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Microsoft will introduce a new Office Project 2007 certification program and a new portal, the EPM Connect, at the Project Management Institute Global Congress 2006 conference in Seattle the week of Oct. 23.

Microsoft, which is the host sponsor of this project management conference, is on track to release Microsoft Office Project 2007 to businesses by the end of 2006, with general availability in early 2007.

The product has been built completely on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, and many functions will use the .Net platform 2.0, Microsoft has said previously.

The conference is important to Microsoft, which has sold some 20 million Office project user licenses to date, as it gives the company the opportunity to showcase the new product to an audience with the necessary knowledge and experience.

Read more here about how hosted applications provide the tools needed to manage complex projects.

Mike Angiulo, the general manager of Microsoft’s Office Project business unit, admits as much, saying that “PMI’s Global Congress provides us with a great opportunity to preview Office Project 2007 to an audience with the knowledge and experience to fully appreciate our new technology.”

Angiulo said that the show also provides a showcase for Microsoft’s “First-To-Market” partners that have solutions ready to run on the Office Project 2007 platform when it ships later in 2006.

He added that some 15 partners have committed to building on the Office Project 2007 Platform Solution.

The Microsoft office Project 2007 software is also the first version of Office Project to offer newly acquired portfolio management tools, he said.

With regard to its new EPM Connect program, Microsoft Learning General Manager Lutz Ziob said this will give customers a hosted online environment to find and experience custom solutions that are built on the new Microsoft Office Project 2007 platform.

The new portal is designed to help eliminate the complexity and cost associated with internal deployment for evaluation and proof-of-concept, he said.

Microsoft will also use the conference to announce three new certifications and the support of official learning products that it hopes will address the needs of people using the Microsoft Office Project 2007 desktop and the EPM solution.

These new certifications also align with Microsoft’s support for the People-Ready business, the company’s commitment to prepare users with critical skills and competencies that lead to successful project outcomes and greater efficiencies.

“For end users, the new certifications will help them gain measurable skills and industry-recognized credentials to help advance their careers. For employers, the credentials will help identify and assign qualified employees to improve project management results,” Ziob said.

Click here to read more about Microsoft’s recent acquisition of the software and intellectual property assets of UMT, a project and portfolio management and consulting firm.

Laverne Johnson, the CEO of the International Institute for Learning, Inc., sees this core set of Microsoft credentials as “a great value for our global customers, since it offers them a set of broadly recognized standards of practice and competencies in the use of Microsoft Project 2007 that we can tailor through our own value-add curriculums to meet their specific needs and business models.”

Others, like Siemens vice president Rick Gage, are pledging support for Microsoft’s introduction of a professional credential program as part of its Office Project 2007 product launch.

“It is our intent to integrate Microsoft’s professional credential for Office Project 2007 into our extensive internal training program,” he said.

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