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-- by Joel T. Patz
Schedule Insight lives up to its name, providing a quick view into existing project schedules created with Microsoft Project. And because the program only reads Project files (those saved in the MPX format), you can't accidentally change key data. By editing the export table in Microsoft Project, you can control which fields are exported to the MPX file and consequently seen by Schedule Insight.
The Task view's Table shows resources and resembles the familiar Gantt chart of Project. Double-click on any task to see a Detail screen with tabs for viewing a list of dependent tasks, assigned resources, scheduling details (time remaining, scheduled and actual start and finish dates with variance), fixed and actual costs incurred, and notes about the task. By viewing special conditions, you can see just the tasks that are complete, critical, due this month or yet to be started.
To see the project from the worker's perspective, use the Resource view. Here you can sort the data using up to three parameters (percent complete within cost, then within resource name, for example). You can filter the data to see only over-allocated resources or resources where costs exceed the budget, or highlight these entries within the entire resource list-something project managers will appreciate. By grouping resources, those reporting to the same manager can be listed together in a group view.
Response time is excellent-the filter and sort commands execute in the blink of an eye. In addition to controlling the formatting of most displays, you can define your resource name, then choose My Filter to avoid constantly reselecting your name.
Using Schedule Insight over Project itself has several advantages. Besides offering the security of only reading Project files, the program is simpler to learn and operate. You can create a Workset that combines multiple projects into a single view, and a handy Project Summary screen shows the number of projects, groups, assigned resources, total cost and a task summary (number of tasks slipping, past due, not yet started, in progress and completed)
On the downside, I found that although I could create custom filters, I couldn't create one showing only projects where work was less than 50 percent complete. And, while the report writer is satisfactory, it doesn't let you save custom reports separately. If you happen to destroy a standard report, there's no way to recover it.
At $189, Schedule Insight seems an expensive tool to roll out in large projects. But convenience and ease of use may convince you otherwise.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.