PROJECT: We need a Microsoft Project Express

Posted on September 28, 2006. Filed under: Software |

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a cheap (perhaps free) stripped down version of Microsoft Project?
 
Today we took on the third big client in a row who is using Excel to project manage their project.
 
Insane right?
 
Here’s how they do it. Tasks go down the first column. The other columns represent dates. They size the date columns about 10 wide and colour in the cells to denote scheduling for each task. And the colour of the cell denotes the resource being used.
 
Great. What happens if you want to insert a new task? How do handle task chaining? How do you allocate partial resources. What if a task is running behind schedule – how do we calculate contingency? How do we insert public holidays? What about if a resource goes on holidays? And on it goes. Amazing.
 
And this is a big project. We are talking 3 separate companies involved, 10-15 key managers and business analysts, a development team, plus IT technicians.
 
I asked their Project Manager why they were using Excel and not Project. She informed me that the company has no licenses for MS Project. She was in disbelief herself (she’s been contracted by the company to PM the project), but since the company was not prepared to buy licenses they were forced to use other means… Incredible.
 
So, I checked prices. And yikes, Project is expensive (check this out for example). But even if they bought 20 licenses it would still be a fraction of the project cost.
 
Now I wonder if this is a regular occurrence. For us it seems to – as I mentioned at the start this is the third project in a row where this has happened. Fortunately we convinced our client to purchase MS Project in the last project, but that was a tough and thankless task.
 
To ease the cost barrier it might be worth Microsoft providing a cut down version of Project that is much cheaper (or even free!). Call it MS Project Express and just provide basic Gant Chart and Resource views. Forget the reports and Resource Levelling, perhaps even strip back the task attributes.
 
Currently my only other option is to recommend that clients install the 60 day trial – atleast we get good project tools for the first 2 months…
 
Any other suggestions?
 

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