Microsoft Project Server – These Are the Advantages over the MS Project Standalone Tool without Central Data Storage

Unlike the file-based standalone tool on the desktop, the Microsoft Enterprise Project Management solution for project and portfolio management is based on a server with central data storage. Microsoft refers to it as Project and Portfolio Management from which the acronym Microsoft PPM is derived.

What Is Microsoft Project Server / Project Online (Microsoft PPM)?

Microsoft PPM supports all roles in enterprise-wide project and portfolio management.

What Microsoft PPM offers:

  • Central configuration and standardization
  • Central resource administration and reporting
  • Role-specific use and access
  • Individual expandability and integration with other systems

Microsoft PPM is available on-premises or in the cloud. It is fully integrated in SharePoint Server as well as Project Online.

The Components of Microsoft Project Management at a Glance

Microsoft PPM On-Premises

An on-premises Microsoft PPM solution installed and operated at your own company requires the following components:

  • Microsoft Project Server including Project Web App
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Microsoft Project Professional or Microsoft Project Online Professional


Note: Besides the components described, Microsoft provides different license options with individual names. Find more information under „Microsoft PPM – Licenses”.

The following figure provides an overview of the components of a Microsoft PPM solution. Below, you will find out more about the individual components.

Microsoft PPM in the Cloud

Project Online provides all capabilities of the on-premises solution. When it comes to the integration with Microsoft 365, it offers even more. There are different licenses available taking into account the functional needs for different stakeholders:

  • Microsoft Project Online Essentials for Team Members with limited functionality
  • Microsoft Project Online Plan 3 (formerly Project Online Professional) including Project Web App and Microsoft Project Online Dekstop Client for Project Managers
  • Microsoft Project Online Plan 5 (formerly Project Online Premium) including Project Web App and Microsoft Project Online Desktop Client for Administrators, Resource Managers and Portfolio Managers


Microsoft Project Standard 

Project Standard is a standalone tool. It is not meant for use across departments or projects. It does not enable connection to Microsoft Project Server / Project Online.

Microsoft Project Professional 

Project Professional can be used as a standalone tool. Or it can be connected to a server. It also possesses additional functions. This version is the basis for working in a multi-project environment with an on-premises Project Server and Project Online. In the classic installation process, your IT administration uses local installation packages.

Microsoft Project Online Desktop Client

Project Online Desktop Client is the cloud version of Microsoft Project Professional. It can be used as a standalone tool but also in connection with Project Server “on-premises” or Project Online. There is no classic installation. Instead, it is obtained and updated from the Microsoft Cloud. This is important, as new functions are made available in Project Online on a regular basis. Those functions can only be used with this version of the software.

Microsoft Project Web App

The browser-based Microsoft Project Web App is available both in Microsoft Project Server and in Project Online. With all established browsers, its users have role-specific access to central data, resources and functions. It allows project managers to plan projects. However, the desktop version offers a notably higher range of functions.

Project Server – The Platform Solution

Microsoft Project Server is a flexible platform for multi-project and portfolio management. As a central solution, Project Server provides you with well-tried capabilities for planning, reporting, and project team collaboration. In addition, it supports resource management. It enables the central and uniform storage of your company’s project and resource data.

Microsoft Project Server is a service within Microsoft SharePoint. Along with Microsoft SQL Server, the latter is installed and operated on-premises as part of your infrastructure. Thus, the integration in Microsoft SharePoint Server is available to you. This means that, within this solution, you can use functions for file management and collaboration for increased team efficiency.

Project Online – The Cloud Solution

As a component of Microsoft 365, Project Online is a service provided by Microsoft in the cloud. The range of functions corresponds to Microsoft Project Server. However, Project Online offers some additional functions.

You can subscribe to Project Online as required. You will not need your own server infrastructure at your company. The users connect their desktop application directly to the service running in the cloud. Or they access the Project Web App directly from their browser.

The Most Important Advantages of MS Project Server

Below, you will find the most important advantages of the server-based solution with Microsoft Project Server or Project Online (Microsoft PPM) over the simple standalone tool without connection to a server.

1. Transparency and Good Bases for Decision-Making

Using Microsoft Project Management as the enterprise-wide portfolio and project management solution, you will achieve one thing above all: transparency in the multi-project environment. This transparency will become the basis for correct decisions at all levels.

Dashboards will help you to identify variances in the current portfolio. The central overview takes you to the relevant projects via drill-down.

There, status reports and various graphical representations will inform you about the reasons for the current status of every single project.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: you have a complete overview of all running projects, deadlines, states and responsibilities. Therefore, you have the best possible decision-making basis available at all times.

Customer Feedback

“TPG implemented the Microsoft project management solution for Liebherr Components very systemically and efficiently. Now that we are using the solution, we are also very pleased with the quick response times when we have questions. We were impressed with the consulting team’s expertise and have already highly recommended TPG to other companies.”

Christian Nawrath, PMO Leader
Liebherr-Components Biberach GmbH

2. Central Project List

As a project manager, you work with the Microsoft Project desktop application as usual. But you save your projects in Project Server or Project Online rather than as files. This provides all stakeholders with a central project list. Depending on permissions, this list is easy to access via the Project Web App and only shows the projects the user is authorized to see.

Administrators can create additional user fields for projects. This makes it possible to display further information such as the project status, the site, developed product, name of the customer, budget, total costs, risks etc.

A current and meaningful project list is the first and most important step in multi-project management. It is the perfect basis for all evaluations and decisions in portfolio meetings and steering committees.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: you identify critical projects and make necessary decisions early across your portfolio. This allows you to interfere in the right places in a timely and circumspect manner.

3. Workflows and Portfolio Planning

Depending on the company organization and the type of project, it can make sense to divide the project initiation into steps with different authorization levels and permissions. You define this process in Microsoft PPM with workflows that can be started directly from the Project Center.

As a rule, it is also very important to select the projects in line with corporate strategy. Microsoft PPM allows you to assign strategic drivers to the projects. Through the specification of budgets and available resources, Microsoft PPM suggests which projects you should select with due regard to the priorities. And which ones could be started later or not at all.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: you are equipped with the capability to prepare the selection of projects centrally. Objective investment decisions mean that you work only on the right projects.

Customer Feedback

“The PPM solution based on Project Online with the integration of SAP provides us with a consistent process from project idea to project completion. The system has enabled us to further improve transparency in planning and prioritizing the project portfolio and to make informed decisions. Many thanks for the dedicated support!”

Dr. Christian Kunze, Head of Operational Performance & Business Development, Uniper Hydro Germany

4. Shared Resource Pool

Microsoft PPM features a central resource pool. All project managers have access to it. This comes with the following related advantages:

  • You ensure the central and correct maintenance of capacities and qualifications
  • All resource assignments are visible across projects
  • In contrast to Project Standard, you have a functioning basis for your multi-project planning – even with hundreds of projects and several thousand resources.

You can also represent the company organization in the resource pool. Enterprise custom fields allow you to maintain skills, sites and other information. Calendars, vacation and cost rates are also stored centrally. In accordance with the access permissions, these data are available in the Project Web App for evaluation. You can see the cross-project workload per staff member. And what tasks the latter are working on.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: at all times, you have the complete and enterprise-wide overview of the resource utilization and deployment. You can see if staff members are over-allocated. And if there are remaining capacities for new projects.

5. Personal Responsibilities and Time Tracking

Via the Project Web App, your team members can see all projects to which they are assigned. Likewise, they can record their actual hours and add comments. This is how the status of tasks and work packages can be documented in a transparent and direct way.

If you are using a standalone tool without connection to Project Server / Project Online, the exchange of information between project manager and team is more cumbersome. The project manager has to:

  • Collect the actual hours of the team members
  • Enter the data into the project plan manually
  • Inform the team members about their individual resource utilization (e.g. via PDF).

In addition, you cannot create an overall report on the resource utilization across different projects at the push of a button. Microsoft PPM on the other hand transfers the entries the staff members made in the Project Web App into the plan at a click. And the generation of reports aggregated across all relevant projects is possible.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: the project managers are relieved from manual information collection and data entry. Staff members can see their individual tasks and are able to report actual hours or the progress made.

Customer Feedback

“TPG has successfully implemented an efficient solution that clearly addresses the specialized requirements of the European Patent Office. We now have a very practical platform for handling projects that uses standard Microsoft software − a solution that we were able to realize without undue effort.”

Dr. Christian Bocklitz, Head of Department Building Projects, European Patent Office

6. Project-Specific Workspaces

Besides the project plan, you tend to require various other documents and lists during project execution. In the standalone tool Project Standard, it is necessary to create additional folders in which you save the documents.

What is more, they are not automatically linked to the corresponding project. In this case, lists usually consist of Excel files, which cannot be edited simultaneously and do not have a history.

Microsoft PPM, on the other hand, is a tool already running in the Microsoft SharePoint environment. Therefore, it provides all advantages for team collaboration.

From different templates, it is possible to create a project website automatically for every project. This website already contains documents and lists. SharePoint makes lists available to all authorized team members for simultaneous editing.

Project managers are the administrators of their project-specific websites and can edit them as required. In this activity, they are independent from internal IT.

In the Microsoft App Store, they can also obtain suitable extensions from a range of offers for their project website, for example: Risk analyses, Milestone Trend Analyses, WBS charts, etc.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: the central storage of documents for each project in one database means you have fewer losses due to internal friction. And your communication becomes much more efficient.

7. Handling Cross-Company Projects

Many companies are working with external partners and contractors. In most cases, you will not want them to access your internal infrastructure. Project Online offers a modern solution for this business case.

Depending on permissions, every stakeholder gets access to a joint planning environment in the cloud and therefore outside of your company. Thereby, you avoid potential security risks and reduce the effort for your own IT’s digital rights management.

What is more, you are flexible timewise in making the environment available to the participants. This is possible at a reasonable price, and accounting is transparent.

Your advantage over the standalone tool: even outside the company, you handle your projects securely with the aid of a transparent permissions system.

Quick and at a Fixed Price – TPG QuickStart Solution

Are you looking for a quick and secure way to your individual PPM solution based on Microsoft Project Server, Project Online or Planisware Orchestra? Then TPG QuickStart is the right packaged approach for you: available within just a few weeks – at a fixed price and with interesting extras.

Learn more about TPG QuickStart