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Genius Project software analysis by Dr. Mey Mark Meyer

Genius Project 8 - Process projects for Notes and Online

 

Genius Project is a solution for projects, which in addition to classic planning features, and cost and resource management, it also offers social collaboration, billing and claims management. The software, originally developed for the Lotus Notes environment, is now available in a web-based version. The user interface of the latest release, version 8, has a more modern and streamlined feel. This version offers new features for managing multi-project environments and workflows. In addition, the new version is more customizable according to business needs.

User interface and scheduling features

A clean user interface design

 

Version 8, available since October 2015, is sleek. The old navigation structure is preserved, which allows users who know the software, to easily navigate the system. For new users, learning the software is quick and easy with the effective use of clear symbols.

Genius Project is organized into several modules, called key features, such as “project portfolio management", “demand management”, “planning & Gantt chart” and “risk and change management”. Surrounding each key feature is a personal working environment quickly accessible through the top navigation bar. In this personal space, a list on the left summarizes the options for viewing, with tables, dashboards and charts (Image 1). 

Project and multi-project planning in the Gantt chart

Project planning is a basic operation, offered by all project management software. Genius Project offers a Gantt chart that is visually similar to those of competing products. The operation is simple. Entries are made directly in the table, past activities can easily be changed with the mouse by double-clicking and you can access a dialog box containing all information. This section summarizes the information for planning and forecasting resources. The interface offers several parts and the lower part provides information on the planned resource requirements. 

In version 8 of Genius Project, the system can display a summary of several projects selected by the user in a single graph (Image 2). Changes made in this kind of "multi-project Gantt chart" are recorded by the system for each project. Therefore, it’s possible to distribute parts of projects to different project organizers, while the multi-project Gantt diagram offers the overall project overview.

 

Image 1: The software consists of several key features or areas. One area offers several possibilities for viewing. 

 

Image 2: The multiple Gantt chart is created with a few clicks and can be configured as required.

 

Phases, milestones and phase reviews

What we refer to as “Gates”, are specific milestones used in product development projects in particular. These indicators provide effective verification of project progress. Genius Project allows you to configure each "Gate" with specific criteria, called indicators of success. Each factor is evaluated using a numerical indicator. An indicator of success may be the creation of a particular document, be it a general concept or validation of a protocol. In this case, the associated indicator is document availability. During the life cycle of a project, the user verifies that the key milestones are achieved. If the result is positive, the software records the "Gate" as finished. To keep an overview of phase "Gates" of different projects in a multi-project management context, the solution creates a summary table.

 

Image 3: Overview of Gate statuses of several selected projects.

 

Resource management, general or project-specific overview

 

To allocate resources to a project, Genius Project offers two options. The first solution is to allocate employees, teams or entire departments to specific concrete projects. The planning of each step is fixed. An alternative to this system would be "softbooking". This is a lighter schedule that predicts resources for the month for an entire project, independent of any prior plans. This planning approach is particularly suitable for the initiation phase of a project when no schedule has yet been established and when it’s unknown if the project will be successfully implemented.

Genius Project shows the use of resources, based on each project plan, in workload tables. The workload table shows, for example, capacities and scalability, according to roles and taking into account the availability of each employee. The same information can be displayed by domain expertise and costs. For "softbooking", the software displays separate planes. Zoom allows the user to view each indicator in detail, per employee and analyzes each project task. The project costs are calculated by the software which is based on planned resources and billing related tasks. In addition, cost planning and budgeting is feasible, taking into account other costs. This planning is particularly suited for compute services offerings. The system also allows the use of different currencies.

 

Multi-project management

The multi-project Gantt chart offers a holistic view of several projects simultaneously. In addition, dashboards and reports summarize the environments of projects through an analysis of all projects. The "Gates" milestones are useful indicators in a multi-project environment. These milestones help define standardized phases and facilitate comparisons between projects. 

Reports and multi-project dashboard

Genius Project offers many tables, providing an overall view of the project portfolio. The user has quick access to information with the tables that are directly on their interface. Administrators and users can easily configure and customize table formatting according to their own needs with symbols, colour coding and progress bars, to help develop the indicators.

 Users often want graphical reports, which are more telling than tables. The available diagram module, enables these graphics. To create a chart, you can configure the view, title, dimensions and type of diagram. The appearance of the diagram is modified with filters and other options. Graphics will be stored in a dashboard, which will be reusable for updates. This way, it’s possible show graphical reports such as those showing monthly costs of resources for the past two years. These reports are made available to users in the resource menu. People can create charts in Excel and will have no problem with the approach proposed by the software. And all reports can be opened in Excel for further analysis. 

KPI, portfolio control and streamlined portfolio planning

The reporting features allow portfolio analysis and common key figures in all projects. The software can, for example, compare indicators of budgets and costs of a project portfolio with those of a single project. The analysis and reports are also useful for collecting or analyzing projects according to different criteria such as the type of project or sponsor.

In the case of strategic portfolio planning, it’s important to document and assess project ideas. For this, users have a module called project requests. To create a project application, simply enter the project title, a short description and delivery date. The person who created the project can implement the idea and for example, propose a project team, cite the success factors or add attachments as calculations of costs or technical documentation (Image 5). In this way, the software becomes a centralized database for the project pipeline, which then feeds into the project portfolio.

 

Image 4: A project idea can be evaluated according to strategic indicators of success.

 

With the project demands database and the success indicators rating, Genius Project provides powerful capabilities to plan and control projects but also to document the selection and implementation of these projects. The system allows users to manage the project portfolio effectively and easily, in the manner of most companies.

 

Document management and virtual collaboration platform  

Project and project portfolio planning allows tasks to be grouped by employees. To do this, Genius Project provides a document management tool and a social collaboration platform. Both modules allow work to be done on the content of projects.

Document management

The fact that Genius Project helps manage documents, if you know the history of the software, is no surprise. The software, originally developed for the Lotus Domino server, now operates completely independent online. The online software is still available in Lotus Notes release. The online version of the system’s document management features are, for the majority of projects, largely sufficient. The ability to preview and send documents are also available in the form of workflows to track documents. The library offers document templates. The library allows a text search in the system, but also integrates the contents of Office and PDF documents.

Genius-Live, the social collaboration wall for employees 

For teams that collaborate on project documents, Genius Project offers an alternative to lengthy email discussions. This module is to exchange comments. The virtual platform "Genius Live," is in the "My Work" section of the employee’s personal tasks (Image 6). Messages are exchanged in "microblogging" mode and each element of the software can be reviewed. We can note all documents concerning projects, risks, change requests or tasks. The chat history is attached directly to each element. All topics on which the employee is involved are gathered on the home page of the employee’s social wall. Experience shows that the implementation of this type of social collaboration method entails a profound cultural change within the company. When properly used and accompanied by appropriate change management, this system can reduce the number of emails and data loss. In addition, it reduces the risk of misunderstandings due to working on different versions. 

 

Image 5: The virtual collaboration Wall "Genius Live! “ permits information to be exchanged within project teams.

 

The generality principle

Logically enough, beside this social collaboration platform and in the "My Work" section for a given employee, there’s a list of project activities, for that same employee. Tasks are grouped into workflows, such as project request validation requirements.

Genius Project is developed as a general software by the publisher. The solution then adapts to all types of projects. It’s clear that this kind of program encounters limits for certain industries with very specific requirements. The thorough analysis of costs for civil engineering or detailed project management applications for IT, place too high of demands for a general software. In this case, the solution must be adequately flexible. This flexibility allows the use of basic features without great effort, while taking into account the particular use or special regulations of the company 

 

Custom fields and workflows

 

Among the most important configuration options of Genius Project, there are customizable fields according to user needs. These help gather and assess additional information in a single program. For all sections of the software, such as project descriptions, the user can add a new field to check criteria or even establish a range of authorized values. Version 8 contains, among other new features, the possibility to calculate fields, enhanced functionality of exports for assessments and broader options for table formatting and linking to content.

In addition to these settings in the data structure, workflows are useful for adjusting project management software to the needs of the entire enterprise. Each document, the description of project change requests, can be integrated within a workflow to be verified and validated. As a result of its Lotus past, Genius Project makes its own engine workflow available (Picture 7). Projects and project demands can also be integrated in workflows, for example, to obtain the necessary approvals in the case of a change in the design phase. The software also offers pre-registered time entry workflows. This information integrated into the software is taken into account by project managers, as well as, managers.

Workflows are easy to set up. When the process is implemented for the first time, the user can then create each step of a process one by one, by clicking the mouse. They can then define the settings, such as requirements to achieve milestones, roles of employees and the following steps. Users can also schedule actions to automatically run during this phase. The system can, for example, modify project data or inform participants by email.

 

Image 6: All types of documents can be integrated in a workflow.

 


Image 7: To help users with automated processes, administrators can create workflows.

Agile Project Management

In versatile software, Genius Project offers a number of methods. The solution offers, in addition to traditional planning, useful features for agile project management according to Scrum. The software allows users to create the product backlog with elements described in detail and the approval criteria. Backlogs are divided into sprints or time boxes. During the course of sprints, Genius Project provides forms and progress or burndown charts for meetings. The software cannot compete with a specialized solution because it lacks an arrays of tasks. However, Genius Project allows users to manage projects conventionally and with agility, to keep an eye on projects of various project portfolios and evaluate them in a multi-project environment.

 

Configuration 

The SaaS version is the most accessible version of Genius Project. The publisher handles the server and users only use their browser. On request, the Genius server and database can be installed on a Windows server, without additional costs.

In addition to the online version, Genius Project is available on IBM Lotus Notes. Users access the software through their system instead of the Notes web browser. In this manner, the same database for the online version is used. Companies using Lotus Notes can also use the online version, for example, to integrate external stakeholders on the project.

 

Conditions for purchasing licenses

Genius Project provides a user licensing system, without additional costs for server maintenance. The cost of the license for a user varies with the role of the user in the enterprise. The editor distinguishes between project managers, employees, people in charge of the organization and stakeholders, each with different accesses and functionality. For a typical implementation of 50 users, it costs about 20,000 euros in licenses. The alternative, is to buy licenses in the SaaS version of Genius Project, which consists of an annual payment for server maintenance.

 

Conclusion 

It’s not easy to summarize software in a few words. The features offered are varied and the software is customized to the needs of the organization. The provider does not develop the product for a particular type of project or industry. This leads to a solution which is suitable for many different uses. Billing and cost calculations are popular features for project suppliers employing many employees. These features are also useful for IT projects within an enterprise. These projects also use project portfolio planning and budgets, agile features and the helpdesk. As a result of their strategy to have a generalist product, the software is limited in certain highly specialized areas. A company that develops software using the Scrum methodology should probably turn to a more specialized solution. However Agile features of Genius Project can be a good solution. The advantage of Genius Project is its strength in offering a comprehensive view of the project portfolio mix.

The quality of document management, phases, milestones and workflows make the software, particularly suited for companies specializing in product development processes for specific customer projects. The ability to use the Lotus Domino environment, data and to work in alignment with the same data, makes it an interesting solution from a technical point of view for certain branches, who are used to working with Lotus; for example, industries such as finance, insurance or the automobile industry.

 

About the author:

Dr. Mey Mark Meyer

Engineer, Director of prometicon GmbH.

Advising companies since 2007, in the development of project management tools and the optimization of suitable project management software.

For more information: www.projektmagazin.de/autoren 
 

© 2016 Projekt Magazin. Reproduction and copying are allowed only with written permission of writing www.projektmagazin.de – the project management portal 

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When evaluating Genius Project, we found that it had a great balance between price and available functionalities.The solution is highly customizable to fit one's reality and integrates seamlessly via an open API. They display an excellent knowledge-base via a combination of their experts and web content.

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