12 April, 2021

Does Microsoft Project Still have a Future? The World’s Favorite PM Software

By Lidija Magdeska

Microsoft built and introduced its Project Management software over 30 years ago. Yet Microsoft Project is still the world’s most popular Project Management software. 

During the intervening years, many Project Management solutions have appeared on the market. But MS Project has stayed the first choice of many companies of all sizes. 

  • Why is Microsoft Project still widely used? 
  • What makes this software one of its kind? 
  • And what the future holds for it? 

We invited Lidija Magdeska, an experienced digital marketing manager in the software development industry, to answer these questions. 

Does Microsoft Project Still have a Future? The World's Favorite PM Software

What Lidija Covers

This article will cover:

What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project, also known as MSP, is a Project Management software that helps project managers to:

Commercially available since 1984, MSP has developed numerous services and features that have made it number one in the Project Management software field. 

MS Project Functionality

The large number of features available in this software solution have helped project managers and their teams to manage and organize their work better. Below is a list of some features that raise MSP on the top:

  • Grid View
  • Board View
  • Timeline View
  • Communication & collaboration features
  • Roadmap
  • Reporting possibilities
  • Timesheets
  • Resource Management 

Microsoft Project puts the focus on task prioritization and scheduling. The software uses task lists, project roadmaps, Gantt charts, and Kanban boards. These features help users to list tasks, set their duration, and add details, so the project managers and the team members can track them. 

Moreover, MSP also lets its users create custom calendars for easy task tracking. Also, it provides excellent resource management by tracking working resources, material resources, and cost resources by using default views, custom-build charts, and even graphical reports. The time tracking features allow users to measure the time left to deadlines and actual completion time.

Microsoft Project is available as Project Standard 2019 and Project Professional 2019. But there are other ways to purchase the software and customize the licenses, depending on your and your team’s needs.

However, many organizations are still using older versions of MSP. There are still plenty of installations of Microsoft Project 2016 and even 2013 out there.

Learn Microsoft Project

Inside and Out

Become an expert in the world’s most popular Project Management software with our courses from top software training school, Simon Sez IT.

Learn Microsoft Project

We offer a 50% discount on courses for Beginner and Advanced levels, and (for best value) bundles, in MS Project:

  • 2019
  • 2016
  • 2013
OnlinePMCourses Endorsed Provider

Why do People Still Use MSP?

When we talk about software solutions in Program and Project Management, Microsoft Project dominates the field with over 30 years of expertise in the market. According to the Project Management Zone Ranking, Microsoft Project is first on the list for project planning, with a popularity score of 1859 (March 2021). Its next nearest competitor, Jira, scores just 943.

However, this popularity score almost certainly represents the size of its user-base and may say nothing about its future. That said, though, there are five reasons why we think MS Project remains a popular choice for organizations and teams that are actively selecting project management software:

  1. Integration with the wider Microsoft Office 365 suite of software
  2. MS Project is built to meet customer needs
  3. Microsoft offers multiple options for product ownership
  4. The scale and reputation of Microsoft
  5. Support Ecosystem
Microsoft Project

Integration with the Microsoft Office 365 Suite 

One of the biggest benefits of using Microsoft products is the ecosystem it has built during the years of existence and the close relation between its products. Its universal products such as Office 365 are well-known and widely-used because they can easily connect and integrate with each other. 

However, Microsoft Project is a separate product that was additionally added to the Microsoft 365 package. BUT Microsoft Project is not integrated with Office 365 apps such as Word or Excel. In fact, it is a unique app that has created a subsidiary ecosystem on its own. 

Even though MSP is a part of Microsoft 365 now, it still has individuality. It can work as a standalone app, but it can be a part of the bigger and more sophisticated ecosystem known as Enterprise Project Management (EPM). 

The link between Microsoft 365 and MSP is inevitable. And it goes without saying that your work environment will be more streamlined if you use applications that from the same company. The user can work on several MS software solutions simultaneously to achieve better results. 


Also, to create a better user experience, Microsoft has standardized and universalized the ribbons of its products. This means that Microsoft Project has adopted the MS standardized ribbons and has implemented some services that are the same as Office 365. For instance, the module for creating graphs in MSP is the same as the one in Excel. This makes MS Project more intuitive, easy to navigate, and work through the software.

If you are a loyal user and supporter of the Microsoft ecosystem, adding MSP into the mix will get you all (or nearly all) the functionality you need to run your project. Moreover, you can create checklists in Excel and Word, while Outlook and Microsoft Teams cover the communication and collaboration between team members. You name it, Microsoft has the tool to complement your working environment. 

MS Project is Built to Meet Customer Needs

Being a veteran in the Project Management industry, MSP has developed and enhanced its features to better suit the needs of various users. Microsoft has built MS Project by carefully tracking customer feedback to ensure that it has the features it needs, to meet their users’ needs. 

As an example, this software solution can be used for project financial management. It has tools to help project managers estimate and manage their project budgets. This allows you to control your expenditure and avoid overspending or getting underfinanced. 

Options for Microsoft Project Ownership

Microsoft provides several options if you want to equip yourself with the MSP. But first, you need to have a Microsoft account to buy a license for Microsoft Project. The MSP solutions are divided into two categories: 

  1. cloud-based
  2. on-premises

Cloud-based use of MS Project

On the one hand, if you want to work online then cloud-based solutions are made for you. Currently, there are three plans available: 

  1. Project Plan 1
    The base product
  2. Project Plan 3
    Adds in tools like reporting, roadmaps, and resource management
  3. Project Plan 5
    Enterprise tier, offering portfolio management and enterprise resource planning tools

These plans work on monthly subscriptions per user. 

Desktop use of MS Project

On the other hand, if you want to use desktop apps, you have on-premises solutions available for you. Here, there are also three options: 

  1. MS Project Standard 2019
    Project Standard is a desktop application that runs and works without an internet connection. The internet connection is required only for the installation and activation process.
  2. MS Project Professional 2019
    The Professional version has the ability to work offline as well as online. It can be synced with Project Online and Project Server.
  3. MS Project Server
    MS Project Server is a flexible on-premises solution designed for project portfolio management and everyday project management.

Unfortunately, Microsoft no longer offers a trial version of Microsoft Project, but you can test the cloud solutions.

Having the possibility to choose what best suits your needs, your team’s, and your company’s, as a whole, is one of the reasons why people go with Microsoft Project. Another reason why people like MSP is the valuable base of templates that help users get started. This saves a lot of time and can give you a head start when planning your projects.  

Scale and Reputation

As a product of one of the biggest and most reputable software companies, Microsoft, MSP has great reliability and support. Microsoft offers all kinds of customer support including video tutorials, community forums, topic articles, and even phone support. All these supporting tools come in handy during the implementation of the software and while the learning curve is on.

And we should never under-estimate the impact that the certainty of buying an industry-leading product from a major global brand can have on an organization. The old adage that ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’ may no longer be true. But the essence of the sentiment remains relevant – and Microsoft is one of today’s ‘safe choices’. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, MS Project is highly capable and likely to remain so for the coming years.

Support Ecosystem

Finally, there is a huge amount of support available for Microsoft Project:

  • New companies have come on the market providing support and services as third party companies
  • Other companies provide customer support as official partners of Microsoft
  • There are many training centers that provide courses and tutorials for Microsoft Project
  • And there are plenty of software training businesses who offer online video-based training on demand

Learn Microsoft Project

Inside and Out

Become an expert in the world’s most popular Project Management software with our courses from top software training school, Simon Sez IT.

Learn Microsoft Project

We offer a 50% discount on courses for Beginner and Advanced levels, and (for best value) bundles, in MS Project:

  • 2019
  • 2016
  • 2013
OnlinePMCourses Endorsed Provider

Changes in the Project Management Software Market

Back in the 1990s, Microsoft Project created a new horizon in project management software solutions. Since then, many development companies have introduced alternative PM solutions, such as:

  • Wrike
  • Zoho Project
  • Monday
  • Basecamp

These can lower the costs per user and will leave users less dependent on Microsoft. However, despite the number of competitors on the market, Microsoft Project is still number one. 

MSP Opened-up New Possibilities 

Microsoft Project was not the first Project Management software – nor by a long stretch, will it be the last. But it did have a huge impact on the market, bringing project planning software into the mainstream. 

We might even argue that this software has revolutionized how we manage and deliver projects. It brought the use of Gantt Charts, Network Charts and Resource planning to business-oriented projects, where they had formerly been reserved largely for capital and engineering project management. 

But it also brought a new problem…

Big, Complex, Expensive

Although MS Project did not have the same level of complexity and scale of costs that pre-existing engineering-based Project Management software had, it was still an expensive tool for businesses to add to everybody’s desktop. And, unlike Microsoft’s other applications, like Word, Excel, and even Vision, MS Project is not intuitive to use. Without proper training, many people use it badly. They are not able to implement its powerful calculational capabilities and resort to using it as a very expensive drawing tool.

This meant that most people who needed to read the charts and reports that MS Project produces were unable to create them. And neither did they need to. All they needed was to display the information so they could analyze and understand it. Since MSP is expensive software and there is no need for everyone in the team to use its full capabilities, the economical solution is to equip the rest of the team with project viewers. 

And so, the need for a project viewer arose soon after the first appearance of Microsoft Project. 

Viewer Software for Microsoft Project 

Microsoft itself introduced the first viewer: the Microsoft Project Viewer. MSP viewer is a tool that opens native .mpp files created in MSP. The viewer works independently from MS Project, and there is no need to have the full software installed on the user’s computer. 

Since then, numerous third-party viewers, both paid and free, have appeared on the technology market. Examples include: 

  • Project Viewer 365
  • MOOS
  • Steelray 

All of them have one purpose: to open and view .mpp files. And, in doing so, they help companies cut expenses on software solutions. 

Highly-capable Viewing Software: Seavus Project Viewer

But not all viewers have limited functionality. Some of them, such as Seavus Project Viewer, have taken a step further in development. These integrate features such as:

  • Compare Projects 
    to compare the tasks and resources of two projects 
  • Task Update 
    to allow users to collaborate with Project Managers and controllers
  • Graphical Reports
    allows users to build reports and dashboards that contain charts and tables, based on the project’s data. 
  • Integration 
    with tools like SharePoint and Skype for Business. 

Seavus Project Viewer supports 100% of the views available in Microsoft Project. It is one of the leading and most complete viewers for .mpp files. Its list of users extends from SMEs to limited budgets to massive corporations like Thales, Honeywell, Ford, Swiss Re, DHL, and NASA.

Seavus Project Viewer

The Rise of Web-based Project Management Software

Certainly, Microsoft Project established the ground rules for project management software in the first decade of the century. But it did not stop there. With the rise of the internet, Microsoft introduced cloud-based project solutions such as Project Online and Project for the Web. These created interesting possibilities for companies to choose to use their technologies on-premises or as cloud-based solutions.

Over the years, the project management field is showing more and more interest in web-based pm software solutions. 

The Project Management Software Market

Due to the increasing adoption of cloud-based project management solutions, the global online project management software market is expected to reach a value of $ 6.68 billion by 2026 according to a market report published by Transparency Market Research. 

Another interesting perspective from Datanyze is that currently, the project management software market share worldwide is led by:

  • Jira at 36.77%
  • Microsoft Project at 19.61%
  • Smartsheet owns 5.24%

Both, Jira and Smartsheet are web-based project management platforms – equally focused on project collaboration. It is inevitable that web-based Project Management tools will continue to rise in the market.  

The Ease of Implementing Web-based Software

In comparison with desktop apps, web-based Project Management software solutions are easy to implement. Users can access them from any place where the internet connection is stable and available, and no installation on your device is required. 

But, with great power, comes greater risk. Simple unavailability of Internet access will make the project data unreachable. On the contrary, desktop apps do not have this problem.

However, the recent lockdowns around the world due to the Covid pandemic have shown that remote working can work. Indeed, it is likely that things have changed during 2020… forever. 

And the technology is evolving. Internet reliability is constantly increasing, and the Internet of Things will affect and change every field of endeavor – including Project Management. So, the issues with cloud software will not be problems in the very near future. 

The Future of Microsoft Project

Microsoft has a new approach to project management tools even though the desktop version is still alive and kicking. Two years ago, Microsoft Corporation announced an expansive vision for Microsoft Project. They have a mission to empower every person and organization to achieve more by using Microsoft Project and new project services that are designed to help people work together more efficiently.

Changing Approaches to Project Management 

Over the years, the concept of projects that once had a defined set of tasks from the outset has evolved. Now projects and project approaches take many shapes and sizes.  They have become more dynamic and flexible. 

Because of this, Project Management tools need to be simple enough for anyone to use, but powerful enough to handle all initiatives and tasks. 

Microsoft has put its focus on its online Project Service that is built on Dynamics and integrated with the Power platform. However, they do not intend Project Online or Project for the Web to replace or replicate MS Project, but to work together with it. In fact, modern work management starts with Microsoft Project. 

The Microsoft Corporation clearly stated that future releases of the new services will allow users to connect the full power of the MSP desktop to the cloud service. This will give you a cross-functional, big picture of all the work in the process. 

New services will allow users to see and manage all projects in one place. They are all designed to support any role, skill level, or project type. And they will do so by including a comprehensive set of capabilities, such as:

  • resource management
  • financial management
  • time tracking
  • expense tracking

Finally, the customer feedback and usage data will continue to shape the new Project service.

Final Thoughts 

Microsoft’s Project Management software has come a long way after its first appearance in 1984. Being over 30 years old, not only it has become the leading Project Management software, but it also shaped the entire Project Management software industry. Taking care of its users, MSP always introduced features that make the work of the Project Managers and team members easier. 

Microsoft’s valuable ecosystem and its easy connection with all products in the family, has made Microsoft Project the most used Project Management tool, because of its easy integration with the Office 365 suite. The strong and reliable customer support has made this software even more popular with SMEs and large corporations. 

But Microsoft Project opened many doors in the tech world by introducing new development possibilities. Project viewers hit the market to enhance and complete the Microsoft working environment. And, of course, many companies become Microsoft partners to offer third-party customer support and services.

And now, the Microsoft Corporation is introducing a new era of modern work management. The desktop app is still here, but their focus is on new services that are built on cloud services. Their new mission is to empower every person and organization to achieve more by using simple, and yet efficient pm tools. 

We do not know what the future holds, but driven by technology, the entire world is changing drastically. It would be unwise to bet against Microsoft playing a substantial part over the next thirty years – as it has over the last 30 years.

But What are Your Thoughts?

Do you love Microsoft Project? Or do you hate it? And what do you think is the future of this now-venerable, but still changing tool?

Learn Microsoft Project

Inside and Out

Become an expert in the world’s most popular Project Management software with our courses from top software training school, Simon Sez IT.

Learn Microsoft Project

We offer a 50% discount on courses for Beginner and Advanced levels, and (for best value) bundles, in MS Project:

  • 2019
  • 2016
  • 2013
OnlinePMCourses Endorsed Provider

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Lidija Magdeska

About the Author...

Lidija Magdeska is an experienced digital marketing manager with a demonstrated history of working in the software development industry. Currently, she is responsible for managing content strategies at Synami, who own the product Seavus Project Viewer.
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