Microsoft Project Review

Has strong reporting features but it can become unstable when using advanced features

What is our primary use case?

Our use cases are all related to project management and I've actually developed project schedule templates that support both the standard waterfall and all different aspects of project lifecycle management including Agile and Scrum.

How has it helped my organization?

Microsoft Project is used as the basis for all the tracking and monitoring that we do for the projects. Everything from staffing resource plan to estimates for work completion and estimates for the project completion. It's all integrated in that way. We also have developed a capability to have interlock tasks that work across schedules. We can look at one schedule and determine whether or not we're being impacted by another project. From those standpoints, integration coordination is key.

What is most valuable?

The reporting features are quite strong. Being able to do team reports and find out what work is pending, what work needs to be done are key in my day-to-day management of the team. The earned value analysis capabilities and critical path capabilities inside the tool help me make sure that I'm keeping the projects on track.

What needs improvement?

When you start getting into the more advanced features, it can become unstable. The more you use the advanced features, the more exposure you have to an unanticipated result. I think we need to add the Kanban Board capability to the product that would help them advance that board into the project management methodology that's being used in the industry today. Being able to depend on Scrum management is key. I actually developed a template that allows me to do that, but if they actually productized that, that would help.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Microsoft Project for 20 years. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

When using the standard features, it's fairly innocuous at that point, it works as intended.

We used shared resource pools and we have multiple project schedules linked into the shared resource pool using Project Server. At that point, if you have a project schedule that is open and you are using a resource pool but you haven't properly baselined that that project schedule, the cascade of change can span across multiple project schedules. That's actually dangerous. What Microsoft may want to do is put an alert in the application that tells you that you're linked to an active, shared resource pool. You are making a change inside your schedule that could impact other project schedules. Similarly, they need to do that based on updates. Then if you were linking into that same resource pool with a schedule, it should come up with an alert that says that changes have taken place. It doesn't do that.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is like anything. If you're doing fine tasks inside the tool, you can get into a multi-thousand line schedule. When you start dealing with schedules at that level, it's inherently complex. 

Mostly project managers use it. We also have business analysts and other team members who in several instances may be able to go in. I don't do this with my teams because I want to be accountable to the team and make sure that the schedule is up to date and that it's accurately representing the work that's being performed. I use a timesheet entry approach and actually collect data from the team and enter that data into the project schedule. I've got one point of entry and one point of failure. I do know there are other project managers that are out there that allow their teams to go in and update their time in their tasks. I've seen that both work successfully and I've seen it cause significant issues so I prefer to hold onto the control myself that way.

How are customer service and technical support?

They used to have a very robust help capability and I found that to be quite useful. They cut back on that now. I find that some of the support that was in the product before has not been kept up to the same level. Then we find ourselves having to reach out to the internet and looking for help texts out there from other users. That becomes then less professional. I'd recommend that they continue to upgrade and maintain the in-product help capabilities.

I've had very good support and I've had the support that's been frustrating. I would rate them a seven out of ten. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I've had exposure to Clarity and several of the other products that are out there. TFS itself as a squiggle management tool.

How was the initial setup?

In terms of the initial setup, if you're using it as a fairly basic tool, it's fairly straightforward. When you start getting into the more complex tools and the features of the product, it becomes harder to use. That's to be expected. You have to have knowledge of the tool to be able to use it properly.

What other advice do I have?

It is a mainstay product. A lot of people use that as their first introduction and it's not meant to be a project management ERP solution, like Life Clarity or the others but it is a capable product that establishes a framework and a basis that can be used across the industry.

I would rate Microsoft Project a seven out of ten because you'd have to have in-depth knowledge of the tool for it to really be beneficial to you. It also allows the new developers and new project managers to come in and be proficient and be able to develop schedules fairly readily. From that standpoint, it's fairly strong. From the overall usability of the product, it can be cumbersome.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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