Detailed Review of Microsoft Project For The Web

Microsoft’s Project For The Web (PFTW) is a very light cloud-based project scheduling tool. It should only be considered by the most cash-strapped businesses already using Microsoft products. This is because, it has very limited collaboration, resource and cost management functionality and only costs slightly less than implementing the integrated Microsoft Project Pro and Project Online solution provided in Plan 3. Detailed Review of Microsoft Project Online and Pro.

If you aren’t currently a Microsoft customer and only need a simple project management tool, you should consider the other cloud-based tools which are sprouting up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Comparison of Project Management Tools.

Still reading? In the rest of this post, Microsoft Project For The Web is reviewed against 200+ project management software requirements on a downloadable spreadsheet. The software is scored overall for each of the ten project management processes. This post provides a summary of the key strengths and weaknesses for each of the processes.

Download Microsoft Project For The Web Evaluation Spreadsheet

Click here to add the Microsoft Project For The Web Excel spreadsheet to your basket for $19.99 and continue reading.

Microsoft Project For The Web Summary Findings

The only benefit of PFTW relative to Microsoft Project Pro and Online, is that PFTW would be much easier to setup. However, it lacks any reporting or collaboration functionality so you’d probably have to setup the reporting in PowerBI and the collaboration on a SharePoint site. However, PFTW doesn’t integrate with SharePoint like Project Online and PFTW projects are completely separate from Project Online. It would make much more sense to create your projects on Project Online since it is included in the Plan 1 license package with PFTW. I’m left scratching my head as to why Microsoft even built PFTW?

To simplify, if you want a simple Microsoft project management solution buy the Plan 1 license but build your projects on Project Online and ignore PFTW. This will give you the option in the future to purchase Plan 3 licenses for only your project managers in the future so they can use Project Pro for detailed scheduling and then synch the schedules with Project Online.

Microsoft Project For The Web
Total Score22%
Communications Management5%
Cost Management11%
Integration Management11%
Procurement Management0%
Quality Management0%
Resource Management17%
Risk Management0%
Schedule Management49%
Scope Management0%
Stakeholder Management0%

Pricing

PFTW is included in all the Microsoft Project license plans. The cheapest plan (Plan 1) is $10/month. It includes PFTW and Project Online Essentials. However, these two tools aren’t integrated. Meaning, if you create a project on PFTW it will not appear in Project Online and you can’t use Project Online’s collaboration functionality for the project.

You will need a license for each project manager creating project schedules and either a Microsoft 365 ($6 – $22/user/month) or Plan 1 license for everyone assigned tasks or needing to view the project. The reporting is very limited in PFTW so you would probably also need Power BI ($10 – $20/user/month) to perform any project reporting.

If it were me, I’d purchase Project Plan 3 licenses for my project managers and admins at $30/user/month. Projects would be built on Project Pro and synched to Project Online. Plus I’d also purchase PowerBI licenses for them ($10 – $20/user/month). This gives them a suite of products and functionality for a project management solution:

  • Power Automate – To automate project processes.
  • SharePoint – To create project sites.
  • Project Pro – To create detailed and advanced project schedules.
  • Resource Management – To manage company resources across projects.
  • PowerBI – Create advanced project reports and dashboards.

I’d then purchase Microsoft 365 licenses for everyone else who will be assigned tasks or needs visibility to the projects. You’d only be spending an additional $20/user/month for a handful of project managers and admins, yet gain so much more functionality. Microsoft Project Pricing

Scoring Methodology

I installed the free trial of Plan 3 and then created projects in Project Pro, Project Online and PFTW to understand the differences in functionality.

I structured the analysis around the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)© project management process. This is outlined in the PM Book of Knowledge (PMBOK)©. First, I listed the project management processes and then the activities within each process. Finally, I developed a list of requirements related to each of the activities. The list of requirements is based upon my thirty years of project management experience and experience evaluating project management tools for clients. When I come across novel functionality in the software I’m evaluating I add it to the requirements list. Of course, I’m sure I missed some requirements and welcome any suggestions.

I gave all processes and requirements equal weights, but you can adjust the scoring weights in the Excel spreadsheet to suit your needs. Each requirement was rated as either:

  • Yes – As Is – Meaning, the requirement is met with out-of-the-box functionality. This rating is awarded four points.
  • Yes – With Configuration – Meaning the requirement can be met with minimal configuration or no-code updates. Since, Salesforce is highly configurable I used this rating for simple things like changing picklist values, adding a field to an existing data object, creating a report, etc. This rating is awarded two points.
  • No – Not Available or Requires Customization – Meaning the requirement cannot be met without significant investment of time or money. I assigned this rating if custom coding would be required, or a new custom data object, or a new custom flow. This rating is awarded zero points.

Finally, the scoring spreadsheet totaled the ratings by process to show how the apps compare by process. Therefore, you can assess the apps based on which processes are the most important to you.

Download Microsoft Project For The Web Scoring Spreadsheet

Click here to download the Microsoft Project For The Web Excel spreadsheet for $19.99.

Here is the spreadsheet used to score the app:

Cost Management

PFTW doesn’t have any native cost management functionality. However, you could add custom fields to the tasks to captured planned and actual costs at a task level and then rollup the totals to the project.

Integration Management

All the integration/collaboration functionality resides in Project Online, PFTW lacks any real integration functionality. It does have one small feature where you can set goals and associate tasks to the goals.

The main gap in integration management is that PFTW doesn’t allow the creation of project-level custom fields. Therefore, you can’t capture project health, status, description, etc.

Resource Management

PFTW doesn’t have any resource management functionality other than controlling access to the project. All the resource management functionality resides in Project Online.

Risk Management

You cannot create a risk log in PFTW. The risk log functionality resides on SharePoint project sites which are only integrated with Project Online.

Schedule Management

Schedule management is the only bright spot for PFTW. It is a decent cloud-based scheduling tool. However, it does have some major functionality gaps when compared to a real scheduling tool like Project Pro.

Strength: Full Dependency Functionality

PFTW supports all dependency types (Finish/Start, Finish/Finish, etc.) and lag/lead added to a dependency. It also supports multiple dependencies on a single task. Many cloud-based scheduling tools only support finish/start dependencies, and some don’t support lag/lead.

Strength: Supports Agile Projects

PFTW has a good Kanban board and you can assign tasks to a sprint. This supports creating a product backlog on the Kanban board. You can also add custom fields to the task for agile data like: story points and epics.

Weakness: Doesn’t Reschedule

I created a simple project plan with tasks linked by dependencies. I was shocked when I moved the finish of the first task to complete earlier and the downstream task’s start dates didn’t move up in the schedule.

Weakness: No Effort-Based Scheduling

You can define the effort for a task, but PFTW will not use this for scheduling purposes like Project Pro. PFTW only uses fixed duration scheduling. For example, if I assign a 40 hour task to one person the duration should be 5 days. However, if I assign a second person to the task the duration should drop to 2.5 days. PFTW doesn’t support this type of scheduling, the duration will not change.

Weakness: No Constraints

PFTW doesn’t support constraints like: Must Finish On, or Must Start On.

In Conclusion

There isn’t much left to say. As I stated earlier, I’m baffled as to why Microsoft even built Project For The Web when they already had Project Online and Project Pro. If you have to save $20/user/month on project management licenses for your project managers, then maybe it is time to clear out the bank account and head for Brazil.

Regards,

Brian

Additional References

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