Most people are familiar with Microsoft Project - project management software that allows you to manage many aspects of projects including tasks, due dates, progress, and people assigned to specific tasks.

Microsoft Project Server is an enterprise storage product that facilitates sharing project plans created with Microsoft Project with other people in a company, especially other project managers. Project Server enables you to manage a workforce by tracking all projects in common and giving you a view of all projects that an individual may be assigned to. Chances are that any large organization will have more than one project manager and using a centralized storage point allows for better group management of projects. In this kind of environment, Project Server acts as the central repository and Microsoft Project acts as a client to access that information. Project Server also provides a Web interface for viewing the status of projects.

The principal (recommended) way to integrate with Microsoft Project is by using the integrated Project Data Service (PDS) that's included with Microsoft Project Server. PDS is a SOAP Web service that translates incoming requests and manages their entry into the system. The most common integration pieces are external user management, timesheet systems, and ticketing systems. The PDS exposes pieces of the puzzle that allow you to integrate with these external systems and to integrate all the parts of your organizational project systems.

The PDS will allow you to create projects, tasks, resources, as well as log time against projects and run administrative reports on information in the system. Granted, for most integration you'll want to use the Microsoft hooks into other Microsoft products. For example, Project Server boasts excellent integration with Microsoft's Outlook Exchange, Active Directory, and Sharepoint. If those are your only integration points, any work you would need to do is done by Microsoft, but if you need to work with a non-Microsoft product, read on.

Often times the largest integration obstacle is simply learning how a product works, and that can easily be the case with Microsoft Project. The initial learning curve of Microsoft Project may be steep but it's worth the hurdle to reach familiarization with the application before and during your implementation.

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