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Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007: A Good Project Management Resource? - Part 3

written by: Eric Stallsworth • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/12/2009

This article is part three, of the review of Microsoft Office Project 2007. In this third article, the Professional, Server, and Web Editions of MS Project 2007 are examined in-depth; answering the question if these particular editions are an effective resource for project managers.

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    In part one of this review, we talked a bit about the history of MS Project, the various versions on the market, and the requirements for installing it. In part two of this review, we discussed in detail the Standard edition of Project 2007. Now we will take a look at the Professional, Server, and Web editions of the software. We are examining these three because they are all inter-related, which I will demonstrate shortly. So, lets examine these editions and see where they fit in as effective project management resources.

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    Professional, Web Access, and Server editions

    In its basic format, the Professional edition of Project 2007 is identical to the Standard edition. What is gained in functionality however complements a more enterprise-level IT environment. The professional edition can be utilized as a standalone product, but to do so really hinders the software's ability to shine. After all, the cost difference between the two editions is significant, so not using the extra functions would be a true waste of money.

    However, in order to use the advanced functions of the Professional edition, you will need to have Project Server 2007 installed on a server as well. This setup gives you access to powerful collaboration tools, for example, being able to assign tasks to individuals on a project and have it appear on their task lists in Outlook. The software also allows for management of shared resources, something that is often difficult when you're one project manager in a large corporate environment. The professional edition of Project 2007 also helps to create reports across multiple projects, which can be run by different project managers.

    A significant advantage to the professional edition of MS Project 2007 is that project management team members can be selected using Active Directory. The benefits of an Active Directory domain - groups, distribution lists, etc - can help ease the management of resources and assignments for organizations. The ability to assign different levels of security access to project data based upon group membership is also an added advantage.

    In an organization where there are multiple projects, across multiple departments, with multiple project managers, Project Server is a useful necessity. The server edition is a great way to have a central repository of project data in the event that your environment is highly complex or where collaboration among the various project teams is essential. The advantage of having a central server for all of your project data means that everything can be backed up in one location. More project data can be utilized for reporting purposes, or resources can be allocated from across multiple projects or divisions due to its centralized location.

    There are some downsides to implementing Project Server 2007, though. For one thing, having all of your projects on a server creates a single point of failure (assuming you're not running a "farm" or multiple installations of Project Server). If the server crashes, all access to the project data is compromised. There is a cost therefore in providing ample backup and recovery assets, as well as the cost of the hardware to adequately run the server. Project Server 2007 requires the use of a SQL server, which in real terms means a second server just for the SQL database (in most environments).

    Project Server requires a great deal of computing resources to be highly responsive, so for most implementations you cannot put the Project server on the same hardware as the SQL server. The cost for licensing the server also depends upon your implementation, which can only be answered when you contact Microsoft (or a reseller) for pricing. And finally, your environment will need server administrators to manage the servers. If you're in an environment where Project Server 2007 seems like a good resource however, you most likely already have a dependable IT division to handle this.

    Project 2007 Web edition is an alternative interface that can be used along with Project 2007 Server edition. It is basically a thin-client for accessing the project data, whereas the Professional edition is a "thick-client". The per user licensing cost for the Web edition is less than providing everyone a full copy of Professional or Standard, since the cost is based upon how many Client Access Licenses (CALs) are purchased for Project 2007 Server. And access to project resources can still be managed via security on the Project server, in the same way it is handled for Project 2007 Professional edition users. When users log in, they have access to see any projects they have been assigned user rights.

    The software provides Gantt chart views just like the standalone versions, but it's in a web interface that loads and updates as data on the server is updated. Of course the functionality is diminished, but the full versions of Professional or Standard can be provided for those individuals who need those advance functions. Web edition is ideally for individuals who only need to be able to access the project data that affects them, such as teams assigned certain project tasks. Depending on permissions assigned, user can update their projects where necessary without the need for the full software, and they don't necessarily need to know how to use the full functionality that comes with Standard or Professional. This can save the organization money for both licensing as well as training costs.

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    Final Conclusions

    In whole Microsoft Office Project 2007 is a decent application, regardless of which edition you choose. The software provides a wealth of functionality and tools. It is important to decide which one is right for your environment of course, but they all are robust and very useful. There is a significant cost (both in hardware as well as licensing) to implement the software, depending on your choice of the Standard, Professional or Server edition. And the application may be overly complex or too much software, particularly for smaller environments. So there are some decisions to be made concerning your project management needs, but in most respects this application can fit the bill. Feel free to give it a try and see if it fits your project management needs.

Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007: A Good Project Management Resource?

This series reviews the viability of Microsoft Project 2007 for project management. The pros and cons of this software are discussed in detail, as well as what makes this a better or worse choice among the available choices in project management software.
  1. Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007: A Good Project Management Resource? - Part 1
  2. Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007: A Good Project Management Resource? - Part 2
  3. Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007: A Good Project Management Resource? - Part 3