Project management has been a critical element of most businesses for decades. The application of methods and processes coupled with knowledge and experience has helped companies achieve specific project objectives both on-time and on-budget.
But as the digital landscape gradually relies more and more on machine learning and advances such as AI, what are the next wave of tools set to make the execution of project management smarter? Welcome to Microsoft Project.
What are project management tools?
Essentially, project management tools are software that assists project managers and their teams to organise and manage the tasks that make up a project.
This includes planning and scheduling, collaboration and communication, documentation and evaluation. Project management tools allow teams to create a workspace where work can be planned and delegated against workflows and calendars, subfolders and dashboards created, tasks assigned and documents collaborated on in real-time.
All while tracking and assessing productivity through reports.
Why are project management tools important?
Regardless of the size of a business, the reality is that multiple projects are being worked on.
Without a centralised tool, the more people involved in the projects, the more opportunities there are for errors to occur and elements to be overlooked, causing confusion and delays.
In the initial project phases, this software enables you to create a hierarchy of tasks, set deadlines and assign them to the relevant team member. Along from this, once the tasks have been assigned, project managers can monitor and manage the progress of the task, and ultimately project, providing better insights.
What is Microsoft Project?
As you have probably already deciphered by its name, Microsoft Project is a flexible project management software developed by Microsoft. The software has been in commercial use since the 1980s, although the most recent version is Microsoft Project 2016.
It was originally released as a web-based application but was adapted to be used on PCs with specialised features that allow project managers to build projects from the ground up. This includes support for all stages, collecting resources, setting and analysing budgets and tracking projects.
Part of the Office 365 suite, Microsoft Project can be integrated with other Microsoft offerings, such as Power BI, to provide users with advanced analytics to power decision making.
What are the features of Microsoft Project?
Planning and schedules
Perhaps the most important stage of project management, planning and scheduling ultimately form the backbone of a project.
Microsoft Project helps users to prioritise tasks, define the activities required for each and then assign them to the relevant team members. It also has a shared team calendar, giving full visibility across the team. The calendar will send meeting notifications and enable users to sync work schedules.
The more people involved in a project, the greater the need for enhanced communication and collaboration. Microsoft Project allows for this.
File sharing across team members means that all access to relevant documentation makes workflows far more efficient. The same logic can be applied for client data when it is required for projects. Client data can be safely stored in Microsoft Project and referenced or used when required.
Dashboards are another feature that provides full visibility across teams, offering important information and insight on the progress of a project.
The dashboard feature lets you create customised graphs, charts and other data visualisations to keep the work, tasks and progress organised and easy to digest.
Visual representations are always useful in meetings and can be used as a KPI report.
Another fantastic feature offered by the software, the timeline view provides a top-down view of the entire project. This allows you to share the information with management, clients and other stakeholders.
To add further value to this view you can customise the features to include more data, introduce branding by changing the colours used and alter the format depending on the way it is being delivered.
A critical element of project management is reporting. Reporting allows project managers to monitor progress, the volume of work that has been completed and what is left to do.
Microsoft Project allows you to easily create customised reports that meet your requirements. The variety of reports include (but are not limited to): cost overviews; pending tasks; goals achieved; available resources, and an entire project overview.
We mentioned earlier in this post that Microsoft Project is an extremely flexible tool. This is particularly highlighted when it comes to project availability and resources.
When we say resources, this of course is project specific but could relate to allocated budget, materials, or team members to name a few. Microsoft Project allows you to track available resources and assign costs to each, meaning that you can analyse how your most valuable resources are being used.
Project management tools like Microsoft Project allow companies to maximise the performance of project teams. Improved collaboration and visibility inevitably lead to more efficient and productive teams. Various views and reporting mean that project managers can monitor how resources are being used and make the required changes to ensure targets are met.