Scheduling is at the core of any project and the importance is well recognised, however scheduling standards vary to a large extent as do the tools used which can range from Microsoft Excel to lightweight browser based scheduling solutions to standalone Microsoft Project.
Microsoft Project accounts for approximately 70% of market share, with the biggest competitor being Microsoft Excel, which thanks to it’s versatility is a solution that is used for a multitude of purposes.
If you and your colleagues are currently using Excel within your department or across the organisation to create your WBS (work breakdown structure), as many project managers do, you could be working smarter.
Microsoft Project provides you with a scheduling engine and just as a car engine removes the necessity for you to push the car (and do the leg work), Project can do the same from a scheduling perspective. Whilst with Excel you can create a list of tasks, you can’t apply any logic to them to ensure for example that tasks can only take place during the work week, that they have to be completed in a certain order by a specified time. Project schedules also have a tendency to change, and while with Excel that requires a major update of the task list, associated fields and impacted tasks, within Microsoft Project you can update a single field i.e. ‘start date’ and all of the changes can be cascaded through the whole project, whilst maintaining any constraints that may have been applied.
Project Resource Loading
If you extend Microsoft Project Desktop with Project Online (Office 365) or Project Server (on-premise) you can leverage the benefits of the Enterprise Resource Pool, from which resources can be assigned against the tasks in the WBS. Project Managers are able to view resource availability in real-time to ensure that they are creating informed schedules. This also alleviates the need to then separately populate a resource management plan.
Project Cost Management
Within Microsoft Project you can create budgets and associate fixed or rate based costs for tasks, people, equipment and materials. This enables you to gain a comprehensive view of your project costs including, baselined, actuals and forecast. For further insight you can also complete Earned Value Analysis.