Things Microsoft Project Can’t Do
When people have a project to plan, they often reach for Microsoft Project. Whilst Microsoft Project (MSP) is a good scheduling tool, it does not cover everything that project management involves. Here is a discussion about Things Microsoft Project Can’t Do.
Tools of Project Management
I wrote a list suggesting 14 tools for project management, and here are 6 tools that Microsoft project doesn’t cover:
- Stakeholder Engagement – getting agreement between those involved in the project
- Clear Project Objectives – the main reasons projects fail
- Work Breakdown Structures as a visual tool for communicating project activities
- The Organisation Breakdown Structure – The Skills, the Organisation Structure, Roles and Responsibilities, Communication within the project team
- Risk Management – by definition projects are unique – and therefore risky
- And Project Reviews – learning from past projects
To reinforce my belief, here is a look at knowledge areas.
Project Management Institute Knowledge Areas
One of the aspects of project management I teach are the Project Management Institute (PMI) Knowledge Areas. There are 10 of them. Here are the Knowledge areas that Microsoft doesn’t cover:
- Project Quality Management
- Project Integration Management
- Human Resource Management
- Project Communication Management
- Project Procurement
- Stakeholder Engagement
Planning and scheduling are different things. MSP does scheduling and not Project Management.
What Can Microsoft Project Do?
Microsoft Project is run by a computer rather than by a human. It can only model what a human tells it to model (and then only if it can!). MSP can show a critical path (but it doesn’t do it by default). Microsoft Project can show the nearly critical tasks (if you know how to do this).
Microsoft Project can show float or slack (but not by default). By default this is total float rather than free float. And it doesn’t tell you that.
Microsoft Project can level resources automatically – but only if you abdicate your responsibilities as a project manager and allow the software to move tasks and resources without directly telling you what it has moved, or by how much.
The human Project Manager understands the riskiest tasks, those with resource issues, and those with the highest costs. Often this is not programmed into MSP for the decisions that it makes.
There are three main reasons why projects fail in my opinion:
- Unclear objectives – and that is not helped explicitly by Microsoft Project
- Poor Communication – not helped by Microsoft Project (in fact does the use of Microsoft Project hinder or complicate communication?
- Not tracking against the project plan – now that’s only possible if you have a detailed plan, baselined it, and implement close monitoring. Yes – Microsoft Project helps with this aspect if you use it correctly.
Three big reasons for project failure, and MSP doesn’t really help with any of them.
So, Microsoft Project is not a tool for Project Management. It is a Project Management Scheduling Tool.