Is Microsoft project the best project management software? Your project management office may be looking to adapt Microsoft Project to fit the organization’s needs to bring more visibility to the company’s projects that require more visibility. However, is MS project the right choice for your growing company’s enterprise ppm software? It may be time to explore Microsoft Project ppm tool alternatives and the wide world of cloud-based PPM platforms.
A Project Manager slams their hands against the desk in frustration “Microsoft Project is such a pain! Our team needs a way to collaborate and supply real-time project updates. By the time all the updates are complete, our data is already out of date. There must be a better solution!”
The above scenario is becoming a typical exchange with the same common question asked of project management teams. More for project managers as they daydream of a better tool. Luckily, the need for speed or pure laziness breeds ingenuity – and PPM tools were born.
What are the Humble Beginnings of the Project Management System?
Once upon a time, way back in 1984, when Microsoft first released the software (or even 1990 with Version 1 for Windows), MS Project was born, and it was “The Great Solution” for project managers worldwide.
MS Project has had a good long life, serving its purpose, and helping Project Managers plan and schedule their projects during those pesky pre-connectivity years of the digital age.
Let’s face it, even as the software has continued to evolve with technology, Microsoft Project never quite jumped into the 21st century as many other platforms have.
In the age of the cloud, MS Project is still a client-based application (that’s so last century!).
Although modern project and portfolio management tools vary in sophistication and complexity, they only exist because project stakeholders need something more.
In the contemporary digital age, real-time collaboration and instantaneous project updates are the ability to make quick project updates are imperative functions Project Managers must have in their software toolbelt.
Customers are saying so long to client-based applications and hello to cloud-based platforms with enhanced functionality that supply increased visibility into projects, programs & portfolios.
So, Is MS Project Worth It?
Microsoft ppm tool offers five editions: Project for the Web, Project Online, Project Online Desktop Client, Project Professional, and Project Standard.
Project for the Web is like Project Lite. The software exists, it’s available via the web, and it works with Microsoft Office 365 software (for an additional fee, of course), and it requires minimal system resources, but that’s it.
To obtain the functionality that Microsoft Project is famous for, customers still need to buy a desktop client for resource planning and management, demand management, and all those higher functions.
Furthermore, the “collaboration and communication” functionality methods touted by the Microsoft website are all via Microsoft Teams. That means there is no true in-context collaboration, and users must pay additional licensing fees to access that functionality.
So, knowing that (technically) the Microsoft PPM tool is only years behind in technology instead of decades, I will discuss the advantages cloud-based applications have over client-based applications.
1. Microsoft Project is a Client-Based Application
Microsoft does offer a version of Project for the Web, but the functionality is limited.
Full functionality still requires (gasp) users to install a client-based application. Remember those 42 floppy discs needed for install?
Running the software requires at least a 2-core 1.6 GHz or faster CPU and 4GB each of hard drive space and RAM.
So, if system resources are sufficient, installing and running Microsoft Project will result in a highly responsive application. Until the hard drive crashes, and poof goes the project file.
Since most PPM tools are cloud-based, they won’t always be quite as responsive, but you also won’t lose all your data if a hard drive crashes, and stolen laptops don’t result in lost data either
2. The Benefit of an Online System in Plans are Accessible in Real-Time.
Does the scheduler spend more than half of their time updating the project schedule with information from partners or resource updates?
Are schedule updates stale before they’ve even been revised in the system?
When your resources have access to the project plan, as soon as they charge their time or update the percent complete on a task, those updates are alive immediately. No reason to update a scheduler, who then updates the project plan, and also enable business partners to make real updates without giving them access to proprietary or confidential information.
3. Real-time Reporting
Reporting on portfolios, programs, projects, and teams so PMs and PMO leaders don’t have to answer 100 emails from resources, bosses, executives, or stakeholders asking what the status is. Honestly, this is probably the #1 reason that project managers and executives love cloud-based PPM tools.
Real-time reporting is an absolute must because real-time reports enable leaders to make essential decisions with current data rather than stale and outdated information.
If your team is still calculating percent complete and cost-at-complete off a data date, well, you’re certainly not alone, but why not work with current data instead?
As resources update in the system, those changes are reflected in reports and dashboards that can tailor to various use cases. Stakeholders can use reports as tools to ensure that resources are performing updates in a timely fashion. Executives will be confident they are making decisions with the most accurate information.
4. If Project Plans are Offline, it Hinders the Team from Working Collaboratively
Not only can resources perform updates, but they can also collaborate in real-time using in-context discussion posts. Project resources and collaborators can start or continue discussions all within an individual project.
Furthermore, online PPMs tools now support @tagging to ensure that the proper team members are engaged in the conversation. Collaborative in-context discussions keep the Project Manager and Team engaged and on track.
5. Online PPM Tools Offer Continual Data Checks, Running Validation Rules, & Distributing Notifications
You might say, “Hey, we’ve talked about responsiveness already.” You’re right; we did. But that was in relation to actual system responsiveness (local vs. cloud resource availability). Now, we’re talking about enhanced capabilities that cloud PPM tools offer that a client application like Microsoft Project doesn’t.
Transitioning from a client-based scheduling application to a cloud-based PPM tool is a natural progression – like the transition from scheduling in a spreadsheet to scheduling software in the first place.
PPM software allows administrators to write validation rules and workflows and customize behind-the-scenes actions that enhance and ease the user experience. It might reduce response time, but that’s because of all the complex back-end processing, and users never even know it is happening!
6. No Need to Offline Edit When I’m Not Online
Typically all your day-to-day work is done online, and most project tasks/communication needs are also. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but honestly, internet connectivity is readily available and dependable almost anywhere these days.
Trains, planes, and automobiles all offer Wi-Fi capabilities. Some cities even provide free Wi-Fi connectivity for their residents. If someone absolutely must work offline, most tools allow exporting to a spreadsheet format that users can manipulate via Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets and reimport.
Of course, this method has inherent risks since resources could be updating the project plan while a user is working offline, and the changes could conflict. Unless your team spends part of their time in a faraday cage or a secure facility where absolutely no external network access is allowed, an online PPM tool is still going to be your best bet.
7. Scheduling a Resource to a Task Instantly Updates Budgets and Workload
Online PPM tools often offer integrated financial and resource management within the system. Honestly, it’s pretty much a requirement these days.
Since Project Managers need a single source of truth when it comes to their projects, PPM tools offer a degree of financial management in their systems. Not all systems are created equal, so you must decide what your organization needs before transitioning to a new platform.
Some platforms offer highly sophisticated financial management, while others only provide basic financials like user rates and durations. Typically, any mainstream PPM will have both financial and resource management modules and provide real-time updates to budgets and resource loads.
Does your organization already have financial systems and controls in place? Well, the good news is, “there’s an app for that!”
Yes, MS Project offers similar capabilities, but if that information exists only on the Project Manager’s Microsoft system and doesn’t get communicated to Project Stakeholders or Executives, there’s not much value with this platform.
8. Standard and Custom Integrations Ensure Consistency of Data Between Systems
Integrations might not entirely be “apps,” but they do provide a means of transmitting important data between systems. Most online enterprise PPM platforms offer, at a minimum, standard integrations with external systems.
Since the Project Management Organization is often a division of an organization, there are existing financial, time tracking, data lakes, and human/enterprise resource management systems within organizations.
The developers of online enterprise PPM tools understand the need for data integrity and provide the necessary tools to ensure the secure transmission of data between these systems.
Where standard integrations may not exist, at the minimum, the platform will typically support integrations via Application Programming Interfaces or APIs. Standard and custom integrations ensure that systems can transmit data between platforms and maintain the integrity of the data simultaneously.
9. Real-Time Collaboration Features with Internal and External Resources
Virtual teams are the new normal – I know I didn’t want to go there either, but it is an honest fact. As so many have painfully discovered in 2020, virtual teams must be able to communicate effectively while still preserving the project record.
Cloud-based enterprise PPM tools offer simple yet real-time methods of communication, even when projects involve external resources and stakeholders. Some platforms allow external users to consume data but not contribute without a license.
Others can flag external users and limit the data they have access/visibility. Furthermore, publishing widgets allow explicit view-only access to a subset of project data, allowing the specific audience access to information that would otherwise remain siloed.
10. Automation, Automation, Automation
We’ve touched on this topic before, but in today’s instant gratification society, automation is where it’s at. MS Project just can’t compete with modern cloud-based software platforms with exceptional configuration capabilities.
Between integrations and configurations, formulas, and validation rules, the automation capabilities of modern PPM tools far outweigh any possible arguments for maintaining project plans in Microsoft’s PPM tool. Oh, and honestly, your Project Managers will thank you when they don’t have to log in to five different applications to produce their status reports.
Let’s Talk About Unnecessary Complexity to Process
Importing and Exporting into the PPM tool isn’t efficient or effective. So, why are you considering updating in Microsoft Project and then importing those changes? Because Project Managers are used to working in MS Project, and they don’t want to make the change?
That’s not a valid reason to maintain the status quo when managing projects and portfolios and/or projects in MS Project (or any other client-based application for that matter).
Yes, you can update MS Project and then import those changes into a PPM platform, but really, that’s twice the work, and nobody has time for that these days. Most cloud-based PPM tools provide significantly more functionality when working in the native environment than is allowed via imports.
If you’re unsure how to influence your Project Managers to make the switch. Contact an Account Executive that represents the PPM platform you are considering. Most PPM software companies have sales material or blogs detailing the benefits for your particular industry or market that will help make your case for the needed software change to your team.
PPM Software that Works for Your Growing Organization
Can you answer Yes to the following:
- Is your organization still tracking projects in spreadsheets and considering a Microsoft Project alternative?
- Are you using Project, and it doesn’t fit your needs?
- Have you lost your project files because of a system crash?
- Are you tired of importing and exporting stale data before you’ve even entered it into the system?
- Do you need to work and communicate in real-time with internal and external stakeholders?
- Do you want to request that resources perform real-time updates?
- Do you have programs or portfolios of projects to manage?
Instead of structuring your Project Management Office to support archaic project plans in software that never quite met your organization’s needs, it may be time to explore Microsoft Project alternatives and the wide world of cloud-based PPM platforms.
At Kolme Group, we can help your organization find a Microsoft Project alternative solution that supports your company’s growing needs—with over 20 years of practical global experience across five continents, supporting a broad swath of organizations from growing start-ups to Fortune 10 and 100 companies. We have worked hard to find the best PPM tools on the market and can help you find the best solution that supports your organization.
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