Microsoft has announced Project Central, a companion product to Microsoft’s recently announced Project 2000. The new software introduces collaborative capabilities into the Project product line. Project 2000 is an updated version of Microsoft’s main project management software. Project Central adds views, such as a personal view where a team member can view all his or her project tasks, each in the context of the overall project. Project Central also allows timesheet views, where team members can report time expenditures across multiple projects and percent complete for various projects. Team members can add tasks to their task list, which Project Central then submits to the project manager for approval. Team members can also delegate tasks, while maintaining the ability to track those tasks via Project Central. Project 2000 features a few key upgrades from Project 98. In addition to being faster and more scalable, the product comes with viewing tools for core or decision-level managers. According to Product Manager Kris Tibbetts, these tools “made it easier to slice and dice the data.” The central improvement, said Tibbetts, was the addition of the Project Central companion product. In terms of collaborative power, Tibbetts said, the previous version, Project 98, had only “the workgroups feature, which was pretty limited.” The project manager was essentially the only person with the power to alter the project plan file. In Project Central, project managers can make team members part of the planning process. “Team members can provide input into the plan and participate in the planning and the tracking processes,” said Tibbetts. Also, Project Central lets upper-level executives access various project plans. The product includes a portfolio view, where an executive can view all projects across a division or across the entire company, and particular data fields, which project managers can add for the executive’s use only. Other additions to Project 2000 include an enhanced grouping ability, which lets project managers sort tasks by relevant criteria, such as completion level or priority level. Microsoft has also added more Excel-like features: Most important, the ability to input formulas into cells in the project file. This feature adds not only basic computational functionality, but also the ability to create graphical flags. For example, a project manager can tell Project 2000 to flash an orange stoplight next to any project that is more than 10 percent over budget and a red stoplight by any project that is more than 20 percent over budget. These features, explained Tibbetts, came in response to extensive customer feedback. Project 2000 is priced the same as Project 98—$499 for the full version, $199 for an upgrade. Microsoft is throwing in a technical upgrade promise if you buy Project 98 between November 1 and April 13. Microsoft will then upgrade you to Project 2000 for free, as soon as the product is available. A single Project Central Server license and a single user license for Project Central come with Project 2000 to allow the project manager to access Project Central. A five-user Project Central license from Microsoft costs $170 per user. For more information about Project Central and the enhancements in Project 2000, look at the Microsoft Project 2000 Enhancements site.