What is Microsoft Project?
Microsoft Project, also recognized globally as MS Project, is considered by many to be the gold standard software in the world of Project Management. First introduced in 1984 to function on a DOS system, it is the PPM product of choice for the technically savvy. MS Project is placed second with a market share of roughly 15%, trumped only by Oracle.
Some of the popular features of MS Project include project plan development, hierarchical structure of tasks and sub-tasks, generic role assignment from within the project plan, resource assignment on a more advanced level, progress tracking, and workload analysis.
Who uses Microsoft Project?
MS Project is a software solution that is used by a number of industries including but not restricted to construction, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, government, retail, financial services and health care. Estimates peg the actual user count at 5 million.
The unique selling proposition of the software is believed to be the ability to manage highly complicated and sprawling projects with an astounding level of granularity and attention to minutia. This makes Project the tool of choice for large, technically savvy businesses, which need to focus on flagship endeavors requiring complete dedication of time, resources and talent.
MS Project is recommended for CIOs, CTOs and certified Project Managers who can make the most of the advanced features provided by the platform and appreciate the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) leveraged by it.
In short it is the tool for long duration projects where agility and accessibility are second to handling the complexity of the ventures.
How do I learn MS Project?
MS Project possesses a steep learning curve. Because of this complexity, only the most experienced and proficient users can correctly compile information, how-tos, and tutorials to benefit others.
The Help files of MS Project are a useful resource. Coming from the most authoritative source, Microsoft, the help files are vividly defined with screenshots, proper processes, and detailed descriptions. Before skipping over the Help Center, it would be a good idea for users to spend time assimilating the content.
Microsoft Online has a vast repository of short training videos and tutorials helping new users orient themselves to the interface and master simple tasks like assigning resources and creating timelines.
Many books and websites have been tackling MS Project for years. A simple web search will lead a user to a plethora of resources.
Another option to learn MS Project is by attending a full-time, hands-on training course. Both online as well as onsite trainings facilitated by certified MS Project instructors are organized and delivered by renowned names such as New Horizons, Webucators and VTF.
Does an internal IT department need to help support MS Project?
Yes. When deployed as an on premise, single PC, single user software solution, or for large enterprises, MS Project brings with it some IT support requirements. Microsoft Server is an able companion to the MS Project and is used frequently for its ease of use and data security.
In the Standard or Pro versions, the bulk of a company’s IT support team is needed to manage the updates. On the user side, major updates result in changes to popular processes, confusing users who use Project. The IT team may need to intervene and upgrade user skills if they are capable of mastering the update or additional training may be needed to bring users back up to speed. On the IT side, the support team needs to update versions and implement the technical changes. If Server is used in conjunction with MS Project, IT costs may bump up significantly. Other than that normal weekly maintenance regimes to ensure proper working of the tool are deemed adequate. If Project Online is in place, this maintenance is no longer the responsibility of the buyer.
MS Project is not known for random updates. They are methodical about the process and release CUs (cumulative updates) with proper training videos to supplement and support new feature introductions.
What are the alternatives to MS Project?
Though many consider MS Project be the gold standard of project management software solutions, a one-size fits all approach is not advised when selecting and implementing a project management tool. Every MS Project alternative in the market has certain features that lend itself to a particular user base.
Project is without doubt a powerful tool. It is unparalleled in terms of the attention to detail and the ability to handle large complex projects but it lacks online collaboration facilities, doesn’t allow users to get a “snapshot” of all ongoing projects from a central dashboard, and it is a closed product, one that has no formal integration features beyond the standard Office suite.
For prospects looking for a project management, document sharing, and collaboration tool that can handle multiple projects, provide a 10,000 foot view of the progress, allow email collaboration, custom create To-Do lists, manage resources without daunting windows and processes, and allow every employee to master it in hours.
Some viable project management software alternatives are WorkZone, Wrike, Clarizen, Workfront, Smartsheet, and Mavenlink.
These options bring the most popular features of MS Project in terms of ease of access and frequency of use in an easy to afford package.