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The Center for Community Collaboration Technologies
Specification Writing for Web-based
Project Planning Software
M1 deliverable: Comparables Analysis Product/Service Selection List and Analysis Data Collection Model
Document status: Version 1.0 - Completed and accepted as meeting the M1 deliverable.
Authors: Jim Salmons and Frank Castellucci
Copyright (c) 2000 - Frank Castellucci and Jim Salmons, All rights reserved.
Project URL: http://sohodojo.com/techsig/project-planning-project.html
sXc Project detail: http://sourcexchange.com/ProjectDetail?projectID=24 (SourceXchange is out of business.)
Project coordination: Sohodojo
Sponsors: Position open
Sponsors (M1-3): Opendesk.com and Collab.Net
Item: Milestone 1 Deliverable
Format: Plain text
File name: sxc24-m1-deliverable.txt
Version 1.1: Edited Role section of Data Capture Outline
Overview and Insights
This document, being the Milestone 1 deliverable for CCCT Project #1, consists of this introduction followed by two primary sections:
The Comparables Analysis Approach
For the purposes of the comparable product/service analysis, our goal is to walk a fine line between a 'ruthless focus' on the scope of this spec -- which is 'general purpose project planning' -- and the needs and interests of the Open Source development community -- which is naturally skewed toward the more specific domain of 'software development project management'.
This 'dynamic tension' of keeping both the project-specific focus in mind along with the more 'forward-looking' perspective of project management will contribute to the overall success of the project:
The 'general purpose project planning' project focus means that we will produce a spec for a software solution which is useful to the widest range of prospective users.
The 'general purpose project planning' perspective also ensures that our initial spec will not be so grand as to require a 'next step' that would be so complex as to require a large team, lots of time and heavy funding. Our goal is to define and subsequently achieve incremental steps toward the more rigorous domain of project _management_, especially as it applies to software development lifecycle methodologies.
By keeping the 'forward-looking' aspects of project management for the Open Source development community in mind, we'll reduce the risk of developing a spec which is too simplistic and/or too general.
By recognizing the future requirements of the Open Source development community, we'll be more likely to garner community-interest and participation in this project.
And by recognizing the future requirements of the Open Source development community with regard to software development project management, we are acknowledging the "Here's what we need to grow into, even though we'll start with a relative 'baby step'."
All this being said, we are still clear on the scope of this project which is 'general purpose project planning'.
Part 1 - The Recommended Product/Service Mix for the Analysis
Our recommended selection of products and services for the 'comparables analysis' is a mix of web-based services as well as network and single-user applications. The emphasis, however, is toward a selection of currently emerging web-based services rather than the application offerings.
This mix, with its emphasis on web-based services, was selected for a variety of reasons including the following:
Our project focus, as stated in the RFP and showcased in the project title, is clearly 'web-based project planning'.
Web technologies enable _qualitatively_ different collaboration models than have been explored in the more long-standing, single-user (project manager) application offerings.
Although the emerging web services are important to the analysis, the years of development and refinement of project planning software applications marketplace is an important source of insights into the underlying models of the problem space and into associated user interaction models.
Recommended Products and Services for Core Team Analysis
The following WEB-BASED SERVICES (in alpha order) are to be included in the comparables analysis to be performed by the project's core team (Frank and Jim):
Rationale: eProject.com is a 2.5 year-old, Seattle-based, innovative Internet start-up which is extremely active and growing in the web-based project management and team collaboration marketplace. eProject.com has a comprehensive and flexible service offering, eProject Encompass, including Express (free), Premium (pay per user/project), Anywhere (Palm and Wireless/Internet solutions), Enterprise Hosted, Enterprise On-Site and Custom Solutions. The eProject.com marketing and technology-development emphasis is on scalable, general-purpose, 'anybody-anywhere' web-services business model. eProject.com is a good complement to the software development project services, such as SourceForge, included in the analysis.
PowerSteering (Cambridge Interactive)
Rationale: PowerSteering is a fee based hosted or installed project planning environment. It is has a strong focus on collaboration and configuration management with such features as document sharing with permission and access models, on-line chat, event and alert notification, and discussion groups. The Task Management function supports request and sign off configuration management, project and personal task lists, some constraint capability and a number of reporting (GANNT, Time line) features. PowerSteering also supports importing and exporting to MS Project.
SourceForge (VA Linux)
Rationale: SourceForge is a publicly available software project hosting environment. It includes common tools for planning (Task Manager), hosting (free Web site up to 100 Mb), collaboration and includes such features as surveys, threaded forums, mailing lists and a separate chat area. SourceForge also offers some configuration management capability such as Bug Tracking, CVS, and recently a lite documentation management capability. As it is open source as well, you can download and setup your own systems. It boasts the largest number of hosted Open Source Software projects.
Rationale: WebProject is an installed project planning environment. It is very strong on collaboration (in addition to the features found in PowerSteering, it adds Threaded Discussions and EIS drill down) as well as an extremely rich project reporting and analysis features. It also has cross project resource pools (one of the functional areas identified for our project spec), and cross project resource loading. It has access configuration allowing most permission aspects of the system to be set. Like the other candidates WebProject is host and client platform independent and does not require plug ins to operate. Allows interchange with MS Project.
Rationale: X-Community is a web-based hosted service offering of X-Collaboration Software Corporation. Using their own words, the X-Community service offering allows "business-to-business professionals to create secure and productive working communities on the Web." The X-Community platform supports a 'neutral' project collaboration client-side plug-in as well as a tight integration with MS Project (presumably using the Project Central feature-set).
The following SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS (in alpha order) are to be included in the comparables analysis to be performed by the project's core team (Jim and Frank):
FastTrack Schedule (AEC Software)
Rationale: Like MS-Project, to look at this product category and not include AEC's FastTrack Schedule would be a gross oversight. While MS-Project has evolved into a heavyweight 'platform', AEC has remained true to a simplicity-is-power design point. AEC Software is a long-standing market-leader and product innovator. Their earliest and landmark products were Macintosh-based. AEC currently supports Windows, Mac and Palm operating systems.
'Avantos' ManagePro (Performance Solution Technologies)
Rationale: An aging classic in an 'low-key' state following its developer, Avantos, going out of business. This 'undiscovered' gem was acquired by Performance Solutions Technology and has recently seen its first update, to version 4.0, since the technology acquisition. ManagePro moved project planning software from 'rocket science' to 'people science'. ManagePro is full of user groupware and user interface innovations and refinements which have been rarely equaled. This is a Windows-based offering available in single-user and networked multi-user configurations. (Co-author Jim's long-time, much-respected favorite.)
MS Project 2000 (Microsoft)
Rationale: A long-standing market-leader mentioned in the original SourceXchange Wish List entry and the resulting RFP. The current incarnation, MS Project 2000, is a big step in Microsoft Project's product evolution from a simple single-user application into a 'project management platform' with configurations from single local-user, through groupware-networked and web-based configurations.
MS Project Central (Microsoft)
Rationale: Described as a companion product, but perhaps part of the basic product bundle, MS Project Central is the 'productization' and extension of a growing list of MS Project features which support HTML/XML file formats and IP connectivity. Although these product features can be used in intranet and user-hosted extranets, there are already commercial application service provider offerings (such as WebProject and X-Community) which support MS Project's new web-service features. So looking at this product offering will be very complementary to our look at the web-based services to be included in the comparables analysis.
Enact Enterprise System (Netmosphere/CriticalPath)
Rationale: Netmosphere was recently acquired by CriticalPath, a move which will add significant marketing and distribution muscle to this innovative web-based project planning and management platform. The current offering, Enact Enterprise System, is an evolutionary integration and extension of Netmosphere's earlier offerings, ActionPlan and ProjectHomePage. The Netmosphere Collaboration Server can be accessed by Java-enabled browsers or from a Java-based client desktop/application. The underlying data model supports roles, organizations, and user aliases (a mechanism for associating one person with multiple organizations). Multi-actor to single role and 'actor pools' are supported, etc. On the project management side of things, Enact provides a flexible dynamic project stakeholder view-generator with easy-to-use view configuration tool for use by the project planner and/or manager. There are announcements of upcoming application service provider offerings based on this platform.
PlanBee (Guy Software)
Rationale: Guy Software's PlanBee is a popular and widely available shareware offering in the project planning category. This is a Windows-based application supporting single-user local client and multi-user networked configurations.
Our Plan for Contributed Product and Service Analyses
Part 2 of this document describes a data collection outline which can be used by interested, volunteer Open Source community members to perform and report product and service assessments similar to those performed by the core team for the primary analysis.
As part of a 'baseline assessment', we performed and published keyword searches on the terms 'project planning' and 'project management', using the Copernic search tool. The results of these searches are available on the project website at http://sohodojo.com/techsig/ppp-keyword-search-results.html and may be mined for product and service offerings in addition to those known by personal experience.
A sample of the applications which community members might evaluate include the following (in alpha order):
While we cannot guarantee that community-contributed experience reports and evaluations will be included in project deliverables, community members are encouraged to announce and subsequently distribute their contributions on the project's mailing list. Contributors' file-based deliverables will be added to the project's document archive and added to the working document link page on the project's public website. Additional information about community involvement will be announced on our project home page at http://sohodojo.com/techsig/project-planning-project.html.
Part 2 - The Analysis Data Capture Model
The Analysis Data Capture Model is presented in the form of an outline to be used by the core team and volunteer community members to guide product and service assessments. The purpose of the data capture model is to assure a wide-ranging and consistent assessment across a diverse range of product and service offerings.
The intent of the assessment is NOT to be a rigorous, fine-grained product or service offering _comparison_. (We're not ZDLabs, in other words.) Rather, it is our intent to 'take the pulse' of product and service offerings with an eye toward understanding the 'state of the art' in web-based project planning and project management. This assessment will give us insights into how others have modeled the problem and handled the substantial user interface challenges of this domain. The insights and information developed during our 'comparables analysis' will provide a solid foundation on which we will then specify the functional requirements which are the substance of this project's final deliverable.
The 'Analysis Data Capture Outline' is maintained as a separate document, named 'sxc24-analysis-data-capture-outline.txt', maintained in the project's working document archive. The content of that file is supplied in the following section.
The Analysis Data Capture Outline
The intent of this document is to provide feedback from analysis of products that are comparable to the general goals of the project. The focus is on key technological areas with an overriding concern with regard to role collaboration capability.
Name of offering
URL for more information
Type - one or more of local client, client/server, web service, etc.
Assessment based on hands-on experience or info-only?
Software Limitations (operating systems, plug-ins, drivers)
Implementation Limitations (number of projects, tasks per projects, users, roles)
Does the software assume a specific project management methodology, if so which one(s)?
What is the interaction model? (Real-time dynamic views, publish/subscribe, email, user queries, etc.)
When used in project planning mode, is team communication support?
When used in project monitoring mode (more modest a target than project management), how is team member interaction handled? ('project-manager-centric' or peer interaction; is there an ad hoc issue management facility, etc.)
What are the 'key indicators' used to keep project team members and stakeholders informed of the state of the project?
Does the product or service's concurrency features facilitate or hinder team member collaboration?
What is the 'person/role' model?
How are 'person/role' elements related to 'organization/group' elements?
Can one person fill many roles? Can one role be filled by many persons? (resource/skill pools, etc.)
Single or multi-user
What is the implementation technology supporting concurrency?
Interchanges support (MS Project, XML, RDF, etc.)
Import/Export (MS Project, text, etc.)
Project Proposal Management
Business Processing Rules
Implementation Specific Rules
Relationship to Task Management
Business Processing Rules
What is the 'activity/task' model?
How are roles related to activity/tasks?
Is the product/service 'project-manager-centric' or can team members extend and/refine the plan within the realm of their own activity?
Views: Predefined, user-configurable or both
Status reporting mechanisms (percent complete reports, 'flag-raising' or issue management features)
How are consumable/required task-specific resources handled?
Task Dependency Internal (intra-project)
Task Dependency External (inter-project)
Resource constraints (expressed as percentage)
User defined constraints
Pre-defined, user-defined or both
Publisher-push by project manager or team member dynamic views?
Role Template library?
Repetitive Task library?
Analysis and Reporting
Is there an interface to a 'reputation-building' rating system for team members? If so, is there a 'disputed assessment' system to resolve conflicting opinions?
User Interface: Strengths/Weaknesses
Project Modeling: Strengths/Weaknesses
Technology Platform: Strengths/Weaknesses
Overall 'Wow' factor: 1 (low) to 5 (high)
### end of document sxc24-m1-deliverable.txt ###
© 1998-2010 Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky for Sohodojo excepting project web pages and documents which are published under the appropriate Open Source documentation license.
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