ActiveProject 5.0 keeps projects on track

Managing large projects of any type typically requires expensive project management software that provides tools for tracking milestones, critical-path elements and individual tasks. What's missing from project management software is a way to manage all of the other information necessary to complete a large project on time and within budget.

That's where ActiveProject 5.0 from Framework Technologies Corp. comes in. While you won't see this written on the box, ActiveProject is, in essence, a project communication portal. Functioning in much the same way as popular Internet portal sites, ActiveProject focuses on facilitating efficient and timely communication among project team members. It does so by providing a World Wide Web interface for collaboration and document management tools.

Once a project site has been set up using the ActiveProject Builder, users can, via their Web browsers, contribute and access documents, computer-aided design files, schedules, spreadsheets, photos, database queries and other Web-enabled applications. A single click on the Publish button sends all Web files to the designated server.

ActiveProject was not designed to be a direct replacement for a project management tool. You still need another product to track project milestones and the like. The product does, however, integrate with Primavera Systems Inc.'s Expedition project administration and contract management system.

We were able to install ActiveProject Server in less than 20 minutes with no significant problems. We did have to perform a number of configuration steps, such as defining new Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions file types using the Microsoft Corp. Management Console for Internet Information Server (IIS). Installation of the ActiveProject Builder portion took less than 10 minutes. Bear in mind, however, that you can't install the Builder product on the same machine as ActiveProject Server.

In addition to IIS, ActiveProject Server works in conjunction with several Microsoft products, including NetMeeting, the Microsoft Internet Directory that includes the Internet Locator Service and the IIS Simple Mail Transport Protocol service. ActiveProject also ships with the WHIP! Viewer from Autodesk Inc. for viewing AutoCAD drawings and the SolidWorks Assembly Publisher from SolidWorks Corp.

When an end user logs on to an ActiveProject site, he will see an attractively designed interface with Aspect Tabs as holders for related information. Each tab offers a background image to help visually depict the purpose of that tab. For example, a user might click on a project tab designated Request for Information to view RFIs submitted by other users or to access and fill out a fresh RFI form.

There's also a facility for real-time conferencing using Microsoft's NetMeeting technology.

Security for a Web site of this nature ranks high on the priority list for most organizations. ActiveProject incorporates a number of security features to ensure that only authorized personnel gain access to the information. The FTC Site Monitor Filter guards against direct access to files and Web pages by any user not authenticated by the system.

And ActiveProject Server gives site builders a high level of discretion in assigning read, write and editing privileges to users. The program supports six types of users, including viewers, collaborators, reviewers, publishers, authors and owners. The general difference between the roles hinges on what level of contribution each user is allowed to make. Individual users can assume any of the roles for each Aspect Tab of the project.

Product documentation includes printed manuals for ActiveProject Builder and Server along with extensive online help. The manuals include descriptions of all the major functions of each product, along with some examples of how to use each. We would like to have seen a few more tutorial-type examples to help the uninitiated along, although Framework Technologies does provide several sample projects to help speed the learning process.

ActiveProject Builder and Server take a new approach to project management - an approach that focuses more on information gathering and delivery than tracking minute details. If your organization is about to start a big project, you'll want to give this product a look.

-- Ferrill, based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is a principal engineer with Avionics Test & Analysis Corp. He can be reached at pferrill@fwb.gulf.net.

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ActiveProject 5.0Framework Technologies Corp.(800) 644-1002www.frametech.com

Price and Availability: Available through any of Framework's authorized GSA resellers for $14,121, which includes the Server license, the Builder license, 15 collaborators and unlimited viewers.

Remarks: ActiveProject Builder and Server provide all the tools necessary to help manage large projects. The Builder portion makes it easy to create and maintain a project-tracking Web site with little or no HTML or Web-building experience. ActiveProject Server handles all the user security and access-right chores in addition to providing the integration between creating content and publishing it on the Web.

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