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.

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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!


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 currently underway, it’s easy to waste significant time updating and double checking project information.


2. Project information not as up-to-date or accurate as it should be

Often, it is impossible to know if you are working with the most recent version of the spreadsheet, if the formulas are correct and working as needed and if any data was accidentally replaced or overwritten. Saving spreadsheets in different locations also leads to inconsistent information.  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 quickly and easily check the status of a task or identify what they need to do next.


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 can lead to resource conflicts, forecasting issues, and an overall loss of visibility into what is actually happening on your project.

Can you relate to any of the above? Maybe you can add to the list?


What’s the solution?

At BrightWork, we have helped several organizations move from using Excel for project management to an automated and collaborative platform which helps deliver projects successfully.  BrightWork is a SharePoint-based project management solution that includes a range of best-practice templates and configurable cross-project reporting. The collaborative templates and automated reporting enable project managers to increase project success and gives senior executives the high-level visibility they need to ensure customer satisfaction.

By introducing BrightWork, Garmon Corporation, stopped using spreadsheets and now manage their new product releases much more efficiently, minimizing meeting requirements and fostering more hands on collaboration and constructive cross-disciplinary checks. Camden National and Quaker Chemical experienced similar success with BrightWork.

If you would like to try BrightWork for yourself, check out our 30 day free trial. The free trial will give you the opportunity to see how BrightWork can help you manage and deliver successful projects.

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    Donal McCarthy

    Great article. Still love Excel though!

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