Technology that adds power to a project manager’s toolkit for success has come a long way in recent years as the need to manage increasingly complex, costly and global projects effectively has increased. Now it has taken off into the cloud, with Microsoft leading the way.
Not everyone is convinced that this revolution is the way to go, harbouring concerns over issues such as information security and even the software itself. Others believe these doubts must be overcome if 21st century businesses are to flourish.
Sajan Parihar, group product manager leading Microsoft’s Project and Visio businesses, says the time has come for organisations to embrace the advances. It starts with choosing the right projects taking into consideration the cost, time and resource implications. “After that comes the project plan, and you need a solution that helps teams to collaborate as it progresses,” he says. “It’s becoming more important to have that collaboration in real-time, with everyone able to access all the appropriate documents, and the latest project data at all times.”
With 20 million users, Microsoft Project and Project Server are already as familiar to project managers as the Microsoft Office suite of software. Thanks to Project Online, offered through Microsoft’s cloud offering Office 365, these same tools are now available without the need to invest in expensive infrastructure, whatever operating system is on an individual user’s PC, Mac, laptop, tablet or phone.
Aligning investments with business priority sounds simple but, for many companies, these ideas are often hard to realise. With Project Online, such ideas are becoming a reality. Project Online enables businesses of all sizes to quickly start projects, prioritise project portfolio investments, and shorten the time-to-value. Creating and storing project documents, tracking project progress, assigning resources, entering timesheets, capturing issues and risks, generating reports, taking notes at online meetings and collaborating with colleagues and clients anywhere in the world in real-time are all now possible in the cloud.
Ita McAndrew, Office 365 product manager, says it is all helping businesses to innovate. “What’s exciting about the cloud is you can start with one set of tools and keep on building, such as adding Microsoft Office that everyone’s familiar with,” she explains. “We have created a platform where you can develop and evolve your experience, transforming a standard offering to one which can grow and be even more powerful.”
Gero Renker, director at Program Framework, a Microsoft gold PPM specialist and Cloud Accelerate partner, points to partner-led trials and case studies of major organisations that have already taken to the cloud to dispel further doubts. “It is so flexible and so straightforward to demonstrate,” he adds. “With very little effort you can set up a platform that talks the client’s language by having their terminology and project resources built in to create a functional prototype. It helps people to understand what it can do for them.”
There will soon be an additional tool in the cloud kit, as Microsoft is preparing for its May 1 launch of Project Lite, designed specifically for project team members and costing $7 per user a month.
Gero Renker, pictured above left at APM awards, is director at Program Framework