Microsoft Project: To Use Or Not To Use?
October 09, 2018

Microsoft Project: To Use Or Not To Use?

Fred Abraham, P.Eng | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft Project

I was introduced to Microsoft Project the first time in about 2003, while working as a Project Manager for L-3 Communication Systems. The training was left mostly to the latitude of each Project Manager. Microsoft Excel was considered an acceptable safety net, being used extensively in the past. Personally, I used 'Microsoft Project 2000 Step-by-Step'. The learning curve was average for Sciex as an independent contractor, tasked to oversee all steps required to complete the upgrading of two legacy projects and turning them into being RoHS-compliant (RoHS - Restrictions of Hazardous Substances). Sciex is specialized in the design and manufacturing of medical instrumentation. The two projects I was involved with were mass spectrometers. Project was used widely across the company for all projects having a start day and estimated completion day, as recommended by Project Management techniques. The first task that I took upon myself was to estimate the best way to ensure a completion of the project in time since a rather artificial due date was already in place. I proceeded to create a task list followed by a work breakdown structure and as a result, I requested the addition of two additional members to the team, since while the budget was relatively generous, the time constraints were not. Also, I requested from the management to intervene with another company, operating as a sub-contractor to Sciex, to make an effort and beef-up their team. We finished within the budget and schedule.
  • Microsoft Project allows users to input a large and varied amount of detail pertinent to a specific project and then creates numerous varied out reports, as per the specific needs of a certain user working on that project.
  • Microsoft Project is very flexible in relation to the familiarity of a specific user with the Project. Someone with very little knowledge of Project can still input some data and receive some useful reports, without using the whole capability of the package.
  • Project allows a varied types of data to be inputted, such as definition of various subtasks related to the project, time information about the original estimates for tasks and the actual figures, monetary information about the cost of all items required to complete a project (such as rate per hour of specific participants working of a project, cost of equipment to be bought or rented, cost of materials required for project execution, etc).
  • A Project Manager very conversant with Project can get a very large number of reports, each one for a specific need.
  • The Project software package, while being very powerful, it also has a rather lengthy learning curve. A fresh Project Manager which didn't use Project before (due to being in a different role, or using until now a different project management tool) and put in charge of a project having as a requirement the utilization of Microsoft Project for a new project starting very soon, will have a hard time to assimilate all aspects of the package, if he wants to take advantage of Project's full capabilities.
  • While not being exaggerated, the cost of the software package is relatively high (around $650.00) This is maybe not a lot for a company needing one or two packages, but is relevant to a company needing to procure 20 packages.
  • I would like to see more specialty books pertinent to Project. 'Leaning Microsoft Project Step-by-Step' issued by Microsoft themselves and used by me when I started learning Project is a bit cumbersome, unlike other books in their series for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.
  • On the projects that I dealt with, Project had a positive impact on the overall business objective, allowing realistic estimates of the duration, personnel, equipment and materials extremely important for the preparations of responses to RFQs (Request for Quotations), ensuring that the company is not capturing a contract for work that the company is very well capable of performing, however, due to a bad quotation, is not going to realize any profit.
  • Once a contract is awarded, Project again had a positive impact, by allowing the construction of a correct WBS (Work Breakdown Structure), the personnel requirements, the identification of critical paths, the budget to be allocated and the creation of work orders (WOs) used by team members for weekly reporting of the hours expanded on the project , the purchase of equipment sufficiently in advance of the date when it will be needed and the identification of specific personnel required to be assigned to the project team, as per they specific skillset, and also when each member must start working on specific segments of the overall Work Breakdown Structure.
  • Once the project started, Project was invaluable in monitoring the actual progress of the project in comparison with the very initial schedule and its milestones, the identification of slippage and enhancing an early advance for the formulation of solutions required in order to pull the schedule back.
  • Project also was highly beneficial in creating practically automated financial reports of expenditures to date, such reports being of high on the priority list of higher up management.
In all cases where I didn't use Project, i used an application given by Excel freely as a template, when you open Excel 2013 or higher. It is basically a Gantt chart, with several capabilities built in. All what is necessary for you to do in order to quickly get a basic Gantt chart, is to create a basic Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), including names assigned to each task and the estimated number of hours that will be expanded on each task. This information is filled in the lower side of an Excel sheet displayed in landscape view. On the upper portion of the sheet, a Gantt chart is immediately created. It is a very simple tool, no learning curve required and is free. I do like it a lot and use it a lot, since lately I'm involved in many simultaneous projects, however, each one of them has a short span, not exceeding two weeks.
Project is very well suited for large projects involving numerous personnel, equipment and materials,and expected to take many months or even years to completion. Also, it is useful when the stakeholders of the project are rather different in their capacity and require rather different types of reports (strictly financial reports, slippage in schedule and how the schedule can be brought back, etc.)

On the other hand, a company specializing in projects that are relatively simple and only have a span of a few weeks or a couple of months would be better off adopting a simpler Project Management tool, one that costs less and has a much shorter learning curve.

Microsoft Project Feature Ratings

Task Management
Resource Management
Gantt Charts
Team Collaboration
Email integration
Mobile Access
Timesheet Tracking
Change request and Case Management
Not Rated
Budget and Expense Management
Project & financial reporting