5 Reasons Not to Use Excel for Project Management
Picture this. It’s Friday night. The office is empty. The only sound is frantic typing as you try to prepare a project status report for Monday’s meeting. You have to trawl through spreadsheets, spreadsheets, and more spreadsheets, cross-referencing data you can only hope is correct and up-to-date. The completed report is finally emailed to relevant stakeholders and team members. You can now leave for the weekend, knowing there will be confusion in the meeting as someone will make a change or update to their version of the report which no-one else can see.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you are not alone! Spreadsheets are the bane of many projects.
It makes sense that many organizations turn to Excel for project management. It’s part of the Microsoft suite, making it familiar to end-users. Organizations often don’t want to invest in separate project management software, preferring to use readily available systems. In many cases, teams are forced to develop complex templates and workarounds in Excel and are reluctant to try a new method.
Whilst Excel is a powerful tool, especially for data analysis, it’s just not built for project management. If you have any doubts, read some of the horror stories compiled by the European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group. The very existence of such a group is pretty significant!
Let’s take a look at five common reasons not to use Excel for project management, and why the Free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork is an ideal alternative.
5 Reasons Not to use Excel for Project Management
1. Very time-consuming
Depending on the size and complexity of individual projects, and the number of projects you are managing or participating in, it’s easy to waste significant time finding, updating, and double checking project information.
2. Project information is not up-to-date or accurate
Spreadsheets are error-prone, especially if used by multiple team members. It’s impossible to know if you are working with the most recent version of the spreadsheet, if the formulas are correct, or if any data was accidentally replaced or overwritten. This lack of clarity is a major headache for heavily regulated industries such as healthcare or finance.
Saving spreadsheets in different locations leads to inconsistent information stored in various silos. If someone has saved the only copy of an important document on their local computer and forgets to share the file before vacation, the project could stop for a few weeks!
Added to these frustrations is a lack of ownership; many people may use the file but no-one is in charge of checking the accuracy of your data.
3. Lack of collaboration
Excel does not include key collaboration tools such as conversations tracking, file sharing, discussion boards, and up-to-date task lists. Team members cannot easily check the status of a task or identify what they need to do next. They don’t know the overall status of the project or if a teammate is struggling with a task.
In fact, this information is likely stored in another document in another location – creating even more confusion!
4. Too much information
Different team members and stakeholders need different information. Creating individual, tailored views with varying administration privileges is impossible in Excel. Everyone sees the same spreadsheet. This means more time is wasted as individuals try to figure out what is relevant to their work.
5. Difficult to report on the progress of the project
As you probably guessed, Excel is not an ideal project reporting tool! This can lead to poor decision making as relevant data is not easily accessed or is incorrect.
Relying on spreadsheets to make key decisions or identify risks can lead to resource conflicts, forecasting issues, and an overall loss of visibility into what is actually happening on your project.
Switch from Excel to SharePoint
The free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork is an easy way to introduce your team to SharePoint. With an engaging and easy-to-use interface, your team will quickly forget about Excel!
Using the Free SharePoint Template to centralize project information, your team will benefit from:
- A central project site
- A standardized way to manage the project
- Easy document management
- Flexible lists, with a similar appearance to Excel
- Simple reports
- An engaging interface.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness