Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Overbooked Tasks and Overallocated Resources

My hats off to the engineering folks at TeamDirection for rethinking and reimplementing the 'Show Overbooked' filter in IntelliGantt. Very slick!

With my remaining hats, I doff them to our customers that took the time to give their feedback and help improve the product for everyone. Let's just say folks had a few ideas on how to better this feature.

The result plays very well with IntelliGantt's improved multi-project viewing architecture. In fact, touching on a the 'Sum is greater than the Parts' theme, it's really two different systems playing very well together-- Multi-Project View and Task Filtering. Each can be used by itself, but together these two systems solve two rather severe limitations the old product had in identifying overbooked tasks and overallocated resources:

1) In V3 only projects within a single folder could have the filter applied
2) In V3 the filter only went to 'day' granularity. That is, if a task was less than 1 day or a resource was less than 100% utilized... well... version 4 is here!

With IntelliGantt V4 you can select any combination of projects you want, which should be very helpful when verifying that all the places you put your 'best woman for the job' are still in the same space-time continuim.

And of course, since IntelliGantt 4 supports 'level of effort' per assignment, the filter also does a bit a match and recognizes that less than a day is ok.

Click on the image for the screencast and, if you really want to see IntelliGantt 4 in action, use this link to try it out yourself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Warmer and More Efficient

We had to replace our natural gas furnace recently-- funny how that happens when a foot of snow falls-- and given that our old furnace was just a couple days under 20 we opted to go with a high efficiency replacement. I admit to being a tad skeptical by nature and all the claims of '95% Efficiency' seemed very much like EPA mileage estimates. But we did it anyway, deciding on a Trane 95XV which also has a variable two-speed fan.

I just happened to pay my gas bill today and happened to see last weeks gas usage on my online statement. It looks like this:

Guess which day last week we replaced the furnace? :)

And this is during our deep freeze when the temperature reached a cool (for the Pacific Northwest) 15 degrees Farenheit.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Export Microsoft Project Tasks to SharePoint

We covered importing tasks from SharePoint in to Microsoft Project. Now it's time to go the other way, as any flexible solution should-- exporting your tasks from Microsoft Project to SharePoint.

There are many benefits to this of course, from a high level benefit like keeping everyone on the same project page to a low level benefit like creating schedules in MS Project because it can simply be done faster than creating tasks in SharePoint. TeamDirection, and most likely Microsoft, thinks those desktop apps are still good for something!

In truth, sharing, importing and exporting are variations on a theme-- how best to 1) create and manage a schedule and 2) inform the team and solicit feedback. IntelliGantt's goal is to make it as easy as possible to move tasks to and from desktop products and collaborative products. In this case, with our IntelliGantt Add In, between Microsoft Project and SharePoint.

MS Project does at least one million great things-- but its not so good at being collaborative. SharePoint is an excellent collaborative environment-- but its not so good at creating project schedules.

One of our customers is a hospital that uses SharePoint extensively for exactly the right reasons. They want a common, known area for groups to view their important items of the day. They want individuals to be able to update those items and everyone to see the results.

The issue they were running in to was they needed a full time administrative assistant to merge the changes from MS Project and SharePoint together and keep the mpp file and the task list in sync. To do this would sometimes take up to one week!

With IntelliGantt, we brought it down to one click that the project manager could do on their own. The result was the administrative assistant's time was freed up, the project manager was empowered and the staff was confident that what they were seeing was up-to-date and that their changes were being captured.

We'd be happy to help your team too with our IntelliGantt Add In for Microsoft Project.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Importing SharePoint Tasks with MS Project

Which came first, the task in Microsoft Project or the task in SharePoint? We don't know either, so we made IntelliGantt just as smart importing tasks from SharePoint to MS Project as it is exporting and synchronzing them.

You can judge for yourself with the simple, informative screencast we made. The first question to ask is whether you want to just import tasks and be done with it, or if you want to import tasks AND remember where they came from. Thankfully, we don't know the answer once again, so IntelliGantt does both.

There's a compelling scenario for just importing tasks. For example, say you have 5 different task lists in SharePoint that have magically sprouted (these things happen!) and you'd like to consolidate them in to one SharePoint task list-- the fancy one with the Gantt chart. IntelliGantt can start from a single MS Project sheet and import many SharePoint task lists-- appending as they go. The result is those five SharePoint task lists of 10 items can turn in to a single MS Project plan of fifty tasks. Then you can then share it to a new task list with the permissions and features you need to manage the project.

The scenario for importing tasks in to MS Project and mainting the link to the SharePoint task list is straightforward-- that once simple SharePoint task list kept growing until it needed scheduling attention (your professional help). As you'll see in the demo, maintaining the link to SharePoint is as simple as clicking on a checkbox.

Given these two scenarios, there's really not a right answer or wrong answer-- just a both answer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Project Managablement

I think we've all been on the project that takes 100% of our time and effort. How do you cope with the 10 others that require a mere 99%?

One of IntelliGantt's most popular features was multi-project view support. We've listened to your suggestions over the past year and have greatly improved the user experience. The end result is working with multiple projects is much more managable.

Before you had a free floating organizer with free floating windows for every project. This made it more difficult to keep track of everything. IntelliGantt has a new self-contained paradigm where all your projects are listed in a tree control on the left and your 'active projects' are on the right.

What's an active project? In the tree view, every project has a simple checkbox by it. If there's a check, its active and visible in the active view. If there's no check, its not active (ie. visible). Click a project to see it, click it again to make it disappear-- click the folder to bring all its children in to view.

In addition to making it very easy to flip in and out of projects, it also increases the power of our built-in filters. You can apply filters based on task properties and resources to many projects at once, make edits and turn the whole mishigosh in to a single, managable view.

IntelliGantt makes it easy. Check out the screencast for more.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Collaborating on Projects in a Cloud

Are projects in a cloud a good thing?

Most definitely.

Chances are very good you have a File Server handy to work on projects with colleagues. Your organization might even be lucky enough to have SharePoint available for rich collaboration and reporting. However, there are an awful lot of folks who need to communicate outside the corporate firewall (so no Local Workgroup) and don't have SharePoint available (either as an extranet or via a hosted provider).

In this case IntelliGantt helps a project manager work with a team across the internet by using Cloud Services (in our case, Amazon Simple Storage Solutions). Perhaps the coolest thing about this option is all you need is a client computer, an email address and an Internet connection. IntelliGantt (and Amazon) takes care of the rest.

After you create a project, schedule it and assign tasks, IntelliGantt let's you invite other people by a simple email. An IntelliGantt invitation invites them to the project. If they're a member, they can join and see the exact same view as other members in the project.

It's not done by smoke and mirrors-- it's a Cloud :)

This solution represents a realized vision of Software + Services. It's really no different than pointing a browser to a web site except for one important fact: The project data you are working with is on your machine.

This means you have a copy of it local, so you don't need to be connected to the internet in order to work. But more importantly, its really easy to integrate with your other Office applications.

If you're interested in seeing how IntelliGantt can connect team members with a cloud, you can try it out with a fully functional 15 day evaluation today.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What I Would Do With One Trillion Dollars

It seems to be the question of the day. Well, the very first question seems to be 'How much money do we need to solve the economic problem?' US$1,000,000,000,000 seems as good a starting place as any other amount.

So, should we:

a) Give a few large chunks to a few large companies that have failed because they are too big to fail?

b) Give many small chunks to many small companies, improve the odds that a number of small businesses can do a better job than a couple gigantic businesses and restart competition?

Its instructive to look at the last time a similar situation demanded evolutionary thinking. No, I'm not talking the 1930s.

I'm talking 63,000,000 BC, right before that meteor struck and nature had a choice: save the dinosaurs or give mammals a chance.

We've seen the financial meteor hit. Rather then pour US$1,000,000,000,000 into that impact crater, how about the Small Business Administration? Want US$10,000,000 to start a new bank? Great. And there would be money left over for 100,000 more. Think Tesla could use a few more dollars to bring its car to market? How about James Fallow's Day Jet ideal? Even my brother once looked in to starting his own credit card company.

Wasn't it a good thing that mammals got an opportunity?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Local Workgroup Screencast

Another day another screencast. They should be coming fast and happy now that the new version of IntelliGantt is coming in to shape.

This one focuses on the Local Workgroup option, which lets you use a simple Windows File Server as the collaboration hub for your collaborative projects. The configuration is usually a workgroup that has a shared drive or two. With IntelliGantt you just provide a UNC path and it handles the rest-- along with Windows User Account security of course.

I mentioned usually because we also have customers that use the Local Workgroup feature over their private high-speed fiber optic network connecting the US, India and Japan. It works great!

But if you can't afford your own line under the sea, I suggest you look at our Cloud Workspace. This takes advantage of all those 'cloud services' you've been hearing so much about and basically does the equivalent of that high-speed trans-continental fiber optic line for a fraction of the cost. But that's the next demo.

Check out this one as we show how the UI acts on multiple machines while collaborating on project. We also introduce the new Resource Pool and show how you can use the member lists in SharePoint and contact lists in Outlook to populate the IntelliGantt Resource Pool.

IntelliGantt Engineering Build

We've hit a milestone! TeamDirection has an engineering build available for everyone who's been curious what features the next release will have. I would definitely characterize this as pre-BETA, but some cool new features are working. Before I dive in, however, a word about our methodology.

IntelliGantt and IntelliGantt Plus have been shipping for about 18 months now and during that time we've received great feedback from our user base. We divided both the feature requests and the product direction we desired into three areas:

1. Must Have Features
2. UI Improvements
3. Technology Improvements

An example of a 'Must Have Feature?'. How about Level of Effort support for resource assignments and timesheets.

An example of a 'UI Improvement?'. How about an organized tree of projects on the left that, with a single click, adds or hides tasks in an active view. It's basically multi-project view at its most flexibile (and usable).

An example of a 'Technology Improvement'? How about building on the latest .NET 3.5 SP1 framework-- the one that really supports ClickOnce delployments for the internet!

We've actually been using ClickOnce with our IntelliGantt Add In for Microsoft Project and the results have been very good. When we receive bug reports from the field, we fix them, republish and everyone sees the new version automatically.

It's a great way to add features as well. Prior to ClickOnce, every release of IntelliGantt product would require some sort of notification for users to download the latest install package and reinstall.

No More!

It's given us the ability to do this early release so that a) we can incorporate real users earlier than ever in the loop and make a better product and b) users can see the results every week automatically-- both in terms of bug fixes, UI improvements AND new features. Philosphically speaking this is a huge advantage because in the past, the longer you develop in your engineering cocoon the further off the mark you may stray. Now our engineers will be primed to hit the marks you define.

With that, let us know what you think from the screencast, or better yet by downloading and trying the new UI out. We have an invitation page that doesn't require registering. We have a 'Top Ten' page that let's you know what our current working priorities are. We even have a purchase page that let's you buy at a steep discount as we move toward release. The idea is as the product gets better and better, the price should be revisited now and then. During this BETA period we will revisit the 'Go Live' price weekly. We figure its a great way to say thanks for your efforts.

A few housekeeping items on this release:

1) Not every single menu command is enabled right now. The core features that drive every menu pick are in, but we are curious which menu items are used more than others.

2) Everyone has manager privileges in this release.

3) Local and Cloud Workgroups are in and greatly improved from the last version.

4) SharePoint connectivity now requires WSS 3.0 or MOSS 2007.

5) MindManager 7 import/export is supported. MindManager 8 support coming within 30 days.

6) Reporting to the Bamboo Project Portofolio Dashboard is in.

7) Printing is fixed!

8) File associations are not quite in-- soon!

9) We have decided to consolidate IntelliGantt and IntelliGantt Plus in to one version-- IntelliGantt. It will have all the features (and more) of the old IntelliGantt Plus. The reason for this is everyone was buying IG+ so it really didn't make sense to have two versions going forward.

Thank you all for your feedback over the past few months. We look forward to the next phase and working with you to bring a great product!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

IntelliGantt Add In for Microsoft Project Released

Just a note that the new version is now available on the TeamDirection site. The old version is also available for Microsoft Project 2003 and/or WSS 2.0/SharePoint 2003 users.

The new version is chalk full of goodies (more screencasts and case studies on the way!) and, because it supports ClickOnce technology, you'll see new features appear now and then as we listen and respond to our customer base. The best part is everyone will get these updates automatically without lifting a finger-- which is the way it should be.

Next up-- IntelliGantt Plus. We are targetting November 15th as the first beta of the new rich client. Because our experience with ClickOnce with the Add In has been so positive we will be making IntelliGantt Plus a ClickOnce application as well.

Also, we will be consolidating the two IntelliGantt rich clients (IntelliGantt and IntelliGantt Plus) in to one rich client, named ... (wait for it :)...


Thanks for everyone's help getting the Add In released. On to the rich client!

Monday, October 20, 2008

IntelliGantt Add In now supports ClickOnce

One of the hardest decisions to make as a software company is not only how to develop the bits but also how best to send them. I've long thought that web-based solutions are actually, from a user interaction perspective, a poorer experience than comparable rich client applications. The fundamental reason is HTML is a presentation environment with javascript and other 'glue' bolted on to aid user interaction whereas a rich client has the full power of your desktop to work with.

However, the delivery of a web-based solution has been so superior that it has tipped the balance in their favor. Given two equal applications, the web-based solution wins because the installation and update is as simple as a click (ideally).

Not that rich clients will ever go away-- after all, what is the browser itself? But they could certainly learn something from the efficiencies of web delivery. Thankfully, it looks like the latest incarnation of ClickOnce is on the right track.

Our 'old' IntelliGantt product suite (the IntelliGantt rich client and the Add Ins for Microsoft Project and Mindjet MindManager) were delivered with traditional installtion programs. However, rounding back to that initial 'delivery choice', we are using the very latest ClickOnce technology with .NET 3.5 SP1 to deliever the new releases.


1) Microsoft addressed the installation and security model to be on par with a web applications 'sandbox'.
2) They also built in automatic updating
3) They reduced the complextiy of actual installation (supporting frameworks, redistributables and such)
4) They're supporting a wider delivery path (Apache, Firefox, etc)

With the latest incarnation Microsoft also made a very wise choice-- support for servers other than IIS to ClickOnce distribution! This will have huge ramifications strategically (see OpEd below), but there are still a few hiccups we ran in to. Here's what we did to address them:

Make sure your web server supports the required mime types!

Our site runs on Apache and as such we had to add the following mime types in an .htaccess file in order for ClickOnce to download all the bits correctly:

AddType application/x-ms-application application
AddType application/x-ms-manifest manifest
AddType application/octet-stream deploy

These are described in detail on MSDN.

We also found out, by actually deploying our new Microsoft Project Add In to customers that the following mime type is needed for the VSTO file itself:

AddType application/x-ms-vsto vsto

With the possiblity that msu (microsoftupdate)and msp (microsoftpatch) are also needed.

We've been very pleased with the result as not only do users experience a seamless installation, but every update we make is automatically updated for all our clients as well. As a result, we've been able to respond just as quickly as a web-solution, download the bits just as easily and still take advantage of the tremendous power on everyone's desktop.

Web solutions versus desktop solutions is really a battle between what will be the application container going forward-- to OS or the Browser. Didn't we go through this already with Microsoft and Netscape back in the late 90s? Yes, and Netscape lost. And so did Microsoft. Why? Because rather then answering the technology advantages of the web, Microsoft used their business advantage to carry the day. However, the door was still open in the weeks and months that followed. As a result, Google, among others, were able to walk through it and plant their flags.

Does ClickOnce finally start levelling the playing field? I think so, though in truth the lines will most likely totally blur between what is a desktop app and what is a web app. For instance, how different is a Flash package downloaded and run from cache in your web-browser than a .NET app downloaded and run in your OS?

Not much.

It's just nice to finally have some of the same tools that makes the web so successful. Good job to Microsoft's ClickOnce team!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Underappreciated SharePoint Issue List

Way back when we were first developing IntelliGantt we had to decide which SharePoint web part IntelliGantt would work with. Because it focuses on project management the obvious web part was (and still is) the Task List.

However, I still remember that day when someone from a theater group in Florida called and gave me an eye-opening demonstration of how they were using the Issues List to manage their day-to-day tasks. True, it may not have a Gantt (or does it? :), and it's not really for project management and heck, there's no difference between an issue and a task, right?

Right, there's not much difference between an issue and a task. So the question basically turned from us asking users 'how about using a task list' to users asking us 'how about using an issue list'? For instance, there's a great versioning feature with an Issue List that let's anyone see not just that an issue is resolved, but an accompanying history showing HOW it was resolved.

This is useful.

So we ehanced IntelliGantt to recognize the SharePoint Issue List and voila, here it is in action:

Perhaps you're thinking 'great, but I really like the Gantt Chart view that comes with the Task List'. Ah, we didn't forget about you. When you use IntelliGantt to work with an Issue List, IntelliGantt incorporates the same fields the Gantt Chart view native to WSS 3.0 and MOSS uses. For example, in the above demo you'll notice that IntelliGantt added a few fields to the Issue List-- most importantly a Start Date and % Complete-- to go along with the Due Date that was already there.

It turns out these are exactly the fields a Gantt View requires in order to display. So, after connecting with an Issue List, IntelliGantt prepares it for a Gantt View automatically. The end result, based on the demo above, looks like this:

I just have to take a moment to say 'That's pretty cool!'

You can download the new IntelliGantt Add In for Microsoft Project and try it out yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What XML Parser Does Internet Explorer Use?

We came across an odd thing today. I'm not going to say its a bug because I don't know all the ins and outs. In the grand scheme of things I would rate it between the final coat of paint my railings are crying out for and the notion that I should cancel my newspaper since I read everything online these days.


We had a bug report where IntelliGantt wasn't handling embedded objects within Microsoft Project fields correctly. The customer was kind enough to share their MPP file with us and we were able to work through the issue he was facing. (As an aside, providing the MPP file was a huge help for us. Thank you!)

We did eventually find we had a problem with a particular embedded OLE object within the Microsoft Project Task Notes field. But we were flummoxed after the fix because the project still bombed during the Sharing operation to SharePoint.

More debugging and additional enhancing of the log output led us to Task 98. Task 98 is certainly not as interesting as Hanger 18, but it did contain an alien of sorts-- an alien character code I hadn't seen since...

There in the rubble of text was a \v character, like that V miniseries back in the 80s.

Now the reason it took us so long to find this is we typically test our SharePoint XML packages with Internet Explorer. During our test, IE handled the XML just fine. However, when we created an XML document at runtime (for example. System.Xml.XmlDocument.LoadXml(string), it would throw an exception that it couldn't handle a \v.

Even though we are using .NET 3.5 SP1 (the very very latest) it looks the the System.XML parser is more or less unchanged from .NET 2.0. IE7, on the other hand, most likely is not using the .NET Xml parser and has something a bit newer.

It gets me wondering... Microsoft at this point really has two code bases: one for .NET and one for classic Win32. It's almost like two software development companies. I wonder how long this state of affairs can/will continue?

90,000 employees tells me as long as they want :)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why I Love Customers

As much as you try, you can't think of everything.

But a customer base? They're much smarter than me and certainly able to point out what needs to be done.

Case in point: We just received feedback from two customers that were as powerful as they were blindingly obvious:

1) How about putting an Ordinal in to the SharePoint task lists so that I can quickly match the SharePoint task list ID with the MS Project task ID? This is great because it has the added benefit of sorting the SharePoint list so it matches the MS Project task order. Duh!

2) Synchronizing tasks is great, but why are you putting constraints on the tasks in MS Project. If a task has been completed early, the slack should be taken up. Obviously!

Our crack engineers were able to get these requests in to the BETA refresh we posted tonight along with feedback from other users.

Our request to you is keep that feedback coming!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Connecting Project, SharePoint and Outlook

A couple people asked about sending Microsoft Project tasks through SharePoint all the way to Microsoft Outlook. Because the Office suite is more or less ubiquitous in corporations, many people spend most of their day within their communication hub -- MS Outlook.

So is it easier to update a task via a web broswer pointing to a SharePoint task list? Or is it easier to update a task using Outlook? While we could commission a study on the subject and possiblity come up with a definitive answer, we think the better approach is to say 'yes, we do both'.

Here's a screencast showing:

1) Starting a new project, adding resources and (very important) giving those resources within MS Project an email address so that IntelliGantt can automatically match them with SharePoint members in the site collection.
2) Sending the project to a SharePoint task list
3) Using Outlook to work with the same SharePoint task list
4) Adding a filter to Outlook so that I only see my tasks (very important for projects that have hundreds of tasks)
5) Updating a task within Outlook
6) Getting that update all the way back to MS Project

It sounds (and reads) like a lot, but its only 26 frames in the screencast, and most of these slides handle creating a filter withing Outlook.

Whether your team members would like to work with their browsers in SharePoint, or work online/offline on their client with MS Outlook, IntelliGantt helps you tie MS Project, SharePoint and Outlook together in to a single project information mesh.

Here's the screencast:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Project Dashboards and SharePoint

If you're running more than one project at a time, you probably have more than one audience. IntelliGantt has already provided the best way for a project manager to communicate with the team, now its providing a great way to communicate with project stakeholders as well.

IntelliGantt now communicates with project dashboards from Microsoft (the Project List from the 'fabulous forty' SharePoint templates) and Bamboo Solutions (their newly released Project Portfolio Dashboard).

Here is a screencast of IntelliGantt and Bamboo in action.

What this demonstrates is the ability to use SharePoint both as a project execution tool and as a reporting tool. The real power with the reporting solution is that you don't need to be a member of the project to see the project summary.

As an example, say a company has 5 project managers each running 5 projects. With the IntelliGantt solution, each project manager can run their project with their teams AND report their progress to one central SharePoint site. When they report their progress, IntelliGantt will create a new entry in the dashboard if one doesn't exists, or update the entry that does exist. The overall goal is that once a week, those 5 project managers can keep project stake holders informed with 5 simple clicks.

We think this is a powerful solution and are happy to be working with Bamboo Solutions to bring it to you. And we expect the solution to only get better as Bamboo improves the web experience and TeamDirection improves the desktop.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

IntelliGantt BETA Update

Thanks to everyone for their feedback on the inital BETA. We've tackled a lot of issues and put in our final feature-- reporting!

No screencast yet because its getting late (or early, depending on your point of view). Suffice to say if you install this release ( you will see a new menu item called... wait for it... 'Report'.

IntelliGantt will initially recognize two SharePoint reporting web parts. The first one will be from Microsoft (part of that 'fabulous forty' template pack) and the second will be from Bamboo Solutions (their new Project Dashboard).

The idea is, as a project manager, you run a project with two constituents: 1) your team and 2) your management. IntelliGantt has always been great for the team, but now you have an additional 'share and update' capability-- you can describe where to create and update project reports.

Whether you synchronize your tasks or synchronize your reports, it can be done independently. The scenario is you may work with your team all week, synchronize every hour of every day, but at the end of the week you send the report data to a SharePoint web part so others can see the current state of things without getting bogged down in the details.

Speaking of details, check our latest release page for more information on the current BETA.

Screencast coming soon!

Friday, September 19, 2008

My One Comment on the Banking Fiasco

Apparently we like to privatize profits but socialize losses. Or maybe the management of these failed financial institutions I now own a part of returned their ill-gotten gains without notifying me yet.

On the other hand, maybe I can stay at their house during the holidays.

Nothing like a new BETA release

We've been burning the midnight oil to bring the major new version of the IntelliGantt Suite to market. First up is our IntelliGantt Add In for Microsoft Project 2007. The market has shown a tremendous response to product and as a result we had an enourmous number of suggesstions to sift through. I'm pleased to say we just about got all your requests!

The BETA for version 4 of the IntelliGantt Add In for Microsoft Project is now available (we'll be updating the TeamDirection site over the weekend, you just get to see it first). Among the improvements:

1) The basic Task List, the more advanced Project Task List and the Issue List can all be used. You can even supply a SharePoint template ID and use a web part list of your creation.

2) An easy, convenient way to reassign and/or remap Microsoft Project resources to SharePoint members.

3) An IntelliGantt resource pool to help you keep track of those SharePoint members for inviting them to projects.

4) A Dashboard that rolls all your shared tasks in to one view. You can filter this dashboard view by task properties (Late Tasks, Unread Data, etc) combined with resources (who is assigned to what).

5) Enahnced Workspace Settings (was Collaboration Settings) that describe what type of tasks you want to share in addition to what fields.

6) Significantly improve Estimates and Actuals support. You can report estimates to a specific baseline to aid in project tracking. You can also report actuals such that only tasks with values will be updated.

7) Enhanced synchronization reporting-- see exactly what is being changed when you update.

8) Awesome customization. Change any menu and most any label on every IntelliGantt UI form. This can be used for Localization as well. You can even share your customizations with others.

And many, many more. One in particular we will announce just before shipping :)

If you're curious what the new version looks like check out this screencast.

If you're really curious to see it in action, you can install it. This is a ClickOnce deployment which means you receive updates automatically. One thing to note, you must be using Microsoft Project 2007 at a minimum. We are taking advantage of new APIs in the Microsoft Project 2007 package that solve issues like storing the MPP file in SharePoint, for example.

The baseline requirements are:

Microsoft Project 2007 Standard or Professional
.NET 3.5 SP1 (included in install)
.NET VSTO 3.0 SP1 (included in install)
Version 9 of the C Runtimes (include in install)

If you decide to install the beta, please make use of our feedback menu items under 'Help' and let us know what you think!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Building Castles in the Air

Some very smart people have been telling me 'everything is moving toward the cloud', to which I partially agree. However, I'm consistently amazed how readily the piece of iron (figuratively) on your desktop is discounted. And it's not necessarily a case of one being better than the other-- I feel its a philosophical argument-- but rather how they complement each other.

At the bare mininum, to access the cloud, you will need... something on your desk or in your lap. Furthermore, you will need an access point to the cloud, whether a cable coming out of a wall, a wireless router or wimax. The cloud will never replace these essential pieces.

What the cloud represents to me is an advancement in data mobility. How much or little you dress it up in Flash or HTML is really beside the point. It's all about the availability of data and how best to route it to anyone that needs it.

So it caught my eye when Dan Farber wrote about 'The Cloud of Unrealibiliy'. He wasn't writing about how the UI had bugs, or that he had to download too many pieces-- it was that occassionally he couldn't get at his data.

Sure systems will become more reliable over the years, but the question will remain the same-- how best to transfer your data. It may not even be reliability that is the issue in 2015, but whether your data can get from point A to point B. The railroads of the 1800s come to mind. As we move towards corporations having a greater hand in the delivery and storage of data, I wonder if the cloud will really become a series of weather systems.

In which case your data will benefit from having alternate modes of travel-- sort of a revamped Planes, Trains and Automobiles for bits.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

IntelliGantt Goes Global

We did the 'picture is a thousand words' preview. Here's something with a bit more weight to it.

One thing we've noticed about distributing products via the internet is that ... wait for it ... the internet is world wide! While our US, UK, Australian customers have been pleased, the rest of the world has been letting us know that foreign language support is a really good thing.

We got the message (click to view screencast):

Executive Summary: It shows an IntelliGantt menu changing display names, changing to German and Japanese.

Our approach is rather than translate a product to the top 50 languages and then ship it, we provided built-in tools to make it easy to a) change strings and (more importantly) b) have an idea of exactly what you are changing.

The screencast gives you an idea of this by selecting Menu settings. Future screencasts will show this idea better by clicking on any IntelliGantt form and configuring it with the built-in tool.

What we didn't show in this screencast-- because we didn't want to get too techie-- was where these configurations are stored and how one might go about redistributing a language pack.

The idea is IntelliGantt will look for a named list of xml files, read them in and use the defined strings. You can see these files created by running the application once, then lookin the in AppData/Local/TeamDirection/IntelliGantt/Configuration directory on Vista (did I mention this version will have full Vista support? :).

If someone would like to provide a language specific configuration, they can use the built in tools to generate these XML files, zip them together and create a simple installer for distribution. All the installer will need to do is copy these XML files to the AppData/Local/TeamDirection/IntelliGantt/Configuration directory.

We will be happy to provide a 'Language Pack' html page that refers our customers to local partners that have a language pack or two.

If you have any questions please contact partners [@] teamdirection [.] com.

Vielen Danke and ありがとうございました

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where does a project start and end?

IntelliGantt takes pride in its ability to communicate and synchronize project data amoung a group of people. Each person gets an interactive view not only of the tasks assigned to them, but tasks assigned to others and indeed all of the tasks in the project.

But exactly which project is that? Is it the one tailored just for the group with only the most relevent information? Or is it everything- all 2000 tasks that the group must wade through in order to find what's important to them?

Similarly, is the tool the right one for the job? Does everyone on the team require a heavyweight or a lightweight on their desktop? What about a mix.

We'll be answering these questions and more in the coming months as we start taking a look at the next generation of combinatorial project management-- or 'CombiProjects' as we like to call them.

G'Day Mate!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What I Would Do With Groove

I've been getting great feedback from my previous post spawned by Groove angst. It does seem like Groove is at an inflection point and, given the state of things today, hard to see how it captures the imagination. As Don Dodge likes to put it, not only is Groove a vitamin and not painkiller, but its unclear what vitamins and minerals are even in the Groove pill.

Given that, I think it's time to dream again. After all, if you asked any Groover back in, say, 2004 if 'Offline SharePoint Cache' was their vision I doubt they would have had kind words for you.

So now in 2008, as part of the world's greatest Office Suite, don't you think its OK to be a bit more expansive? Putting on my virtual 'Chief Software Architect' hat, here's what I would do: mimic SharePoint not by copying data locally and pushing it back but by copying their architecture model.

Web Parts and Web Services

Here's a secret-- SharePoint is not concerned so much about the UI experience as it is about the data experience. Yes there are some nice icons and the color scheme is pleasing, but I'm confident SharePoint out-of-the-box won't be pushing the UI design and interaction experience. They'd much rather developers and ISVs flesh that out because, in addition to making things look pretty, they most likely also specialize their solutions for more specific business needs than a mass-market SharePoint product can do out-of-the-box.

So they have a Web Part architecture that folks like Bamboo Solutions (one of our partners) can develop against and users can drop in to their SharePoint environment.

And they have a Web Service architecture that folks like TeamDirection can use to send data back and forth from client to server and do interesting things with.

As a developer, it really is a Model View Controller architecture with the three elements being three applications working together according to contract.

If Groove is looking to copy SharePoint, then this is what it needs to copy. Better yet, because it's on the client, it will be able to do a few things only a client application can do-- most importantly integrate with data on your desktop, but also providing a rich visual experience.

Here's the vision:

No more effort with Groove Forms. No need to reinvent the arduous aspects of HTML form development on the client. Instead...

Go to Silverlight as the UI within the Groove client. This will let you leverage the current investment Microsoft is making to build a generation of Silverlight programmers. But add a wrinkle...

Make Groove a Special Silverlight Container that gives permission for Silverlight to integrate with the desktop. This allows Groove to become the world's best Rich Internet Application delivery platform. Which is great as long as you don't forget to..

Continually invest in Groove Web Services so that developers can easily pump desktop data in and out of these Rich Internet Applications and tie their current business processes together.

I am not saying Groove shouldn't talk to SharePoint. Groove needs to talk to SharePoint for SharePoint will be the way business will organize their data and processes.

But Groove's opportunity is just as big, only instead of coalescing data and process according to the macro business needs, Groove can coalesce data and process according to the micro Information Workers needs. Perhaps its a bit trite, but I do think Groove fits very well in line with Microsoft's former 'Information at your fingertips', current 'your potential' and general 'empower the user' vision.

There's nothing wrong with going back to your roots. You just have to re-dream it sometimes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ruminations on SharePoint and Groove

One of the great things about being a Microsoft MVP is the chance to go to the MVP Global Summit. Microsoft essentially takes the most knowledgable, most active and most vocal people in to answer lots of questions, preview what they're working on and shower you with positive vibes. The cynic would say its only smart tactics (which it is :), but judging by all the product teams representatives-- both the presenters and the note takers-- I certainly came away with the impression they listen to and value feedback.

Without going in to specifics, one of the more contentious issues seemed to be how SharePoint and Groove will work together. As Internet News reported of Ray Ozzie's and Steve Ballmer's speeches, they both received 'what about Groove' questions during their Q&A. Again without going in to details, the Groove folks are not enthusiastic on what is happening today and what is planned for tomorrow.

Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise if you read this blog for TeamDirection was the premier Groove ISV with its bundled Groove Project Edition. The fact that I attended the conference as a SharePoint MVP is probably all I really need to say.

But I can't help myself.

Groove’s strength is its decentralized architecture, which should be the perfect complement to SharePoint’s centralized architecture. Two people gave me perfect examples of this during the conference: Matt, a SharePoint MVP I sat next to at several SharePoint sessions and Steve Ballmer. The example was being able to suck all the information from disparate sources onto your personal device and keep it synchronized.

Fundamentally this is a powerful architecture because it can centralize data on your desktop-- the flip side of SharePoint powerful architecture centralizing data on your server. In fact, it used to be Groove could house the .NET framework in its environment and thereby give developers a rich user experience with sophisticated peer-to-peer networking for gathering and updating all this data. I'd even go so far as to argue that Groove, because of its ActiveX and then .NET support, was a compelling vision of a Rich Internet Application framework.

Yes, I did say 'was', for you'll notice that the .NET framework is no longer accessible within Groove and their forms environment is too primitive for robust development. As a developer, I would love to see .NET reappear within Groove and give me the ability to integrate with desktop applications and the powerful peer-to-peer workgroup synchronization.

It doesn't even have to be Windows Forms as the UI. I'm most impressed with Silverlight and think that should be bolted on to Groove as a means to marry a better Rich Internet Application solution with a great distributed synchronization solution.

Think about it-- a unified model for accessing centralized (SharePoint) or decentralized (Groove) data with a common Rich UI tailored to the groups needs. In fact, Groove can enhance Silverlight in two important ways:

1) It could facilitate data synchronization among a group of Silverlight users without having to poll a central server.
2) It could be a recognized 'Safehouse' whereby Silverlight would be allowed to access local resources. That is, the one place where Silverlight will let you access local resources like your file system or other application interfaces.

What's the one complaint RIA developers have? You can't do anything with the local resources. How much of an advantage (and selling point) would it be if Groove could fulfill this story? I'm looking forward to providing Silverlight solutions married to SharePoint as a means bring value add to my customers working on a SharePoint hub. But I'd love to be able to take, more or less, the same UI, plonk it into a Groove spoke and provide uniformity for ad-hoc workgroups too.

I think you could even pitch 'RIA Safety Zone' in an elevator :)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bamboo Showing IntelliGantt at SharePoint Conference

If you happen to be in Nashville, Tennessee this week, have heard about SharePoint but are more interested in the real world than bits and bytes, you should check out the SharePoint Information Worker Conference being held at the Gaylord Opryland.

The folks at Bamboo Solutions were kind enough to take a few copies of IntelliGantt Plus along with them to demonstrate what a nice solution project publishing from TeamDirection and Project Aggregation from Bamboo can do for your project managers and teams.

Stop by the booth for a hands on demo. Better yet, try a trial of IntelliGantt Plus and Project.Share for IntelliGantt and see how it works for you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How to invite IntelliGantt users from a SharePoint web page

We're hearing more and more customers ask questions about how they may put IntelliGantt project files up on SharePoint so that everyone can work from the same copy. We're pleased to surprise them when we answer that IntelliGantt is already doing this for them.

The usage scenario is as follows:

A project manager publishes a project from MS Project or from IntelliGantt Plus to SharePoint. Let's take the simple project shown below:

After publishing, IntelliGantt fills out the task list so that the project on your desktop and the task list on your SharePoint server are in sync. But notice there has been an additional modification to the Shared Documents web part on the SharePoint site:

If we click on the 'TeamDirection' folder in the Shared Documents web part we see the following:

The folder with the long, ugly (but unique! :) name is where the shared copy of your IntelliGantt project data lives. IntelliGantt uses the files in this folder to merge and synchronize all your changes (and makes for a great backup-- a users machine might blow up, but all they'd need is to click on the invite file to catch to up where the group is).

It's the file with the box around it that we want. This is an invitation file. By default, it is the name of the project. However, notice the full URL at the bottom of the image? It ends with .tdiconnect. TDIConnect files are the invitation glue that allow multiple IntelliGantt users to work and collaborate together on the same project. It's also the same file that is attached to the emails sent to users inviting them to the workspace.

A user might navigate to this folder and click on the invite file. Or, the site admin might put a link to the invite file in the links web part like so:

This puts the invite file front and center on the SharePoint workspaces home page for easy access:

At this point, the project is shared via SharePoint and is represented in the SharePoint task list for any SharePoint user to view and update. And the invite file is also available for any IntelliGantt user to join the 'behind-the-scenes' project to see a rich desktop view. For example, here Julia has clicked on the invite file and has joined the project:

This situation is also ideal if the user is a member of the project, needs to take it offline and update outside the office, return to the office and synchronize changes. This means a project team can really be a mix of project managers, SharePoint only users and mobile IntelliGantt users in and out of the office.