A Cross-Platform Project Management SolutionInovie Software's TeamCenter 4.0

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Project management (PM) software has been around for a long time, but only recently has it found its way into the toolboxes of software developers to any significant degree. Once used mainly by large organizations developing enormous projects, a new generation of PM applications is finding a place in a growing number of IT shops. A combination of increasing application complexity and the proliferation of distributed development teams has established a solid market for these applications among many developers. Web-based PM tools, in particular, are fast becoming essential to a wide range of developers.

TeamCenter 4.0 from Inovie Software is an Internet-based, cross-platform project management solution written entirely in Java. Recently, KPMG Consulting evaluated and eventually selected TeamCenter as that organization's PM tool. KPMG Consulting provides consulting services and products along six industry lines, including communications and content, consumer and industrial, financial services, health-care, high-tech, and the public sector. Its primary focus is on Internet and e-business services, including strategy, supply chain and customer management, Web architecture and design, and outsourcing.

We asked KPMG Consulting managers Guy Corr and James Ravizee (who was also team lead for the TeamCenter evaluation), to share their assessment of TeamCenter with Java Report readers.

—John K. Waters
Product Review Editor

reviews@watersworks.com

4.5 Cup Rating Version Reviewed: TeamCenter 4.0
Current Version: TeamCenter 4.04
CUP RATING SYSTEM:
5 Outstanding 4 Very Good
3 Acceptable 2 Has Potential 1 Poor

When we set out to find a project management tool for our firm, the goal was to secure an application that would help us to manage our geographically disbursed development teams, coordinate documents (including version tracking), and maintain schedules among those teams. We were looking for a PM tool that would allow KPMG Consulting to "practice what we preach." We sell program management and knowledge management solutions, and wanted and needed to demonstrate that we use these principles in our own day-to-day management. Our consultants need to access documents and provide project and task information among widely dispersed locations. We needed a PM tool that could help them accomplish those tasks without compromising the integrity of the data.

Our evaluation of PM tools in-volved an extensive review process of many applications. Our primary success criteria were:

  • Ease of use (How complicated is it?)
  • Presentation to the user (How appealing is it?)
  • Security (Can I control who is in my projects?)
  • Project management capability (Will my project managers accept it?)
  • Document sharing features (Do I know who is editing the documents? Can I get previous versions?)
  • Customized reporting (Can I customize reports?)

We eventually zeroed in on Inovie Software's TeamCenter 4.0. Among the solutions we reviewed, TeamCenter seemed to offer the best combination of project management functionality and team collaboration features, and satisfied all of our success criteria.

We began our evaluation with a trial license to test the software, which we downloaded to our server from the Inovie site. We then tested the software in three environments: a KPMG server located inside the KPMG Consulting firewall, a DSL server outside all firewalls, and a third-party hosting provider.

The server software installation process was fairly routine and took about an hour. The first time users access TeamCenter, they must download a Java applet provided by the software. This takes approximately 20 minutes, depending on the connection speed. As soon as the minimum requirements for setup have been met, the system guides users through the process.

Once we selected TeamCenter as a primary package, we decided the quickest way to get "smart" on the software was to become qualified trainers. We developed and administered training material for internal and client use. This approach forced us to become familiar with TeamCenter's capabilities very quickly.

We used the software on several small, short-term pilot projects to test its functionality. TeamCenter was able to handle a significant number of tasks with great accuracy, and the document management functions were most impressive. Documents could be checked out by a user, locking access to them. The user could then edit the document and check in a new version. TeamCenter maintains all versions of the document—which is just the kind of document control we had been waiting for in a PM tool.

We also spent a lot of time building customized reports, which helped us to familiarize ourselves with the software and database scheme. It took a while to get up to speed with the data tables and their relationships, but once we were through the initial learning curve, we appreciated the ability to customize reports.

TeamCenter revolves around a metaphor the vendor calls "Work-places." Users can establish an unlimited number of these Workplaces and set the security permissions for each one. Within the Workplace, users build Gantt chart schedules, maintain online collaboration, post and edit documents, and view a common team Web site.

The application includes elements that help to streamline the tracking and completion of business projects. It provides an environment where team members can share schedules, specifications, discussions, meeting notebooks, and documents. In addition, managers can make resource assignments, assign tasks, send e-mail notifications, and see resource loading. Easy-to-use security features allow managers to control access to information within the software at all levels.

Another selling point: TeamCenter offers many of the same features found in traditional project management apps, which makes it an easy transition for traditional project management application users. Collaboration features close the gap between data contained in project schedules and the analysis required to comprehend the data. Notebooks, group discussions, and documents allow users to access all of a project's components or tasks (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Gantt chart (schedule view) in TeamCenter.

Throughout our evaluation Team-Center performed with speed and reliability. In our tests, it performed best when operating via LAN. However, we also connected to TeamCenter via dial-up and found that little speed or efficiency was lost. Speed of uploading or downloading documents in either case depends on the user's connection.

We particularly liked the way TeamCenter combines schedule man- agement and document manage-ment, a feature that put it ahead of many of the other tools we evaluated. For example, eRoom (from eRoom Technology) is a good document management tool, but it lacks any kind of scheduling device. Likewise, Microsoft's Project 98 is a robust scheduling tool, but it does not allow for version tracking and other convenient features of document management. TeamCenter also lets users create skill sets in addition to actual resource names. Each name can be mapped to a particular skill set. This feature lets the same person bill out at different rates for various tasks.

Of course, TeamCenter wasn't flawless. We found that the "in the Gantt chart view" lacks the ability to show Saturday and Sunday as working days. This implies that only firms that work standard Monday through Friday hours can effectively manage their schedules. We would also like to see some means of hiding top-level folders from unauthorized users. Reviewers' Note: The new 4.04 release of TeamCenter, now available, has the capability to hide folders from users who don't have at least read-access.

All in all, we found TeamCenter to be an outstanding tool, particularly useful for geographically distributed teams or for firms whose intellectual capital too often remains on people's hard drives or within individuals' heads. It is an excellent knowledge management mechanism that drives people to post documents and facilitate group discussions, rather than remain in isolated, exclusive pockets. Organizations looking to standardize their project management teams will find great benefit in TeamCenter. Information from traditional PM apps, such as MS Project and Primavera, can be uploaded into TeamCenter schedules via mpx format. TeamCenter even imports the resources from the mpx file and allows the user to map those users to TeamCenter resources.

Review in a Nutshell
Description:
Java-based Web application for project management, collaboration, and document sharing among geographically distributed and/or local teams.

Pros:

  • Web-enabled, access from anywhere
  • Easy-to-use features
  • Real-time schedule updates
  • Ability to import and export schedule information to and from other apps

Cons:

  • Lack of changeable work-time calendar (graphical)
  • Lacks the ability to hide top-level folders from unauthorized users

Bottom Line:
Lots of useful features. Combines great project management features and strong collaboration features into one integrated solution. An overall great tool.

System Requirements:
Desktops:

  • 300 MHz Pentium II or equivalent
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 5 MB free disk space
  • 800x600pixel, 256 color display
  • Windows 95/98/ME/NT 4.0, MacOS 7.6 and up, Solaris 2.5 and up, Linux, other Unix
  • Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, Netscape 4.0 or later

Servers:

  • 400 MHz Pentium II or better
  • 96 MB RAM
  • 300 MB hard disk
  • 800x600 pixel display
  • Windows NT, Solaris 2.5 and up, Linux, other Unix
  • Apache, Netscape, Microsoft IIS/PWS, Cauco (bundled and preconfigured)

Databases:

  • Oracle 8i (customer supplied), Micro-soft SQL Server (customer supplied), Informix Cloudscape (optionally preconfigured), JDBC compatible

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