Insight No.36 : Apr 2012 : What's Coming Around the Corner?Mobility, Cloud, Collaboration Trends Dominate Microsoft Project Conference 2012By Amanda Akass
"There's a tremendous transformation that's happening with the cloud, that's happening with devices, and project management is going to be right at the center of that."
So spoke Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Office Division product management group, at the opening keynote of the Microsoft Project Conference 2012 with a dramatic emphasis on the company's future vision for its project management software.
The Phoenix conference, which attracted more than 1,200 delegates from 44 countries, began with a definite bang as the thumping bass notes of a DJ set drew delegates into the first morning's keynote speech, introduced by Microsoft Project Director Chris Crane. Crane offered a clear outline of the company's roadmap, highlighting the rapidly evolving needs of the company's consumers through three key facts:
- 50 % of US consumers currently own three or more devices;
- 70% of work tablets will be purchased by employees by 2016; and
- 30% of software purchased will be in the cloud by 2014.
The presentation included a real-time demonstration of Microsoft Project 2010's capabilities across a wide variety of devices and integrated with Office 365, the company's new cloud-based productivity application suite.
For Keshav Puttaswamy, Microsoft group program manager for Project 2010, this event was about opening people's eyes to the possibility of being able to manage projects on whatever device happens to be most convenient. "Our biggest competitor for task list management is paper," he said. "But the phone is really beginning to give paper a run for its money. I don't have any paper on me - but my phone is in my pocket. The world is a busy place and you want to be as agile as possible. Now if something comes up, you can access real-time information on your phone straight away. This really changes the game of project management."
Key Conference Takeaways
"There is a real sense of the future direction of the software here - particularly with the increased diversity of platforms. Microsoft used to be very strict about exclusivity for Microsoft operating systems - and they are really relaxing on that front," said Pcubed Enterprise Project Management Consultant Denis Hathaway. "It should be really helpful getting everything more integrated into the Microsoft Office suite as project managers are using a whole variety of tools. Having everything in the cloud means you can keep an eye on your projects and portfolios all the time. You can check up on them on the road or at home - you'll never have to stop working [just] because you've left your office." ("That might not always be such a good thing," he added with a laugh.)
Pcubed Principal Consultant Eric Foss agreed that increased connectivity was one of the main messages to take away from the event. "It's not just someone working on a computer in an office by themselves - you need accessibility in all directions now," he said. "Enhanced collaboration is a key part of how organizations work. From portfolio management, to high level strategy and fundamental delivery - this puts the information at somebody's fingertips, and they can access it in the way that will be most comfortable for them."
Appropriately Pcubed had a Windows 8 Tablet on display at the conference, showcasing sample reports and views available on handheld devices for some of its clients, such as Glasgow 2014, the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Rob Lathrop from Sutter Health (another Pcubed client) said the ability to make decisions on multiple platforms is going to be an important capability. "The most interesting thing about the conference keynotes for me was the app that would let senior executives sign off a deal on a tablet - so you could go home and still approve documents and move things forward. It would be great to have the option to do that on your phone or other mobile devices."
The previous Microsoft Project Conference, held in 2009 had a more obvious focus - the launch of the latest version of the software, Project 2010. Microsoft's Puttaswamy noted that the freedom of not having a new product to launch this time was "refreshing." "This time it's all about the momentum," he said. "The feedback we're getting back from customers is directly actionable. We're connecting with and learning from each one of the clients who comes to talk to us, and we can apply changes right away."
Pcubed client Novant Health's Sandra Kale noted that cloud-based computing was a big topic at the conference. "I'm not sure everyone is that ready to use it though," she added. "Many people are more interested in improving what they've got already. But Microsoft is more reactive to the needs of the user community and really looking for ways to improve it. And you always pick up lots of suggestions for new ways to use Project here."
Pcubed, as a Premium sponsor, hosted a large booth in the center of the exhibition hall, showcasing case studies from its work around the world and putting on a series of presentations. Talks given by Pcubed consultants included profiles of work done at Jaguar Land Rover and the Olympic Delivery Authority as well as technical sessions on topics such as performance tuning schedules. Pcubed's Head of Innovation and Portfolio Practice, Shan Rajegopal, drew especially large crowds for signings of his book, Project Portfolio Management: Leading the Corporate Vision.
Prizes and a Party
The Pcubed Cocktail Party, held at the Arrogant Butcher Pub, was packed for a speech by Microsoft Project General Manager Ludo Hauduc, noting Microsoft's long and close relationship with Pcubed and its Founder and Chairman, Adrian Balfour. The theme of the evening was international games; Pcubed's Duncan Griffin shared insights on Pcubed's work in delivering the upcoming Commonwealth and Olympic games. During the party, Kenneth Lippert from industrial gas company Praxair won the door prize - a pair of tickets to the Men's Soccer Finals at the Olympics in London this summer.
Nearly 200 conference delegates who attended Pcubed booth sessions during the event were also entered into a competition to win the Windows 8 Samsung Tablet. Sanooj Narayanan, a senior software engineer from Millennium Pharmaceuticals, was the happy winner and couldn't believe his luck.
"I really wasn't expecting this," he confessed, "I'm not normally lucky at all. Just the day the start of the conference I went to a casino in Phoenix and lost some money - so I'm really amazed! Thank you!"