Benefits and Drawbacks of using Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project has been around for around two decades now (can you believe that?) and arguably has a pretty large slice of the project management software market share. Thousands upon thousands of project managers have used this powerful tool to quickly get a handle on their projects and keep everyone on the same page.
Just like every other software company, Microsoft is constantly looking for ways to improve this software based upon user feedback. It has made great strides in recent years in making MS project easier and more intuitive to use as well as reduce the learning curve that new users would experience when they fired it up for the first time on their machines.
What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of using Microsoft Project? Rather than focus on a particular version, this article will concentrate on the big picture of using MS Project and can help you determine if this is popular project management software package is right for you.
The Benefits of Using Microsoft Project
The following are some benefits for you to consider when it comes to using Microsoft Project:
- Familiar Look and Feel – If you have used other Microsoft products over the years you will feel right at home when you open your first Project file. The look and feel is very similar to the other suite of Microsoft products. This is great when it comes to not having to spend a lot of time learning a new interface, operating system, or new way of doing things.There’s a lot to be said for having a familiar look and feel if you’ve ever flipped back and forth between operating systems or even application families.While you may not be in the exact “house” as Excel, Word, or PowerPoint when you open your first project file, you are at least in the same “town” and can know enough to get around. If you’ve used another project management solution besides Microsoft Project you can almost relate the experience to being in an entirely different town or even State in the way they have things set up.
- Integrates Well with Other Microsoft Products – One thing Microsoft has done very well in recent years is integrating their individual applications with each other. Rather than feeling as if you are just working with Word, Excel, or other Microsoft application you now feel as if you are working within a Microsoft application that allows you to do word processing, spreadsheet analysis, email, and yes, even project management.The ability to send information from one application to the next, open one application from within another application, and toggle back and forth between them all has created a positive user experience and one that translates well when using Microsoft Project.
- Powerful and Flexible User Interface – You can get as complicated or keep things as simple as you would like using Microsoft Project. If you have a simple project with a half-dozen resources that you need to get off the ground quickly you can make that happen with this application. Jump into a new Project file, create some resources and high level activities and get things moving. On the other hand, if you have a project that spans multiple departments and has a lot of moving parts you can still use Microsoft Project to help manage such a project.
The Drawbacks of Using Microsoft Project
There are also some drawbacks to consider when it comes to using Microsoft Project:
- Does Require Some Training to Fully Utilize – As mentioned above, you can get up and running relatively quickly for simple projects when it comes to using Microsoft Project. However, you will find that to truly utilize all the functionality that exists will require some time spent on training.This training could range from user groups, books, online sessions, or paid for classes that will help you dig into the details and full power of the system.It will also alert you to some “gotchas” that could occur within your project plan since everything is do inter-connected. For example, changing dependencies in one section of your plan could have downstream impacts that you are not aware of having occurred. This could send people down the wrong track without you even beware of the change.
- Cost Needs to be Considered – There are a number of less expensive solutions to Microsoft Project on the market today that may be able to do what you need based upon your requirements and circumstances. The best thing to do is assemble a list of what you are looking for in a project management solution and see what options exist in the marketplace. You may find that Project does exactly what you need it to do at the cost that fits your budget. Or, you may find that you need something a bit less robust than Microsoft Project that you will fit your needs.
Some Things to Keep in Mind Regardless of Whether or Not You Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project is a tool. It’s just a tool like a hammer, saw, or screwdriver. It’s not the tool that makes the project or job successful, but rather it’s the people that use the tool. It’s the training and experience these people have when it comes to using the tool. Someone who knows how to properly use a tool will get considerably different and better results than somebody who does not properly know how to use the tool.
It’s the same with Microsoft Project, or any project management tool for that matter. If someone isn’t experienced when it comes to using this powerful tool the results could be less than satisfactory. You need to make sure the right people and processes are in place to properly utilize this tool.
If you do feel MS Project is the right tool for you and need to convince management that they need to purchase this for their company you will need to show them the efficiency gain this tool will produce within your company. For example, you can show them how it will:
- Save Time – Having a master project plan in one place and as one authoritative source will save time for the company. This reduces the back and forth of questions and misunderstandings that can quickly arise without the benefit of a project management tool in place.
- Eliminate Overlapping Work – There is nothing more frustrating than having two people work on exactly the same deliverable. Or, worse yet, have one person NOT work on a deliverable because they thought it was being handled by somebody else.
- Increase Visibility –Another selling point to management is how a solution like Microsoft Project will increase project visibility. The reporting features, ability to compare the baseline project plan against actual, and make adjustments accordingly are invaluable to a busy executive who just needs a quick reality check as to where things stand.
One final thing you need to do if this is going to be a no-brainer for management is to convert the above savings into dollars. Show them how if you invest “this” much in the project management solution, you will then be able to realize “that” much in your return on investment. It’s good to see how Microsoft has made constant improvements on this powerful application. We look forward to seeing what’s coming up in the near future.
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