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The facts you should know about MS Project

The facts you should know about MS Project
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Many people today use Microsoft Project, and some of them have probably advised you to buy it. However, you should know that Microsoft Office Project Standard 2003 was designed for project managers who need a desktop tool to manage their projects independently, but do not require strong coordination with other managers. It was never intended to be used in a network/Internet enabled world. To work in a team and to be able to share your project information, you’ll have to purchase Microsoft Project Server and other necessary software applications. You should be aware that, once installed, MS Project becomes a part of your Office Suite and that your actions here will affect Word, Excel, Outlook and the other programs contained in the suite. Also, be aware that Microsoft Project installs utilities on your system that pop up randomly and can drain your system’s performance.

To help you get an idea of how Microsoft Project is used in different organizations, we have listed typical cases of collaboration with the help of Microsoft Project.

The facts you should know about MS Project

1. Status Update with the help of Microsoft Excel

The project manager keeps MS Project file on his computer, asking his team members to update a template MS Excel file. He receives the updates via e-mail and inputs them manually, cutting and pasting the necessary information. It can be convenient for only 2 reasons: First, all team members already have Excel; and second, it is cheaper than buying MS Project licenses for every user and installing them on each computer.

However, there are a number of disadvantages:

  • It’s very easy to make a mistake.
  • It’s time-consuming.
  • Team members do not have an opportunity to see the whole project work and very often do not know what their colleagues are doing.
  • It’s hard to collect all the updates at one time.
  • Top management does not have the full picture of the project and does not know what each team member is busy with.

2. Shared access to a Microsoft Project file

All members of the team can have access to Microsoft Project files, which are kept on a shared drive. Different users have different access rights; some of them can edit the files, and others have “read-only” access. In this case, it is good that files can be backed up easily. But there are some very significant problems:

  • Each user needs an updated version of Microsoft Project to be installed on his computer. It is very expensive and takes a lot of time to set up.
  • Users always need to remember where the correct file is located.
  • It’s impossible to control changes made to the file.
  • The file does not provide the overall view for all the projects the organization is involved in.
  • Not every team member can update the file.
  • Updates take time.

3. Several copies of MS Project with no shared acces

Each team member has a copy of MS Project installed on his or her computer, but they cannot exchange information or share a file. The project manager retains the main file version and sends it via e-mail to the team members to input their changes. Then the project manager collects the updates from all the team members and corrects the master copy manually. In this situation, users can make changes to database objects; however, you should know about the disadvantages:

  • It’s expensive – each user needs an updated version of Microsoft Project to be installed on his or her computer
  • Each user must be trained to use MS Project – which means additional costs.
  • It’s error-prone due to manual changes.
  • Updates take time.
  • Users are never sure they are working on the latest version of the file.
  • Top executives do not get the whole picture of all the projects.

4. Complementary use of Microsoft Project Server

Can eliminate some disadvantages that have to be dealt with in the above mentioned cases. Still, there are serious drawbacks:

  • Microsoft Project Server is a very expensive solution (up to $75 000, the set up of which can take up to several weeks)
  • Users need to also buy and install Microsoft Office Project Professional and Microsoft Office Project Web Access.
  • It’s difficult to use and requires additional training of personnel.
  • Only the project manager can update the whole schedule.

Now which one is your situation? Unfortunately, in spite all the advanced planning features, collaboration with the help of Microsoft Project turns out to be absolutely inefficient. That is why, if your project does not require overdetailed planning, we strongly recommend you to choose Web-based project management software.

Web-based project management software brings more value to your project, because:

  • You share your projects with your colleagues and clients seamlessly in seconds.
  • You can easily update tasks and project plans from every computer anytime you need it.
  • It’s error-prone due to manual changes.
  • It does not require you to install any other software applications, except your Web browser.
  • It is 10 times cheaper than Microsoft Project.

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