Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Local Workgroups and Security

As my previous post mentioned, people are catching on to IntelliGantt's Local Workgroup as a way to easily manage projects with colleagues in the office or connected via the corporate network. Today we were talking with a company about using IntelliGantt and the Local Workgroup to help a team in the US work with a development group in India. They are a large company with resources at hand, but basically it's just a fast connection between Mumbai and California with a file server visible to both.

The question that came up is security. As in 'how secure is IntelliGantt?' While we hang our hat with pride on our multi-user project management solution for teams, TeamDirection is not about to claim we have solved your security issues too. We'd much rather pass that requirement to the underlying collaboration systems like SharePoint, Groove.... and your file server.

You see, in order for IntelliGantt to work on a File Server, the person using IntelliGantt must have permissions on that file server. Specifically read/write permissions. No permissions; no joining a project; no way to be malicious. If you really don't want people outside of the project to be able to change anything, you can use the security of a Windows server to grant access only to people who need to be members of the project.

It works like this: IntelliGantt uses a folder that has been shared on the file server. When you share a folder, by default users can read from it but not write. You could grant 'Users' the permission to write as well, but this means every user account on the file server would have this permission for this folder. This can be a good thing, if you want everyone in the company to use a single shared folder for all local workgroups (it certainly makes backups easier). Or you may want to be more restrictive.

If you have a project you wish to invite only a handful of named users to, then rather than granting the generic 'Users' group read and write permissions, you can grant particular individuals read and write permissions. When someone tries to join a project, they are first asked for their email and display name. IntelliGantt then connects to the file server and asks for permission to talk. If the file server needs authentication, IntelliGantt uses the built in Windows Authentication libraries and challenges for a user name and password. If the user fails the user name and password challenge, they are not allowed in to the project.

What this means is even if someone got ahold of an IntelliGantt invitation and happened to know the email address of a member, they still could not get into the project because the basic security of the file server would prevent it.

Which really is a good way to go, we think. Which would you rather have, a project management company rolling their own security solution, or a project management company that uses what the underlying systems have to offer? SharePoint, Groove... and in this case the under-appreciated file server.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

IntelliGantt Update -- Local Workgroup Catching On

We just posted an update to IntelliGantt on our server tonight, mainly for maintenance reasons. I'll list some of the bug fixes shortly but also wanted to touch on which platforms are garnering the most attention. As you might expect, most IntelliGantt customers are using it with SharePoint. And the trend is accelerating (stay tuned to this space for exciting SharePoint developments in the near future).

But you knew that already.

So what do you think is the second most used collaboration platform? If you think the title of this post gives it away, you are right-- the Local Workgroup.

We've recently had a wave of people looking for a simple way to collaborate on a project schedule with their colleagues-- even simpler than setting up a web server. Because IntelliGantt can use a humble file server to collaborate (essentially a 'multi-user' mode) people have been dusting off some basic hardware and letting the tasks fly on their intranets. With IntelliGantt's Local Workgroup, you don't have to repeatedly send email to everyone or copy files hither and yon. It's one location that everyone synchronizes. I'll have to get a better screencast showing it off, but in the meantime here is a peek at it, and an FAQ.

Project management with a file server... who knew? :)

Here are the major fixes/improvements in this update:

1) The Local Workgroup wasn't providing useful error messages when one or more users did not have permission on the file server to update projects. This has been corrected with better reporting when you join and synchronize projects.

2) When using SharePoint, IntelliGantt wasn't handling the absence of a column very well. For example, many people don't need the 'Priority' column int the basic SharePoint task list. When they removed that column, IntelliGantt got confused. Now it looks at the task list schema to see which columns are available and nimbly stays on top of things. (This also lays a bit of foundation for our next SharePoint features).

3) Both the MS Project and MindManager Add Ins had a problem getting user lists from the WSS 2.0 or SharePoint Portal Server 2003 collection. It only affected MS Project 2007 and MindManager 7. The problem would manifest itself by acting as if a project is being published to a SharePoint site, but then falling back to the Share wizard screen. Thanks very much to our friends in the Netherlands for helping us track this one down!

4) If a member was listed as "last name" comma "first name" (ie. Smith, John), MS Project didn't like this. As a result we look for resources with commas and make them acceptable to MS Project so Export and Synchronize work correctly.

5) Finally, we seriously improved the help files for all the products. Thank you Jeff! Visit this page for help file reading pleasure.

Now we're off working on the next great IntelliGantt features. It will be geared toward SharePoint since that is our burgeoning market, but we'll see if we can throw a few things into the Local Workgroup community as well, since that is our fastest growing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

SharePoint and Multiple Resource Assignments

While IntelliGantt works with both WSS 2.0 and WSS 3.0, I'm developing a marked affinity towards the latter. I'm sure under the hood it scales better and such, but I like the fact it models the real world just a little better. Today's case in point, assigning multiple resources to tasks.

If you are (or were) using WSS 2.0, IntelliGantt updates were done with a heavy heart as tasks with multiple resources dropped every assignment after the first-- blocked at the WSS 2.0 single assignment gate. Your sorrow over all these lost assignments may have even spurred you to upgrade to WSS 3.0. All set for the new multiple assignment feature, you probably had a bit of a shock when the task list, after publishing, looked like this:

Fear not, WSS 3.0 does indeed support multiple resource assignments, just not by default. Why, I don't know. But I do know how to activate this feature. To do so, we must modify the list settings for this task list:

Within the list settings page are all the columns available for modification. We want to change the Assigned To column:

The details for this columns shows us that it does indeed allow 'multiple selections', which because its a SharePoint member or group field translates to multiple assignments.

A quick click to make the change we want (don't forget to press 'OK')...

... and the next time you update your task list, you'll see IntelliGantt and SharePoint working with multiple assignments in harmony.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Early Reviews for MindManager Add In

We're still finalizing the press release, but two early reviews for the IntelliGantt Add In for MindManager are in. Chuck Frey and Brian Friedlander, Ph.D, have both taken a look and have liked what they've seen. We are really pleased here at TeamDirection that our Add-In is hitting the mark.

Dr. Friedlander hits the nail on the head by observing
"one of the key features that came into sharp focus and that differentiates IntelliGantt from some of the other project management software with links to MindManager, is the ability to share and collaborate on your projects with your project management team."

We do believe IntelliGantt software takes project management to the next level by including the team. What's more, we are very happy to use either our own rich desktop application or an industry leading web solution like SharePoint. Whichever works for your team.

We're especially happy to have a Mind Mapping expert like Chuck Frey give us what we consider to be the ultimate compliment:

"The application's design is simple and straightforward; you don't have to be be a project software guru to figure out how to use it."

What good is a whiz-bang tool if nobody knows how to use it? It's the same theory that Mind Maps are based on, we've just given it a little nudge into the collaborative project management realm.

Thank you Mr. Frey and Dr. Friedlander. We look forward to working with you and the Mind Mapping community.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Resource Management Versus Communication

IntelliGantt started out with a focus on communication. We felt this was the most underserved piece of the project management market, especially since everyone is more or less connected now. However, while communication is great, we're getting feedback from users that they need a few 'traditional' tools. The one we're thinking about right now is Resource Allocation.

Now, just so you know, in my opinion no one has really solved resource allocation problems to date-- and that's just for resources working in a single organization. Throw in the fact that IntelliGantt can work across firewalls and with ad-hoc contractors and I don't think TeamDirection will be able to solve it either. In fact, there is a certain class of problems computers just don't do very well, if at all. One of them is keeping track of every hyperlink in the World Wide Web and making sure nothing points to a broken URL. And the other is resource allocation for tasks performed in a physical world. There's probably a few others :)

This is not to say one can't try to dump millions of users, billions of tasks and trillions of assignments in to a giant 'ultimate solution' database and cross reference everyone's allotted tasks, level of effort and calendars and synchronize all updates. It's just that it will never happen. It's too complex a problem set and as a result is easily (almost comically) broken by Rule Number 1: Stuff Happens. Instead of the proverbial butterfly in China, it will be sedentary Joe down the hall who gets sick, neglects to update his tasks and sets off an unforeseen chain of events resulting in the next blackout of the Eastern Seaboard.

Is it so awful to pick up the phone, or nowadays send an IM? Is it realistic to schedule someone so precisely that 39.93 hours are planned per user across 7 projects with 99.9% level of effort efficiency? This sounds a lot like what airlines have been trying to for the past few years with their airplanes. What do you think the human equivalent is for sitting on a tarmac 8 hours-- buckled in your seat? In the airlines case I'd wager that the proposed schedules were proven to be mathematically correct only to bow under the weight of our culumative randomness.

So which costs more? Creating an environment for a single project manager to schedule and level resources in utopia, or an environment that fosters communication allowing the group to self-balances with the aid of a project manager? I think one looks prettier at the start, but the other is more likely to adapt.

That being said, TeamDirection will strive to bridge both worlds and you can expect more resource allocation features in the near future. But remember those communication pieces-- they just might prevent the next blackout, or at least keep you off the tarmac.

Monday, August 06, 2007

IntelliGantt MindManager Add In Released

We started thinking about an Add In for MindManager way back in January. Call it a 'New Years Resolution'. I'm very pleased to announce this is one resolution we have kept!

We just released our Add In for MindManager and the results are quite impressive. Not only can you schedule topics like some of the other MindManager Add Ins, but you can Share them with your team and Synchronize the updates in your map. We think its a perfect left-brain/right-brain marriage.

We have a few screencasts, of course. You'll also notice this Add In is treated as a 'top tier' product-- meaning all our web navigation had to be updated.

Many thanks to the team for putting in an outstanding effort with this one. It's a very nice complement to our MS Project Add In. MindManager, MS Project and our own IntelliGantt application all represent different ways to create rich project content. Where we bring the added value is by adding a multiplier: making that rich project content interactive for your team. The larger the team, the larger the multiplier.

Consider a team of ten. How much easier will it be when you can create and schedule in the tool of your choice and include your team without having to constantly be on the phone, walking the halls or even recovering from double-entry (or worse, overwrite) mistakes?

We think enhancing team productivity is hugely valuable too. Now I suppose the question is, what Add In should we do next? :)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

IntelliGantt MindManager Add-In Release Candidate

TeamDirection is just about ready to release its IntelliGantt Add In for MindManager 7 Pro, but we'd like a few volunteers. So far we've confirmed it works in the Netherlands and in South Africa, but there are a lot more countries and PCs out there.

If you'd like to try it out, you can first see what the Add In is about. I could describe it, but the visuals are much more compelling.

OK, I will describe it-- Take you basic MindMap, add an intuitive, interactive Task List and Gantt Chart, mix SharePoint Workspaces and Members and fold in the ability to bi-directionally synchronize updates. Voila, you have an IntelliGantt MindManager Add In.

Hmm... maybe its better to check out the screencast.

Then download it from our site. We do ask you to register, but we will do a 25% discount to all downloaders when we release next week.

Thank you very much for your interest!