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Microsoft Project review: Project management software in desperate need of overhaul

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 7.50
Project Plan 1 (inc VAT)

Microsoft’s entry into the world of project management is drab, expensive and not very good

Pros

  • Integrates with other Microsoft products
  • Lowest tier is reasonably priced

Cons

  • Poor pricing for higher tiers
  • Drab colour scheme
  • User-unfriendly

Microsoft Project is Redmond’s answer to the current explosion of project management software on the market. However, compared to market leaders such as Asana, monday.com or even Jira, it fails miserably as a result of expensive pricing and a poorly implemented interface. Let’s look in detail at the reasons Microsoft Project isn’t at the top of our list of recommendations.

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Microsoft Project review: What do you get for the money?

Microsoft Project’s pricing scheme is expensive by any metric, as well as being somewhat strange. The lowest tier is acceptable, since it offers all the basic features for £7.50 per person per month (pre-tax), which puts it more or less on a par with monday.com and Asana.

For the money, these basic features include everything you need to manage projects – which seems okay until you realise that nTask, to name but one bit of software, delivers all of these features and more for about half that price, not to mention that there are some excellent free plans out there, too. In this day and age, if you’re even going to fork out a single penny for project management software, you would expect it to arrive with many more bells and whistles than the Microsoft Project offering.

And things get worse. The next tier – which, rather confusingly, is called Plan 3 – adds only two features: resource management and the ability to install Microsoft Project on your computer. For these privileges, you pay a whopping £22.60 per person per month, which is madness. For this price, you can get Asana at its highest tier, delivering all these features and then some.

The third tier costs a staggering £41.50 per person per month, and adds a few enterprise-level features. Plans of this type are always going to be pricey, but for £40 a head you can subscribe to a better solution than Microsoft Project with some money to spare.

It also bears mentioning that Microsoft is practically the only company still offering offline solutions. These cost £680 per user for a basic package and £1,150 per user for a more advanced one. However, if you want to take your project management offline, there are better solutions out there, and many of them are free. OpenProject is a good example.

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Microsoft Project review: What’s it like to use?

Microsoft Project feels as though those responsible for its design haven’t actually used a project management software that’s been developed in the past few years. The interface isn’t intuitive, many standard features are lacking – and, worst of all, the interface is drab. And when we say it’s drab, we don’t mean it could use a touch of colour; we mean that the screens all share their colour scheme with a muddy puddle. 

We could forgive Microsoft for inflicting such an awful colour scheme on us if Project actually worked well. For example, we overlook Wrike’s depressing interface because it’s such a powerful tool. However, Project falls short in many ways.

The painful journey starts at signup. Unlike practically every other project management tool out there, you can’t just enter your email and begin to try out the program. Instead, Microsoft requires you to enter quite a bit of data about yourself, and then asks for your phone number to verify your account.

Once you’re finally done jumping through Redmond’s hoops, you have to wait so the program can get everything ready. It’s not a short wait: you’ll have time to brew a cup of tea and probably drink a good bit of it before Microsoft Project is done doing whatever it’s doing.

When you’re finally in, you’re likely to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t really worth the wait. Not only does the software look awful, Microsoft Project just doesn’t work very well. For example, you put all your tasks into the main grid view, pictured above. Like in, say, monday.com, the idea is that you use this list to add details in so-called columns.

 

This would be great, except that none of these naming conventions makes any sense. Other project management tools will use terms you can understand, such as “list”, “due date” and so on. Microsoft, however, prefers to rely on its own jargon – jargon that nobody else uses.

For example, it’s very fond of the term “bucket”, which is normally used as a term to cover any place data is stored. In Microsoft Project, though, it’s the term for a column in a kanban board. In every other system, these columns are either called columns or lists. The reasons behind why Microsoft has decided to change this simple convention remain unclear.

It isn’t just the nomenclature that makes Project’s kanban board confusing; it also doesn’t work very well. For one, moving cards between columns – sorry, “buckets” – is sluggish. For another, cards don’t display much information on the front. Since the whole idea of a kanban board is to be able to see information at a glance, this is an oversight, to say the least.

The final “big” feature is the timeline, which Microsoft advertises as a Gantt chart. It’s not, though: like many other project management tools, it confuses a horizontal bar chart for a Gantt chart. It doesn’t show the relations between tasks, nor does it let you easily move tasks around. Like the rest of the program, it isn’t very pleasant to use.

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Microsoft Project review: Are there other useful features?

The biggest selling point for Microsoft Project is that it integrates well with all of the other software put out by Redmond. However, seeing as it’s quite easy to integrate the Office suite, Outlook and the rest with some simple one-click integrations, that isn’t really much of a plus point.

Besides basic project management features, Microsoft Project also lets you fill in timesheets and the like. However, there’s no mention of how well it integrates with existing accounting software.

Microsoft Project review: Should I buy it?

Microsoft Project is a very poor excuse for a project management platform, and our advice would be that you should avoid it. Not only can you get better for less, its poor interface is simply an affront at a time when there’s so much excellent project management software on the market. While we’re sure there are people who enjoy using it, we unequivocally did not.

Instead, consider the alternatives. Wrike ranks among our favourite project management tools: although it shares a drab colour palette with Microsoft Project, the similarities end there. Wrike’s excellent task management capabilities, powerful features and – crucially – free plan make it an obvious choice. 

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