Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The future of project communication…

History has shown us that communication in project management has changed over the years and it will continue to change. 

If we look back 25 plus years, project management was mainly done by face to face meetings and telephone calls.  Project information was kept in a “Project Room” that held items like the WBS, Gantt chart and other paper project documents.

Approximately 20 years ago we saw internal company emails start up and then email escaped from the walls of our offices to the outside world in 1993.  This was a new form of communication which led us to share our thoughts, project updates and share project documents with our team members.  Here we saw the naysayers who thought email was counterproductive, impersonal and would lead to a higher rate of failed projects.

About 10 years ago we started to see the beginning of social media growing in blogs, discussion boards and social connections ( comes to mind).  In 2001 I lead a project to develop a web based project dashboard which had project sites that PM’s could post updates, issues log, risk log, action log and a document library.  We also had discussion boards within our Lotus email system and we created a section for employees to add a headshot, their background and their hobbies.  This allowed us to run our projects more efficiently since our company employees were located in 4 countries.

And here we are today.

Again, just like 20 years ago there are the naysayers of using new technologies to manage our projects (Glen Alleman who blogs at Herding Cats is a firm believer that the Project Management 2.0 is “IT centric, and marketing hype” and “Project communication is NOT done through the narrow pipe of a 128 character half duplex ASCII character set messaging system”).  It seems like this email thing has caught on?  But will project members really prefer to have a common location to get status updates, project discussions, information on team members and project documents?  Or will they prefer to continue to have project documents in a shared drive on a network you may not have access to and critical project information which is only in the head of the PM who is on vacation?

My prediction is the “New Generation of Project Mangers” (Gen-Y and part of Gen-X) will expect Web 2.0 type of communication in their projects because they have grown up with the internet and can see the power of collaboration applications like Facebook, wiki’s, blogs and discussion forums.

Notable Quote:

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."  -  Alvin Toffler

Sunday, January 03, 2010

EPM Live review

In my first PMO plug-in review I checked out pmPoint by Brightworks. Today I was able to take EPM Live for a test drive.

PMI awarded EPM Live their project of the year award in 2006 and 2007.

What we are looking for:
1. ~4 templates for 4 different types of projects (SDLC, smaller software projects, clinical trials, R&D projects)

2. Pull information from the templates into a dashboard for organization and executives review

3. Must be able to view and pull data from Microsoft Project documents within SharePoint

EPM Live was built on the familiar SharePoint features, the EPM Live solution delivers an integrated framework of Feature Rich Web Parts, Microsoft Office Add-ins, Pre-Built SharePoint Applications, Industry Best Practices SharePoint Templates, all of which are designed to work together to help the end user work smarter and more effectively.

You can start your free trail at:

I entered my information, to start my free trial, then it is a bit of phone tag with an EPM Live rep to set up a phone conference with a shared desktop demo. 

After the demo then you can make the decision if you just want to test it yourself on a trial site that is refreshed nightly (pmPoint trial site refreshes every 30 days) or pay for a couple of users for a couple of months (no refreshing of the site). I went the free route knowing that if I spent a couple of hours building up a site that the next morning it would be gone (keep this in mind if you are planning on showing anyone your hard work).  If you are planning on buying the application they also offer a hosted service to use their product on their server or you can install it on your own server.

Once logged in you enter the Project Center there is a drop-down to create a new project. Enter in a project name, select one of their 9 templates (they probably have more on their normal version; one of the templates is a PMBOK one) and enter the website name. Then it takes you to another screen to enter in some more project information to add data to help you select different types of projects within the overall PMO view.


Each template has its own dashboard view of a project. If you don’t like what is in it you can edit it (turn things on/off; add any other normal SharePoint bits and pieces). The above template has a lot of the items one would need for a normal project (risks, issues, status, documents ….); if you have a software development project you may want a different template with bugs listed on the main view.

Within most templates there is a task tab that is your timeline. You can upload your standard Project timeline in. You can use their Planner to update tasks, enter tasks (change column widths, change views, create views) or open with Project if you like. There are views built in or build your own (tasks for the next 7 days, just your tasks …). Using Project with it is seamless (edit, save and you are ready to roll).

Also, if you have a task that needs to occur across multiple projects you can share a resource.

Within each project there are Reports (issues, risks, budget, resources …). I really like the way their reports are set up, because I can select the report I want to view instead of the having the screen covered in 20 different metrics (If I like to look at two or three reports to see how things are going I can). Also, the reports use SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) so you can select the data set you want to see. It was nice to see this because we are already using SSRS within my organization to look at clinical data (quick and easy to get to the information you want to obtain). Some of the reports include graphs and charts and others are just columns of data.


Now if we take a step back … once we have multiple projects under the PMO, the PMO site has all the normal dashboard views one would want including views for team members on multiple projects so they can see their tasks across multiple projects.

Pros to the product:
1. If you use SharePoint already you have the skills to use EPM Live (if you like email alerts or any other normal SharePoint features it is there)

2. Edit your Project timelines within SharePoint or within Project (seamlessly)

3. Tasks have predecessor numbers within timelines; just like we are use to

4. Customizable; if you have SharePoint skills you can fix things to your liking

5. No clunky feel to it, I do not feel that a +500 task project would be to much info for this application

6. One task across multiple projects

7. Easy to use and read reports

8. Reports for the individuals within your organization

9. They also offer a timesheet application if you need to track that for billing issues

10. If your organization lives and breathes the PMBOK their project template includes suggested templates to use to capture project info (their document library includes documents in folders with the 5 process groups).

11. Monitor your resources across multiple projects

1. It may take a bit more customization (with EPM Live support) to get the reports customized for your needs and reporting info to your dashboards.

2. It may take a bit of training of PMs (and monitoring) to get them up to speed.

3. Cost. If you are a large company the cost will be a drop in the bucket of your IS yearly costs. If you are a small company it may be to costly of an application.

Overall, EPM Live looks to be a very robust application. I’m sure it would take a few months to get it up and running with the right templates for your organizational needs, followed by several more months of moving existing data sets into the new system. If money was no object, I would choose EPM Live.

Links on other reviews: