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12/13/2011
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LotusLive Gets Social Project Management Tools

Trilog's ProjExec app brings Microsoft Project and Facebook-style features to IBM's environment for collaboration in the cloud.

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Longtime Lotus development partner the Trilog Group is bringing its social project management tools to LotusLive, the IBM website for collaboration applications hosted in the cloud.

ProjExec Live was introduced Monday as a free app that LotusLive users can add to their accounts. Trilog intends to introduce an upgrade version with additional project budgeting, reporting, issues tracking, and change management features at the Lotusphere conference in January. What it introduced Monday is a project management app aimed at blending the best features of Microsoft Project and the Facebook wall.

"We did not invent, or reinvent, anything that people are not familiar with," said Alex Homsi, Trilog president and CEO. Microsoft Project is the user interface that a generation of project managers have become most familiar with, and Trilog has created a Web application that borrows from Project's user interface conventions, while adding the notion of a "project wall" adapted from Facebook, he said.

ProjExec also lets you create a project management environment by importing a Microsoft Project file, which is then mirrored in a Web-based representation of your project timeline and resource allocation. You can even re-import an updated version of the file at a later date, and the system will reconcile differences between the two versions of the project plans. Homsi said many ProjExec users find themselves using it as their main tool, so instead of importing they may occasionally export to Microsoft Project in order to use some of its reporting tools.

Partly because of its use of social collaboration, ProjExec 5 has attracted good reviews as software for integration with Lotus and IBM products including the IBM Connections enterprise social network, Lotus Quickr team collaboration, and WebSphere. ProjExec Live is the first cloud-based edition of the product, operated by Trilog with integration that allows it to access files and other resources stored in LotusLive for project-based file sharing.

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Founded in 1997, Trilog is best known for inventing the XSP programming model, first introduced in 1999 as part of the Flowbuilder XSP tool for Lotus Domino developers. IBM acquired the product in 2004 and incorporated it into Domino Designer's XPages, which allowed Domino developers to create Web 2.0 user interfaces.

When the company went looking for a new challenge in collaborative software design, project management seemed a natural choice, Homsi said. "Where do people use collaboration? They use it on projects," he said.

Project and task management products make up one of the most active areas of development in social software, with Clarizen, Wrike, Socialcast Strides, AtTask, and Teambox, among many others--each with its own angle on where to draw the line between formal project planning and informal collaboration.

"With social collaboration, we're now giving a lot more power to the end user of the project management process," Homsi said. "At the same time, project management discipline is not going to change." Some "project management 2.0" products emphasize collaboration to the exclusion of all other concerns, but Trilog assumes the need to maintain control will persist. Social collaboration is important, but it can't be the end of the story, he said.

"The project manager is supposed to control the project plan," Homsi said. "Social doesn't mean you don't have rigor--that's essentially the difference for us from what others are doing."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

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