The Microsoft Project 2009 Conference kicked off yesterday officially, but today the big news around what will come in 2010 was announced and we have the details for you. Of course, we won't be talking about MS Project 2010 without talking about SharePoint -- that's just how it will be from now on.

Project 2010 - Three Major Changes

Expect a public beta of Project 2010 before the end of this calendar year and the RTM is still on track for the first quarter of 2010. With that important bit of news out of the way, here's what you can expect:

Simplified User Interface

Like that Ribbon UI in Office 2007? Well now you'll have it MS Project 2010. The user interface has been improved to the point that your average offer worker will be able to work with the tool -- you will no longer need a degree in "how do you copy and paste that task and not mess up the timeline?".

According to Seth Patton, Director of Project Management for Project at Microsoft, the interface is more like MS Excel with scheduling.

Project 2010 Ribbon UI

The new Ribbon UI makes commands easier to discover based on the task you are doing at the time.

To go along with this new Ribbon UI, there's a new View that could make the Gantt Chart obsolete. It's called the Timeline View and it's a graphical representation of your project.

Project 2010: Tasks and Milestones

You can quickly drag and drop to create a timeline and it has zoom and pan functionality. Even better though is the ability to cut and paste your timeline view in PowerPoint or Outlook as a real image.

Goodbye Portfolio Server

Okay, so you are only saying goodbye to the name and the standalone server product. 2010 brings a combined Project Server and Portfolio Server -- a single server product offering called Project Server 2010.

The new Project Server 2010 will contain the functionality of both Project Server and Portfolio Server, plus a few new features. You get a consistent UI, commands and centralized administration.

Other new integrations for Project Server include:

  • Exchange Server: Team members can look and manage their tasks and statuses from Outlook, and mobile users can access their schedules and provide updates using Outlook Exchange for Mobile or Outlook Web Access
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Server: Development teams can continue to work within TFS on tasks and assignments and have updates synchronized with Project
  • MS Dynamic: Out of the box integration with AX (ERP)  and SL, so that SMBs can extend Project accounting applications

Hello SharePoint 2010

Project Server 2007 was built on WSS3.0 (didn't know that actually), but Project Server 2010 is built on SharePoint 2010. Which means you need to have a full SharePoint installation if you want Project Server 2010.

Project 2010 and SharePoint Integration

What you get though is a nice integration with SharePoint Lists and other collaboration features. Even the interface is the same.

This really is a big deal for Microsoft. It automatically assumes that you have a SharePoint installation already, or that you have no problem adding it if you don't. What if you don't want a SharePoint install? What if you don't use it? A bit of waste of money there.

Don't Want a Server Install?

You may be one of those companies that doesn't use Project Server, but uses MS Project. And maybe you use SharePoint too. Good news for you as well. The Project 2010 Client comes with the ability to update SharePoint -- WSS or MOSS -- including two way synchronization.

Dumbing Down Project, Portfolio Server?

When it was announced that Performance Point Server would be integrated with SharePoint, there were some that felt it was a "dumbing down" of the feature set of that server. There's the possibility that many may have the same thoughts with this news.

But Patton doesn't see this Project Server 2010 in this manner. He see it as taking something complex and simplifying it, implementing it seamlessly with how people execute and work.

That is the right approach for sure. There are too many products out there that are too complex to use, take forever to learn, only to find out you don't need half the capabilities. Or, you find that you do things so differently that you are forcing new process on your users.

Hopefully the new version of Microsoft Project Server will support the everyday models most organizations work with, without comprising on the functionality needed to support both portfolios and individual projects.

3 Versions of Project 2010

A simplified product, leaves us with only three SKUs for MS Project:

  • MS Project Standard 2010
  • MS Project Professional 2010
  • MS Project Server 2010

Now that's nice to hear. Especially with over 20 million users of their product.

MS Project 2010 is entering a new wave. Their most significant release in the last decade, Microsoft has hitched Project to their shining star forever -- SharePoint. And that could make all the difference (and we aren't necessarily saying this is a good thing).