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Microsoft Project Room for Improvement

Principal Consultant at Lexington Consulting

MS Project can insert objects, like a drawing or an Excel worksheet, but cannot handle business rules. Also, I would like to see better integration with graphics applications such as MS Visio. The graphics are primitive and need some major work. I would like to have the ability to insert some small macros within the project for Monte Carlo risk analysis. For example, if you're unsure how much time a task may require, you can generate a reasonable guess.

MS Project is very time and labor-intensive to keep current. You need to update it continually. You may find that you are spending more time maintaining the MS Project file than working on your project. I don't want to devote a person to do that.

MS Project should have the capability to link it to other applications to make the program dynamic when a real-time resource or schedule changes, but it is not dynamic. It would be helpful to insert real-time input data for each project, subproject, or task. If something is going on, I want to see the impact in real-time, if possible.

I want to be able to specify globally what weekend we want or what we want to call a weekend. Also, we might have a project underway seven days a week.

External data sources, like third-party manufacturing processes, impact some tasks. Embedding external processes within MS Project is almost impossible because we don't have programming resources here in a practical sense. Also, the interface of Microsoft Project is proprietary. We want to link different tasks to external sources of inputs and outputs and integrate them automatically with our master project plan, e.g., specific third-party CNC machine data. The supplier's system does not interface with ours'. We have to get the outputs from their system serially and manually update the MS Project file to determine the schedule impact. That takes time. There is a risk of data entry errors at both ends. On tight projects, every minute counts.

I would like to see a control system interface with Microsoft Project. Real-time system data helps predict cost and schedule variances. For example, if you had to finish a day ahead of schedule, you could "talk" to the systems' software and determine if a given machine works for another four hours, then you could meet the accelerated schedule. MS Project requires manual data entry with a risk of mistakes. Presently, there is no automated data entry capability in MS Project. It just doesn't exist. That's why I say it is only suitable for small-sized to medium-sized companies and small projects. Most companies don't have the same problems we have with MS Project.

When you're working on a project that has to get done, you will spend most of the time wrestling with Microsoft Project, whereas you should be using these hours to manage the project.

Thinking on a slightly bigger scale, I would like better integration with Office, Visio, and Access. If you make a change in one application, it should cascade to others and vice versa. It doesn't do that, at least not easily. It is not a dynamic program. I would like to see an active program or at least the capability to be dynamic, even if it is close to real-time where it outputs to a module, and the module then talks to real-time systems. The real-time data goes back into the module, and the module updates the project plan. Such dynamic capability would be superior to what exists now. It may not be genuinely real-time, but it is at least closer to it.

I want to link directly to the data in an Excel spreadsheet so that I don't have to keep going back and forth updating it. I don't want to have to create a dynamic link library or write a macro. Whenever I change the data in an Excel file for a given project or task, it should update the corresponding Visio or PowerPoint file. If I'm doing a pie chart or any graphic, I don't want to manually update my graphics. I want to link them together, and I want them updated automatically. I know it is a wishful thing. Microsoft doesn't make significant changes every time they come out with a new version. However, they don't appear to fix the issue. Instead, they add a few features.

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RS
IT Consultant with 1,001-5,000 employees

When you start getting into the more advanced features, it can become unstable. The more you use the advanced features, the more exposure you have to an unanticipated result. I think we need to add the Kanban Board capability to the product that would help them advance that board into the project management methodology that's being used in the industry today. Being able to depend on Scrum management is key. I actually developed a template that allows me to do that, but if they actually productized that, that would help.

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KH
Systems Engineer at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics

One of the things that we struggle with is that we do a lot of smaller projects that end up using the same resources. We have difficulty managing or balancing workload across resources that are on multiple projects. 

For example, in project A we'll schedule Joel to do something in a certain timeframe. And then next day we have project B's schedule up, and he's scheduled to do something on that project in the same timeframe, and we don't have a way to expose those conflicts. We have to basically rely on Joe to say, "Hey, you've asked me to do different things. There's only one of me. I've got to manage my time. Either you give me twice as long to do both of those things, or you tell me which one to do first, and then move the other one."

It would be ideal if the solution itself could expose such conflicts.

One of the reasons that we have some projects using Jira as well as Microsoft Project is that we have to be able to access the project schedule to see, as an individual contributor, what the tasks are. It's not a great way to distribute that. In terms of Jira, where we create the Jira records, an engineer can go into the Jira database and search for his or her name, find all the tasks with the due dates on them, and anything assigned to them. If Project had a better mechanism to allow those who are not the project manager to see their own work tasks, that would be of help or of value to us.

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Learn what your peers think about Microsoft Project. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: January 2022.
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RR
Project Manager at a tech services company with 51-200 employees

We need to know what third party solutions we want to integrate.  Microsoft by itself is a project management tool, however, if someone says they want to integrate with something else, there may be issues. Since we work on JIRA, most of the time that can satisfy our needs, as everyone has JIRA. They just update their task there and we can have full visibility.

Microsoft's solution isn't really a collaboration tool, however. If you need a collaboration tool, you can use Slack, which can be integrated with your JIRA. Any ticketing in JIRA can be integrated to Slack and you can get the messages there. 

I personally still need to compare the solution to other solutions. It would give me a better sense of if they are missing any features. Right now, without the comparison, it's hard to tell. They may need more security features, or better communication features. It's hard for me to say with my limited knowledge base.

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KW
Operation Project Manager at a retailer with 51-200 employees

It should be easier to break things. Breaking up the visualization from the task is sometimes a little bit tricky to do. You can do it, but it takes a minute. It's not an easy function to do. The way you have to format it and stuff like that takes a minute.

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Sr. Project Manager at a legal firm with 201-500 employees

The new version has made it a bit more complicated. We are trying to synchronize Project Online and Planner.

In Team Planner, there is supposed to be a way that you can sync your tasks in the Project Plan with Planner so that the project team doesn't necessarily need to use Microsoft Project. They can see what tasks are assigned to them, do them and update the status.

But, we haven't been able to figure that out yet.

They can make it easier to streamline the product. 

When using Microsoft Project, the desktop and Planner don't seem to talk to each other as seamlessly as I would hope. It is possible that it is a user error and we have not configured it correctly. My IT team is new to it as well.

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AV
IT Project Manager at a transportation company with 501-1,000 employees

I'd like to have few more specific features, however, it's possible that Microsoft will decide to implement and deploy them in the future. 

It would be nice, for example, if we have stages of the project, to have some tasks that can be split. We'd like to be able to see different timelines as a part of one task. 

I'd like to see the dependency of one task but split into a few parts. I'm mostly working with infrastructure projects in the company. Sometimes I have to stop the implementation of one part of the project due to various reasons, and I have to switch to another task. I have to see the stage and stop and show in another part I'm taking in the work. I'm not stopping the project. I'm just switching tasks and I have to see when I can continue the previous response. I need to see that the one task continuing, but not all the time. Right now, the organization is done mostly in my head, however, it would be ideal if I could visualize it with adjusted timelines.

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SM
Founder at a computer software company with 1-10 employees

The solution could be more flexible when it comes to integration.

They added the Agile Framework also to their solution. I think Agile does not work with this kind of spreadsheet platform. Mainly for Agile, it needs something such as Kanban or Scrum board. There is also a need for a tool for brainstorming on a whiteboard online but this solution does not have this feature.

If the solution wants to match the Agile Framework, it would be better to add something similar to Asana, Kanban or Scrum board. This way companies and teams can easily create a sprint and follow up. It will be easier for the Scrum Master coach to facilitate communication between groups and teams. If they let people choose their Agile methodology, such as Jira, it would be better.

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JC
Systems Software Specialist III at a government with 5,001-10,000 employees

Once we commit our status, changing it is hard. Sometimes, I may make a mistake about a holiday or something. I may not remember that there was a particular day that was a holiday and I may enter time on that day as if I worked. Sometimes I want to fix it. It would be ideal if the holidays were pre-installed so that we wouldn't make that mistake, that would be ideal. It should allow us to set it so that we cant enter time on holidays. 

I have only explored maybe 5% of Microsoft Project as we're only using it to log things. I haven't seen a lack of features.

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MB
Technical Project Manager at a comms service provider with 1,001-5,000 employees

I haven't thought of what are the qualities of the features and how can they be changed or improved. It basically has everything I need.

There are a few bugs that can affect the stability. This is typical of most applications.

The solution does not have a mobile version at this time.

The user interface and how fast you can find tools to make a schedule, to build up a team, to come up with tasks, et cetera, could be improved. The framework of accessibility is a bit complicated. It could be simplified. 

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JF
Unemployed at a healthcare company with 501-1,000 employees

I am not that close to it anymore, but I know that there were some cut and paste issues when we were trying to move one group of roles to another, and they used to muck up the interdependencies between the tiers, rows, and other things.

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JP
Delivery Manager at a tech services company with 11-50 employees

Its user experience can be improved while configuring it. Its reporting can also be better. Reporting is not very easy. Reports do not always work. I was trying to download some reports, and they didn't work. I don't know if it was related to the configuration that I was using. I didn't go too deep to check if something was missing.

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FD
Utilities Consultant at a consultancy with 51-200 employees

Its reporting and its integration with some of the other related systems should be improved. It is not very easy to integrate.

Its scalability is not so good for the most part.

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SI
General Manager at a manufacturing company with 10,001+ employees

I can't think of any features that are lacking. I don't know of any issues with the solution that can be updated.

The technical support could be improved. They are okay, however, they could be much better.

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SN
SVP, Emerging Data Platforms at a financial services firm with 10,001+ employees

When a project plan becomes huge, it is painful to arrange and structure the project in Microsoft Project.

Currently, you require a separate product for managing agile projects, and people are using Jira and Rally to manage stories in agile. Primarily, on the software development side, people are kind of moving away from Microsoft Project.

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YT
MD at a tech services company with 11-50 employees

Collaboration is an area that needs improvements. If we could get into the collaboration aspect of it as well, it might be helpful.

In the next release, I would like to see features included to make the collaboration easier, and I would like to see the dashboard improved.

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KH
Sr. Project Manager

Its price can be improved.

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SK
Senior Business Analyst at a tech services company with 51-200 employees

This solution needs more customization.

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ME
Manager - Operations Advisory (Finance transformation and performance improvement) at a consultancy with 10,001+ employees

The dashboard could be improved.

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Learn what your peers think about Microsoft Project. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: January 2022.
564,997 professionals have used our research since 2012.