Microsoft Project used to be a cutting-edge tool for project management. It is still a great value for PMs, especially when it comes to Waterfall models. However, Agile practices crank up the speed of work and the effort needed to coordinate it massively. As a result, faster and more accessible tools are much preferred.
You see, one of the problems with MSP is that it has the good, old “Save-File” model. It originates from the very beginning of computers. Data was first saved on tapes, then floppies, drives, and so on up until now. This is precisely why all older apps have a Save as dialog, allowing you to select the destination of your work. It’s also why the floppy disk icon is used to represent this option. In fact, it continues to even now, due to legacy systems and user habits.
MSP comes from that old school of thinking, meaning all your project plans are actual files. You can save them on any physical device you own, but sharing is slightly more problematic. One can e-mail the file or put it somewhere online. This, however, means that everybody will download the same version…but not necessarily use it. Some people may make local changes, the file can be overwritten by a careless intern, and so on. Syncing the plan across dozens or hundreds of people becomes a true nightmare, as with each opening everyone must absolutely make sure they are editing the very same version and distributing their changes to everyone else.
The recent advancements in technology push us more and more towards the mythical Cloud, where things are stored on a machine readily accessible from anywhere in the world. One of the benefits here is that the server may be set to contain only one, self-updating version of the file.
You should have an “Aha!” moment here.
Think about it: a project management plan that everyone can edit remotely from anywhere, anytime, and always have the most up to date version. No more file sending, checking, or backing up on 10 external drives. Click Save, done. The server can be a true Cloud (hosted by a 3rd-party) or self-hosted (for full control).
This is by far the most fundamental difference and one of the many reasons why JIRA is so popular. It’s also why the BigPicture plugin for JIRA was developed – it uses JIRA’s smart, secure system of hosting the files and making them accessible, and adds features that aim to make the switch from MSP much easier.
BigPicture can export to MSP easily:
Import can also be achieved – currently through JIRA’s import mechanism, but soon a new one for BigPicture will be added:
It also has screens dedicated to Agile management, providing an easy transition with time. The tool also allows you to effortlessly sync Agile and Waterfall teams when both models are used at the same time.
A similar layout, feature names and keyboard shortcut roster will make up for a very easy transition. So if you’re looking to get a bit more modern than MSP, JIRA+BigPicture is definitely the way to go.