Microsoft has been the 800-pound gorilla in software for so long that it’s hard to think of the industry without it. While there have been challengers to its rule, and many who have surpassed it, Microsoft remains a giant.
This is certainly true in project management software: a sector that has been growing steadily. No discussion of project management software would be complete without including Microsoft Project.
But what is Microsoft Project? What can it really do, and how well does it do it? The product has evolved since its introduction, and it has been a standard for some time. Yet, like some dark mystery, it is both intriguing and opaque.
Let’s take some time to explore Microsoft Project, and in that journey we’ll determine if it is the right project management software for you. If not, you may be better off with a modern Microsoft Project alternative.
What Is Microsoft Project?
Microsoft Project (MSP) is a project management software made for project managers so they can control their projects. Depending on your plan, Microsoft Project lets you plan projects, assign tasks, manage resources, make reports and more. It offers a full plate of services and was quick to dominate the project management software field when it was first introduced.
Microsoft Project is part of the larger suite of Microsoft Office products, yet it is not packaged with other Office software, such as Word, Excel and Outlook. There are two editions available, the standard and professional versions. Both share a unique file format, called MPP.
It was first commercially available in 1984. The first version for Windows was released in 1990. The next year, Microsoft created a Mac version of Project, but it was quickly discontinued and by 1994 was no longer being sold to the public. Currently, Microsoft Project isn’t compatible with Mac computers, but there is a workaround if you need to run MS Project for Mac.
Microsoft Project Features
There are plenty of features that project managers and their teams need to manage their work better, and MSP has a number of them. However, to get a full picture, here is a list of all features available to customers who put up the big bucks.
- Grid View: A project view that is used to plan and manage projects with a task list.
- Board View: A visual kanban board view that helps with managing workflow and status.
- Timeline View: The traditional Gantt chart used for scheduling tasks over a project timeline.
- Communication & Collaboration: Teams can work together on projects.
- Coauthoring: Stakeholders and team members work together to edit and update task lists and schedules.
- Reporting: Pre-built reports that can track progress, resources, programs and portfolios.
- Roadmap: Track programs and project portfolios.
- Timesheets: Collect project and non-project time for payroll and invoicing.
- Resource Management: Manage resources by requesting and assigning tasks.
Plans and Pricing
The newest version is Microsoft Project 2019, which runs only on Windows 10. There are three pricing plans for cloud-based solutions, the lowest tier with an annual commitment of $10 per user, per month. It has limited features and doesn’t include such essential tools as reporting, timesheet submission and resource management.
The next pricing tier is $30 per user, per month, with an annual commitment. It does include some of the features not available at the lower pricing tier, but not portfolio selection and optimization, demand management or enterprise resource planning and management.
Finally, there’s the top tier payment plan of $55 per user, per month, with an annual commitment. This version has all the bells and whistles, but can become prohibitively expensive depending on the number of licenses you need.
There is also an on-premise solution, which again offers a three-tier plan for payment: $620 for Project Standard 2019, $1,030 Project Professional 2019 (both of which cover only one PC per person), and a Project Server—which requires a quote for accurate pricing.
Pros and Cons of Microsoft Project
Nothing is perfect. Even Microsoft Project has its drawbacks. If you’re thinking of trying it out, take a moment to look over its pros and cons.
- One of the biggest pros is that it’s Microsoft, and so it integrates with the company’s other products, most notably Office 365, but also Skype and Sharepoint.
- It has a similar interface to other MS products.
- It’s been around for a long time, and its features have developed over time.
- It’s part of Microsoft and has the reliability and support that coming from such an established company represents.
- It has financial management tools that help project managers with estimating budgets.
- It can be licensed as a desktop application. While this might make it seem more like a dinosaur, there are still organizations that will want this instead of a cloud solution.
- It has templates to help users get started, which saves time.
- It’s a desktop application. Yes, this was a pro, as well, but the number of organizations that want a project management software that is siloed is rare.
- Though MS Project does have a cloud-based solution, it is not very agile. Even with Sharepoint, which is designed to take advantage of the cloud, MS Project has great limitations on the cloud.
- It’s difficult to learn and use. There’s a lot of time and effort, and even intensive training, that must first be invested in the software before project managers and their teams are comfortable using the software. This adds time to the project during the implementation stage.
- It’s expensive. The prices quoted above, again, are per person, per month. This quickly adds up as you buy licenses for team members who must have access to the software in order to take advantage of its collaborative features. Otherwise, it’s more of an expensive tool solely for the project manager.
- It’s not shareable. As mentioned earlier, files are saved as MPP, a proprietary format, so that if you’re not using MS Project, you can’t read those files. This would be less of a problem if the software was less expensive, but if you must have a MS Project license to view a MPP file, then it adds up. This creates a lot of unnecessary hurdles when sharing project files.
ProjectManager.com Is the Best MS Project Alternative
If you feel like MS Project isn’t the perfect fit for you, don’t worry. ProjectManager.com offers everything MS Project does, but in an easy-to-use format that is ideal for collaboration. Our award-winning project management software lets you manage projects online with your team, and you can even import MPP files!
While ProjectManager.com doesn’t have a desktop application, its cloud-based software can be used anytime, anywhere. Plus, If you’ve got remote teams, everyone can access the software without having to pay dearly for it.
ProjectManager.com doesn’t require any time-consuming training, either. It’s user-friendly with an intuitive interface that gets project managers and their teams up and running fast. ProjectManager.com even offers tons of support from a knowledgeable support team. It’s all part of the package when you use ProjectManager.com, as well as onboarding and training for business and enterprise plans.
If you want to learn more about our award-winning project management software, visit our homepage and view our full feature set. See why project managers have used our software to plan over 2,000,000 projects around the globe.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software, which automatically reflects status updates when they’re posted. Project managers have the tools to control the planning, monitoring and reporting of the project’s progress, and team members can collaborate with features that are simple to understand. Try ProjectManager.com today with this free 30-day free trial.