If your team has outgrown its simple task-management app, it may be time to move to an industrial-strength project manager, like Microsoft Project. Microsoft's software offers project-planning and project-tracking tools to help you and your teammates track deadlines, keep an eye on budgets, and monitor your project's progress.
Templates: Project comes with a collection of templates to help start planning and tracking your project. You can customize Project's existing templates or start with a blank one if you can't find one to fit your needs. Templates include software development, Agile project management, earned value, construction, new business plan, annual report, marketing campaign, merger or acquisition, Six Sigma, and customer service. You can also import data from Microsoft Excel or SharePoint to create a template.
Gantt charts: Project gives you a visual snapshot of your projects with Gantt charts. A Gantt bar chart lets you quickly see how the various tasks of your project are progressing and view the relationships between tasks as well as the status of your project schedule. Project lets you create a new single or recurring task, summary and subtasks, task dependencies, and two tasks to show their relationship. You can adjust timeline units to zoom into and out of a project's timeline. You can also have control over the formatting of charts and can change the color, shape, height, and pattern of Gantt bars; add text; and display task names.
Generate reports: Project comes with a collection of predefined reports to let you quickly view the progress of your project, check costs, and see how your resources are allocated. Dashboard reports include burndown charts, cost overview, upcoming tasks, and work overview. Resource reports include overallocated resources and resource overview. Cost reports encompass cash flow, cost overruns, earned value reports, resource cost overview, and task cost overview. Progress reports cover critical tasks, late tasks, milestone reports, and slipping tasks.
If one of the predefined reports isn't showing what you need, Project comes with report templates to help you build a custom report with charts, tables, or side-by-side charts to show the status of a project, and past and upcoming milestones.
For any report, you can change the data, tweak the look of the report, and convert an existing report into a template to use with future projects.
Timelines: You can view your project activities in timelines and, at a glance, view everything from tasks to milestones. You can customize timelines for any data you choose and share with other team members or stakeholders.
Run Project locally: Starting at $560, Project Standard 2016 is a single-user Windows desktop app that offers simple tools for managing your projects and generating reports. For $940, Project Professional comes with richer project-management and scheduling tools and lets you collaborate with teammates on the online version of Project or Project Server.
Or use Project in the cloud: If you'd rather use Microsoft's cloud-version of Project, a Project Online Professional subscription ($30 per month per user) lets team members plan and track projects, and assign resources. A $55 a month version comes with advanced project-planning and resource-allocation tools. For $7 a month, you can get users a Project Online Essentials package that lets them track their status, share documents, and communicate.
Extensible through Microsoft's Partner network: Microsoft designed Project for portfolio and resource management as well as project management and has solutions for financial services, professional services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, government, and energy, including oil and gas. Microsoft has a program that connects you with Microsoft Project & Portfolio Management Partners to help you implement a custom solution for your business or organization.
Pricey: Running Project can get expensive quickly. With the download version running $560 to $940 per user and the cloud-based edition running $7 to $55 a month, you need to be part of well-funded projects to have Microsoft's Project make sense. If you are running a smaller project or work in a small organization, other project-management tools may be a better fit.
Microsoft Project is a powerful Windows and cloud-based project-planning and project-management tool that lets team members plan, organize, and manage projects and track budgets and resources. Its power comes with a price, however, so if you're part of a smaller company, you may find another project-management tool a better financial fit.