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In my Microsoft Project in-depth review, I’m sharing the results of my analysis and evaluation from hands-on testing and experimentation. Before we dive in, if you’re just starting your search for the best project management tools, you should first check out my picks for the best project management software. Microsoft Project is one of the top-rated project management tools out there, but to figure out if it's a good match for you, it's important to understand the software’s benefits and drawbacks.

My in-depth Microsoft Project review will take you through everything you need to know to make a more informed decision—pros and cons, features and functionality, pricing, and more—to help you to better understand its capabilities and suitability for your needs.

Microsoft Project software review, a dashboard screenshot of the tool
I like how the Microsoft Project dashboard, as shown in this screenshot, displays an organized overview of project tasks, their status, and progress metrics, giving you an effective and efficient overall view of your project.

Microsoft Project Product Overview

Microsoft Project often referred to as MS Project, is a comprehensive project management software that offers a range of solutions including on-premise project online, project professional, and project server, catering to the complex needs of large teams and project teams.

Targeting professionals seeking robust project portfolio management, it supports various methodologies including agile project management, and provides features like board view, timesheets, and invoicing, making it a contender for the best project management software.

Users benefit from its ability to streamline demand management and provide a clear roadmap, even though it presents a steep learning curve, especially with its desktop client and on-premises solution. Key strengths include its suitability for Windows and availability as a web app, though it primarily addresses the challenges of detailed project planning and execution for extensive team collaboration.

Pros

  • Gantt Charts: Provides visual timelines, enabling users to see project schedules and dependencies at a glance. This feature helps in identifying potential bottlenecks and adjusting plans efficiently.
  • Resource Management: Offers detailed resource allocation tools, allowing for effective management of team workload and preventing resource over utilization.
  • Customizable Reports: Enables tailored reporting, which aids in creating specific project insights and status updates for stakeholders.

Cons

  • Complex Interface: This can be overwhelming for new users, requiring a significant learning curve.
  • Limited Collaboration Features: Falls short in real-time collaboration capabilities compared to some modern project management tools.
  • Cost: Generally more expensive, making it less accessible for small businesses or individual users.

Expert Opinion

In my experience, Microsoft Project stands out in its capability to handle complex, large-scale projects. Its robust scheduling and resource management tools are particularly beneficial for detailed project planning. However, the pricing and complexity of the interface might not be suitable for every user. The software excels in environments where detailed project planning and resource management are critical, but it may underperform in scenarios where simple, collaborative tools are needed.

For teams and organizations that prioritize depth in project management features and can invest time in mastering the software, Microsoft Project is a strong contender. However, it may not be the best fit for smaller teams or projects that require more agility and less detailed planning.

Microsoft Project: The Bottom Line

What sets Microsoft Project apart from similar software is its depth of project management features, particularly in areas like Gantt chart sophistication, resource management, and advanced reporting capabilities. These features make it uniquely capable of handling complex, large-scale project management needs that other tools might not adequately address.

The ability to extensively customize reports and deeply analyze resource allocation is particularly commendable. While it might be overwhelming for beginners or smaller projects, its comprehensive toolset is a significant asset for large organizations and complex projects.

Microsoft Project Deep Dive

Product Specifications

  1. Task Management - Yes
  2. Gantt Charts - Yes
  3. Resource Management - Yes
  4. Time Tracking - Yes
  5. Budget Management - Yes
  6. File Sharing - Yes
  7. Collaboration Tools - No
  8. Reporting/Analytics - Yes
  9. Mobile Access - Yes
  10. Email Integration - Yes
  11. Calendar Integration - Yes
  12. Risk Management - Yes
  13. Milestone Tracking - Yes
  14. Project Planning - Yes
  15. Agile Methodologies Support - No
  16. Scrum Support - No
  17. Kanban Boards - No
  18. Customizable Templates - Yes
  19. Workflow Automation - Yes
  20. Access Controls/Permissions - Yes
  21. Real-Time Chat - No
  22. User, Role, and Access Management - Yes
  23. Support for Multiple Projects - Yes
  24. Issue Tracking - Yes
  25. Document Storage - Yes

Microsoft Project Feature Overview

  1. Gantt Charts: Microsoft Project's Gantt charts are detailed, allowing for intricate planning and visualization of project timelines and dependencies.
  2. Resource Management: The software excels in managing resources efficiently, preventing overallocation, and optimizing workload distribution.
  3. Reporting/Analytics: Customizable reports provide deep insights into project status, performance metrics, and more.
  4. Task Management: It offers robust task management capabilities, helping teams track progress and deadlines effectively.
  5. Milestone Tracking: This feature aids in marking significant project stages, ensuring important deadlines are met.
  6. Risk Management: The tool includes features for identifying, tracking, and mitigating project risks.
  7. Project Planning: Microsoft Project provides comprehensive tools for detailed project planning, including timelines, resources, and budgets.
  8. Workflow Automation: Automating repetitive tasks saves time and reduces the risk of errors.
  9. Access Controls/Permissions: This feature ensures that sensitive project information is accessible only to authorized personnel.
  10. Support for Multiple Projects: The software is capable of handling multiple projects simultaneously, which is essential for large organizations.

Standout Functionality

  1. Advanced Resource Management: Unlike many other tools, Microsoft Project offers an exceptionally detailed approach to resource allocation and management, ensuring optimal utilization of personnel and materials.
  2. Complex Gantt Charts: The Gantt chart functionality in Microsoft Project is more sophisticated than most competitors, allowing for intricate project timelines and dependency tracking.
  3. Comprehensive Risk Management: This tool stands out for its in-depth risk management capabilities, enabling thorough identification and mitigation strategies.

Integrations

Microsoft Project integrates natively with other Microsoft tools like Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and SharePoint, enhancing collaboration and file management. It also supports integration with Microsoft Power BI for advanced analytics.

Microsoft Project offers an API, allowing for custom integrations with other business systems. There are numerous add-ons available in the Microsoft Store that can extend the platform's capabilities, including apps for advanced reporting, time tracking, and more.

Microsoft Project Pricing

  1. Project Plan 1 - $10/user/month (billed annually): This plan includes basic project management features like task assignment and scheduling.
  2. Project Plan 3 - $30/user/month (billed annually): Adds advanced features like Gantt charts and out-of-the-box project templates.
  3. Project Plan 5 - $55/user/month (billed annually): Offers portfolio management and advanced analytics capabilities.

Ease of Use

Navigating Microsoft Project can be challenging, especially for new users. The interface, while powerful, is packed with features that require time to learn and master. The onboarding process might be overwhelming due to the software's complexity, and users often need additional training to fully utilize its capabilities.

Customer Support

Microsoft Project offers substantial support, including documentation, tutorials, and webinars. However, users sometimes find the response times for direct support like live chat or email, less prompt than desired. The complexity of the tool can make troubleshooting a lengthy process, leading to some frustration among users seeking quick resolutions to their issues.

Microsoft Project Use Case

Who Would Be A Good Fit For Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project is particularly well-suited for medium to large-sized organizations that handle complex, multifaceted projects. The most loyal and avid customers are project managers and teams in industries like construction, manufacturing, and IT, where detailed resource management, thorough planning, and strict adherence to timelines are crucial.

The tool works well for environments that require detailed project tracking, extensive reporting capabilities, and sophisticated risk management. Teams that appreciate a structured approach to project management and have the resources to invest in training and mastering this robust tool will find Microsoft Project a fitting choice.

Who Would Be A Bad Fit For Microsoft Project?

Small businesses or startups with limited budgets or teams that require a simple, intuitive tool may find Microsoft Project overwhelming and not cost-effective. The tool is not ideally suited for environments where agility and collaborative real-time communication are key.

Teams that work on less complex projects, or those looking for quick, easy-to-setup tools, might be disappointed with the learning curve and complexity of Microsoft Project. Freelancers or small teams needing basic task management and collaboration features should consider other options.

Microsoft Project FAQs

What types of projects is Microsoft Project best for?

It excels in complex, large-scale projects requiring detailed planning and resource management.

Can Microsoft Project support Agile methodologies?

No, it does not natively support Agile or Scrum methodologies.

Is Microsoft Project available as a cloud-based solution?

Yes, it offers cloud-based options for enhanced accessibility and collaboration.

Does Microsoft Project integrate with other Microsoft products?

Yes, it integrates easily with other Microsoft tools like Teams and SharePoint.

Is there a free version of Microsoft Project available?

No, Microsoft Project does not offer a free tier.

Can Microsoft Project be used for personal projects?

While it can be used for personal projects, its complexity and cost are generally better suited for organizational use.

Does Microsoft Project offer mobile access?

Yes, it provides mobile access for managing projects on the go.

Is training required to use Microsoft Projects effectively?

Due to its complexity, users often benefit from formal training to fully utilize its capabilities.

Alternatives to Microsoft Project

  • Asana: Ideal for teams seeking a more user-friendly, collaborative approach with strong task management features.
  • Trello: Better for those preferring a simple, Kanban-based interface for managing tasks and projects.
  • Smartsheet: This suits organizations looking for a blend of spreadsheet simplicity with project management capabilities.

Microsoft Project Company Overview & History

Microsoft Project is a project management software developed and sold by Microsoft. It is widely used by a variety of companies, from small businesses to large enterprises, across various industries. Microsoft, a global technology company, owns it. The headquarters are located in Redmond, Washington, USA. Key figures include Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, and other notable board members and advisors.

Microsoft's mission statement is "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more." Since its initial release in 1984, Microsoft Project has evolved significantly, incorporating advanced features like cloud integration and enhanced analytics, making it a mainstay in the field of project management software.

Summary

Microsoft Project stands as a robust, feature-rich project management tool ideal for medium to large organizations handling complex projects. Its strengths in detailed planning, resource management, and reporting make it a powerful asset for structured project management.

However, its complexity and cost may deter smaller teams or those requiring a more agile and user-friendly tool. I invite those who have used Microsoft Project to share their experiences and insights, as this can be incredibly valuable for others considering this tool for their project management needs.

By Galen Low

Galen is a digital project manager with over 10 years of experience shaping and delivering human-centered digital transformation initiatives in government, healthcare, transit, and retail. He is a digital project management nerd, a cultivator of highly collaborative teams, and an impulsive sharer of knowledge. He's also the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager and host of The DPM Podcast.