I’ve been a Microsoft Project user, teacher, and consultant for the last 27 years. I’ve become very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of this software product. As a 17+ year Project MVP, I have come to learn about and work with the Microsoft Engineering and Marketing teams for many MSP releases, and I am a constant champion for improvements. I’ve also seen and heard many misconceptions people have about what Microsoft Project can and can’t do.
Microsoft is changing their Project PPM toolsets (adding, blending, and centralizing). We see MS ToDo, O365 Planner, Project Desktop, Project Online, Project Server, Project for the web, and Project Operations, blending with MS Teams and other office/task hub capabilities. No wonder people sometimes get mixed up or don’t fully realize the strategy Microsoft has around growing and supporting these tools for project management.
Today, I wanted to begin to clear up some of the misconceptions that are out there. I am touching on just a few, but this is the first in a series that will explore the top five issues that surface on a regular basis. I hope you find my in depth look at these misconceptions helpful. Please reach out to me directly with questions, comments, or even to just check back to see if new feature releases address your needs. I am looking forward to a MPUG hosted live panel discussion on the topic of these misconceptions and more in December of this year. Stay tuned!
Here is the first of five top misconceptions that people make when using MS Project (in all its forms).
Misconception #1: “Project is Not for Agile or An Agile Tool”
This is one of the more common statements I hear from people. In fact, I have been hearing this since Agile became a hot topic. Scrum masters say things like: “We don’t use project because it isn’t “Agile,” or “Project Doesn’t have any Agile features, it’s a “Waterfall tool.”
To set the record straight, MS Project Isn’t an Agile tool…go ahead, read that again! Correct, it’s not an Agile tool, but neither is it a Waterfall tool. MSP is actually a relational database. Yes, that’s right, all of those “Agile” tools out there (well, the good ones) work within a relational database framework, MS Project included.
While Microsoft may have taken a while to add some “Agile” view options, many of us have been using it across all types of methodologies (i.e. Prince2, Waterfall, Agile, Lean, and many others). We have the capability to add columns and views to sort, filter, and group data ITIL, etc.
Microsoft may yell at me for not just saying, “Project is Agile,” but I want to explain exactly what it is and what it is not. The bottom line is that Project has some amazing flexibility, and now that all the versions have the ability to work more agile-y, it’s far from just a Waterfall tool anymore.
Project Desktop Agile Features
Microsoft Project Desktop has native Sprint and Agile capabilities, as shown below. You can add columns, filters, groupings, and custom fields to manage sprints, even from within a Waterfall overall schedule. If you don’t have a template like the one shown below, reach out to me directly and I’d be happy to share one with you.
You can also shift to a Task Board (more of a Kanban model or what you would find in O365 Planner with task cards) and manage your project’s work with buckets.
Easily manage tasks by dragging and dropping between categories, buckets, or columns. Even set the % complete as you drag tasks to/from their categories.
I enjoy using more of a Sprint view to keep tasks organized, as shown.
Generate sprints based on the length of your project or edit the duration of them and manage your backlog and velocity based on work archived (or story points) accomplished per sprint. This method will behave like a Task Board. Simply drag, drop, or double click to edit more of the details, and then switch to the Sprint or Task Board Sheet views or the Gantt Chart view based on your preference.
Regardless of what view you are using, remember MSP is a relational database. It’s an umbrella that will hold all native project views and data, plus organize it in a more Agile fashion. MPUG has many how to articles on this topic, and I also have free articles and videos linked to in my bio.
Project for the web Agile Features
Certainly the new addition to the Project family, Project for the web (P4W), would have the native Board view for end users, right? In fact, one of the intents of this tool is to allow users to migrate from Office 365 Planner to Project for the web. This capability is soon to be released, but MSP couldn’t do this without having a Task board that behaves and operates the same way that Planner does.
You can switch from the Timeline or Grid view to the Board view and continue managing in a much more Kanban-esque or “card view” way. It’s quick, easy, and provides an option for transitioning between grid, timeline, and/or Board view.
There is a mass of users in MS Teams and Planner now, so moving to a more mature story option method for project management and way from simple work management is an important part of the Microsoft PPM tool agenda.
I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to read more about MS Project misconceptions (listed below) or join me for my upcoming live discussion on these misconceptions and more.