Microsoft Excel is well known for its capabilities far beyond a simple spreadsheet. It is used for calculations, data storage and due to the embedded formulas and programing can become almost any tool you would like. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that besides the uses for statistical analysis and annual reports it has also been widely used for project management. However, here we should focus on the past tense simply because in my opinion the time of Excel in project management is over and if you are still using it, most likely you are not reaching your full potential. Let me explain why.
Excel is a great tool and its applications in various fields prove that without a doubt. However, the time when Excel provided great advantages in project management is over and we are all better off because of that. To replace the king, we have a wide array of prominent candidates – for the last couple of years project management tools have been sprouting like weeds after a good rain and the selection nowadays is wide and great. It is not only that there is a variety of tools to choose from, but also that the tools are being improved and evolved at a very fast pace. By now, they are as intricate, feature filled and diverse as ever and there is really no reason why you should not use one. However, I know you might still be doubting me so I will go ahead and give you 5 simple reasons why you should switch.
Great visuals and virtually no work. If you have been using Excel to overlook your projects, you know how much managing work goes into it. You have to create your board from scratch, make sure to update the information, keep up with the latest versions, etc. The result – a decent project management board that is not quite the sleek and chic solution you would expect. So why should you have to do all this work? You don’t – simply choose a prepared project management solution that is ready to use the moment you open it. You will never have to worry about writing another function or thinking about how to create another feature you desire – everything is already there and can be easily modified.
More information in one place. Another great thing project management tools bring to the table is the possibility to add a lot of information to the task itself. We are talking not only description and due date, but files, comments, tracked time, estimations and more. There is no more need to send documents and comments back and forth via e-mail, with these tools everything is kept in one place and is always accessible by the whole team. Moreover, from the details kept within the tasks, more comprehensive reports can be built for your analysis.
Real time updates without the confusion. Talking about the files, another big issue with an Excel based project management is keeping everything up to date. While it is not so hard to ask employees to input updated information into the file, what gets them is making sure they are working on the latest version and updating the fields with the latest information, versus updating it with an older version without knowing it. Let’s face – it happens a lot with when using an Excel file. With a project management tool issues like that do not exist – you simply input the information you have to the program, where everything is tracked and date stamped automatically.
Accessibility for everyone. Besides the real time updates, another thing Excel lacks is the accessibility. It is extremely important, that the project planning file or software is accessible to all the team members at all times, so they can log the progress, check on the important information, etc. With an Excel spreadsheet, these capabilities are limited as it is a file that is kept in one place and only edited by one person at a time. With a project management tool, your team can not only update the information in real time, but access it from any computer connected to the server, or from any web browser connected to the internet. This makes it a lot easier for distributed teams or team members working away from the office.
Less time on managing the system and more on managing the project. Lastly, the greatest benefit project management tools give your team is time. These solutions are ready and easy to use right out of the gate and the team saves a lot of time on updating files, sending documents, looking for lost e-mails and programing to get the right look. Instead all of that, the tool gives you extra time to work on your projects and actually get things done. And if you still think that extra cost is not worth it, think about all the extra work, your team will be able to complete in that time.
With the features and options project management tools offer at this day and age, using Excel for project management really does not make much sense. Even though some argue that it is cheaper not having to pay for a complete tool solution, it often not the case anymore. Moreover the time and resources spent on developing the Excel file are often a lot greater than the benefits of the saved time and work done. For the teams that are still clinging to the Excel spreadsheet, this could not be a better time to let go – there is a plethora of tools to choose from catering to all the different company types and needs. So do not be afraid – go out, explore the options and become more productive!