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M2: Analysis of Comparable Project Planning/Management Offerings

M2 Section Summary: Task Management

Copyright (c) 2000 Jim Salmons and Frank Castellucci
All Rights Reserved

Associated project: Specification Writing for Web-based Project Planning Software

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

Core Team: Jim Salmons and Frank Castellucci

1 Introduction

This document aggregates the feature and underlying model analyses of comparable products and services in the domain of the project specification requirements. During the comparables analysis phase, nine product and service offerings were examined.

1.1 Format and Key to Abbreviations

Each of fourteen sections of the Comparables Analysis Data Capture Outline has a Section Summary file such as this one. Section 1 of each data collection form is an Introduction statement explaining the project and the assessment. Section 16 is a reviewer profile. Since all data was produced by the core project team members, section 16 does not have a summary section.

In a Section Summary file, we aggregate the analysis data within each subsection of the raw data collection forms. Each data point from the raw assessment outlines is presented in the following alphabetical order and prefixed with the following identifying abbreviations:

Note: The HTML versions of the deliverable use bullet lists with more readable prefix identifiers than the two-character source identifier used in the text versions.

The aggregated section data in each Section Summary file is the last section of the file. In addition to the aggregated data, each summary file has an optional section for the capture of summary insights or comments.

1.2 Section Summary Insights and/or Comments


10 Task Management

10.1 What is the 'activity/task' model?

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]

    An Enact Project is a hierarchy of Tasks. A Task maintains an ID, a collection of predecessors, slack, note thread, effort, duration, Person/Role assignments, start and end dates, constraint, constraint date, priority, status, percent complete, remaining duration, completion date along with fixed, planned, completed remaining and projected costs.

  • eProject Express [ Full data ]

    This is a very limited release. A Project is a simple list of Tasks. Tasks may be assigned to ONE Person/User.

  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]

    A Project is a collection of Activities which may be composed of 'sub-Activities' which are denoted through the familiar 'indentation-based outliner' UI metaphor.

    Activities are a 'nexus' of data collected and maintained by FTS. By default, there are a large number of data fields associated with an Activity including the 'usual suspects' of Start Date, End Date, Duration and Responsibility. By adding column data to layout views and report formats, the user is modifying the 'project database schema'.

  • ManagePro [ Full data ]

    This is a gray area for ManagePro. By default, ManagePro's Goal hierarchy is a composition of Goal/Subgoals where To-Do tasks can be attached at any level in the hierarchy.

    To-do items are supported by a number of convenient, User-specific views which notify the Person/User of To-Do assignment, upcoming Goals and scheduled Events.

    To-do items, however, do not support Progress Report attachments. A To-Do element has a state which by default is 'To Do', 'On Hold' or 'Done'. In most other respects, there is little distinction between a To-Do element and a Goal/Subgoal element. The guideline among ManagePro users is that if you want to maintain progress report data for a project element, it is a subgoal. It the item is a fine-grained, done or not item, it can be a To-Do.

    It is not unusual for ManagePro implementations to use an 'All Goal/Subgoal' approach to project data management without resorting to 'To do' elements. When ManagePro is used in the Teamware configuration, Progress Reports are an effective communication channel which suggests that the 'limited To-Do' use is preferable in these collaborative situations. Where the Solo edition is used to create and distribute work assignments reports or email communications, To-Do elements can be more effectively used.

  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    Project 2000 further defines the task model, including:

    • Summary Tasks and decompositional elements
    • Milestone designations
    • Multiple resource assignment
    • Critical / Non-Critical path in project
    • Critical / Non-Critical paths through project portfolio.
    • Task dependency constraints
    • Time phased availability constraints
    • Resource constraints
    • Task Delegation
  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    Opendesk has a simple to-do list application, which includes:

    • Setting the due date
    • Setting the priority
  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    SourceForge has a flat task model which provides the ability to create multiple Task Lists per project. There is no way to define relationships between any two (2) tasks lists.

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    WebProject fully embraces the task model, including:

    • Summary Tasks and decompositional elements
    • Milestone designations
    • Multiple resource assignment
    • Critical / Non-Critical path
    • Task dependency constraints
    • Resource constraints
  • X-Community [ Full data ]

    The 'Informational Unit' model is a kind of 'work product'-centric implementation of an Activity/Task/Subtask decomposition model.

    The 'Informational Unit' model is a hierarchical arrangement of Workspaces, Whiteboards and Notecards within a Business Center showing logical relationships.

    A typical composition would consist of several Workspaces with each Workspace containing a number of Whiteboards. Each Whiteboard is composed of any number of Notecards.

    Notecards contain the 'atomic level' information required for the an Activity performed by one or more Person/Users in a Business Center. Notecards can be associated with both Workspaces and Whiteboards. This gives a degree of compositional flexibility. But the X-Community offering may represent a 'mental model' find initially awkward based on prior experience with project-centric and task-subtask compositions.

    Tasks can associated with the Information Units which are Whiteboards, Workspaces and Notecards. The 'information architecture' of a Business Center's Information Units describe a kind of 'structural' hierarchy of the Center's Problem Space. Since Tasks can be associated with any of these Information Units, there is a 'parallel decomposition' such that you can look at Tasks as Subtasks of 'parent relations' based on the information's structural relations.

    Confusing sounding, most likely. The best way to understand how X-Community's Information Unit structural model maps to the more conventional process/activity/task model is by inspecting the rich and two-way integration between X-Community's Information Unit model and MS Project. X-Community supports a flexible, two-way integration between Business Center Whiteboards and MS Project Projects. We'll revisit this assessment during the MS Project assessment.

10.2 How are roles related to activity/tasks?

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]

    Roles are available along with Person model elements in the assignment interface of the People attribute of a Task. A Role maintains its own Cost Per Hour attribute which allows one Person to work at multiple Role-related rates.

  • eProject Express [ Full data ]

    Not applicable.

  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]

    Not applicable by default.

    Users can extend the default model to capture and maintain data fields such as Roles and Persons as long as these 'data sources' are understood to be 'pick lists' and similar attribute configuration settings for fields within the Activity database. That is, users are not able to add 'first class' model elements like Roles and Persons.

  • ManagePro [ Full data ]

    By default, there are no Roles in ManagePro, so in this sense there is no relationship. If the 'Role as pseudo Person/User' technique described in section 5 above, Roles are assigned to Goal/Subgoal/To-Do elements in the same manner as Person/User assignments are made.

  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    Resource Managers assign resources (team members). Team members maintain information on tasks assigned to them.

  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    Any user can have any tasks that they create for themselves.

  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    Tasks can be arbitrarily assigned to any one (1) of the team members, even if that team member does not have the permission to modify the tasks.

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    Leaders, or better, access is required to create tasks and assign resources. Team members maintain information on tasks assigned to them.

  • X-Community [ Full data ]

    There as a few implied roles -- Project Manager (AKA Administrator), Team Member (AKA System User), Guest -- but these are primarily related to access control of the X-Community service. User access levels set Information Unit creation and change policies.

    These access control 'roles' are peripheral to the underlying problem space model. The X-Community system is a Person/User system.

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?

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]

    A Project Manager can be designated for a Project. This gives a 'single point of contact' reference authority for the global user community of a particular Collaboration Server. However, Project planning can be distributed among Team Members by granting Project read/write access along with Task creation and assignment privileges to selected Person/Users.

    The new Task Report Options feature, which manage email notifications for the designated Project Manager, has a bit of a 'project manager'-centric feel to it.

  • eProject Express [ Full data ]

    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.

  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]

    The product 'design-point' is targeting the project planner/manager. In this sense, FTS is project-manager-centric. An intuitive and practical 'planned, revised, actual' progress reporting subsystem carries FTS into the 'management' side of projects. This subsystem is intended for Team Member participation.

    But in general, FTS is not intended to be a 'team-based collaboration environment'.

  • ManagePro [ Full data ]

    ManagePro supports public and private extensions to the Goal hierarchy. When used in a Teamware configuration using Multi-link features, ManagePro has the potential to be a ubiquitous 'organizing principle' through which the Person/User can structure both their private and their collaborative working environment. But again, ManagePro provides these capabilities without requiring their use.

    When used in Solo mode, ManagePro is 'project manager'-centric, although this does NOT mean that it does not facilitate or encourage communication and collaboration. Indeed, the entire design-point of ManagePro is to structure and encourage effective, goal-directed, result-oriented communication and collaboration. When used in the Solo mode, ManagePro gives the Project Manager the data structure and organization and tools to facilitate the development and implementation of highly collaborative, 'learning'-oriented teams.

  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    Project 2000 and Project central enable "bottom up" scheduling.

    With this model, project managers create the initial project plan using summary tasks, and team members or lead creates the tasks or subtasks beneath the summary task, and may delegate these tasks to the appropriate team members. The proposed tasks are then sent to the project manager, who can review individual tasks, as well as delegations and assignments, before accepting them in the master project plan.

    Task delegation is controlled by the project administrator, and can specify which projects and resources this is allowed for.

  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    The user tasks are only visible, and modified by the user themselves.

  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    If the team member is assigned at least Tool Administrator authorization, they can modify any aspect of that tool where granted. This includes changing the Topic/Title, assignments, dependencies, due date, work completed percent, and hours.

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    The full functionality of the Task Management facility is provided for Leaders and administrators. Team members can only modify those tasks assigned to the individual, and follow the methodology for extension through issue resolution.

  • X-Community [ Full data ]

    The Information Unit model of X-Community encourages what they call 'web-working'; that is, a highly-collaborative teaming environment... the Net-age next generation of groupware.

10.4 Views: Predefined, user-configurable or both

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]

    Both. The ActionView component is a major subsystem which provides a quick and easy way to create Viewpoints, project-specific websites which project dynamic Team Member, Management and Partner (Stakeholder) views.

  • eProject Express [ Full data ]

    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.

  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]

    Dozens of example and template projects are supplied which ease the use of FTS.

  • ManagePro [ Full data ]

    Both. ManagePro comes with an extensive collection of built-in reports and views. In addition, a collection of broad-ranging 'template databases' provide sample data and implementation-specific customizations which function as effective 'starting points' for new projects.

  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    Between Project 2000 and Project Central, users can view all aspects of the project in real-time using pre-defined views, or fully customized views can be created.

    Default views include:

    • Gantt Charts
    • Pert Charts (called network views)
    • Time Sheets
    • Personal Gantt charts
    • Resource Calendars
    • Resource Pools
    • Task Calendars
    • Consumable Resources
    • Non-working time
  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    Predefined view. No configuration.

  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    Task lists are viewed with a locus of the task group they belong to, or on a individual detailed page. The user can decide to sort the task list view by

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    All views, reports, and charts are pre-defined by WebProject. All users have configuration of preferences for content and layout, although the inclusion/exclusion of components is configuration controlled.

    Preference Settings include:

    • Enable/Disable critical task paths in Gannt chart displays.
    • Enable/Disable tasks links in Gannt chart displays.
    • Enable/Disable resource assignment names in Gannt chart displays.
    • Auto-recalc and save every four (4) minutes in project plan maintenance.
    • Enable/Disable the display of project color code letters.
    • Locale/Language choices.
    • Date/Time format choices.

    Administrator control specific to user access:

    • Limit projects that can be viewed using explicit project identifier, or project identifier masks.
    • Limit projects that can be edited using explicit project identifier, or project identifier masks.
    • Limit the outline nesting level that can be viewed.
    • Limit project plan view to just milestone indicators (tasks with zero duration).
    • Enable/Disable Project Pinboard and Project Discussion access.

    Administrator control specific to view/report access:

    • Enable/Disable Project Reports
    • Enable/Disable Task Reports
    • Enable/Disable Assignment Reports
    • Enable/Disable Resource Pool Reports
    • Enable/Disable Cost in Reports
    • Enable/Disable Effort in Reports
  • X-Community [ Full data ]

    The X-Community plug-in is a highly-polished, browser-based interface to the X-Community service. Based on user access rights, a Business Center's Information Units are highly customizable. By typing Workspaces, you can create a range of 'problem space' views.

10.5 Status reporting mechanisms (percent complete reports, 'flag-raising' or issue management features)

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]

    The Project Manager can optionally schedule daily, weekly or monthly email Task reports that include Tasks due for the report period, overdue by a specified time period, assigned since last report and changed since last report.

    The ActionTask views use color, text attributes and sorting to reflect priorities and deadlines in Person/Users To-Do lists.

  • eProject Express [ Full data ]

    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.

  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]

    Dynamic reporting of percent completion is supported. There is not explicit issue management system, although a 'Notes per Activity' default field encourages the user messaging associated with Activities.

  • ManagePro [ Full data ]

    See section 4.4 for details about the flexible 'key-indicator' reporting features in ManagePro.

    The Progress Report messaging subsystem functions as an effective issue management system.

  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    Default views indicate overruns (time, cost, availability, etc.) using a number of graphical indicators to alert viewers of project status.In addition, custom indicators can be attached to custom field content.

  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    It appears that if the task is due, a small icon blinks in the lower corner of the screen until you delete the task, or change the date to the future.

  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    Tasks can be marked as Open, Closed, or Deleted.

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    Status is reported for the individual as well as project managers through various views and reports. WebProject uses various icons to symbolize various type information (milestone, nested, detail, open, closed) as well as color codes for status.

    Team Member Status Reporting

    Upon signing on the system, team members can immediately access their tasks from a list of projects that they are an assigned resource to. Following are the views and controls where a member can immediately assess project status:

    My Assignment

    This display is presented in a mixed spreadsheet/tree view and is intended to give the user a started/completed birds-eye summary. Here you can see the list of tasks sorted by project, with start/finish dates per sizing analysis, as well as controls to indicate the activity has been started or completed. Changes made here are saved to the project database.

    Assignment details

    The details sheet is where the team member tracks the work effort associated with their assignments. Here you can specify actual hours worked, adjust the total units the task will take, indicate percent complete and remaining work units to complete the task. Changes made here are saved to the project database.

    Gannt View

    The Gannt view is a combination spreadsheet and Gannt chart of the project. Team members can modify aspects of the task (%complete, constraints, etc.) in the spreadsheet view and have it immediately reflected in the Gannt chart. This also allows multiple "what if" scenarios to be evaluated. Changes to the tasks are not saved to the database unless an explicit save operation is initiated.

    This view may also show where there are issue discussions pending on a per task basis. See the Collaboration section (4) for more details.

    Project Leader Status Reporting

    Project Leaders have the same views as the team members, but it is obviously extended to include all of the resources of the project.

  • X-Community [ Full data ]

    Tasks maintain a 'percent complete' attribute. A flexible search tagging feature could be used to implement a 'hot ticket' or 'issue management' system.

    When used in conjunction with MS Project, MS Project views onto X-Community Whiteboards (AKA MS Project Projects) provide MS Project's view filters and reporting features.

10.6 How are consumable/required task-specific resources handled?

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]

    Fixed cost items can be associated with Tasks. This gives an effective way to schedule resource acquisitions and to more accurately reflect project expenses in the financial roll-ups defined in ActionView Viewpoints status reports.

  • eProject Express [ Full data ]

    They are not.

  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]

    Not in the default configuration.

    You could 'roll you own' as data field and field computation extensions (or use scripting or object-embedding, etc.) to add features along these lines.

  • ManagePro [ Full data ]

    By default, these are not considered. Database extensions can be added to the Goal hierarchy configuration to accommodate certain elements of resource assignment and requirements associated with Goal/Subgoal elements. However, you cannot add new 'first class' data elements to a ManagePro database, so resource management extensions are somewhat limited to 'field values' associated with the first class Goal/Subgoal elements.

  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    Consumable goods (materials) can be specified as resources and assigned to tasks.

  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    There not.

  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    Functionality does not exists.

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    Critical path and over-allocation reports, resource leveling, are all available to analyze and report problems before they happen.

  • X-Community [ Full data ]

    They are not explicitly handled. Since the Information Unit model space is essentially 'work product'-centric, you could create typed Notecards to manage associated resource management requirements. But this is not a built-in aspect of the underlying model.

10.7 Reviewer Comments

  • Enact Enterprise System [ Full data ]


  • eProject Express [ Full data ]


  • FastTrack Schedule [ Full data ]


  • ManagePro [ Full data ]


  • Microsoft Project 2000 and Project Central [ Full data ]

    The maturity of Project, coupled with new features keeps this project planning aspect ahead of the pack. Microsoft has shown, with this release, that collaborative, informative, and useful project planning tools can be enabled across the globe without sacrificing functionality.

  • Opendesk.com [ Full data ]

    There is no task managment feature to review.

  • SourceForge [ Full data ]

    The lack of multiple resources assignments per task, calendaring, summary tasks, constraints, milestones, critical path specification, and reporting make this nothing more than a glorified to-do list. This is a poor model for Task models.

    Having conversed with the lead developer concerning these issues (prior to Project 24), they (SourceForge) have the benefit of some earlier work on Project Planning that I have done. The results of that work are unknown.

  • WebProject [ Full data ]

    There is no doubt that the developers of WebProject placed as much emphasis on Project Planning/Task Management as they did on collaboration. At a minimum, any effort should consider this as an ideal model for Task Management.

  • X-Community [ Full data ]



Version 0.9 - Draft
Version 1.0 - Final

### end of sxc24-m2-02sect-comparables.txt (Version 1.0) ###

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