Microsoft Project Server 2010Well, we told you it was coming and now the release of Microsoft Project and Project Server is just about upon us. On May 1st, Microsoft’s Enterprise clients and its partners will be able to access the official release of Microsoft Project 2010 and Microsoft Project Server 2010. While the official name of the products has dropped the word “Office” (It was quite a mouthful), both products continue to be part of the Microsoft Office family of products and will be released at the same time.

That’s not an accident.

Microsoft has made it quite clear that its strategy is to leverage client’s interest in one product line by tying it to another. The Office group has done this very successfully. You don’t think anymore of just buying Word or just buying Excel. No, you buy one of the bundles of Office and those products are contained within it.

Project and Project Server will continue to have their own licneces and aren’t available as part of any of the Office bubdles for now but there a bunch of other things that have changed.

Say bye-bye to Office Project Portfolio Server
One big change is how Microsoft has rolled some of the most popular Portfolio Selection functionality from Portfolio Server 2007 into Project Server 2010. There will not be a Portfolio Server 2010 product and, while existing users of Portfolio Server 2007 will see updates of that stand-alone product for some time, any new development on Portfolio management will focus on Project Server.

Did you say 32bit? Bite your tongue!
It’s all 64 all the time for server installations now. Installing Project Server will no longer be possible on a 32bit version of Windows Server. The new 64bit architecture makes a lot more memory available to Project Server but may cause some companies to take pause as the consider the costs of hardware.

Project Standard and Project Professional will still work on both 64bit and 32 bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows7.

Gotta love SharePoint
Previous versions of Project Server could be installed with either the free Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) of the licensed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). (Don’t you love how many acronyms we use in this industry?) Project Server will require users to have a MOSS license. The system will now longer support just the free WSS. This may be a license cost issue for some users.

So that’s the bad news. What’s the good news?
There’s good news in this release in a couple of areas. First of all, the underlying architecture of Project Server and Project Desktop hasn’t changed since 2007 and that will almost certainly mean the stability of the product at release time will be better than 2007 was.

Rather than rewriting the system’s architecture, there are new features that should be popular including Project Data Pages that allow Project data questionaires to be gathered online and then woven into a workflow, some improvements in the timesheet that will be great for those tring to do a full timesheet week and then update the project progress, some easier dashboarding tools that should allow people with intermediate skills to create great graphical representations of their data and, of course, the aforementioned Portfolio Selection functionality.

On the Desktop look for a distinction between Project Standard and Project Professional that will no doubt result in some kind of push to have people upgrade to the more powerful version.

Project Professional will have a new Timeline View and a new Team Management view which I think will go over well.
The scheduling tool will not default to automatic scheduling and you’ll be able to enter a description rather than a duration iin the duraton column as a sort of placeholder for the data to be entered later. Purists may howl at this. It’s another sign of how Microsoft Project has become so ubiquitous and how the product must now cater much more to non professional project managers.

Expect the Microsoft marketing beast to crank up to a fever pitch in the coming weeks. It’s already been moving forward at a pedestrian speed for months but as the product hits the market, Microsoft will do what it does best as it announces everything new in the Office 2010 family of products.