Interview with Microsoft’s Seth Patton

More from the Project ConferenceSeth Patton is the senior marketing director for Microsoft Project. I got thirty minutes alone with Seth at the Microsoft Project Conference 2009 show this afternoon.

More from the Project Conference

Seth Patton is the senior marketing director for Microsoft Project. I got thirty minutes alone with Seth at the Microsoft Project Conference 2009 show this afternoon.

We discussed several topics impacting the PSA (professional services automation) and PPM (project portfolio management) software space. Here are the highlights from that conversation:

1) How will Project 2010 impact other PPM competitors? Seth and I discussed how the 2010 version of Microsoft Project makes the solution more competitive with existing PPM solutions, especially those targeting the SMB (small-medium business) market. Independent software vendors in that space will definitely feel more competition from Microsoft. More specifically, these vendors will see more energized competition from Microsoft vast army of channel partners. Seth discussed how Microsoft customers are desirous of solutions that take advantage of other Microsoft products like SharePoint, Office, Exchange, etc. Many customers are looking to consolidate or reduce the number of software vendors they are dealing with. As Microsoft’s Project technologies continue to improve, Microsoft may continue to drive out more independent software vendors from customers’ IT departments.

2) Why did Microsoft make so many ease of use and interoperability improvements to this product? Seth discussed how making the product easier to use means more people can utilize the product immediately. By reducing the product’s learning curve, Microsoft expands the potential user base. More novices and more users in different sized firms are now target customers for Project 2010.

3) How will Project 2010 interoperate with other ERP and PPM solutions? Better than before. Avnet is integrating Project with SAP application software. Seth indicated that they are moving time sheet data between the two systems. Project 2010 will come with out-of-the-box integration with two MBS (Microsoft Business Solutions) accounting products: Dynamics SL (nee Solomon) and Axapta.

4) Are professional services firms using Project or are they using PSA products instead? According to Seth, several large services are big users of Project. He specifically mentioned CSC and EDS as two examples of this. While PPM products, Microsoft’s included, contain many of the functions needed by professional services firms, they are still some key functions not available within Project just yet. These include: client billing; dedicated time entry for vendor, client, contractors, etc.; two-way interfaces with payroll systems; proposal tools; and, more. Nonetheless, Seth reminded me that thousands of Microsoft partners are service firms as well as users of Project in client work.

5) Is Microsoft seeing an uptick in Project sales due to ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009)? Seth stated that they have seen some big deals pop in on the big federal deals but state and local action has been minimal to date.

6) Does Microsoft have anything to report on the NPD (new product development) front? Microsoft has struck deals with PLM vendors. One of these is PTC. If you are into this functionality, you should also check out Planview's and CA's offerings here.

I'll do one more post tomorrow after Gary Hamel speaks. Until then...