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Tools & Strategy for Managiing Resource Availability & Assignments Across a Large Number of Field Projects

- Large Engineering Consulting Firm with 4 major divisions/groups cross utilizing resources for many projects in the field.
- Each group has its own schedule and direct reporting resources.
- 3 groups use MS Project 2010 Professional; 1 group uses a spreadsheet based schedule.
- Each group has its MS Project 2010 file set-up in a different way.
- Each group needs to use / cross leverage each other's resources for various projects.

- Each group spends a lot of time figuring out resource available across the groups to support their own group's project.
- There is no central system telling each group that someone is booked already for a time period.  
- Managers and admins spend a lot of time requesting and trying to find available resoures working across each group.
- Two groups try to share their MS Project Files and each group's admin trys to manually input the other group's info so that they know where their own resources stand in terms of availability
- All 4 groups release their business/organzations schedule, and often have inconsistent and wrong resource assignments, project dates, etc as they attempted to input each other information into their own schedule format  and MS Project File.
- Often field projects may be extended or may end early but the resource availabilty does get immediately updated until the whole cycle of discussions and schedule trading takes place betweeen the groups occurs.  The ability for the person on the project to update his availablility through a mobile app, outlook exchange calendar interface with project, or web app

Help/Advice Needed
1) If we implement MS Project Server 2010, then will then solve many of the problems stated above? Is so, then how?
2) We use MS Project 2010 heavily for most projects, is there a better solution to the problems without going to MS Project Server 2010?

Thanks for your help and advice.
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are these 4 groups all in the same company and domain? If so why not just use enterprise resources in project server so that no matter what group assigns a resource a task (time) that is reflected when another group looks up that resource.

In order words projects are managed at the group level, but resources are managed above that at the "enterprise" or common shared level.
dtnewsomAuthor Commented:
Thanks sharepointguru14.

All 4 groups are all in the same company and domain.  The idea is that we would use enterprise resources in MS Project Server to track assignments / availability.  Currently, we add resources in MS Project 2010 using the MS Exchange global address book, which I am assuming MS Project Server will also synchronize with - right?  

In the next comment post below, I have posted a summary of the ideal solution that we are thinking of.  Please kindly review.
dtnewsomAuthor Commented:
** More Info on an ideal solution **

So, can MS Project Server 2010 do all of these things in our solution wish list below or is their another tool that we should consider?  If MS project Server can do the below, then can you briefly explain those key attributes / features of MS project server in being able to execute this solution wish list.

Ideal Solution/System/Tool

Business Objectives:
• Provide real time updates on scope, schedule and field resource allocation and availabilty changes to 1) optimize utilization, resource loading and work force balancing, 2) increase overall utilization and company profitablity related to all field work, and 3) provide groups with greater cross org visibility on projects and a more efficient and effective tool for managing all field projects and resources withing the company.
• Significantly reduce man hours involved around scheduling and resource allocations.
• Reduce errors and increase accuracy of information.

Vision of a System/Solution:
• One centralized system / database where all projects (and high probability opportunity projects) are input and managed.
• Each group would input its own project information and that information would not have to be duplicated in any other MS Project file or Excel spreadsheet.
• Each group can filter projects, and also generating project reports based on job type, departmental resources, business, etc.
• Any one in the company can review and see the project schedule and filter by department or other filters TBD.
• System would have change/control/authorization/user rights controls
• Resources would by assigned by only authorized individuals.
• Project Managers can update their project at any time, which would generate a change notice to the owners of resources, and the staff members assigned to the project.  The resource owner can approve/change/re-assign/unassign resources.
• Project managers can use a web app updating their projects
• Departmental Resource owners can assign/re-assign/unassign resources and the system would alert the PM and other pre-defined master schedule owners.
• System interfaces and communicates with MS Exchange.
• Personnel assigned to the project receive an outlook calendar invite regarding their new assignment.  
• Any resource added to a project would be pulled from the MS exchange outlook global address book and thus avoid manual entry of names, department, billing rate, etc and also standardize name nomenclature across projects and each organizations’ schedule.
• As all or one of the resources assigned to the project finish their role in the project early, then they can use a web app interface via internet explorer, or outlook exchange calendar to update their early departure date, which would update that resources availability on the project server / central system.

dtnewsomAuthor Commented:
Note: I would like to change the point value of this question/solution to 25,000 points but looks like I'll need some help from the company / account manager on this when they open.
Project Server 2010 should fill most of the requirements and desires out of the box. Some customization/tweaking/configuration would need to be done around alerting and calendaring but it should mostly be configuration and nothing like custom code.
Project 2010 runs as a SharePoint Service Application so what that means is by default you get Project Web Access (PWA) which you will have resources and most users use to update items and tasks. Your project managers will do most of the project planning/resource leveling in the project client and just publish the plans up to the SharePoint site. This is a great feature as it means you only need a few people in your organization to have the project client installed and is an easy web app for all users to get status updates and update their own items meaning they can do it from anywhere (including on mobile devices if you allow that)

Reassigning of tasks can be done through PWA OOTB

Users don't get a calendar invite when assigned to a task they do get an email though. Would need to look to see if that could be changed to a meeting invite.

Finally once again users can go into PWA and update/complete their task assignments.

You didn't say it but toward the end I started to get the feeling that you are looking to manage resources down to like the 15 minute level. I just want to throw it out there in case that is correct that I don't know of any system that will really work all that well in that fashion. Any Enterprise project management tool that I have seen is really for managing it day by day or so and not really hour by hour. Not saying it can't be done I'm sure it can. I think it would just take a lot of management and changes to have it come close as things come up and plans change. If I read too deep and got this wrong well then just ignore it :)

Project Managers can Assign resources, Notification/Approvals from resource owners is something I'm unsure about. I know alerting and workflows are very easy through sharepoint but I don't think that is done by default for Project however I have only used 2010 in limited fashion so far. You should be able to use OOTB features to get at least close to desired results though.
You can create custom permission levels and assign different users and groups to granularly manage permissions through PWA

You can pull your resources from Active Directory (which is were exchange gets them from) but you would store a copy of them in project server rather then looking them up each time. This is the Enterprise Resources feature and its the way Project Server keeps track of the resources schedule. AD doesn't hold the attributes to keep track of the schedule so that is done through project.

The grouping and filtering of projects can be done easily in PWA by creating views.

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