Yes kids, here I am today, digging away in search of the next Rosetta Stone that will explain the latest round of interstellar mysteries, slogging it out with ... Microsoft Project?
Welcome to the era of Big Science. Actually, that era has been going on for quite some time - probably the best early example of the über-project is the Manhattan Project. For me, the engineering projects I've worked on have been small-ish teams - typically a dozen or so people - but even that requires careful choreography at times. That's where necessary evils such as MS Project rear their ugly heads.
For example, next week, I'll be going to Chile to ESO's Paranal observatory to work on the PRIMA Instrument. During that time, there will be about a dozen people, all tinkering around with different aspects of the same instrument. What's to keep one person's change not appearing as an effect that someone else thought they did? Choreography. More precisely, "careful management of project personnel and instrumention resources" - basically, making sure we're not stepping on each other's toes. This is MS Project comes in: I tell it who's going to be there, and what bits of laboratory are available, and then list all of the tasks that we'd like to do over the 10 days that we'll be there. Each task has people and bits of lab tied to it, and a preferred order in which it gets done relative to the other tasks. MS Project, being told that, makes sure the order is followed and that nobody is being bookkept to do 20 hours of work in a single day. (We like to keep it to more like, oh, 16 hours a day.) At least in theory this is what Project does - in practice I've found it to be an arbitrary and capricious beast, no amenable to taming.
Think of it as being the sole teacher in a schoolyard during recess when one shiny new slide has been installed - on a merry-go-round - next to a lake. You have a rusty old whistle that only works half the time, and you're trying to make sure that everyone get a turn, and that no kids bump their heads, shoot off the spinning slide into each other, or get wet. Ok, stupid analogy. But can you think of a better one?