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Open Plan Professional Print
Look around your office. It doesn't take too many powers of observation to see it all: never-ending piles of notebooks, file cabinet drawers full beyond capacity, scores of tabbed file folders. If you're like us, you've got multiple projects due at multiple times and reams, no, mountains of papers that accompany those projects. From Welcom

Website: http://www.welcom.com


System Specs:

Alternatively try

  • Pentium system or compatible
  • 28MB hard disk space
  • 32MB RAM minimum, 64MB recommended
  • SVGA monitor
  • Mouse or other pointing device
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Modem, as product as downloadable
  • Windows 95/98/NT
  • Proprietary format or client/server database
  • Artemis Views
  • ELabor Enterprise Project
  • Innovie Team Center
  • Microsoft Project 2000
  • Primavera Team Play

 Ok, so what's a project manager to do when faced with numerous projects, each with its own sets of budgets, time constraints, and personnel? We wondered the same, and came up with Welcom's Open Plan Professional. Welcom, a project management solution leader with corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, and with offices in the UK, France, Germany, and Hong Kong, offers a product that could very well make all our lives that much easier and hassle free.

Open Plan is designed to be a multi-project, multi-user application in the most advanced realm of project management tools currently available. Not a basic tool in any sense of the word, it's an in-your-face compilation of some of the most comprehensive project management functions known to the industry, combining resources skill scheduling, earned value cost analysis, critical path analysis, microscheduling, Monte Carlo risk analysis, and alternate resources scheduling.

We had a go with Open Plan on our 466MHz Pentium, Windows 98-based system. Installation was quick and painless, and off we went.

Open Plan's interface has the all too familiar Windows look. Rather than opening to a blank page, Open Plan initially displays a file cabinet of seven tabbed default folder categories containing table of contents, project, calendar, activity, resource, code, and template files. From here, you can open a project within a notebook. The notebook represents all the information related to a particular project, so organisation is made even easier. Your office is now transformed into a series on-screen file cabinets and notebooks complete with divider tabs, surely reducing the size of that paper mountain.

Open Plan was impressive in the number of features it has on offer. You can take advantage of a wide range of templates, spreadsheets, and barcharts for activities, relationships, assignments, histograms, costs, resources, and risk analyses. You can take your project information into new dimensions with the selections available to you. You're not limited to a one view per project, either. The program offers more interactive views of your data than perhaps any other project management tool available today, allowing you to view your data in just about any way you see fit.

The Project Wizard makes data entry a breeze. A series of dialogue boxes ask about your project, so it's a matter of filling in the blanks, and away you go. With such streamlined creation of projects, that is one less hassle to deal with in a busy schedule.

Open Plan can be unique as you the user can make it. Not only are the tabs customisable, but the majority of the views and reports we worked with capable of being graphically edited to suit our needs. The hard copy output is WYSIWYG, so there wasn't any second guessing as to how our data would look in its finished form.

The number of features in Open Plan continue. In addition to the hierarchical views, we were able to take full advantage of the program's As-Soon-As-Possible (ASAP) and As-Late-As-Possible (ALAP) scheduling capabilities. There are also unlimited hierarchical calendars for each of your projects, and these can be assigned to nearly anything to do with your project, whether they are activities, resources, or relationships. We were even able to mix the durations within a single project to include minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months to really get things rocking. The Clip Notes feature allowed us to attach notes to our projects, codes, activities, and resources.

The advanced features were truly incredible and provide a powerful arsenal for the serious project manager. Open Plan was capable of quick Monte Carlo simulations, and gave detailed information regarding our activities' early and late dates. The Project Management Director allowed us to concurrently launch our Open Plan and Windows applications as well as work with the sixty-five PMI standards templates. Additional features like earned value cost analysis and skill, pool, and alternate resource scheduling rounded out the field of remarkable tools in this industry leader.

We took a few trips around the block with the PMD and its PMI templates. In order to access the PMI templates, we had to first open our file cabinet, then click on Projects tab of the file folder. Double clicking on the Project Data icon opened the Project Notebook. From there, both views were open on the screen. We then went back to our File Cabinet and scrolled over to the PMD templates tab and clicked on that. We dragged our selected icons and dropped them into our notebook.

Once that was accomplished, we accessed the PMI templates. Upon clicking on the Time Scheduling icon we previously dragged and dropped from the PMD, a dialog box containing templates for running processes in Time, Resources, Schedule Logic, Schedule Analysis, and Information Management. Opening the Quality Control file gave us another dialog box with processes for Technical Quality Specifications, Technical Quality Administration, Quality Progress Reviewer, Technical Quality Support, and Quality Evaluation Data. When any of these processes were run, a WordPad file would open, containing detailed descriptions and information about that particular process. Each of the PMD templates contained these detailed breakdowns, each one containing four or more categories related to the specific PMD templates.

What seemed to be confusing was in the PMI standards template name. They didn't appear to be templates at all, but rather WordPad files that contained detailed descriptions of the particular process. For example, the Arbitration WordPad file run in the HR Government Regulations template read as follows: " The formalized system for handling grievances and administering corrective justice as part of collective bargaining agreements." The naming for these process definitions was perplexing to say the least as one was apt to look for actual templates, rather than WordPad files.

Once you do get your projects up and running, Open Plan also lets you to share the data with your colleagues via email and its Web Publisher. Information in HTML and PDF formats can be shared with your project team members in real time. Updates to multiple projects can also be simultaneously done in batch mode for the most current project information for your staff. For further data sharing, Open Plan features direct access to SQL databases. Among those supported are Oracle, Visual Foxpro, Informix, Sybase, Xbase, and SQL Server.

Open Plan Professional is surely a top of the line package for the most advanced of project management users. It offers an impressive collection of comprehensive tools for virtually every project management need. With such progressive features, it isn't a tool for the weak-hearted, but one for the professional who needs to gain every possible edge in their work.

Having said that, Open Plan can be a bit tricky to get to grips with, particularly for the less experienced professional. The learning curve is fairly steep, so those just becoming acquainted with its many bells and whistles will need to take some time to establish their own comfort zone. Welcom has certainly anticipated this as they have included a fine variety of aids to get you moving along. They offer extensive online help and computer-based training, as well as a new help feature that steers you through the various functions right on the screen as you work. Taking things yet another step further, Welcom also offers a sister product, Open Plan Desktop, for those of you who feel the extra bells and whistles aren't needed for your particular circumstances. The Desktop edition provides simpler sets of functions and an even greater intuitive interface, so you can get the same high Open Plan quality and a much lower learning curve. They also offer a two-tier package of Professional and Desktop. In addition, an Enterprise edition is available for the largest and most complex of project management organisations. So, there is an Open Plan for nearly every need, and with availability in English, German, Italian, French, Korean, and Russian languages, an Open Plan with a truly international flavour.

As a high end project management tool, Open Plan Pro comes with a high-end price. Its pricing is based on the number of licenses purchased; for a 1-5 user license, its cost comes in at $3,600 per license. Companies can add Open Plan Desktop for $600 per license for 1-5 users when buying Professional. In both cases, the pricing is reduced when larger numbers of licenses are purchased.

If it's a far-reaching, high-end project management solution you're looking for, then your search can't be too far away with Open Plan Professional. Its advanced features fulfil every project requirement, and go the distance for the company that wants it all.

So, what are you waiting for? The only thing you can lose is that mountain of paper!

Welcom Open Plan Professional
receives a PROJECTmagazine rating of


4 bananas


2001 © Lee and James Appleyard

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