Microsoft Project 2010: Project Management for IT Consultants?

Microsoft Project 2010 has been gaining momentum among enterprise companies, SMBs and system integrators for over a year now, according to Director of Microsoft Project Arpan Shah. This in spite of IT budgets shrinking for many businesses over that same time period. It made me wonder: Will MSPs embrace Microsoft Project to manage their customer engagements? I culled some insights from Shah.

Microsoft Project 2010 allows customers and partners to:

  1. Managed schedules and finances;
  2. share project information;
  3. Help ensure projects are completed on schedule by organizing the work and the people working on the project.
The first commercial version of Project -- for DOS -- dates all the way back to 1984. The 2010 version of Microsoft Project was released during the first half of 2010 along with the Microsoft Office Suite 2010, and comes as a desktop and a server application.

"The desktop version looks and feels very much like a Microsoft Office product," said Shah, who has led the Microsoft Project management team for the last year and a half. To date, 82 of the Fortune 100 companies use the software, Shah asserted.

The SharePoint Connection

Why are big businesses embracing Microsoft Project? "We invested a lot in innovation when we released Project 2010 and we've continued to innovate around it since then," Shah said. Much of that innovation has to do with integration. For example, the Microsoft Project 2010 server version is built on top of Microsoft SharePoint -- which means your business needs SharePoint to leverage Project Server.

Users can open tasks within the Microsoft Project Professional version, make changes, and then sync those changes back to SharePoint. This allows users to collaborate on documents and still use formal product management tools. According to Shah, Microsoft enables this feature in recognition of an industry trend: "The lines between collaboration and project management are blurring." he said. The Microsoft Project Standard version costs roughly $500, and the Professional version costs about $1,000. Pricing of the server version varies based on the type of license purchased.

Microsoft is already working on the next version of Microsoft Project, which Shah says will be released along with the next version of Microsoft Office. Matt Weinberger speculated on Talkin' Cloud in mid-July that a  cloud version of Microsoft Project could be on the drawing board. Shah made no mention of the a public cloud offering of Project during our conversation. We'll keep our ears open.

In the meantime, we're trying to determine how many MSPs run Microsoft Project or a related project management tool. We'll likely survey readers about that question as part of the fifth-annual MSPmentor 100 survey, which will run October through December 2011, with results in February 2012.
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