Project Server 2010 – Just another blade of SharePoint?

lgo_msp2003_medI was talking last week about the announcement of Project Server 2010.  It’s part of a much larger communication of course.  The whole release that’s due in the first part of next year will be Office 2010 and that includes a whole pile of products.  It’s worthwhile keeping note of that because the new information available in Microsoft Project may well get lost in the noise of what is to come when the Office Marketing machine gets cranked up to full speed as it always does for a big launch.

One of the biggest elements of the Information Worker Division at Microsoft (that’s the part that releases business products like Office) is the next release of SharePoint.  SharePoint has become the go-to platform for Microsoft and almost every other part of Microsoft is working on leveraging it. 

What does this mean in practical terms?  It means that Microsoft Dynamics accounting software will have an interface based in SharePoint.  It means that the Browser-based interface of Visual Studio Team Services is based on SharePoint.  And, like the last 2 versions, it means that Project Server’s Web Access (PWA) Interface is based on SharePoint.  The interface of Project Portfolio Server has now been woven into the PWA interface also and therefore it too now is based on SharePoint.

Project Server is not the most algorithmic product.  It’s strength is not based on the incredible resource levelling calculation or it’s the flexibility of its critical path methodology calculations.  Project Server’s power is in being a collaborative project management tool.  For an organization that says “We’re not interested in collaboration.  We just want a heavy project scheduling calculation engine then working with a desktop product may be more appropriate.  There are many to choose from.  Primavera, Deltek and Planview all have desktop versions that are very powerful.  Even Microsoft Project Standard might be more palatable for that kind of requirement.

Project Server, however, is squarely targeting those interested in collaborative project management and SharePoint becomes a big part of that.  In fact, when you take the requirements apart, the ability of SharePoint to collaborate may make the addition of Project Server more of an afterthought and don’t think that Microsoft hasn’t thought of that already. 

Already when we go to clients who ask “Should we upgrade from Project Server 2003 to Project Server 2007 now or should we wait for Project Server 2010 next year?” the answer has little to do with the relative functionality in each version.

“What are your plans for SharePoint?” we ask.  If the company has already adopted SharePoint 2007 and has no intent to upgrade straight away next year, then we recommend Project Server 2007.  If the company is already committed to SharePoint 2010 or isn’t committed at all to a collaboration platform then we can consider waiting until the new version.  There’s plenty to do in the meantime if the plan is to go with 2010.  Architectural plans, pilot groups, training and system design can all be worked on now with an intent to roll out at the middle of next year.  The key is SharePoint.

Can we be that far away from Microsoft saying “Project Server is just another blade of a SharePoint Server?”

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