The recent beta of SharePoint 2013 brought with it a new version of its sister product: Project Server 2013. Project Server is built on top of SharePoint, and is designed to extend the capabilities of Microsoft Project for large scale enterprise project management.

Project Server 2013 brings with it several new features. Most obvious of all is adoption of the new Windows 8 UI, as seen in SharePoint 2013. One of the biggest functional changes is the integration with Office 365, now that Project Online is part of Microsoft’s cloud offering.

The new Azure Workflow Server, a big part of SharePoint 2013, also makes an appearance here. This does mean any existing workflows will be incompatible and need rebuilding. However it also means users now have the option of creating workflows directly in SharePoint Designer 2013 and deploying them to Project Server.

Reporting has also seen a raft of new features. Chief among them is support for oData feeds, meaning Project Server data can now be accessed via URL. This should provide a lot more flexibility for solutions in the future.

Smaller Scale Project Management

Project Server is a fully featured product, but one that can prove too much for some organizations. SharePoint 2013 features a brand new Project Site template that can be used for smaller scale project management activities. Site information, such as tasks, can be aggregated to a specific user's MySite, and the sites can be used in complete isolation of Project Server if required. If later Project Server integration is required, than tasks from the project sites can be pulled across.

Of course you could just use standard SharePoint features to manage your projects. SharePoint features task lists, Gannt views, site templates and custom lists -- all of which can be used to create your own bespoke project management tool.

Third Party Add Ons

As you would expect with the SharePoint community, numerous third party products also exist that attempt to improve on SharePoint’s inherent usefulness as a project management tool.

Bamboo Solutions are well known as one of the biggest suppliers of web parts and add ins for SharePoint. As you would expect they have a number of products aimed at helping project managers. These range from simple web parts to fully featured "solution accelerators."

One of their most popular web parts is the "Task Master" (US$ 1495), a turbo charged replacement for the standard SharePoint task list. Those familiar with Microsoft Project will recognize the Gantt timeline display, task properties (start and end dates, resources, predecessors, etc.) and color coded views.

Task management is obviously a huge part of any project manager's day to day job. Task Master provides all the tools to manage tasks (and resources, and in fact whole project plans) directly with SharePoint. Whilst expensive for a single web part, it is a fully featured configurable component that many will find extremely useful.

Another useful tool, fulfilling a slightly different purpose, is the "RiskMatrix" webpart from TeamImprover (US$ 200). This lightweight tool focuses, as the name suggests, on managing and displaying risks. A risk log or matrix is now a recommended part of many modern project management methodologies, especially when dealing with larger/more expensive projects. The reason given is that highlighting risks as early as possible gives the best possible chance of dealing with them successfully.

RiskMatrix is a simple but effective tool, using standard SharePoint lists to enter risks, and assign them high/med/low Impact and Probability scores. A bright graphical, color-coded matrix is then created, clearly indicating areas for immediate concern -- red risks being bad. The component’s simplicity makes it an ideal candidate to work alongside other similar products, or as part of a user's own Project Management dashboard.

Editor's Note: Chris has written before about what to expect with SharePoint 2013:

--  Microsoft Doesn't Advise You Customize SharePoint 2013