One of the core features of Project Server that integrates the tool into an organisation are Enterprise Custom Fields or ECF’s. ECF’s allow the recording of business specific metadata which is used to classify the various aspects of an organisation across a project, resource and task level. During the planning stages of a Project Server implementation a significant amount of time is spent understanding the custom fields that need to be configured in order for the tool to meet the requirements of the business. With Project Server 2007, the configuration of these Enterprise Custom Fields could be a little clunky, however it seems that Microsoft has been listening and has made a number of improvements in this area in Project Server 2010.
The first improvement is the addition of a Description field for each custom field, for the first time allowing a meaningful description to be kept with each custom field.
Microsoft has also introduced a new data type for a custom field allowing multiple lines of text to be to be recorded. Whilst this is a powerful feature, it is not available when entering or updating custom fields via the Project client, which may impact the usefulness of the feature.
One of the most clunky features of Project Server 2007 was when entering a formula for a custom field via the web interface, Project Server would have to open up a copy of Project 2007 on the client machine to validate the formula, the server itself didn’t have the smarts to do this validation. As can be seen in the screenshot above, Project Server 2010 now is aware of the various fields and can validate the formula within the server.
With Project Server 2010, a new concept called Departments has been introduced, allowing data to be segregated by departments (I will post more on this later). This segregation in the Technical Preview is available on each enterprise custom fields, effectively allowing different sets of enterprise custom fields to be available for different departments.
Whilst powerful, the implementation of this function will need to be reviewed carefully as it will no doubt bring a massive support and maintenance overhead.
Finally, in previous versions of the Project Server, custom fields could be edited at any time and could not be made read only. With the introduction of behaviors and workflow in Project Server 2010, it is now possible to govern when a custom field is available for editing, or require the user to complete certain custom fields at certain parts of the process.
This merging of behaviors and workflow will no doubt open up a number of exciting opportunities to further integrate an organisations business workflow with Project Server.