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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

A Couple of MS Project Myths

I’m no fan of MS Project. If I had to choose I rather hate it than love it. However there are popular myths on MS Project repeated over and over again which are just that – myths.

1. Microsoft Project is only for bigger organizations because it’s incredibly expensive.
How about MAPS subscription which gives you, among tons of other licenses, a license for MS Project Server and 10 sits of MS Project? This actually scales up to 10 people preparing MS Project Schedules and unlimited number of people who just update tasks (via Web Access). And that all for stunning price of $300. When you outgrow the initial setup you have to buy additional licenses for a standard price but it will take some time.

2. Microsoft Project has no real collaboration features.
MS Project as a desktop application has no collaboration features – that’s true. But if you take some time to setup MS Project Server you instantly get all the basic collaboration features (and I guess many advanced ones too). Of course it isn’t deployed in the cloud which is quite a disadvantage these days but still the argument doesn’t seem valid for me.

By the way this is one of areas where Microsoft completely screwed. In the early 00s they had everything to bring so called Project Management 2.0 to the table but missed the chance.

in: project management

9 comments… add one

  • Glen B. Alleman December 2, 2009, 10:42 pm

    Actually compared to the competition, MSFT Project is relatively cheap. This include Primavera, DelTek, Clarity, RPT, Cobra, eProject (now called something else) and a few more.

    There are those claiming replacement fro MSP at a lower price, but none actually provide features needed for managing projects in any credible manner.

    Project Server provides collaboration through PWS and other sharepoint services. As well there are EPM add ons for Project Server and Share Point that provide most of what is needed for virtual teams.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 3, 2009, 2:03 am

    It all depends on what you need. There are many teams which need way less than you to "manage their projects in a credible manner." Remember not everyone works with thousands of other people spread around the whole country.

    In my previous company we covered internal project management-related processes with Jira and it worked really fine. We didn't rule out MS Project completely but we used it mostly in communication with our customers. Within the team there was no need to use it.

    I'm sure neither Jira nor other web-based tools I've used so far wouldn't be suitable in your case, but there are all sorts of environments with different requirements when it comes to PM tool. By the way, at the moment my most valuable tools are whiteboard, set of markers and bunch of sticky notes. I don't need much more to manage a project in a way I believe is credible.

    Anyway, for complex environments MS Project even at full price isn't expensive. For small ones there are programs like MAPS or BizSpark which give you tons of Microsoft licences, including Project, basically for free. Like one of my business partners used to say: if there's will there's a way.

  • Denis December 3, 2009, 3:14 am

    Pawel,
    You said you used MS Project as communication tool in your previous company. I am wondering how you do that? Does all your customers has MS Project or you sent them project plan screenshots?
    I am interested in that as I'm CEO of a new startup that offer MS Project on-line viewer http://www.amiproject.com. I hope our service can eliminate another myth – you can not send you project plan to stakeholder without ensure it has MS Project installed.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 3, 2009, 3:54 am

    Denis,

    We were just sending out mpp files through email since basically the main goal was to agree project plan with customers. Lack of MS Project installed wasn't an issue in our case because we worked for big telecommunication companies so everyone who would use mpp file had MS Project installed on their machine.

    By the way: I must admit amiproject looks very nice. I'm not sure however how often lack of MS Project installed is an issue among stakeholders. My guess is they usually have it already installed. On the other hand you should take a look on a rather typical situation when PM prepares schedule/project plan in MS Project and send it out to developers who don't have the tool (why should they anyway?) Of course tasks would be imported to some kind of tool which supports task management but it's usually helpful to visualize the whole project on Gantt chart.

  • Denis December 3, 2009, 5:29 am

    Thanks for positive feedback! We are working on sharing scenario. You already can open MPP file and share it (File/Share). As a result you will get a short link like this http://www.amiproject.com/open/zqsktacw wich you can share with anyone.

  • Martin December 4, 2009, 1:28 am

    We use A-Plan from braintool software, a german company. It is very affordable and a good alternative for MS Project. It´s easy to work with your team on one central database without complicated server installation. The english web page isn´t so well as the product.

  • 6p00d8341ca4d953ef December 4, 2009, 5:48 pm

    Pawel,

    Do these much less tools provide for a network of activities? How about setting deadlines and be informed that you've messed it? How about showing external dependencies for "parts" arriving from someone else.

    What's look like a project management tool – Jira – is labeled bug tracking. If you're using that definition, then absolutely MSP is over kill.

    But not sure bug tracking is the same as PM. Bug Tracking and fixing sounds a lot like "level of effort" to me. No fixed budget delivery time, resource level etc.

    This is an example (a friendly one) of overloaded the work "project management" and "project management tools."

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 5, 2009, 3:21 am

    Don't be tricked with labels Glen. Jira, same as FogBugz, outgrown bug tracking long ago. Speaking of which:

    1. Setting a deadline for task and being alerted – can be done with standard setup.

    2. Showing dependencies – here, I'm not sure here and I can no longer check. There were interlinks between tasks but it wasn't anything close to MSP-like dependencies of all sorts, so I can't deifnitely say yes or no here.

    Anyway I can say I worked with Jira as a PM tool by myself and it was sufficient for our needs. Of course we weren't doing rocket science but to organize few dozen of people working on several projects Jira was enough in terms of functionality (given that we got source code, we could have added anything if we needed too). And in terms of easiness of use, well, it isn't so hard to beat MS Project especially when it comes to collaboration.

    It all depends on size on complexity of projects you're working on. As you've said – you're in top 10% MSP users in terms of functionality you need from the tool. I wasn't anywhere close.

  • Terry Austen February 3, 2010, 1:21 am

    We use ValleySpeak Project Server, best Mpp Viewer for SME’s
    Its a hosted Mpp Viewer with powerful collaborative features which helps successful completion of projects in less time and cost.
    http://www.valleyspeak.com/index.php/product/features/

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