Microsoft Inc has different software applications that can be used for various corporate purposes. Each of them carry different version and have different new features that help in managing the project. One such version is the Microsoft Project that helps in creating a project systematically and for long term. Maybe you’re responsible for an important long-term project for your company and you need a program that will help in designing the project plan easily and systematically. For many professionals, Microsoft Project is new and they find it difficult to get started with it.
The latest project management software in the market, Microsoft Project, allows users to develop and manage project plans, schedules, and resources while keeping track of time using tools such as project calendars, kanban boards, Gantt charts, and more.
What is Microsoft Project?
In simpler words, Microsoft Project is a software application that is designed and sold by Microsoft providing project management tools to manage projects. The software tool comes with different versions:
- Understand and control project schedules and finances.
- Communicate and present project information.
- Organize work and people to make sure that projects are completed on schedule.
If you are leading a project team and juggling around multiple projects, and shared resource, then MS Project helps in maintaining spreadsheet and other diagrammatic presentation of the project.
An Overview of Microsoft Project
Originally, Microsoft purchased this application from other company and added features to release the same in 1985 and named it Microsoft Project. The main feature of this application tool is that it allows project manager to enter the task and breakdown accordingly to assign the same to the team. The application also provides functionality to create reports of the project.
Right from its release, Microsoft came up with different versions adding new features giving more options to use for the project. However, in the latest Microsoft Project 2013, the use of application is made easier so that even a layman can use. Below is the brief of the versions:
- Project Standard 2013: This tool allows single user to create reports measuring progress and details that can be communicated with team members.
- Project Professional 2013: It is well compatible with project standard and has the capability to start the project soon. This version integrates Lync 2013 to call or instant message team members from Project Professional.
- Project Pro for Office 365: This application gets updated automatically and users can work from computer of their choice by streaming the client desktop with Project on Demand.
- Project Online: Designed for flexible use of online solution for Project Portfolio Management (PPM). The Project Online enables to prioritize portfolio investments and deliver business value.
- Project Server 2013: On-premise solution for PPM. By using this version, project participants and business decision makers can start with PPM. However, the version requires SharePoint 2013, which is sold separately.
Is Microsoft Project Included in Microsoft 365?
Microsoft 365 plans do not include Microsoft Project; however, individuals can externally add the service. MS Office and Teams are, by default, connected with Microsoft Project.
Microsoft Project Views
Microsoft Project provides several views for proper collaboration between project managers and the team.
- Timeline View: It uses a typical Gantt chart to schedule tasks on the project timeline.
- Grid View: It allows users to manage projects through a task list.
- Board View: It is a kanban board that helps control the status of the project and the workflow.
Microsoft Project Features
Microsoft Project provides several features that allow project managers to collaborate with teams to complete a project effectively.
- Planning Projects: The software uses kanban boards and Gantt charts to plan tasks.
- Co-authoring: It facilitates collaboration between stakeholders and team members to update schedules and task lists.
- Communication: Team members can work on projects together.
- Reporting: Automated reports help users track resources, portfolios, and project progress.
- Resource Management: Managers can assign tasks and efficiently manage resources.
- Roadmap: Project portfolio and programs can be tracked using this.
- Timesheets: Makes invoicing and payroll easy by collecting project and off-project times.
Microsoft Project Uses
MS Project has several important uses, including
It has common scheduling tools that managers can use to list and assign tasks and set up important information like date and duration. The different views help project managers oversee the schedules. Microsoft Project makes it easy for teams, stakeholders, and managers to collaborate and efficiently complete projects and programs.
Microsoft Project can manage multiple programs, projects, and portfolios simultaneously with inputs suggesting which initiative should be prioritized. It helps businesses evaluate their goals and determine the best path for a higher value.
It helps teams foresee bottlenecks in advance, manage resource requirements and utilization, and provide timely delivery of projects. Project managers can assign tasks, request resources and define the project teams. Automated reports help managers track resource progress.
Plans and Pricing
There are three monthly plans that users can choose from:
- Project Plan 1: $10 per user per month. Simple project management features, sufficient for team members.
- Project plan 3: $30 per user per month. Advanced project management features for project managers. Excludes portfolio management.
- Project Plan 5: $55 per user per month. Includes all features of MS Project.
How to Use Microsoft Project that Can Meet Your Deadline?
So, we come to the main section that will explain how to use Microsoft Project for your corporate deadline. Every project has its deadline that need to be met and need to be done systematically. But using it right from basic features can eventually help in getting the project rightly. In MS Project there are different stages through which the project can be scheduled systematically.
Starting with Critical Path, it controls the finish date of the project and is the longest sequence of task in the project. If Critical Path gets delayed, the entire project may delay. This is because the task which is scheduled on the path directly affects the project.
So to find the path on your own, just locate the task with the latest finish date, and then trace it back to its predecessors until the project begins. Each task aimed in this critical path is called as Critical Task.
Slack Time is yet another feature which is the amount of time that task that can be moved to another part of project. Free Slack is the total task that can be moved without affecting the successors. Total Slack, on the other hand, is the time a task can be moved without affecting end of the project.
Double Checking the Schedule to Avoid Affecting the Project
It happens that there can be mistakes in scheduling for your project, no matter how many times you check it. Moreover, when you re-arrange the schedule you are bound to make mistakes which weren’t there before. So make use of the features in MS Project, to fine tune the schedule and lookout for the errors. While you are scheduling the project through graph or any other means, watch out for following items:
- Manually scheduled task that should have switched to auto-scheduled
- Duration that seem to be low or too high
- Work package tasks without assigning resources
- Over allocation of resource
Furthermore, while double checking the schedule, make sure you’ve included the task and time of overlooked works like- project related meetings and work reviews. Also make sure to include time for people reviewing project document before get approved.
Display of Critical Path in Project
In MS Project, the standard Gantt Chart doesn’t display critical path or slack time in the initial basis. All you can see is the blue task bar. So in the Bar Styles section, turn on the Critical Task and Slack Checkbox. In Gantt Chart, the critical task is displayed in red and slack in narrow black bars which is at the right end of task bars. Furthermore, the critical path appears in red mark in Tracking Gantt view and to get that follow this step (Task-View, click the down arrow, and then choose Tracking Gantt). The Tracking Gantt displays gray task bars for baseline schedule, whereas the blue task bars for non-critical tasks. But in Detail Gantt shows non-critical path task bars in blue and critical path bars in red.
Pros and Cons of Microsoft Project
Every project management software has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Integration: Easily integrates with other Microsoft products like Skype, Office 365, and more.
- Interface: MS Project has the typical Microsoft interface.
- Developed: The software has been developed to improve and enhance its services over time.
- Requires training: It can be tough to use and learn. Project managers and teams first need to learn how to use it, which adds significant time to the implementation of projects.
- Costly: The prices are per person for one month, which makes MS Project expensive. The expenses add up as it needs to be bought for each team member for collaborative purposes.
- Limited shareability: Since the software saves files in a proprietary format, non-users have difficulty accessing them. Combined with the expensive viewing license, sharing files becomes a challenge.
Top 3 Alternative Software Solutions to Microsoft Project
Several project management software is available in the market if Microsoft Project does not seem the right fit for you. The top 3 are:
- GanttPRO: A popular alternative to MS Project based on Gantt charts.
- Workzone: An easy-to-use software used by first-timers and the entire team to successfully complete projects.
- ActiveCollab: A collaborative project management software that is available on the cloud as well as servers.
Microsoft Project is an excellent tool for project managers and teams to collaborate on as they manage resources, time, cost, plans, and more to ensure the project completes successfully and the organization achieves its goals.
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1. Is Microsoft Project Free?
No, MS Project is not free. Individuals must pay for a monthly subscription by choosing one of the three MS Project plans.
2. Is Microsoft Project Included in Office 365?
No, it is not included in any of the Office 365 bundles. MS Project is sold separately, and since it is a part of the Office suite, it can be externally incorporated with Office.
3. What is Microsoft Project used for?
Microsoft Project is a project management software that offers various tools that allow users to organize, evaluate, manage, schedule, and track project resources, cost, tasks, and timelines while reporting and communicating project progress to stakeholders and team members.
4. Does MS Project Work on Mac?
No, the desktop version of MS Project does not work on Mac since it is specifically optimized for Windows.