Should I Use Project for the Web or Project Online / Server?

Organizations of all types increasingly recognize the need to equip teams with tools to help them more efficiently and effectively manage work. They’re also acknowledging that these teams need more than simple list management. Taking the next step in assisting teams to collaborate on projects more efficiently, Microsoft has recently released the new Project by announcing general availability of Project for the web worldwide. This announcement and the new Project are generating a lot of buzz – AND a lot of confusion.

Advisicon has received many questions since Microsoft’s announcement. Questions like “aren’t we already using Project for the web” and “is this the same as Project 2019”. Let’s try to cut through all the hype and hyperbole and use a well-known project management technique – requirements management – to help us decide whether the new Project belongs in our toolkit today or whether we need to stick with the legacy Project: Project Online or Project Server.

Project for the web – Grid-View

First, a key target audience for the new Project is for those needing more capabilities than they get in a basic list management solution. If you need a tool that equips you to drag and drop tasks between different buckets, use Office 365 groups as your project teams, manage the order in which tasks occur (dependencies), and deploy dashboards that ease your reporting overhead burden, you should definitely check out the new Project. When coupled with Power BI, it provides a powerful capability you’ll find difficult to match.

Project for the web – Board-View

If your organization is moving up the project management maturity scale, should you pause at Project for the web or focus more closely on Project Online?

One of the best reasons to focus on Project Online is that you recognize the value in using core PPM capabilities such as:

  • baselines,
  • critical path,
  • resource management,
  • financial management,
  • program and portfolio management,
  • creating custom fields for formulas or grouping or sorting,
  • deploying automated workflows,
  • creating new schedules from templates,
  • collecting actual effort from your team members (e.g., with timesheets)

None of these capabilities are currently available in the new Project. However, we’re very glad to note that most, if not all, are on the list of requests being considered. When most or all of these become available in the new Project, we see more opportunity for mature (and maturing) project management organizations to consider the new Project for more than just a limited deployment. It’s easy to understand why the legacy Project platforms hold such a prominent position among enterprise project management solutions.

Project for the web – Timeline-View

In our online Academy, we’ve been talking about the Project Online and Office 365 Planner “better together” story for years. We’re glad to now extend that to suggest you consider supplementing Project Online and Planner with the new Project. Microsoft’s PPM coexist model now enables you to bring three best-of-breed work management tools to address the diverse needs of your organization. The new Project brings Office 365 a highly-visual work management environment. In addition, you’ll get the added capabilities that many have been looking for. But without the power and complexity that organizations at the lower levels of the project management maturity curve don’t require.

Teams needing what Planner brings – a simple and highly visual way to organize teamwork – can still benefit from its integration with other Office 365 services such as Outlook and Office 365 Groups and between a Planner plan and a Project Online task.

Your organization can provide all three of those work management capability levels with a single Office 365 administrative focus. This will simplify security and training in comparison to other best-of-breed deployments. Do note that a project will not coexist in Project Online and the new Project. They are two separate environments within your Office 365 tenant. You will want to consider which environment addresses the requirements of each project first. Then decide where that project will be managed.

In yet another scenario, the new Project might also provide you a path for doing a spring cleaning. This enables you to reduce complexity for some of your teams who are currently overwhelmed by the complexity and power of enterprise project management (EPM) platforms like Project Server, Project Online, Planview, Primavera, and so on. Can you step down the level of complexity while retaining some of the basic capabilities? Things such as dependencies and resource demand and thereby make your unofficial project managers more efficient and less overwhelmed?

In Summary

We’ve determined there are some solid reasons for organizations using the legacy Project Online (and Project Server) platforms. If you are a mature project management organization that benefits from the use of capabilities such as baselines, critical path, robust resource demand and capacity management, costing, templates, end-user work reporting, and even automated workflows, you should continue to use the Project Online and Project Server platforms. At least until the capabilities you need are delivered by other platforms. Also, if your information security requirements have driven you to the GCC, GCC High, and DoD communities for Office 365, you should know the new Project is not offered to you at present. Though Microsoft has indicated it intends to deliver it to GCC at a future date.

All of the above WILL change as Microsoft builds on the foundational capabilities of the new Project. Let’s talk soon so we can help you recognize when it might make sense for your organization to look closely at the new Project for a coexist or migration strategy. We can deliver a demo and set up a trial today.