A simple, flexible data-sharing tool
- By Paul Ferrill
- Feb 27, 2001
Sharing information over the Internet has become the preferred way to keep geographically diverse groups in sync. Problem is, many project-management programs don't come with tools for moving the information to the Web.
That's where Project Reporter 2.0 from CoGenTex Inc. comes in. Using Project Reporter, agencies and departments can quickly and easily publish project data to the Web for access by remote staff.
Project Reporter 2.0 which can be used to publish project data from all versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Project as well as Scitor Corp.'s PS7 and PS8 works as a stand-alone product or in conjunction with any of the popular Web servers to publish project information. It not only displays common charts and graphs but also uses a patented text-generation process to create a written report of a project's status.
In addition to expanding file support to Windows 2000 and Scitor PS7 and PS8, this new version of Project Reporter can assign different views to specific users or groups and customize those views by paragraph, fields in a table or specified levels of tasks. What's more, a new filtering capability lets you display information by any combination of fields, tasks, resources or assignments. You can also import custom filter definitions from Microsoft Project.
New look-and-feel enhancements include support for cascading style sheets, making it possible to specify page fonts and colors for text and graphics. These enhancements make Version 2.0 of Project Reporter an all-around better product.
It is true that Project 2000, the latest version of Microsoft Project, offers the same capabilities and more via the bundled Project Central Web-based portal. However, before jumping to an upgrade of your Project software or employing Project Central, you'll want to consider the cost. All you get when you buy a copy of Microsoft Project 2000 is a single client license to access data over the Web, and additional client licenses cost $199 each. By comparison, you can support 10 clients for only $495 with Project Reporter.
Installation of Project Reporter is straightforward, but you will have to do some configuration to get the product working with actual data. I installed the product on a 733 MHz Compaq iPAQ machine, running Windows 98 with no problems.
On Windows systems, Project Reporter uses open database connectivity (ODBC) to access the project data and requires that you create an ODBC data source name for each project file you wish to use. The default installation configures the Jrun server as a stand-alone Web server. If you already have a Web server running on that machine, the two will conflict. Fortunately, Jrun can integrate with all the popular Web servers, including Microsoft Internet Information Server, Netscape Enterprise/FastTrack, Apache for Windows or Unix, O'Reilly WebSite and StarNine WebSTAR on the Mac.
All administration tasks work using a Web-based client interface. New report views with customized information can be created from scratch, or you can modify the default view that ships with the project.
Project Reporter allows you to restrict access to information based on users or groups. Each user must be created individually using the administration feature and assigned a default report view. To restrict access to specific information, you must create custom views and then assign individual users or groups to that view.
One thing to keep in mind is the licensing model for Project Reporter. Each TCP/IP address that connects to the Project Reporter gets counted as a client. If your network runs a dynamic host configuration protocol server for dynamic IP addressing, you could have problems unless you have a site license or you fix several IP addresses to use when accessing Project Reporter. The product only counts unique IP addresses, so you can have as many people as you want accessing the product from a single computer.
Also, bear in mind that Project Reporter is simply a publishing tool. Unlike Microsoft Project Central, Project Reporter does not allow remote users to work with project data or add data to project files.
The bottom line: While limited to being a tool for publishing noninteractive project data, Project Reporter is a simple and cost-effective solution for organizations looking for a way to quickly share project information over the Web.
Ferrill, based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is a principal engineer at Avionics Test & Analysis Corp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.