Sohodojo and Communities of the Future proudly host...
M2 Product/Service Profile: eProject Express
Date: 06 Aug 2000
Copyright (c) 2000 Jim Salmons
Associated project: Specification Writing for Web-based Project Planning Software
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
Core Team: Jim Salmons and Frank Castellucci
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 in regards to role collaboration capability.
2 Product/Service Profile [ All assessments, this topic ]
2.1 Name of offering
2.3 URL for more information
2.4 Type - one or more of local client, client/server, web service, etc.
Web-hosted, server-based with browser-based client
Express service is free.
eProject offers ancillary services (like CD-ROM project archiving) at its service hosting website. A wide range of advanced, wireless, enterprise hosted and enterprise in-house services are scheduled for Fall 2000 introduction.
A significant upgrade to the Express service is expected to roll out concurrently with the Fall introduction of eProject.com's advanced services. It appears that the Express level service will continue to be offered as a free service even after the upgrade.
2.6 Assessment based on hands-on experience or info-only?
The Express service is free. The reviewer created a new user account and exercised the system to confirm and supplement the on-site information supplied on the eProject website.
2.7 Reviewer comments
The eProject website is very 'back to basics' clean and simple. The 'first impression' is very good. The new account sign up procedure is quick and simple. No hitches. No too personal stuff. I didn't get the feeling that they were 'setting you up for the ponce' of a later sales job.
3 System Constraints [ All assessments, this topic ]
3.1 Physical Limitations
eProject Express is a web-based, real-time system requiring the user to be connected and interactive with the server.
The eProject Anywhere service to be rolled out this Fall will add wireless and enhanced mobile connections. Presumably this means that asynchronous 'download, detach, and merge updates' connection features will be enhanced. For now, it's basic browser-based direct connect.
3.2 Software Limitations (operating systems, plug-ins, drivers)
The current Express service is 100% web-based, server-based interaction through a client web browser. It appears that the current service is in the HTML 3.2 level of portability. As with most things, however, having an up-to-date browser would help.
As a server-mediated interaction, you are at the mercy of connection speed. It was tolerable on a cable modem.
3.3 Implementation Limitations (number of projects, tasks per projects, users, roles)
The current eProject Express service is 'ruthlessly simple'. It is obviously a clean and simple indicator of 'good things to come'. In other words, the Fall upgrade sounds like a near essential before you would want to use this for a real project of any complexity.
The current system is a 'Person/User'-centric. A Task can be assigned to only one Person.
There is a very limited sense of Roles, being Team Member and Project Manager roles. However, the assignment to either of these 'roles' has few implications in the current implementation. Team Members can create and 'manage' Projects. The Team Member's 'Person/User' Directory is limited to new entries he/she creates within this 'scope'.
The task-time granularity is 'daily'. There is no provision for time within a day in this release.
3.4 Does the software assume a specific project management methodology, if so which one(s)?
The 'Ruthlessly Simple' school.
3.5 Reviewer Comments
As a placeholder for the roll-out of a future upgrade, it is very basic but very credible as far as it goes. These are the kind of basic HTML interfaces that we should shoot for in the platform to be developed based on the spec of this project.
4 Collaboration [ All assessments, this topic ]
4.1 What is the interaction model? (Real-time dynamic views, publish/subscribe, email, user queries, etc.)
This is a server-based, real-time system supplemented by email notification messaging.
4.2 When used in project planning mode, is team communication supported?
Yes. The system provides easily accessible checkboxes to allow the project planner to send assignment and change notifications to task assignees. Once a task is created, it is live in the system and the Task Creator and the Task Assignee can write 'progress notes' against it. When completed, email notification is sent as determined by the Task Creator at task creation time.
There is a 'Messages' facility that works like a project-specific BBS which facilitates communication between team members.
But bottom line, this is 'ruthlessly simple' project planning. A project is essentially a Task List with associated documents, messages and people.
4.3 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.)
Again, the current Express service is very basic. While the underlying assumption is interactive browser-based access, the user has handy checkboxes (with 'usual case' selections made) that provide team member email notification. There is usually a choice to 'copy yourself' with email confirmations and notifications.
Tasks have a very simple 'progress report' comment thread that allows the Task Assignee and Task Author to post messages back and forth.
4.4 What are the 'key indicators' used to keep project team members and stakeholders informed of the state of the project?
The task list has elementary task status filters; 'All incomplete tasks', 'All overdue tasks', 'All completed tasks', etc.
When creating or editing tasks and document resources, the user is given the opportunity to have email notifications when the task is changed or document updated.
This is a very entry level service at this time. Since the project are currently little more than simple task lists, there is limited need for state-aggregating 'key indicators'.
4.5 Does the product or service's concurrency features facilitate or hinder team member collaboration?
Again, the simplicity of the current offering sets an overall limited expectation. The eProject.com folks have done of good job of designing a 'balanced set' of tools/features in this initial Express release. While it is not rocket science, the features are well thought out. For example, the Document file sharing system provides privacy permission setting, 'opt-in' email change notification, and helpful file descriptors and folder storage.
The Task/Person model is very elementary. The features are so basic, that 'concurrency conflicts' are of limited concern here.
The Messages facility and the Documents storage system, encourage project-based team communication.
The Calendar tool/feature suffers the same weaknesses that ANY web-based calendar has; connection speed latency, HTML rendering limits. Here the features are so limited that the Calendar system does not do much to facilitate teaming. It is more of a 'Project Event Notice Board' than a multi-user calendaring/collaboration system.
One clever feature for Windows-based Outlook and Outlook-compatible address books and calendar products, the Event and Person/User displays have graphic buttons to 'download' event and contact records into the Outlook calendar and address book, respectively. While it is a 'bonus' feature for Windows Outlook users, the eProject Express platform is _not_ dependent on Outlook integration.
4.6 Security features
While the Express feature set is quite basic, the system designers have done a good job of providing flexible security in this release. The Documents storage system supports access permissions by Person/User.
Task can be designated public or private.
Events can be set with restricted access by Person/User.
4.7 Reviewer Comments
For a simple offering, it is well-thought out. Document sharing is strong. The Calendar and Task List features are currently of limited utility. But given this 'kick-off' release, eProject.com is one to watch in this marketplace.
5 Role Support [ All assessments, this topic ]
5.1 What is the 'person/role' model?
In a word for this release, minimal. There is a very limited sense of Roles, being Team Member and Project Manager roles. However, the assignment to either of these 'roles' has few implications in the current implementation. Team Members can create and 'manage' Projects. The Team Member's 'Person/User' Directory is limited to new entries he/she creates within this 'scope'.
In addition to the 'explicit roles', there are 'implicit roles' that Person/Users dynamically assume as they create tasks, create document resources, create events and messages, etc. For example, a Task has a Task Author and a Task Assignee. In the same way, there are Document Owners and Editors.
5.2 How are 'person/role' elements related to 'organization/group' elements?
Person/Users are created as either Project Manager or Team Member roles. This assignment is made within the User Management subsystem. But as described elsewhere, this 'role' assignment is of limited implications.
Organizations do not apply at a model level. In the Person/User data record, there is a field for the User's company/organization affiliation. It is, therefore, a 'thin' one-to-one element in this release.
There are Groups which are subsets of Person/Users. Groups can be applied to assignments of Events and Documents. Groups are NOT assignable to Tasks. (I thought this might be a 'work-around' for the current limitation of a Task being assignable to only one Person/User.
5.3 Can one person fill many roles? Can one role be filled by many persons? (resource/skill pools, etc.)
No. But as mentioned, roles in the current release are more like 'Access Permission Level' assignments rather than Roles.
5.4 Reviewer Comments
It will be interesting to see what the 'second generation' Express offering is this Fall. At present, the current design limitations make the Express service of limited value in a complex domain, like software development project planning/management.
6 Concurrency [ All assessments, this topic ]
Concurrency is defined by the implementations locking and transaction model. As such, the granularity of the locking will determine the liveliness of the system. The finer the granularity of locking, the more lively the interactions may be. Another aspect of concurrency is in regards to work-flow and the transaction model, does the system support "conversational or long-term transactions" for example.
6.1 Single or multi-user
Multi-user, real-time, server-based.
6.2 What is the implementation technology supporting concurrency?
Based on the URLs during interaction, '.ASP' filename extensions and mile-long gobbledy-goop session management parameterizations, it appears that the eProject.com servers are Microsoft IIS type. This is a crude guess.
6.3 Revision Management
Very limited. There are numerous change notification features, but these are mostly 'after the event' notices. The Documents store feature does not do versioning. eProject.com has recently offered a 'pay-per' and subscription-based CD-ROM project back up service which give a level of 'version accumulation', but it is not true version management.
6.4 Reviewer Comments
7 Accessibility [ All assessments, this topic ]
The current release uses very simple HTML, well-designed. It is full server-based browser-neutral interaction.
7.2 Interchanges support (MS Project, XML, RDF, etc.)
There is a clever, low-key export feature to transfer calendar Event and Person/User records into Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is not, however, required to use any of the feature of eProject Express.
7.3 Import/Export (MS Project, text, etc.)
See above. The transfer is one-way; export from the eProject system to the user's Outlook client.
7.4 Mobile Users
The current release assumes a connected user. eProject has announced eProject Anywhere which will add wireless and advanced mobile features. The release is projected for the Fall of this year.
7.5 Reviewer Comments
8 Project Proposal Management [ All assessments, this topic ]
8.1 Vision/Goals specification
8.2 Business Processing Rules
8.3 Implementation Specific Rules
8.4 Reviewer Comments
9 Requirements Management [ All assessments, this topic ]
9.1 Documentation Controls
The Documents storage system provides change notification and permission-based restricted access. But there are no active change management.
9.2 Relationship to Task Management
9.3 Implementation Specific Rules
9.4 Business Processing Rules
9.5 Reviewer Comments
10 Task Management [ All assessments, this topic ]
10.1 What is the 'activity/task' model?
This is a very limited release. A Project is a simple list of Tasks. Tasks may be assigned to ONE Person/User.
10.2 How are roles related to activity/tasks?
10.3 Is the product/service 'project-manager-centric' or can team members extend and/refine the plan within the realm of their own activity?
This release is a kind of 'free for all' system. Team members can create Tasks, Events, Documents, Messages. The creators of these 'system items' are maintained as 'owners' and other Person/Users assigned or given access are 'Assignees'. So, yes, in a manner, team members can elaborate their portions of a project. But these are VERY BASIC projects.
10.4 Views: Predefined, user-configurable or both
Predefined, not much configuration. The designers have done a good job of making the system useful with plain and effective 'back to basics' HTML interfaces.
10.5 Status reporting mechanisms (percent complete reports, 'flag-raising' or issue management features)
The Task List view supports various 'progress/completion' status filters. Each Task has a 'comment thread' associated with it that is used for progress reports.
A nicely thought out email confirmation/notification system is provided.
10.6 How are consumable/required task-specific resources handled?
They are not.
10.7 Reviewer Comments
11 Task Constraints [ All assessments, this topic ]
11.1 Task Dependency Internal (intra-project)
11.2 Task Dependency External (inter-project)
11.3 Resource constraints (expressed as percentage)
11.4 User defined constraints
11.5 Reviewer Comments
The current release is 'ruthlessly simple' service. Projects are little more than a 'TODO' list. But, in fairness, this release is a placeholder for market development and branding. The true measure of this service offering will be its announced major upgrade and new service offering to be released this Fall.
12 Reporting [ All assessments, this topic ]
12.1 Pre-defined, user-defined or both
There are limited on-screen list and item views, pre-defined.
12.2 Publisher-push by project manager or team member dynamic views?
There is a simple 'change/update' email notification system in support of the on-line interactive system.
12.3 Stakeholder-specific views?
Not really. This is a 'free for all, one for all, all for one' system. So, to an extent, anyone on the system is a 'stakeholder' and all views are 'stakeholder' views.
12.4 Multi-project analysis
Yes and no. Each Person/User can create many Projects. But each one is 'stand-alone'. There is not across-project aggregations.
12.5 What-if analysis
12.6 Security features
In reporting terms, the user views are restricted by user log-on.
12.7 Reviewer Comments
13 Multi-project Management [ All assessments, this topic ]
13.1 Role Template library?
13.2 Repetitive Task library?
13.3 Reviewer Comments
This is VERY BASIC stuff in this release.
14 Post Mortem [ All assessments, this topic ]
14.1 Analysis and Reporting
14.2 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.
14.3 Reviewer Comments
15 Subjective Impressions [ All assessments, this topic ]
15.1 User Interface: Strengths/Weaknesses
The vCard and vCalendar export feature is a nice unobtrusive 'value-add'.
The assignment of Person/Users to Tasks, Events and Documents uses a nice pop-up and select one-or-more Person/Users interface.
The Documents interface is simple and effective.
Overall, this is a good example of how well a 'back to basics' approach to interface design can improve an offering.
15.2 Project Modeling: Strengths/Weaknesses
Realistically, the Task features of the current Express release are so limited that it is not a practical solution for 'real world' complex projects.
The Document system is a good example of 'simple and practical' design.
15.3 Technology Platform: Strengths/Weaknesses
Although it is very limited in its design scope, eProject Express is 'back to basics' simple and portable. No plug-ins. No platform-specific stuff.
15.4 Overall 'Wow' factor: 1 (low) to 5 (high)
15.5 Reviewer Comments
The current eProject offering is essentially a 'placeholder' for this start-up to get into the marketplace. Clearly, the next release will be critical to this company's competitive position.
As a 'ruthlessly simple' take on project planning, however, there are lessons to be learned here in terms of doing the basics effectively with no frills.
16.0 Reviewer Profile
16.1 Reviewer name: Jim Salmons
16.2 Reviewer email: [snip]
16.3 Reviewer URL: http://sohodojo.com
16.4 Evaluation performed: 05 Aug 2000
16.5 I DO NOT work for, or have an undisclosed relationship with, the author or publisher of the evaluated product or service:
16.6 Reviewer Comments: [Optionally tell us about your experience, interests or opinions about project planning and management.]
Version 0.9 - Draft assessment
### end of sxc24-m2-eproject-comparables.txt (Version 1.0) ###
© 1998-2010 Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky for Sohodojo except as noted for project deliverable and working documents.
Our Privacy Statement