High-flying Jumpstart: Cloud-based Project ManagementMicrosoft Project Server 2010, described as “a landmark release” by Gartner in the IT research company’s latest assessment of project and portfolio management (PPM) applications, is nonetheless a highly complex application. Few organizations have the resources internally to get the enterprise project management system up and running effectively on premises.

The implementation obstacle is compounded by the need to integrate the solution with the existing infrastructure and to make it make it available all the time and on a global scale. As result, many companies call in Microsoft partners to get Project Server implemented and running for them. Unfortunately, a sizable implementation often requires a six-digit investment that may or may not pay off within your environment.

That overall complexity, long lead time, and hefty price tag may drive your company or agency away from trying out Project Server 2010, even if you have ample project management expertise. Fortunately, a number of businesses have taken Project Server to the “cloud,” which can make your entry smoother and more economical.

The Advantages of Cloud-based PPM

In general, PPM delivered as software-as-a-service provides several advantages. A major advantage of cloud-based offerings is that the customer doesn’t need to invest in servers or IT staff time to gain the advantages of the technology it wishes to use. The software is licensed, deployed, maintained, and updated on the hosting company’s own hardware. Many cloud-based operations promise backup and disaster recovery plans that often exceed their clients’ internal capabilities. That ensures dedicated enterprise-class reliability and support and helps customers accelerate deployment while reducing their IT infrastructure costs.

Most companies that deliver SaaS-based PPM charge a monthly subscription fee to users for access. There’s no need for a customer to make a major investment to get a taste of the product before undertaking a full deployment. For example, you can start with a pilot project and sign up a small test group of users to try out the enterprise project management features. As your organization’s project management expertise expands, the number of subscriptions can incrementally grow or be quickly scaled up to a dedicated environment. Likewise, as Project Server needs shrink within the company, the subscriptions can be reduced.

That reduced commitment will allow you to evaluate the impact of adopting PPM across your organization and help you assess its maturity level in terms of people and processes for undertaking PPM.

The BeMo Approach

BeMo is one company that appears on Microsoft’s shortlist of approved vendors for delivering SaaS-based Project Server 2010. BeMo offers hosted Microsoft Project Server 2010 with high availability, disaster recovery, and on-demand automated provisioning. According to BeMo, customers can get up and running in 30 minutes. Its service levels are set at 99.9 percent uptime. Currently, BeMo deploys its solutions in five different datacenters located in the United States. It will be expanding its offerings in Amsterdam and Singapore before the end of 2011.

This Microsoft partner specializes only in hosting Project Server 2010. Because it’s not competing in other areas, BeMo has built a strong ecosystem with a major part of the EPM community in need of hosted solutions.

BeMo has several versions of its cloud-based offering for Microsoft Project Server 2010.

BeMo Cloud is a multi-tenant service (in which your instance of Project Server runs on the same box as other organizations’ instances of Server) ready in 30-minutes. Monthly subscriptions start at $59.95 per user, and this service has no separate setup or cancellation fees or long-term commitment.

For businesses that have 25 or more users and that want a dedicated server for PPM operations, the company offers BeMo VM Lite, a version of the PPM that runs on dedicated virtual machines. That subscription starts at $1,4995.95 and $39.95 per user. A comparable version, called BeMo VM, is designed for 100-plus users and starts at $3,995.95 plus $29.95 per user. Both BeMo VM and VM Lite allow for log-on to Project Server from Project Professional and Excel Services and are enabled for business intelligence, virtual private networking, Exchange, and Active Directory integration.

Organizations that wish to move on-premises EPM efforts out of house or need increased capacity can sign up for BeMo Pro, which hosts Project Server 2010 on dedicated physical servers. Intended for operations with at least 250 users, the monthly plan starts at $8,999.95 plus $24.95 per user.

BeMo services have attracted customers in multiple segments throughout the world, including big box retail, government, manufacturing, construction, financial services, energy, medical, and software development.

Going into the cloud with Microsoft Project Server 2010 offers many advantages. But the primary one is that it removes the barriers to trying out the most flexible EPM platform in the market. You can make a friction-free move from proof of concept to production, enabling your organization to achieve returns on its EPM investment as fast as possible.