute. Something is different this year. Maybe it's the thinning of the ozone layer, or fallout from Chernobyl. I‘m not sure that I'd call them “mutants,” but they are certainly not “several variations of vanilla,” as Fran Webster once labeled the PM software offerings. This year, as I made the rounds of computer shows, such as A/E/C Systems, in Washington, D. C., and PC Expo, in New York City I have definitely seen some developers venture into new ground. Potential buyers have a greater choice in the features that are available, and in the range of acquisition costs.
For instance, for the PC platform (DOS/Windows/GEM), new products have been introduced at $399, $695, $1295 and $2000 price points. And while all four of these operate in a GUI (graphical user interface) environment, they are far from being carbon copies.
Starting at the low-end, pricewise, we have a totally new scheduling program from Symantec, called On Target. Aimed specifically at the novice or part-time project manager, On Target deliberately avoids much of the terminology that is common to project management software. It is advertised as a quick and easy project planning system; something short of project management. Yet the advertising and avoidance of project management terminology can be misleading. On Target does follow most of the traditional project management software protocols and, even if the names are different, you will still find the basic graphical presentations of schedule and resource data (Gantt charts, network diagrams, and resource histograms).
On Target attempts to help the planner by making certain assumptions about the schedule, and offering a Schedule Assistant function to present viable alternatives or suggestions. The approach works, but may fool some of the more experienced planners into thinking that some of the features and options are missing.
By design, several traditional features are omitted from On Target in order to keep things simple. Resource and cost tracking capabilities are minimal. Discrete resource assignment and profiling cannot be done, and there are no resource-driven durations. There is no negative float, and the influence of imposed dates is limited.
The user interface is what one would expect in the Windows environment. There are numerous similarities to Microsoft Project for Windows. You will also notice the influence of TimeLine, Symantec's popular character-based project management program.
At $399, On Target should be of interest to the novice or part-time planner who does not need the capabilities that are left out of this product, and who might be intimidated by a traditional, full-featured package.
Project Director, from adRem Technologies, joins the multitude of project management software products at the popular $695 price point. We might ask: Who needs another scheduling program in this crowded area? adRem, a new, small company in the Toronto area, answers this by adding unique risk analysis features to the program. Using the triple time estimate approach (so called PERT analysis), adRem can calculate and display the probability of completing the project on different dates. Automatic scheduling can be directed to use different modeling criteria, depending upon whether time, cost or risk is set as the priority.
There is considerable user control over how the screen is to display the various charts. Unique to Project Director is the Pareto chart, which plots values and percentages for the ten highest items in the selected category. There are also other unusual modeling and presentation features. Contrary to a review in PC Week (July 8, 1991), Project Director does make effective use of the Windows environment. Unfortunately, the review author has fallen into the trap of demanding that most data entry and schedule manipulation must be done by the point/click method or by dragging the mouse across the screen. While there are times when this protocol is effective, it need not be the primary or only means of accomplishing these functions. In falling victim to this myopic view of Windows-based software, the review author has failed to recognize the unique attributes of Project Director.
Schedule Publisher 3.0, at $2000, is the latest and most expensive entry into the Windows arena. Introduced by Advanced Management Solutions (Highland, CA), distribution rights to Schedule Publisher have been acquired by Lucas Management Systems (formerly Metier Management Systems). Lucas also offers the Artemis family of project management tools, and the Prestige products, acquired last year from K&H Professional Management Services. Schedule Publisher aims at ease of use and data entry via its extensive use of the Windows interface and its mouse capabilities. But its strongest suit, as its name might suggest, is presentation. Using the presentation models provided with the program, it is possible to configure project reports that reach beyond those generally available in other project management software packages. In addition to these unique presentations, Schedule Publisher provides a means for users to design their own formats. However, this requires the use of an external drawing program.
Surprisingly, especially in this price range, Schedule Publisher does not provide automatic resource leveling. Overcommited resources are highlighted in the resource display. An overload can be alleviated by either assigning another resource, slipping (rescheduling) a task, or extending the task duration. The result of any change is immediately shown in the resource display. This dynamic resource adjustment mode can often be as effective as automatic leveling, and is available in some other programs that do have automatic leveling.
With its presentation capabilities, and its pricing between the two most popular price ranges, Schedule Publisher is establishing its own niche in the project management software marketplace. Offering many of the desirable attributes of both the high-end and low-end products, it could find wide acceptance. Schedule Publisher is also available in GEM and Macintosh editions.
While we haven't heard much about project management software for the GEM graphical environment in the past, we have two such products to report on. In addition to the above mentioned Schedule Publisher, a European import, called Texim Project has been transplanted to North America. Founded by Ole Thomasen, of Denmark, Texim has relocated to Minnesota. Texim Project, at $1295, offers most of the features that you would expect in a high-end product, with many of the attractions of the mass-market level products. With the GUI environment, the system is friendly and readable. Yet, there is sufficient depth to satisfy the most demanding user.
All traditional CPM features are provided, including resource-driven activities, WBS and OBS hierarchies, complex relationships and loadings, five float types, and multiple calendars. Texim Project also supports risk analysis. It can run Monte Carlo simulations, supports triple time estimates, and provides a choice of four statistical calculation approaches and four statistical distributions.
Extensive cost accounting is supported via WBS and OBS accounting, project and pool overhead, and user-selected cost distribution. Tracking capabilities include multiple baselines and definable budget periods. Earned value and project performance measurement is fully supported, using C/SCSC protocols.
Texim Project can import projects from TimeLine and SuperProject, and can export to Ventura Publisher.
Last year, I reported on the explosion of project management software products available for the Macintosh PM NETwork, October ‘90). We can add two more products to that list, bringing the total to over a dozen. Both of these are Macintosh versions of products available on other platforms. One is the aforementioned Schedule Publisher. The other is Microsoft Project for Macintosh. The latter is a Mac edition of Project for Windows, introduced in May 1990. That product has not been updated since its first release. Microsoft Project for Macintosh sells for $695
While on the topic of the Macintosh platform, it is important to note the availability of the Mac's upgraded operating system; System 7, and the pending release of Resolve, a new spreadsheet from Claris Corporation Look for many of the Macintosh-based project management software packages to be upgraded to take advantage of System 7 and to provide an interface to Resolve. Not surprisingly, Claris has been the first to do so, with its release of MacProject II, Version 2.5. While this latest release does support System 7, and links to Resolve, it does not yet have support for the Publish and Subscribe features of System 7. These will be added to the next release of MacProject II.
The link to Resolve is executed via a new Exchange command on the MacProject II menu. It is designed to provide a seamless path to Resolve to utilize Resolve's analytical and scripting capabilities. MacProject II Version 2.5 is priced at $499. Version 2.0 owners can upgrade for free. The upgrade cost to Version 1 owners is $99.
In the business of project management software, last year's program is an old program. Even the most capable developers will find ways to improve their products. So it is not surprising to see recent upgrades from such strong performers as SuperProject, Project Scheduler, Open Plan and Primavera.
Computer Associates has replaced SuperProject Expert with Super Project 2.0. While retaining all of the extensive functionality of the older product, SuperProject 2.0 has added to both the array of features and to the user interface. Promotional materials on Super-Project 2.0 included a 25-page list of product features. I was certainly wary that such an abundance of functions would make the program too difficult to learn and use. However, the improved user interface has more than balanced the impact of functionality. But even so, this is not a product for the novice or part-time planner. If On Target has been designed as a project management software program at the low-end of the mass market spectrum, then we must place SuperProject 2.0 at the other end of this range.
Although the new SuperProject 2.0 is still a DOS-based product, it provides a high-resolution charting capability as one of the four user-selected viewing modes (graphic, 50-line character, 25-line character, and monochrome). In the graphic mode, it is possible to display links between tasks on the Gantt chart. Computer Associates has raised the price of Super Project 2.0 to $895 (up $200). Computer Associates was also demonstrating an early Beta of their Windows version of SuperProject, at PC Expo, in June.
Scitor's Project Scheduler 4, a non-Windows GUI project management software package, has met with considerable success since its introduction, two years ago. Although upgraded twice since then, a new release contains enough new features so as to be renamed Project Scheduler 5. While the price has been held at $685, Project Scheduler 5 has added several features.
The most impressive of these is the ability to control what information is displayed on the Gantt chart. Through a special “Status Flags” window, the user can determine what titles will be displayed and where they will be displayed. Through the use of WBS and OBS coding, information can be detailed or summarized, and the appropriate WBS or OBS title is used. Repetitive tasks can be displayed, at intervals, on the same line, as can milestones. Project Scheduler 5 also added a work group capability for multi-project leveling, analysis and reporting, and a batch reporting mode. The latter allows the user to define a run stream that can be repeated by just calling the batch report name. Also added were hammocks, actual dates, and remaining duration fields.
Welcom Software Technology started shipping Open Plan 4.0, $4200, this summer. This latest version has added a Project Executive mode. The Project Executive is an interactive interface that allows users to enter data in a bar chart, network, or code structure view. Users can easily switch between views and can use a mouse to supplement the keyboard. Up to nine code files are now part of the standard Open Plan program. Previous versions required the user to reconfigure the system to use more than two code fields.
Multiproject processing and interconnectivity have been improved. Earlier versions processed one project at a time, during resource leveling, creating a residual resource availability file. In Version 4.0, multiple projects can be time analyzed and/ or resource scheduled. Relationships between activities in different projects can be established. ADM networks can now be automatically converted to PDM.
Primavera continues to enhance its popular duo; Primavera Project Planner (P3), $4000, and Finest Hour (FH), $5000. The key enhancement to P3 4.1 is a significant increase (up to ten times as fast) in calculating speed.
Micro Planning International (MPI) has released Version 3 of Inst-Plan, $249. This latest edition includes enhancements in plotter support and graphics presentation, WBS coding, mandatory and target end date scheduling, and extended import/export capability. InstaPlan EMS (formerly InstaPlan 5000) can support up to 30,000 activities, with expanded memory The EMS version, $549, includes LAN support and file locking.
MPI, distributors of InstaPlan and the Micro Planner family of scheduling products for the Macintosh and PC, recently announced that it will provide support for Pertmaster Advance. Distribution and support for Pertmaster Advance in North America had been provided by Projectronix. However, the owners of PMA (Pertmaster International LTD, based in the U.K.) had been forced into receivership, and Projectronix was left without a product. MPI is honoring all existing support contracts for PMA, and will provide renewal contracts at $395 per year. MPI is also offering all PMA owners an option to upgrade to any MPI product for $200.
MARCHING TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER?
While the theme of this month's column is diversity, all of the products that have been discussed thus far would still fit under the category of traditional critical path scheduling software. Occasionally, as a project manager, you will have need for scheduling and resource management tools that are not CPM programs, or that work in conjunction with such programs. Here are some that might be of interest to our readers.
Sagacity is classified by the vendor, Erudite Corporation, as Assignment Modeling Method and Software. It is intended to aid the resource manager in optimizing the allocation of resources to meet a variety of project objectives. The user creates a model of the work to be performed, designating the acceptable time periods for each task, and the skills required to accomplish the task. To this database, the user also defines the resources to be available. Here, Sagacity differs from traditional software in that each resource can be noted to have more than one skill. For each skill, you may define a billing rate and skill level (productivity rate). Recognizing that the resource manager may have different priorities, relative to the use of resources and the accomplishment of project objectives, Sagacity allows the user to specify these priorities. Then it uses these rules to optimize the assignment of the resources to the tasks. The basic methodology, as expressed by Erudite, defines which task will be assigned to which resource, to use which skill, what percent of the time, at what level of effort, between which dates. Sagacity, a DOS program, retails for $1395.
If resource accounting and analysis is your priority, you may wish to look at Allegro, from the Allegro Group. Called a Resource Management System, Allegro provides a series of spreadsheet views to interrogate a resource/budget database. Typical views are labor hours by resource by month; hours per project (or unapplied) item by month (for each resource); unassigned (slack) time by resource by month; labor hours by resource by project/contract; expected receivables by contract by month for a specified client. Data can be historical/actuals and/or forecast. Data can be in hours, dollars and/or percent. Spreadsheet data can also be presented graphically and there are extensive custom reporting capabilities.
Please note that Allegro is not a project planning program, and has limited project planning depth and analysis. Any project can be broken down into sublevels (limited to three levels) using a work breakdown structure approach. The start and finish dates for each sublevel can be designated. Dollars and hours are spread across the date range. The program, therefore, is most applicable to analysis of a multiproject, multiresource environment that does not require detailed project scheduling.
An added feature of Allegro is the ability to add prospective projects to the database and to analyze their potential impact on the resources and cash flow of the business. Pricing will vary depending on the use level. A single-user version of this DOS program can run from $895 to $3495.
A much less expensive option, for time accounting, is Time$heet Professional, at $200.Time$heet Professional has recently been acquired by Timeslips Corporation, which has just released Version 2.0. Time$heet Professional is a system for tracking time and expenses for resources. Work can be organized by client, project, and task (or any of nine user-defined levels of a WBS-type hierarchy). Time and expense entries are made in a spreadsheet form, for each day, and the data is summarized by day, and by week for each line item. Task details can be recorded in a pop-up Note Pad, and expense records can be recorded in a pop-up Expense Pad. Extensive user-designed reporting is available.
A helpful option for project management software users is the $100 Time$heet Professional D/X Data Exchange Utility. The D/X software can exchange data with TimeLine, Microsoft Project for Windows, and SuperProject. Links to Project Workbench and Primavera were being developed as of this writing. With the D/X package you can import projects and tasks into the Time$heet Professional database. Once you have inputted time and expense data you can export the data back to the scheduling program.
A quick test of the system, using the import and export routines, produced satisfactory results. The import data, however, is limited to the task descriptions and resource designations. When you see the tasks, on the calendar, it does not show when the task was scheduled, or any details on the resource assignment (timing or loading).
In a future issue, we'll discuss some of the other computer-based tools for projects, such as estimating software and financial management software.
SUMMARY AND BUYER‘S GUIDE
Space limitations prevent us from providing a more detailed description of the products noted in this month's column. While the mention of any product herein should not necessarily be construed as a product recommendation, we do suggest that you contact these vendors, listed below, for additional information about the subject products.
Harvey A. Levine, president, Project Knowledge Group (35 Barney Road, Clifton Park, NY 12065) has been a practitioner of project management for over twenty-four years with General Electric Company and is a past chairman of PMI. Mr. Levine has been adjunct professor of project management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N. Y., and is the author of the book Project Management Using Microcomputers as well as several articles.
Organizations must invest in building a culture - and project teams - that can turn cutting-edge ideas into reality, according to new PMI research.