Two products for coordinating complex projects

Your client demands to know what's going on. You've got a dozen offices nationwide. Thomas Pack looks at two collaboration products designed to facilitate teamwork and project management.

“We build Web sites that are fairly complex,” said Paul Wilkinson, manager of the production department at , an Internet software and service company and a leader in I-content management solutions.

“The sites are not just brochure-ware; they’re functionally rich, and building them requires a lot of planning and coordination among multiple resources. So we need a way to create teams, to collaborate on projects, to task projects, and to bill our time against tasks.”

Like many IT managers, Wilkinson knew that coordinating these complex projects would mean he needed to rely on project management software.

Many of today’s IT projects involve complex resource planning and allocation. For some initiatives, the challenges are multiplied because key team members work in other departments, they’re often on the road, or they’re based in locations away from the corporate headquarters.

Project management software that provides a central Web site—a project portal—can be conducive to collaboration. It offers an easy and efficient way for team members to check on deadlines, share information, and solve any problems that arise.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of two collaboration products: TeamCenter and TeamPlay.

The TeamCenter portal
After evaluating several collaboration software packages, installed TeamCenter from San Diego-based Inovie Software, Inc.

Wilkinson said chose TeamCenter because “it was fairly easy for us to integrate it within our current operational procedures. Some of the other products required a little more up-front support and configuration. We really liked that TeamCenter was flexible and allowed us to achieve a lot of the things we wanted to achieve right out of the box.”

According to Inovie, TeamCenter is “enterprise team portal software,” which is “a specialized version of a corporate portal that helps companies to address their teaming needs.”

TeamCenter wizards allow users to set up multiple projects and specific tasks quickly. “We can easily determine who’s available and what project they’re working on,” said Wilkinson. “We can task on the fly and reassign. We can build in all our workflow directly when we set up our projects and tasks.”

The software’s project management tools include:
  • Role planning
  • Gantt charting
  • Time sheet tracking
  • Cost management

Team members can collaborate by exchanging documents and participating in threaded discussions. Members can receive automatic e-mail alerts if a project runs into problems such as cost overruns or missed deadlines.

How TeamCenter works
Because TeamCenter is a pure Java Web-based product, managers and team members need only a Java-capable browser to access information.

“We can all hit it from the browser, so we have geographical access across the board; we can hit it from any location,” said Wilkinson. “And it gives us a nice graphical interface where we can see all the projects. We can see who’s being tasked to what project, as well as the status of the project and the status of any task at any time. So it gives us a good view of an entire project as well as all the individual tasks that make up a project.”

The TeamCenter Web site can be customized through HTML files, and administrators can specify which team members are allowed to read and update which projects and reports. Report templates are available for a variety of topics:
  • Budgets
  • Time sheets
  • Tasks
  • Project baseline and project overview

An Enterprise Reporting Option includes a Visual Report Designer and interfaces for integrating customer-designed reports into the portal.

The TeamCenter Enterprise Edition costs $55,000. It includes the Enterprise Reporting Option, a 50-user TeamCenter Server, a one-year upgrade assurance contract, and a one-year extended maintenance and support contract. The Enterprise Edition provides scalability with support for multi-processor servers and enterprise SQL databases such as Oracle 8i and Microsoft SQL Server. (The database serves as the master TeamCenter data repository.)

Base pricing for the Enterprise Server is $42,000 with no options. Pricing for a Workgroup Edition of TeamCenter starts at $5,995, and an optional pre-configured, embedded database is available.

TeamPlay manages multiple projects
TeamPlay is designed to enable enterprise-wide project portfolio management for IT and application development projects.

TeamPlay, from Primavera Systems , Inc., in Bala Cynwyd, PA, is a client/server-based project management solution that publishes schedules and other data to the Web. It’s especially suited for organizations that need to manage multiple complex projects. (A product comparison by InfoWorld suggested that TeamCenter is the better overall project collaboration product, but TeamPlay provides superior management and reporting tools.)

“We target large IT organizations,” said Colleen Kelly, Primavera’s manager of marketing communications. “TeamPlay is designed for organizations that have either multiple projects or interrelated projects.”

Kelly added that the enterprises using the product include “a lot of the newer e-commerce companies, Web-application companies, financial services firms, and insurance companies.” Specific TeamPlay clients include SmithKline Beecham ,, and nuforia, a leading provider of integrated e-business and strategic branding solutions.

Nuforia has more than 200 employees in six offices nationwide. The company’s director of process development, Carol Boyd, said she turned to TeamPlay because she wanted integrated process and project management software that had built-in collaboration tools.

Boyd described nuforia as a comprehensive product that “went all the way to the timesheet mode and that captured decisions and information about what was going on with a project.”

She said she saw TeamPlay as an all-in-one product. “I didn’t want to buy Microsoft Project here and something else there, and then get an Oracle timesheet component and all that stuff. I wanted an integrated environment. I’ve used the individual tool sets, and they just don’t work.”

How TeamPlay works
TeamPlay supports multi-tiered project hierarchies and supplies data on all initiatives throughout an enterprise. The information ranges from executive summaries to individual work assignments. Managers can analyze a project portfolio in several areas:
  • Track costs
  • Monitor key milestones
  • Document results

Separate clients are available for managers, executives, and LAN- and Web-based team members. Besides such basic features as wizards for setting up tasks, alerting options for managers, and timesheet tracking, TeamPlay offers several advanced project management tools including:
  • Resource leveling
  • “What-if“ analysis
  • Risk management
  • Best practices methodologies module

TeamPlay costs $50,000 for the server software plus $1,200 per user.

How do they compare?
TeamPlay doesn’t offer as many communication features as TeamCenter. For instance, there are no threaded discussions. But team members can exchange notes with managers in TeamPlay.

According to Boyd, one of TeamPlay’s best features is the way it publishes Web sites. “What’s nice is you can publish two different versions,” she said. “You can publish an internal version of the site that has all the project status information, and you can publish a limited version of the information for a client. We’re going to set up a location for all our client sites so they can go and look at the latest information on their projects, but it will be a higher level of information—more filtered information than the team members have.”

Both products share the same goals. By facilitating communication among clients, team members, and IT managers, these project collaboration tools help you keep projects on time and within budget, enhancing the flow of creative ideas.
Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of TeamPlay and TeamCenter. Perhaps you prefer Microsoft Project? What product would you recommend to a fellow IT manager? Post a comment below or send us some mail .

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