I have been using Microsoft Project for years. There’s been a lot of love and a lot of hate. Often at the same time.
In my opinion, it is still the best available software for setting up project tasks and project dependencies.
Unfortunately, that is where the party almost always ends. The problem is that reality almost never follows the path we envision on Day 0. The timeline is not the only element that changes. What steps are required and the order of those steps ebb and flow as well throughout the project.
This is where the best part of MS Project also becomes its downfall: it is so good at identifying dependencies and assigning resources in order to build a nicely structured gantt chart, that the interdependencies are usually massive. When elements start to shift, the number of data points and task relationships that must be maintained becomes unwieldy.
Most PM’s realize eventually that nobody else on the team is really paying much attention to the project plan and they are spending inordinate amounts of time trying to keep it current, so they give up. In a horrible scenario, they try to deathmarch to the beat of the original plan. In a better scenario, they find an alternate way to track progress and predict success.
I have found MS Project is a useful tool at the beginning of a project to identify critical path. A critical path is the longest dependency chain. It is a set of tasks that if one of them slips, it will slip your entire project.
Once I am ready to begin a project, I slim it down to a format that the whole team can relate to and that can be kept up to date more easily. I also like frameworks such as IBM’s 7 keys approach which takes a much more holistic approach to project status tracking.
Anyone using MS Project all the way through a software development project? Anyone using agile and MS Project together in some way?