Microsoft Project is a software application sold by Microsoft that provides project management tools to manage projects. The program, which has many different versions, allows users to:
- Understand and control project schedules and finances.
- Communicate and present project information.
- Organize, estimate, and schedule work, resources, and costs to ensure projects are completed according to plan.
- Track and report project progress against original work, cost, and schedule assumptions.
Overview of Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project allows the project manager to enter and organize the tasks of a project (also known as the “work breakdown structure” or WBS) and assign workers (known as “resources“) to those tasks, as well as track cost information. It provides alternate methods of organization to accommodate other methods of managing projects (i.e. Agile methodology).
Microsoft Project also provides functionality that allows the user to create reports which communicate the status and progress of a project in a format useful to stakeholders, yet flexible enough to change quickly from one format to another, depending on the needs of the stakeholder.
Versions of Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project has several different editions or versions, based on the needs of the users and organization. Below is a brief overview of the latest versions.
Microsoft Project 2019
- Project Standard 2019: Helps the single user stay organized and enables quick planning, tracking, and reporting. Designed to integrate with Microsoft Office 2019 and its advanced charting and graphing.
- Project Professional 2019: Includes all of the features of Project Standard 2019 plus collaboration tools, timesheet submission, and task synchronization to SharePoint and Enterprise connectivity.
- Project Online Professional: Designed for the project manager and is subscription based. Project Online Professional provides remote, web, and local connectivity to Microsoft’s enterprise project management solutions.
- Project Online Essentials: Designed for team members, Essentials allows for task updates, issue and risk updates, timesheet submission, and online collaboration with Microsoft Teams.
- Project Online Premium: Designed for resource managers and portfolio managers, Premium provides enterprise level project, program, and portfolio functionality. Resource demands across all projects and portfolio reporting are key components of grasping all of the projects in the enterprise.
- Project Server 2019: Project Server is Project Online with fewer features. It is not streamed from the Cloud. As in Project Server 2016, the 2019 version is a SharePoint feature and service.
- Project Standard 2016: Allows a single-user to easily create modern reports to measure progress and communicate project details effectively with your team and stakeholders.
- Project Professional 2016: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2016 as well as collaboration capabilities to quickly start and deliver projects while leveraging the power of Office 365 or SharePoint to work from virtually anywhere. This version integrates Skype for Business to call or instant message team members from Project Professional.
- Project Online Professional: Delivers the latest version of Project Professional as a subscription through Office 365. The software is automatically kept up to date (with options for customizable policies). Users on the go can work from the computer of their choice by streaming the complete desktop client with Project on Demand.
- Project Online Essentials: For use with projects that are managed with Project Online or Project Server. Allows team members to access timesheets, manage tasks, add issues and risks, and collaborate from anywhere.
- Project Online Premium: Provides a flexible online solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables organizations to get started, prioritize project portfolio investments, and deliver the intended business value—from virtually anywhere on nearly any device.
- Project Server 2016: A flexible, on-premises solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Team members, project participants, and business decision makers can get started, prioritize project portfolio investments and deliver the intended business value from virtually anywhere. This version requires SharePoint 2016, which is licensed separately.
- Project Standard 2013: Allows a single-user to easily create modern reports to measure progress and communicate project details effectively with your team and stakeholders.
- Project Professional 2013: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2013 as well as collaboration capabilities to quickly start and deliver projects while leveraging the power of working from virtually anywhere with Office 365 or SharePoint. This version integrates Lync 2013 to call or instant message team members from Project Professional.
- Project Pro for Office 365: Delivers the latest version of Project Professional as a subscription through Office 365. The software is automatically kept up to date (with options for customizable policies), and users on the go can work from the computer of their choice by streaming the complete desktop client with Project on Demand.
- Project Online: Provides a flexible online solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables organizations to get started, prioritize project portfolio investments, and deliver the intended business value—from virtually anywhere on nearly any device.
- Project Server 2013: A flexible, on-premises solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Team members, project participants, and business decision makers can get started, prioritize project portfolio investments, and deliver the intended business value from anywhere. This version requires SharePoint 2013, which is sold separately.
- Microsoft Project Standard 2010: A single-user edition of the software. This version is targeted toward the desktop user.
- Microsoft Project Professional 2010: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2010 as well as collaborative features that allow users to work together when the organization is also using Microsoft Project Server 2010.
- Microsoft Project Server 2010: Maintains project plan information and data on a server. Project Server allows multiple users to access that data through their client applications, Microsoft Project Professional and Microsoft Project Web Access.
Microsoft Project Features
Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2019
- Drop-down menu for task linking: selecting this menu will show the task hierarchy allowing predecessor or successor selection at the click of the mouse.
- Task Summary Name Field: This new feature is a read only field that identifies each tasks Summary (or Parent) task in the project’s task hierarchy. It’s useful when sorting and filtering clouds the default project structure.
- Timeline bar labels and progress: The Timeline view has long aided the “project at a glance” capabilities of Microsoft Project, but now also provides the ability to organize the bars into separate segments and provide visual clues as to the progress made.
- Improved Accessibility: Improvements to contrast and keyboard support, Narrator, and customization capabilities has ensured Project and its management features are available to everyone.
- Multiple Timeline View: See more than one visually enhanced timeline view to help visualize different phases of your project plan. You can set both start and end dates for each timeline from this view.
- Resource Engagements: Request a resource in project and your resource manager can accept or deny your request. If accepted, your resource will lock to ensure availability.
- Resource Views: A designated space for resource managers to look at and accept or deny all resource requests.
- Resource Capacity Heat Maps: New reporting feature that allows you to quickly see how your resources are being used.
- Tell Me: Instead of searching in Project or in the online help resources, Tell Me will look for whatever solution you need.
- Add-in’s: Microsoft Project Add-in’s are now easier than ever to integrate with your Project. Microsoft partner applications can be downloaded in the same efficient manner as templates from the Office store.
- New Themes: Change your project theme to whichever you prefer: colorful, dark gray, or white.
- In-App Feedback: You can now give your comments, opinions, and suggestions directly to Microsoft from the File tab by clicking on the Feedback section.
- Improved Reporting
- Customizable Reports: Users can create professional reports without having to export the data to another program. This includes adding pictures, charts, animation, links, and more.
- Pre-Installed Reports: Takes full advantage of the new graphics and formatting capabilities. Add or remove elements from these pre-created reports, including changing the colors.
- Burndown Reports: Shows planned work, completed work, and remaining work as lines on a graph. These give an at-a-glance status, letting you know if your project is behind or ahead of schedule.
- Lync Integration: Start an IM session, a video chat, an email, or a phone call with team members by hovering over a name.
- Trace Task Paths: Helps sort out a complex Gantt Chart by allowing users to highlight the link chain — or task path — for any task. When you click a task, all of its predecessor tasks show up in one color and all of its successor tasks show up in another color.
- Increased Date Range: Set project dates up to 12/31/2149. This is a century longer than Project 2010’s limits.
- Share Meetings: Allows users to share exported Project reports, timelines, or data in the form of PowerPoint slides, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and OneNote notes during online meetings from any supported device, even if Office isn’t installed.
- Cloud Storage: Allows users to access and share Project schedules, Excel spreadsheets, and other Office files.
- Online Access: With Project Online, users can access a full version of Project from almost anywhere, even on PCs that don’t have Project 2013 installed.
- SharePoint synchronization: This feature let users publish a project’s schedule as a SharePoint 2010 task list and receive tasks updates from team members. It also allows for keeping the two matching even as one or the other changes.
- Manual scheduling: Called “user-controlled scheduling” by Microsoft, this feature lets users set task durations and start and finish dates by simply a point and click method.
- Placeholder text: Users can create a project plan even without all the details. Project 2010 lets you enter text notes in the Date or Duration fields and update them later when you have more information.
- Active and inactive tasks: Allows users to perform “what-if” analysis by making tasks active or inactive and viewing the impact to the schedule, resources, and budget.
- Timeline view: This view shows the whole schedule in a model that’s easy for non-project managers to understand and follow.
- Team Planner: This feature allows users to drag and drop resources (people and materials) and try out various project scenarios.
- Task Inspector: If a task has a scheduling conflict or a resource is over-allocated, this feature lets you fix the problem.
Regardless of the version, Microsoft Project provides the user with the tools needed to design, collaborate, and report on projects from small and simple to large and complex. It is its integration with Microsoft Office that has made it an industry standard.