Taking the ‘Project’ Out of Project Management

Sensing that much of the project collaboration done in business is not done at the enterprise level, Enact has simplified its enterprise software to appeal to groups of five to 25 people.

The barriers that have traditionally prevented small businesses and departmental groups from implementing project collaboration software include high entry costs, complex installations and integration with various software, according to Paul Yeh, CEO of Enact.

“The problem with project management is the people who make the decisions are middle managers and department managers,” Yeh said. “A lot of companies are shying away from enterprise solutions.”

With the release of Enact Workgroup Edition, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Enact is embedding an MSDE database as well as Tomcat application and Web servers with the collaboration product, simplifying the process of getting the project up and started.

It’s part of a larger trend in the software world to get the applications into the hands of users while minimizing the strain on IT budgets and staff. Content creation products such Macromedia’s Contribute look to take the content creation and publishing tasks away from traditional Webmasters and give it to people who know their departments and the content firsthand. Hosted content management applications, such as Smartwebs and CrownPeak serve a similar purpose by outsourcing the technical aspects of updating Web sites. Enact is applying the idea to project collaboration software — taking the costly, time-consuming installations of products like SiteScape’s Enterprise Forum and Microsoft Project and bringing them to a scale where small businesses and groups can benefit without paying the costs in time or money.

Where once servers, a database, and time devoted to configuring the software to work together with all of the parts was the norm, Enact Workgroup users need only Windows 2000 or XP. After downloading the software from the Enact site or using a CD, the software is ready to go. “Immediately the manager has project management capability for a five-person group for about $1,000,” Yeh said.

After that, Enact Workgroup is just a smaller version of its enterprise cousin. “Basically, functionality-wise, there is no difference,” Yeh said. “But installation is much easier.”

Enact runs on a browser-based Java applet that gives the browser functionality similar to that of a desktop application. There are three core client components to the Enact system, each suited to different users:

  • ActionView, for executives, offers an executive summary view of a project and allows users to check a project’s status
  • ActionTask, for contributors to a project, is where team members access documents, reports and calendars that the group shares, as well as communicate with team members and collaborate on tasks.

  • ActionPlan, for planners, allows managers to coordinate and track tasks, resources and budgets.

Users can get started with the Enact Workgroup Edition for $995 for five people. Add a document management module and the costs begin at $1,495. The document management module offers a centralized repository for storage of project-related files. It includes check-in and check-out features, revision control, and the ability to attach comments to files.

While Enact considers its Workgroup Edition a simplified alternative to the bulky Microsoft Project, Project files can still be exported from Enact Workgroup. Enact supports Mozilla and Safari browsers, and editions that can be hosted on Linux and Mac platforms will be available within a year.

Yeh said Enact will also be releasing new technology in the next year to increase its collaboration features, such as whiteboard technology. The company currently has no plans to include chat, according to Yeh.

Adapted from Intranet Journal.

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