Excel struggle bus

Oct 22, 2018

While the software is a proven workhouse for data storage and analysis, there are 7 good reasons to stop using it to manage your projects

Editor’s note: ProjectBoss was a sponsor of the 2018 Hot Firm + A/E Industry Awards Conference in Dallas.

I get it. It’s right there on your desktop, occupying the same spot it did 25 years ago. The familiar green icon beckons you to click on it, open your project “template” (complete with 17 different tabs), and start filling in the blanks. A few hours later (and several skipped sections and tabs), you have an outline, some graphs, and maybe some charts. You save it on the shared drive, send an email to the project team (forgetting to include a few people), and off you go.

Half the team doesn’t even bother to open it and look at it. In the following days and weeks, the Excel file isn’t updated and gets stale. In a panic, you open it two hours before your meeting and scramble to get input from your team to hopefully have a reasonably accurate document. It’s usually weeks or months after the project is over before you have a complete financial picture of the project, which was probably late and over budget. Rinse and repeat. It’s a recipe for frustration and failure. Don’t kick yourself too hard. You’re not alone on the Excel struggle bus, and we have a solution to put an end to your Excel nightmares once and for all.

Here are seven reasons to stop using Excel for project management:

  1. Lack of Gantt charts. Yes, you can drag and expand columns, change background colors, enlarge fonts, etc. However, updating tasks and milestones becomes a major chore. And forget about creating dependencies between tasks. Gantt charts are a much easier and better solution to laying out your projects. Just click, drag, and drop. You also won’t need to print out several pieces of paper and tape them together to get everything to line up properly for your meeting.
  2. Lack of collaboration. Excel doesn’t provide you with an easy way to share your file and allow other team members to make changes. Ultimately, one person must be responsible for merging in all of the various updates. Excel also doesn’t allow you to automatically notify collaborators when the file has been updated.
  3. Expertise needed. Most computer-savvy employees can use the basic functions in Excel (adding, grouping, etc.). However, to get the most use out of Excel, your employees would need to know how to create pivot tables, manipulate/search/find data across multiple tabs, and master the advanced Excel formulas. This type of expertise (or training) can be expensive and doesn’t easily translate to the rest of the team.
  4. Time tracking is difficult. A lot of firms use Excel as a timesheet tool. Getting this data into the project management Excel file is cumbersome and tedious at best.
  5. Can’t forecast resources and allocations. Laying out a schedule of work in Excel isn’t difficult, but how do you find out if the employees assigned to perform the work are available? Many firms will keep this information in yet another Excel file. What happens if the project is pushed back or delayed? Keeping these sources in sync is difficult and time consuming.
  6. No reporting. Sure, you can create some basic charts and analysis (see No. 3), but Excel isn’t going to give you the information you need to make proactive decisions during or after your project has been completed.
  7. Doesn’t play well with other software or mobile devices. Excel has added the ability to import and export data via XML, but how many of your team members work with XML? (again, see No. 3) Integrations with other systems (timekeeping, financials, etc.) are not included. Finally, with more employees using smartphones and tablets in and out of the office, large Excel spreadsheets become clumsy and difficult to work with on a small screen.

Are you struggling to manage your projects with Excel?

With a cloud-based mobile-friendly solution such as ProjectBoss, you can avoid these headaches and have one easy-to-use platform to handle all your project and business management needs. And yes, you can even import your legacy data into ProjectBoss from your old Excel files.

Mark Little has nearly 20 years of experience in the technology arena, primarily as a software engineer. Prior to becoming a co-founder and chief technology officer of ProjectBoss, Mark worked on key projects at companies such as JPMorganChase, Oracle, and ThermoFisher Scientific. He can be reached at mark@projectboss.net.

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