Microsoft Corp.s .Net application model arrives on skeptical it managers desks in the form of the companys Project Server 2002. Redesigning its category-defining Project application around an XML messaging model, the company has turned its stand-alone personal productivity tool into a data repository and analysis engine for diverse Web services clients.
In Project Server 2002, released in the summer, Microsoft is confronting the problem of project management tools being perceived by all but full-time project managers as redundant wastes of time. By centralizing project data stores and enabling XML-based communication among distributed planning systems, Project Server 2002 holds out the prospect of being able to comprehensively account for and balance the demands on key people across multiple projects. The application can even identify the training and other peripheral tasks that will be needed by project participants and incorporate them automatically into project management scenarios.
The product lowers barriers to project management tool adoption by offering an open-ended, XML-based guidance tool that maps existing processes into structured project descriptions, giving managers a head start on creating project plans.
And Project Server 2002 should soon begin to quickly gain even more functionality. Many third-party products are already being built on the Project Server 2002 foundation, using XML to communicate with the servers core services. "What theyre doing is coming up with improved [user interfaces], improved functionality for financial accounting systems and [enterprise resource planning]," said Microsoft Project Program Manager Rich Murphy.
Project Server 2002 points the way for other Microsoft products as they begin to adopt Web service technologies, said Murphy. "Project Server merely happens to be first out of the gate," he said.
So far ahead of the pack is Project, in fact, that it predates Microsofts current Visual Studio .Net development tool set and had to be produced with the previous generation of tools. "Its not written in C#, but successor versions will be. Were following all of the .Net Framework principles," Murphy said. "All communication is [Simple Object Access Protocol]; its quite easy to interface to this thing."