A project manager’s desk is a busy place, packed with reports and data that need to be analyzed, shared, and displayed in a variety of formats for different audiences. And while your favorite project manager might be a dab hand at color-coding spreadsheets or keeping tabs on an ever-expanding fleet of three-ring binders, one thing that separates good project managers from great project managers is access to the right software. In this case, the industry-standard tool is Microsoft Project. But is it really the best tool for the job? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.
Who Can Use Microsoft Project?
Obviously, anyone can use MS Project – and the lion’s share of project management professionals choose to. It’s hard to quantify what makes some people prefer one piece of project management software over another – because “preference” is innately personal. However, when you’re talking about the industry standard, a lot of what makes one application superior to another is it’s availability. For project managers working with teams that use different operating systems, Microsoft Project allows great collaboration – as long as everyone involved is using a supported platform. Within that “supported” universe, MS Project allows for delegation, scheduling, goal measurement, status tracking, and much more across a massive group. But, any Mac users on your team are going to have to find a compatible alternative product.
How Flexible is Microsoft Project?
A huge part of successful project management is being able to provide flexibility without losing control of budgets and timelines. Having software that’s equally capable of this degree of flexibility is a huge asset to a busy project manager’s desk – and MS Project offers a reasonable degree of flexibility. By allowing project managers to provide different team members access to appropriate project information based on organizational demands, the software enables a higher level of flexibility for managers in terms of staff and resource allocations. Similarly, MS project allows for executive/PMO-level oversight that makes defining objectives, measuring success and deploying resources more efficient. The majority of free or paid-for competing project management solutions simply can’t measure up to this degree of flexibility. But again, failing to provide the software for those on non-windows platforms can become a huge sticking point for lager organizations.
What Competes with Microsoft Project?
There are some amazing tools out there that vie for the attention of project managers looking to push their efficiency up a notch. While we haven’t tried or tested them all, some of the leading competitors include:
Basecamp – truly universal access because it is a web-based project management solution, Basecamp offers a 60-day free trial and offers online classes to help new (and potential) users get to grips things.
ProjectLibre – an open source alternative to Microsoft project, is available for Mac, Windows and Linux platforms, what’s more it’s free.
Gantter – another web-based collaborative project tool with great reviews, Gantter boasts easy integration with cloud technologies you may already use.
Only-Office – promoting itself as a “universal cloud office” OnlyOffice will suffice for basic project management tasks, but appears a little light on the forecasting and resourcing that big projects require.
Is Microsoft Project for me?
That’s really the big question here – and unfortunately, we can’t answer that for you. MS Project is the most commonly used software solution for project managers the world over – so obviously isn’t all bad. But if you and your team work in different areas across different platforms, you might want to consider one of the alternatives we’ve profiled, or dig a little deeper into options that better suit your needs.