Product Review: EPM Live - Enterprise Project and Work Management for the Masses

Written by Joel Oleson. Posted in Business Solutions

SharePoint has been sold as both an application and a platform.  One of the biggest challenges in SharePoint deployments is often finding the core scenarios.  It’s easy to say it’s a portal, search, or collaboration.  What should it really be used for?  Is it a collaboration platform? Is it a portal?  Is it an ECM publishing site?  With EPM Live there is no guessing.  The rich enterprise project and work management solutions plug right into your SharePoint environment and provide the key scenarios.  In the case of EPM Live, it’s not about widgets and web parts.  It’s about full end-to-end enterprise project and work management that beat the likes of expensive line-of-business systems, which require additional hardware and specialists.  Why not take advantage of your existing investment in SharePoint for your EPM needs?  That’s exactly what EPM Live is positioned to do.

As well, SharePoint as a platform, both on-premise and in the cloud, has brought a number of backend systems and put them in the hands of the users.  It’s BI for the masses, Records Management for the masses, and so on.  Now we have Enterprise Project, Portfolio and Work Management for the masses delivered on SharePoint.  Even if you don’t have a SharePoint deployment, there are multiple ways to take advantage of it.

Here are a couple of screenshots where you can see how both the familiar Gant charts of project management are enhanced with a very rich SharePoint ribbon in a familiar interface.  The next question people ask is if it integrates with Microsoft Project and Project Server.  Yes it does.

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Figure 1: EPM Live Project Management – Project Task Management

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Figure 2: EPM Live: The New Assignment Planner Allows You to Compare Your Tasks and Projects to Resource Utilization

Challenges in Enterprise Project and Work Management

The challenges in any organization are silos.  Information exists in different systems, different applications, with multiple entry points.  Departments end up using their own processes and often completely separate deployments.  The most frustrating thing for executives now is trying to get an accurate picture of the organization.  CEOs want a simple dashboard that represents the various departments across the various projects and work for tracking resources and in a single dashboard get a quick glimpse of budgets, risks, and resources. EPM Live offers online and on-premise Enterprise Project, Portfolio and Work management tools for everyone in your organization from individual contributors to executive management.

Some of the key challenges are core to EPM systems and often what they lack:

  • EPM for the Masses: Needs of all users at all maturity levels – EPM Live offers an array of tools that allows the solution to be flexible and usable for every user.  If a seasoned project manager wants to use a scheduling engine, such as Microsoft Project, integration with EPM Live is out of the box.  If an accidental project manager who is not familiar with a scheduling tool but is still being asked to run projects needs a scheduling tool, they can use the online planner.  If a developer needs to schedule work but does not plan that work in a traditional project fashion such as waterfall method, they can use EPM Live’s agile planner to plan iterations.  No longer does the solution meet the needs of only the experienced project manager, it meets the needs of everyone, including the team members.
  • Centralized “One Place” for Managing Services, Projects Resources, and Work: All work that affects your resources or your bottom line – EPM Live has been designed to not only handle projects but all other work that affects your project resources such as service requests, help desk tickets, bugs, defects, etc.  Now the users can go to one centralized location to get all their work across the organization.
  • True Enterprise Capabilities: All processes and all teams – EPM Live is built to support not only project teams, but service teams, application teams, business teams and product teams.  The system doesn’t only support them it contains methodology and support for each of the areas that align with the type of work they need to manage.

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Figure 3: EPM Live Project Center – Executive Summary Provides Dashboard Key Performance Indicators

Deployment & Licensing:

EPM Live can be deployed as software-as-a-service or on-premise.  Today most of their customers are using the service provided from EPM Live.  They would encourage you to try out the online service try before you buy model.  If you like it there then you can keep it there, or install it on your systems.

EPM Live offers licensing to customers as an on-demand service through a per-user, per-month subscription model based on functionality.  They also offer licenses for on-premise implementations in the same format but are flexible for enterprises looking for dedicated server licensing.

My Experience with EPM Live

I was very impressed when I first saw EPM Live.  I wanted to pull in my EPM peers that have been running the enterprise project management office.  I’ve seen them have their own challenges of creating “the one place” and in attempting to create the uber dashboard for seeing time tracking, resource allocation, and budgeting.  Simply getting those  things working well together has been a feat on its own.  Today project and work management exists in a half dozen tools and there is little-to-no roll-up capabilities outside of a few dashboards that roll up group projects for things running in TFS, and a couple of one-off deployments of Project Server.

Not only executives, but resources themselves want to see reflected the projects they are working on.  How frustrating is it to fill out your time sheet every week and never know if you’re making a difference?  EPM Live is designed for resources themselves to see how the work is moving along and get notifications for activities waiting for them to respond.  When issues or tasks are waiting on you to respond you can quickly see exactly what requires your attention.

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Figure 4: EPM Live Notifications

It’s very appealing to think we could take advantage of a familiar platform, and build such a comprehensive solution that provides automation built on a scalable platform to meet such core business needs. 

Being someone who hears users complain a lot, I was impressed by the bar across the top of the page.  The notifications I mentioned before, but as well the ability to dynamically navigate across projects is really cool.  Below you can see the projects that I care about and can quickly cross navigate by choosing projects.  Would be awesome to be able to quickly flip between sites I participate on, and quickly see what’s changing across the sites and projects I care about. These capabilities are the type of enhancements I’d love to see across all team sites. 

I’ve also been impressed with the dashboards and KPIs.  They seem well put together.

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Figure 5: EPM Live Dynamic Project Navigation, Based on the Projects You Belong To

One of the new and exciting features that really show how EPM Live scales is through the new App Marketplace.  Something I’ve been looking for are those easy to use templates that will help me get started and help various teams, groups, and divisions as they look to build common services such as account management or typical product development solutions.  Business needs can be met through a template.  Now that’s smart.  Keep it simple, and then layer it on as your needs increase.

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Figure 6: EPM Live App Marketplace

At work I see more and more tablets, and getting access to documents is the key.  The platform for document sharing and collaboration is definitely up for grabs for what meets the users’ needs.  With SharePoint adoption a key focus of mine, I need to ensure that the barriers to entry are low, and easy access to SharePoint from any device any time is essential to our needs.  I really don’t want to see Dropbox in use, based on our security and compliance needs.  My users are looking for answers, and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen.

What are the Downsides?

I didn’t see a lot of downsides to this one.  I think price will surprise a few, but when you understand the target market and the capabilities and position it against nearly any competitor and see holistically what it’s doing, it won’t look unusual anymore.  The best approach is to make sure the right people are involved and the budget will be there.  The depth to this solution is currently unmatched in the EPM space.

Another downside I see is that possibility that this is something that can come in at the wrong level.  It would be easy for the wrong people in the organization to get this and start using it, and forget things like governance and how best to meet the needs of the organization.  The good news is this is something that can start out small and can get organic growth and morph into something greater.  So really I think organic adoption may be a way to educate people how it could work in the organization.  Someone has to kick the tires.  Many solutions in IT start out in some small corner and grow, based on success.

Conclusion

In conclusion, EPM Live is an impressive solution that sits on SharePoint and provides a comprehensive solution of Enterprise Project Management and Work Management for the masses.  Its dashboards, processes, and flows help build the utopia that executives have long been looking for.  With over 5,000 existing customers and more than 14 years of experience in the Project Management space, this solution is very rich and backed by a solid company that’s in it for the long haul. 

The initial look is easy.  You can simply contact EPM Live and get a hosted site setup in a trial so you can experience and see what it would look like with your data.  There are videos that may answer a lot of questions, and demos you can get as well.  If it seems like I am quite positive on this tool, it’s because in the exposure I’ve had to the tool I haven’t seen much that isn’t to like and the leadership has been very solid.

If you feel like you’d need help in an effort like this, that’s also something they provide at EPM Live.  They have a professional services team that is flexible in offering a rapid/fixed-cost deployment with options that include a dedicated account manager for continuity, and prepaid service plans for both support and training.  With one subscription, a customer will have a tailored deployment that includes a success plan with training though the EPM Live University and available Premier Support plans.

Learn more about EPM Live and try a free trial today.

 
Joel Oleson
Author: Joel OlesonWebsite: http://www.sharepointjoel.com
Joel was the first dedicated SharePoint Administrator ever. He's been working with SharePoint nearly 11 years and worked at Microsoft in both IT and the product teams including architecting the first roll-out of Microsoft's own global intranet.

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