Many people try project management using Excel spreadsheets. They prefer using Excel because they are already familiar with it. It is simple; it has tables, diagrams, and other ways to view data. However, using spreadsheets has its disadvantages, too. It just can’t give you the whole picture of how the project is doing at one glance. Here are other reasons why project management using just Excel is impossible, and why project managers should look for other ways to effectively manage your projects.
We Can’t Push it Beyond What it’s Designed to Do
Spreadsheets are just that – spreadsheets. They are mean to facilitate calculations. Each cell is a calculating unit, and there are many ways to use it. But project management goes beyond simply calculating numbers! While spreadsheets can connect cells for easy calculations, create visually engaging tables and such, for project management a timeline grid is needed – not just tables and visual representations.
When a project doesn’t have a timeline, you can just as well imagine a house without the supporting frame. It simply won’t work. Nothing can be done effectively without it! In the same way, the spreadsheet functions really well for some tasks. However, it lacks the tools and the features that can provide us a forward-looking view of the project, one that is based on the chains of activities, how each activity is related to another, and the changes that have taken place in each of them.
There should be Something More to Snapshots
When you think about it, it is actually quite easy to create a project’s status snapshot using spreadsheets. Project managers can just put together a plan quickly. Action items can be captured, and to-do lists and responsibilities can be crafted as they come to mind. This is great and all – but after creating the snapshot, how can it be really used for managing projects?
A snapshot is another kind of report. Reports are based on data and are built upon them. With snapshots, they are just made out of thin air. There is no backend and no data. When you use a snapshot in managing projects, it feels as though you are using the report in driving the data when it should be exactly the opposite.
This is another limitation of the spreadsheet. There is just no way to use it for tracking and managing projects. When you change a block in a particular block diagram, it won’t automatically change the other parts of your diagram. And when you are assigning activities to team members, you will find that it is challenging to maintain without having a definitive data structure.
Just one day after you’ve made those excellent-looking tables, it will immediately turn into a collection of obsolete, unusable, and irrelevant data. A snapshot is just what it is. You cannot use it in the long run as a tool for project management.
There’s No Way to Collaborate
With spreadsheets, the best you can do when it comes to collaboration is through sharing and commenting. For project management, this won’t do. It’s just not enough. You should be using a tool that can encourage and drive engagement especially for particular situations where challenging data or information need to be discussed.
Team members of the project need a tool where they can collaborate. The tool should be able to have clear response options, targeted posts, and the ability to be visible on mobile devices. With the spreadsheet, you can’t get any of those. This is something to think about when choosing a project management tool for your team.
It Cannot be Measured
One thing that you should expect from a good project management tool is its capability to measure. This could mean measuring risk, coordination, engagement, progress, and others. Yes, the spreadsheet can indeed give you some measures where you have to build the formula for. But you have to ask how long is it going to take when it comes to creating Key Process Indicators or KPIs?
Just imagine the time and effort you’re going to have to exert just to make sure that they are updated. Plus you have to explain them to the team and make them understand and even convince them that those are viable measures. Project management is not just creating good-looking spreadsheets. You can do that all you want as a project manager but your project will surely start falling apart. But when you are doing your project management using Excel, that is really all you have – a good looking spreadsheet.
Wrapping it Up
As you can imagine from the scenarios provided above, project management using Excel simply just won’t do. You need to find a tool for project management which is forward-looking, can create plans that can dynamically change, can drive collaboration, and above all, can be measurable. It may be hard to give up your spreadsheets, but once you find the right project management tool, you’ll be ready to wave them goodbye.