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Project management (PM) software doesn't make a project manager more effective -- it just makes him or her more efficient. For that task, Microsoft’s Project 2002 is one of the best packages available. Because it integrates fully with Office XP, it lets Office regulars get up and running with relative ease in an application that would otherwise take a lot of learning. Managers who don't use Office XP may prefer a package tailored for their businesses, such as construction, sales or manufacturing. But for general use, you can't go wrong with Project 2002.
As with all Microsoft products, Project 2002's installation is a straightforward, if lengthy, process. We recommend using the Custom install option, in order to specify the components you want. Bear in mind that Project 2002 will become an integrated part of Office XP and that your decisions here will affect Word, Excel, Outlook and the other programs in the suite. Also, be aware that Project 2002 installs utilities on your system that pop up randomly and can drain your system's performance. For example, MOSearch, a search tool that runs in the background, noticeably slowed our test system.
Once you're up and running, it's time to look through the tutorials and wizards that swiftly guide newcomers through task and resource organisation. PM professionals new to Project Standard and Office will need to familiarise themselves with its interface. Office veterans will find Project 2002's interface familiar. Furthermore, Project integrates seamlessly with Office, Visio and Windows. This means you can import pre-existing tasks, spreadsheets and contacts from other Office XP programs, including Outlook and Excel. Outlook's integration also allows you to export milestones, deadlines and tasks to your handheld, should you be so inclined. For no-holds-barred, intricate and highly collaborative project management, managers should consider paying the extra £230 (ex. VAT) for Project Professional 2002.
To begin creating a project, you first list all the tasks needed for the job -- for example, a manufacturer may list product conception, meetings with principals, obtaining the budget and hiring the workers -- in a spreadsheet-like grid. After the list is complete, you build your team and assign tasks via the Next Steps and Related Activities tabs.
If you need guidance, Project 2002 uses Microsoft's own Task Pane, which is now available on most Office products, very effectively. The Task Pane either floats as a separate window or sits to one side and helps you with various aspects of your project, such as estimating the duration of a task, combining tasks into phases, establishing milestones (key events), adding documents to the project and sharing the project with others on your network or the Web.
Once your project is underway (virtually, at least), you'll begin to reap the benefits of using the software. You and your co-workers can easily track the project's progress over time using standard Gantt charts, which present a project as a diagram consisting of circles or rectangles representing events or milestones. Project's network diagrams – similar to those you might create in Visio -- and copious reports also come in handy.
As with all Microsoft products, support options let you search the overwhelmingly extensive Knowledge Base, correspond with technical staff via email or telephone Microsoft’s UK support staff. Telephone support is available 8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) and calls are charged at the national rate (typically 8p a minute from a BT landline).
Even if you're not familiar with the detail of project management, Project Standard 2002 offers such a useful series of tutorials, wizards and online support that any manager can master this craft. People with industry-specific project needs should check out other PM packages (such as SureTrak Project Manager 3.0 for construction) to see if they already offer customised templates. But if you're looking for a general package and already use Office XP, Project 2002 is a perfect choice.