There is a lot of information on the internet about Microsoft Project and its portfolio of sub-products. Before constructing this blog, we noticed that some of the information about Microsoft Project and Project Online was a bit conflicting, which concerned us because managing the implementation process of these tools (along with other project management software tools) is one of our specialist services. This clashing, and sometimes confusing, information made us realise our network needed more information to help understand the differences between the two products, to help you select the best product to meet your project, programme and portfolio requirements.


Most will already be aware that Microsoft Project is a project management software tool developed by the technology giant Microsoft. The product has been around on the market for several years and, as a result, the software has been developed and improved to suit the needs of project managers and project management office teams throughout the world.

The tool can assist you and your team with:

  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Resource management
  • Budget management
  • Workload allocation

Benefits reported:

  • Customise reports and templates to suit stakeholders’ requirements.
  • Can set up the project, manage tasks and report project information through the project guide.
  • Possess additional project templates which can help begin a project more efficiently.
  • Quickly establish project phases, tasks and milestones which can be linked together.
  • Possess communication tools to suit stakeholders’ needs.
  • Use of the built-in reports e.g. milestone report.
  • Resources can easily be identified and allocated around resource dependencies.

Project Online is another project management software tool developed by Microsoft. It is a flexible online solution for Project Portfolio Management (PPM), which provides powerful project management capabilities for planning, prioritising and managing projects and project portfolio investment. The software is built on the SharePoint platform and is an add-on of the Office 365 package which can be used by administrators, portfolio managers and viewers, project resource managers and team leads or members.

Benefits reported by Microsoft (Microsoft, 2018):

  • Conceptualise – Empower teams to think creatively about challenges and translate that strategy into actionable goals.
  • Plan – Start the right projects at the right time by managing resource demand and assignments.
  • Execute – Support teams to become self-reliant and assess the impact of new and updated projects.
  • Collaborate – Drive better outcomes with more connected teams using familiar collaboration tools.
  • Visualise – See data in new ways, connect insights faster and make more informed decisions from anywhere in the world.
  • Control – Manage projects your way, using intelligent Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools.

Microsoft commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact and examine the potential return on investment of deploying Project Online and this is what they found (Forrester, 2018):

  • Reporting efficiencies resulted in 60% times saving for project managers.
  • Increased project visibility improved resource utilisation and led to an 83% reduction in overtime costs.
  • Integration into ERP solutions improved procurement’s ability to negotiate, saving 2.5% on average for parts and materials.
  • Project Online, as a cloud-based solution reduces infrastructure costs and increases scalability
  • Project Online enables organisations to mature their project management practices.

Project Online increases customer satisfaction by improving on time delivery.


As you can see from the brief outline of both software’s above, there are a lot of differences between the two as well as a large financial commitment for Project Online. Microsoft Project is brilliant at creating a standalone project plan, organising the work into phases and have dependencies between them. This can be for yourself or being published as part of a team. Whereas Project Online can have a huge impact on small, medium and large enterprises, enabling portfolio managers to look across the projects to see what is being worked on (providing easy visibility). As well as looking at the portfolio level, project managers can track their projects by assigning tasks to resources, which will then appear on their time sheets.

Do we prefer one Microsoft product versus another? No, we do not, but we want to provide you with the correct information for you to make the right choice when deciding between the two products.

These two products are a part of one of our three main services within our project management office consultancy. We have extremely skilled staff who would be happy to elaborate on this brief discussion of Microsoft Project and Project Online and provide the best advice depending on your team’s requirements.

If you have any more questions or would like to discuss these products in more detail, like cost or training, please email marina@plprojects.co.uk to set up a complimentary consultation.