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In part one of this review, we talked a bit about the history of the software, the various versions that are available, and the requirements for installing the software. So now we will begin examining the Standard version in more detail. We'll take an in-depth look at what makes this a good tool for project management. We'll also take a look at what are some negatives of this version - as well as Project 2007 in general - and in which scenarios it is most effective. So lets dive in and see what pearls we find.
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Project 2007, Standard Edition
The Standard edition of Project 2007 - as well as the Professional edition - is a pretty hefty piece of software. This is one of the first negatives that can be said about any of the Microsoft Office Suite products. They all are huge programs requiring a significant amount of disk space. The installation is fairly straightforward and if you choose a Typical installation, it becomes an exercise in Next -> Next -> Next -> Finish. Depending on your needs, you may want to choose a Custom installation but if you already have other Office products installed, you're better off not trying to change the default path. You want to install Project into the same path as the rest of your Office products.
For one thing, there are a lot of files that the Office Suite share so there's no sense installing the files multiple times in multiple locations. Another reason is that there is a great deal of interconnectivity between all the Office products, so its just a good idea to keep all those eggs in one basket. The one other thing you want to do once you finish the install is go out to the Windows update site (Office 2007 products use Windows Update rather than Office Update) and check for any necessary updates post-installation. There aren't usually very many that correspond to Project, but its always a good idea to check anyway.
When you first launch Project 2007 - after getting past the obligatory Microsoft welcome screen - you are presented with an empty Gantt chart. Assuming you already have all of your project planning done, you can immediately get started by inputting tasks within the left pane. The right pane displays the data in a summary bar chart, and this can also be adjusted as necessary. For more information on Project 2007 and creating Gantt charts, feel free to read a well-written article (if I may say so myself) on the subject here.
By clicking on the View menu item, you can easily switch to the Resources sheet. Here you can track all the necessary resources of your project, whether it includes people or equipment. By clicking on the Gantt chart using the View menu item, you can track costs for your project via the View -> Table:Cost -> Cost menu item. You can also switch via the View item to check out the Calendar (to see what items are coming up in the near future) or turn on the Project Guide. The Project Guide is an exceptionally useful tool to provide you help within Project 2007. If you're unfamiliar with the interface, the Project Guide gives you multiple links that will help document and manage your various projects. I would be the first to admit that Microsoft software can leave something to be desired sometimes with respect to their help files. But the help system in Project 2007 - and actually the rest of the Office 2007 Suite - is fairly well done.
Within the View menu, there is actually another link called 'more views...", which provides access to a exhaustive list of tools. In fact, Project 2007 is so robust that it can most likely help any size project management office. Its fair to say however, that this could be a hindrance to significantly small businesses with no designated project manager. While Project 2007 can definitely help you manage any project you throw at it, the amount of features, tools and options can be too daunting for some.
That's not to say that it is complex to use for simple project management, but the sheer volume of options can take your breath away. And for some environments, its too much software. There are features and tools that may never get used, except in specific organizations. For example, Project 2007 even provides the availability to create PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) charts, which is a useful methodology that was created by the United States Navy during the 1950's. PERT charts are a way to display a project as if it were a network diagram, and some project managers find this particular tool very useful. This is an advanced project management tool however, so if your environment is fairly bland and ordinary, Project 2007 could be too much software for your needs.
Project 2007 has a fairly robust reporting engine as well. By clicking on the Report -> Reports... menu item, you choose from different reports organized by category. The Workload category for instance provides you access to reports concerning resource usage or task usage. Or you can view different scenarios using the Assignments... reporting category. By clicking on the Report -> Visual Reports... menu item, you get access to a large number of templates for reporting purposes. Project again shows its usability in virtually all environments due to the number of options available. This is another example of how the software can be daunting to small or very basic environments however.
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The Standard version of Project 2007 is a fairly robust project management tool. There are tools for managing resources and costs. There is a very robust reporting system within the software as well. The creation of Gantt charts and task management is simple as well, making this a very useful tool in general. The application's robust tools however can be a positive or it can be a negative, depending on your project management infrastructure. For smaller environments, the software can definitely be overkill.
Project 2007 can handle any project management scenarios, but the problem is that there's almost too much to the software package that becomes unnecessary in certain circumstances. If you add to that the cost of the software, this is definitely a negative investment for smaller project management environments. But for all other scenarios, Project 2007 can handle it all. The features missing in the Standard edition deal with collaboration and teamwork. But these are provided amply within the Professional and Server versions, which will be dealt with more in-depth in part 3 of this review.
Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007: A Good Project Management Resource? - Part 2
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.