Within this article I’m going to help Demystify Microsoft Project, the reason being that if you’ve ever searched for this clarification online, you’ve probably come across around 5 million variants – which might be a slight exaggeration, but nevertheless – it can get confusing, especially when some of the solutions have similar naming conventions.

Background to Microsoft Project 

Microsoft Project Demystified – Which Version do I need?

Back in 1984 is when Microsoft Project version 1.0 was launched, alongside the Terminator, Gremlins and of course Karate Kid! At that time the choice of which version to use, was easy – as there was only one Project version. 

Over the years however, we’ve had various releases, so the decision around which version is best for you as an individual, your team or for the wider organisation has become slightly harder. So, let’s delve into the detail and see what’s available, and what provides the best fit. 


Microsoft Project Standard 

First up, we have the traditional desktop app, Microsoft Project Standard – which is designed for standalone Project Managers who aren’t really going to be collaborating with others or looking to publish their plans into an overarching portfolio view for others to see. From our perspective, if you’re an individual that’s creating large, complex plans, with various task dependencies and the plan’s primarily for your benefit without the need to collaborate, then Project Standard is probably the best choice for you.

Microsoft Project Demystified – Which Version do I need?

Microsoft Project Professional

For those that do want to work together with others and publish plans to collaborative platforms such as SharePoint, Project Server or Project Online you need to look at Project Professional, which provides all of the capabilities that Project Standard does, but with the added ability to publish plans and to access for example features like an Enterprise Resource Pool that’s held centrally in Project Online which allows resource demand and capacity to be viewed collectively. So, if you’re a fan of the traditional Microsoft Project app and working on complex inter-connected projects, then Project Professional is the best choice for you and your team. However, there is a caveat – being the ‘traditional’ Project app, it has to some extent been superseded by the ‘New Project’ which is covered further on in the article.

Microsoft Project Demystified – Which Version do I need?

Microsoft Project Server / Project Online

Both Project Server and Project Online represent the official enterprise extension to Microsoft Project Professional; the key difference between the two being that Project Server is on-prem based, whilst Project Online is provided through Microsoft/Office 365.

Both solutions are built on SharePoint and act as a central repository for all project artefacts and provide portfolio views, enterprise resource management and everything that the PMO or power users would need through the ‘Project Web App’ interface not to be confused with ‘Project for The Web’ which is actually the latest iteration of Microsoft Project and the one you should probably be looking at to power your PMO or project functions. The reason for this, is that Microsoft Project Online is no longer being innovated on, you can read more on this on the Future Vision of Project post.

However, Project Server or Project Online are not about to vanish and will continue to receive key performance & security improvements. So, if within your organisation you’re using Microsoft Project extensively and working on large, complex interconnected plans (1000+ tasks), then Project Server or Project Online would be the best choice for you and your team.

Microsoft Project Demystified – Which Version do I need?

Microsoft Planner

Before looking at the ‘New Project’, let’s look at Planner, which is a light weight Kanban style board that’s designed for teams to work together on relatively simple projects, for example those that don’t require task level dependencies, or the need to view the tasks on a Gantt chart and importantly one of the things you can’t do in Planner is rollup the data from across various plans in to a single Portfolio View. So, if you are working on small scale, informal projects then Planner is probably the best choice for you and the best news is that it’s bundled into a variety of Office 365 plans. For those looking for something more scalable and PMO / Portfolio ready, look at Microsoft Project for The Web.

Microsoft Project Demystified – Which Version do I need?

Microsoft Project for The Web

The latest and greatest from Microsoft is Project for The Web, which really to some extent is a merger between Project Online and Microsoft Planner, in that it provides scheduling capability similar to traditional project, but with a new, slicker interface. The added bonus of Project for The Web is that it’s built on the more modern Dataverse platform, the same as Dynamics 365 and it’s designed to be extended using the Power Platform to provide a compelling modern day Project and Portfolio Management solution, and that’s what we provide with the Wellingtone Accelerator+ Power App.

So, if you’re looking for a modern and intuitive PPM solution that integrates well with Microsoft Teams and the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem, Project for The Web is the best choice for you and your team.

Dynamics 365; Project Operations

Lastly, we have Dynamics 365 – Project Operations, which at its core is essentially Project for The Web, but with tighter integration into Dynamics 365. So, if you’re tracking Sales opportunities in Dynamics which eventually become Projects that then require integrated time entry, expensing, and client billing – Project Operations would be a good choice for that scenario.

Next Steps

If you would like to learn more about any of the Microsoft Project solutions, the associated licensing or discuss how Wellingtone can help you to improve your PPM capability, then please contact us.

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Monthly Newsletter

By: Baz Khinda

Baz Khinda
Commercial Director, BA, MBS, MCTS, CertBusM, PRINCE2, Microsoft P-SSP (Partner Solution Sales professional)

Published: 19 December 2022

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