≡ Menu

Microsoft Project is not a project management tool

Let me clarify that: Microsoft Project, on its own, is not a good project management tool. This was bought into sharp focus for me again yesterday when I was supporting a rock-solid business unit leader struggling with the weight of too much to do. He is not a formal ‘Project Manager’ but he and his direct reports recognize that much of the business unit’s workload is about managing multiple, competing mini-projects. Boy oh boy was there a lot of learning in that session!

Before we get to the learning list I think it is important to recognise that we do offer one of the most practical project planning training programmes on the planet as a PMI Global Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) and we also offer an excellent Working with Microsoft Project training programme. MS Project however is not always the most appropriate solution to managing multiple projects.

Here’s the learning list that this hardworking manager created at the end of our time together:

  1. New tools are no substitute for good process. Reaching for an additional tool rather than researching the process is too easy and rarely satisfying! (More ‘productivity tools’ gather dust than do meaningful work for most people)
  2. You can not really create a project plan in MS Project.
    (Even Microsoft says that MS Project should not be used without an executable project plan being created. Furthermore, there isn’t even a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) functionality built into MS Project to facilitate this element of planning.)
  3. MS Project is not great for communicating and sharing project progress.
  4. So – Use fewer tools and integrate them better.
  5. Agree a Team-Based approach to sharing workload through the use of Outlook Calendar, Task and Categories. Agree email protocols specifically for team project communications.
  6. Check how the team feels about Mindmapping for project plans (after seeing how we integrate Mindjet Mindmanager with Outlook)
  7. Apply Richard’s processes across the team.
  8. Book Richard (Yippee!!)

I’m curious to know how you manage multiple mini-projects across your team. What works for you? Join the debate below.

To assist with ‘Strategic thinking and planning’ why not  contact me to discuss how we can tailor a programme to your exact needs.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Richard Maybury December 14, 2009, 10:58 pm

    Hi Kevin, thanks for bringing this to my attention. We seem to agree that for most people MS Project is not a practical tool for planning, juggling and delivering multiple project deliveries unless one is working with MS Project server and mainly sitting in a PMO.

    My own approach to planning, juggling and executing project deliverables is to drive activities through a combination of Outlook Contacts and Outlook Categories.

    Your solution appears to be based upon Outlook’s Categories with some additional functionality built in. It looks good. Does the dashboard sync across to Windows smart phones?

    I may well download a trial onto a virtual machine to check it out. Thanks again for bringing it to my attention

  • Kevin Moore December 14, 2009, 9:29 pm


    You’ve put together a great article with a lot of good points on the problems people often run into with MS Project.

    If you or your readers are looking for another solution, I’ve built some project management processes into Microsoft Outlook. You can find more information on our web-site Outlook Project Management


  • Richard Maybury October 21, 2009, 10:46 pm

    Hi John, thanks for your comments. This looks like another advanced task creation, tracking and reporting system for project related activities. I’d be keen to learn if it does integrate and sync with MS outlook or Lotus Notes or is it a stand alone system?

  • John October 21, 2009, 8:57 pm

    We took the route of building our own software several years ago. Our project manager is certified in MS Project and found it to be too much for our company. He has been the guiding architect behind Intervals, the web-based project management tool that we built and use. It is intended to be an alternative for those who find MS Project to be too overwhelming for their needs. While it is not PMBOK compliant, it does offer some Gantt-like capabilities that we plan on extending.

  • Richard Maybury October 21, 2009, 4:49 pm

    Looks good, Tom, very simple and elegant and probably worth a look at. My only concern, though, is that it is not possible to plan a project to PMBOK standards in a Gant Chart format alone.

    That said, I did check out the 3 minute tutorial. All very intuitive. Probably worth investigating for your personal projects. Any plans to have it integrate with programmes like MS Outlook?

  • Tom October 21, 2009, 4:17 pm

    I just launched http://tomsplanner.com a new approach to project planning.

    – Web based but save on your own computer
    – No learningcurve
    – Very time efficient
    – The tool gives you control back, instead of controlling you
    – Share projects online with your team
    – If you need to, export to MS Project

    Beta users are welcome!

Leave a Comment

I love sharing with humans! *