Scheduling Tools

Has Microsoft overcooked the price and performance of Microsoft Project (MSP)? With the impending release of Project 2010 most organisations should be re-evaluating their scheduling tools. Blindly following the Microsoft upgrade path should not be an option.

The trigger for this post is a number of emails I have received plus comments in a number of published articles and on Planning Planet.  Some users criticise MSP for flawed analytical performance, poor data handling and lack of real power in analysis. Other users criticise MSP for being too complex and too hard to use (you could almost feel sympathy for the MSP development teams dilemma). These criticisms have not changed much since the release of Project 2003 and Project Server. What has changed dramatically is the scheduling software market.

Through to the early 2000s Microsoft virtually gave MSP away, almost anyone could access a ‘competitive upgrade’ for under US$100. The very low cost of MSP effectively destroyed 90%+ of the mid to low end competition, TimeLine, CA SuperProject and a host of other businesses closed merged or changed focus.

Today most people outside of major corporations pay around US$1000 for a set of MSP. This tenfold increase in the ‘real price’ of the tool, primarily caused by the elimination of heavy discounts has opened the window for a host of new players in the mid to low end scheduling market place. Many with free options.

Asta PowerProject seems to be a complete replacement for MSP with equivalent levels of capability and sophistication and better presentation and analytical capabilities.

Other graphical tools include CASCAD-e and NetPoint

Some of the tools that are completely free, or have free entry level options include: jxProject, Gantter.com, PlanningForce and OpenProj

This is not a comprehensive list by any means more tools are documented on our ‘scheduling home page’. And I have not ventured into discussion of the high end products such as ACOS, Micro Planner, Primavera, Spider and the Deltek range.

The purpose of this blog is to challenge every organisation to really evaluate their scheduling requirements and test the market before letting their IT department blindly follow the Microsoft upgrade path.

Project 2010 may still be the best answer, but this needs to be an informed decision based on a proper review of the available alternatives. Simply paying the cost of upgrading to project 2010 (including licence fees, retraining and data conversion costs) without re-testing the market should be seen as being totally unacceptable because in 2010 there is a real choice of tools available!

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