Using Microsoft Project is not Project Management

MS Project has become an industry standard for project planning and I think it has value for a project manager, but a project manager should not rely on MS Project or any other software do to do their job for them. Software doesn’t manage projects….people do.

Steve Shu has a good blog post over on his blog titled “Why I dislike Microsoft Project for Management Consulting“. His argument against using Microsoft Project as a tool for managing projects in the consulting field revolves around a central theme that using MS Project creates “barriers to communication” during the project. He’s absolutely right.

If I ask a project manager if they can describe their project, send me their project plan or provide a status and they send me a Microsoft Project plan (or worse, a Gannt chart) I know something is very wrong. Here’s why:

  • MS Project doesn’t communicate the goals of a project well. I can review a MS project plan and tell what the milestones are but it takes a lot of digging to get the ‘high-level’ objectives from a project plan.
  • MS Project is not the project plan. It is a representation of a project plan. A Gantt chart is not a project plan either.
  • MS Project does not provide an easy method to communicate status. There are reporting features that can be used to show status, but in my experience, project managers don’t use these reporting features well.

A good project manager should be able to communicate status, project goals and all other project details without showing me (or anyone else) their MS project plan and lord help you if you show me a Gantt chart when I ask for a project plan 🙂

If you want to be a project manager you should definitely learn to use the various software products on the market. If you want to be a great project manger, work on your leadership, communication and problem solving skills to allow you to lead the project team not just manage the project tasks.

Knowing how to use MS Project (or any other project planning tool) is a good skill, but it won’t save you or the project when the unexpected happens….and the unexpected will happen.

[tags] Project Management, Microsoft Project, MS Project [/tags]