So you may have heard that Office 2007 has a new look - the ribbon. (If you want more detail on this then Jensen Harris's blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh has everything you could possibly want to know.) As a Project user what you should know is that you don't get the new look this time around. The core applications of Office got the treatment this time - so the next release should see this extended to Project, Visio, Publisher, InfoPath and SharePoint Designer. Outlook is half and half - with the mail authoring side getting the makeover.
What Project DID get on the client side is multi level undo! This has been some time coming but if you understand the complexities of the scheduling engine in Project you will realize this is no trivial piece of work. This makes it far easier to try some what-if scenarios without the fear that you will not get the schedule back how it looked before the what-if. A couple of my other favorite features on the client are the new Visual Reports and the Task Drivers. The first of these makes use of local multi-dimensional analysis capabilities of both Excel and Visio (Visio Professional 2007 required) to take the data in your project and present it in a ways that can help you see exactly what is going on. The second - task drivers - will be a great help for customers and save some support calls. We will quite often get calls saying that Project is not scheduling correctly, when in most cases it is working exactly as designed - but it isn't clear to the customer what is driving the task. For instance you may have a resource with a calendar that has them only working Monday to Thursday, and if they get assigned to a task starting on a Friday it will move to Monday. The driver is the resource's calendar - and this driver can be displayed with this new feature. Great for finding which other tasks are really driving things within your complex projects.
On the server side there are some big changes. The big four architectural/technical changes I love are the Project Server Interface (PSI), the Queue Service, Server Side Events and the Cache. I'll be digging deeper into each of these on future blogs and you will also find plenty of information on the other blogs linked from my site. But briefly:-
- PSI - this is the new programmability replacement for the Project Data Service (PDS). You can now easily program against the web services that make up the PSI and work with strongly typed datasets - so much easier than the XML of the PDS.
- The Queue Service - this is a queuing mechanism on the server that really helps the scalability story with Project Server 2007. Many interactions with the server, both from Project Web Access and Project Professional, go through the queue. This means that the workload is balanced and controlled to ensure the server can cope with peak throughput by spreading the load.
- Server side events - these, along with the PSI, allow our customers and partners to build on extra business logic that does not exist in the core product. For instance you could use the Project Created event to update other system such as CRM or accounting systems that need to be aware of the projects in the system.
- The Cache is a client side feature that works a little like the offline capability of Outlook. When you save a project it saves to the cache locally and is then transferred to the server in the background. This overcomes some of the challenges of high latency connections to the server that could be found with 2003. Also when you load a project it can load from the cache - then update as required from the server.
There are also some server features that are of more immediate benefit to a Project Manager than the technical things that I tend to get excited about. The top one here would be server side projects. You can now create simple projects on the server without using Project Professional. The other benefit of this server side scheduling capability is that when updating a project based on the status updates from your resources - you no longer need to open Project Professional - it all happens on the server and can even give you a preview of the plan if you were to accept the updates.
I'm probably only scratching the surface and there are many more features. More to come in future postings...
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