What’s wrong with a desktop tool anyway?

lgo_msp2003_medOften when I’m speaking in the blog people assume that when I say EPM System, that I mean one large integrated EPM package.  It’s an easy assumption to make.  But enterprise systems can be made up of a myriad collection of tools and if those systems are accompanied by a strong enterprise process, then they can be very effective.  With the new announcements this week on Project Desktop 2010 it has me thinking.

I teach Advanced Project Management at McGill from time to time and one of the things that I always challenge my students on is to challenge assumptions. And a challenge I love to throw at them is to prove to me that an enterprise system is better than individual systems.  I mean, if you’re an organization, it must be better to be integrated into a single enterprise system, mustn’t it? 

Well, that’s a good question and before we’re done I often have the students make a case for having project management integrated into an enterprise system or leaving individual project managers with their own tools.

This debate comes in handy when I’m consulting organizations who are certain they want to implement an enterprise system. 

“Why?” I’ll ask. 

This often takes them aback.  Aren’t I the salesperson who should be trying to push an enterprise system on them?

“What specific business benefits do you expect to realize,” I ask.  Sometimes the answers are obvious.  By far the most popular request is that the enterprise system help with resource capacity management and forward capacity planning. 

But there are a lot of paths to getting to your goals. 

With the incredible penetration of Project Desktop it’s interesting to think about how effective project managers might be if they continued to manage some of their workload as individuals and collaborated on other elements.

How about this for an idea:

Use Project Desktop as a desktop tool.  Let individual project managers manage their individual projects on their own.

Use SharePoint for the team communication and collaboration that has become so important in today’s fast-paced project management world.  Document management, work flow with forms and list management could all live there.  Even milestone management to track deliverables could be in SharePoint.

Use Excel Services to do resource aggregation at the highest skill level.  It won’t do resource levelling of course but that might not be the biggest challenge.  A graphical representation of resource overloads at the skill level might be enough to overcome the biggest demands of resource capacity planning; determining if there *is* a problem.

With the ability of Project Professional 2010 to now import a list of tasks from SharePoint 2010 and keep that task list synchronized and the new Team View there may be more and more organizations interested in making a Sharepoint/Project Desktop organizational environment.