Why Excel Harms Your Project Management
... And Why You Should Use a Professional Project Management tool
Even today, many companies still use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as project management tools. Certainly because the software is already in use and the employees are familiar with it. But also because entering data in rows is easy. And finally, there are many free Excel templates to download and you can use them to create Gantt charts, diagrams and graphs. Excel is a powerful software for managing financial data. If you are completely satisfied with your team's productivity, communication and collaboration, you don't have to change anything. But for most teams, this is not the case.
The 2016 study "The High Cost of Low Performance" conducted by PMI showed that only 62% of all projects met their original business objectives in terms of scope, budget, time, etc. So if you want your team to complete projects faster and with fewer errors, work more efficiently and with fewer conflicts, adapt quickly to unforeseen factors and therefore save a lot of time and money, then you need a real project management tool.
Project management with Excel spreadsheets can be detrimental to project success and the productivity of your team. We explain why:
Excel causes communication gaps
The members of the project team need to communicate constantly with each other to ask questions, exchange files, information and updates, give comments and feedback, etc.
There is no way to perform these tasks in Excel. They must communicate via e-mail, chat or other tools to share the project status with the team. This means that you have to keep track of different tools to make sure you don't miss any information on a particular task. There are always questions being asked that have already been answered. Or worse, you miss an update entirely, which leads to errors.
Keep your project team up to date - Thanks to Merlin Project
Communicating in a project management tool like Merlin Project is easy because you can see every single detail and update on every task in your project plan. It is your central collection point for all project related information.
Enter the requirements for each individual task in the note field and update them as necessary.
Attach files, checklists, information etc. as attachments to the respective activity.
Link external sources, such as a web page or Evernote note, with further information.
Send reports with the current project status to all project participants.
Excel Makes it Difficult to Collaborate on One File
You can share an Excel file in a shared memory, such as a Dropbox. Dropbox is where conflicted copy files are created when too many people open the same spreadsheet at the same time. You must spend valuable time restoring the project file and reviewing it with all team members to ensure that the copy is up to date.
Easy collaboration in Merlin Project
Merlin Project uses our patented technology MagicSync and is therefore optimized for cloud services in many ways. With the help of MagicSync, Merlin Project synchronizes the changes of multiple users and devices without losing data or creating conflict files. You don't even have to close and reopen your documents to see other people's changes. Unlike other solutions, MagicSync also does not lock parts of a document while other users are working on it. Changes appear immediately visible to everyone.
Add Merlin Server to Merlin Project and you will find it even easier to collaborate on project files and publish. You can synchronize project plans with other users and even publish them to the web in a more comfortable and secure way.
Individual To-Do Lists Are Missing In Excel Templates
Excel project management templates are designed for team projects. However, they create lousy to-do lists for individual team members.
Your project sheet in Excel would define the work tasks that each team member must complete. However, everyone must complete multiple subtasks to complete each task. So they use their own additional to-do lists to note down all these subtasks.
Your team members might try to add subtasks to the same Excel spreadsheet, but that would make your document extremely cluttered and confusing. Each team member starts adding their own tab, and things get out of control. After all, the entire team doesn't need to see all these work items.
Task lists in Merlin Project
Filters allow you to make information visible in the project according to different specifications. Other information is hidden. A multitude of evaluation possibilities are created by filtering the contents in the project. For example, you can filter out only those tasks in the project that are pending for the logged in user.
Excel Templates Are Difficult to Customize
Numerous Excel project management templates are available. But finding one that fits your team well is difficult. Project managers need hours to customize templates for their own teams. Plus, unless you're an Excel specialist, you'll need to find someone who understands the features to make the customization for you.
Individual Project Templates in Merlin Project
Dedicated project management software does not need any formula adaptation - because it is designed for exactly one thing - the management of projects! You create a new project with just a few mouse clicks, adjust times and budget and add resources / users.
Merlin Project already includes several project templates to start your project easily and conveniently. They are clearly displayed when starting a project and when creating a new project.
Additionally, you can create your own templates at any time or import the files into MS Project or other programs.
Task Updates Require Manual Tracking
If Excel is used for project management, the team members maintain individual to-do lists. However, managing two tools means additional work, so the Excel spreadsheet is not updated regularly as the task progresses.
There is no way for project managers or other people to know the status of each task automatically - asking is necessary. Such project teams also require more meetings, whose sole purpose is to update the Excel spreadsheets. This is therefore a twofold time-consuming process.
Use Only One Tool For All Project Requirements With Merlin Project
Because the tasks of your entire team are managed centrally in a project plan, you avoid time wasting by working in multiple tools and having repeated meetings for status reconciliation. Project managers and all affected team members can see directly when someone has completed a specific task or subtask.
Access Rights Cannot Be Adjusted
You have two options for the access rights to an Excel project management table.
Granting editing access to anyone, you have no way to keep track of who made what changes to the file unless you use Office 365. In addition, the fact that anyone can view projects and tasks that only management should have access to raises serious confidentiality issues.
Alternatively, you could give view rights to project participants and edit rights only to the project manager. However, the project manager then has a full-time job to update and track the project sheet.
Decide Who Can See And Edit What
In Merlin Project, individual project files can be protected with individual passwords and access permissions. This requires at least one resource to be an active user.
With just one mouse click, you can turn any resource into a user and assign access rights for it in the individual project areas.
Excel Is Not Agile
Agile project management is a question of adaptability. We no longer make elaborate plans for every single step of a project. Unforeseen factors can creep in and make large parts of your plan irrelevant. Agile teams must be able to change course quickly in the face of these unforeseen events. But when you use Excel as your project management tool, it's extremely difficult to change course.
Updating a spreadsheet is much more cumbersome than updating a project management software. You need to update, add, or delete rows, and update functions and links between different worksheets. Project managers have to do all the updating themselves because you don't want someone to make a mistake that messes up the whole sheet.
Changes in Merlin Project Quickly Synchronized
Because everyone is working on the same project plan, simultaneously or consecutively, and thanks to the patented synchronization in Merlin Project, changes are visible to all project participants in almost real time.
In addition, each user can define their own view configuration. They see what is relevant to them in the project plan and can concentrate fully on their work. So no matter whether a work breakdown structure or a Kanban board, the data structure is the same, only the display changes.
With Excel you lose the overview of the entire project
Project managers and executives should be able to see the big picture of all the company's projects at a glance in simple management dashboards. Trying to do this in Excel is a nightmare.
Even if you could find an Excel template with a project overview, it would be limited to visualizations such as Gantt charts, which have limited use for agile project management. And you would need the skills and time to use crazy complicated formulas in Excel to design your own management dashboards.
Keep the overview with Merlin Project
If several projects run parallel in your company and team members are also used across projects, you can combine these individual projects in a master project. Thanks to the integrated workload view, you can see immediately which team member has what task "on the slip of paper" and also recognize possible overloads and can correct them if necessary. Free capacities can also be quickly identified.
Or you use a resource pool for centralized use and synchronization of the same resources in several projects. The special feature of a resource pool is that the resources are available for several projects and therefore all changes to the resources are automatically synchronized in all projects that access the resource pool.
Export your Excel spreadsheet as a .CSV file and use this as the basis for Merlin Project. Start your free 30 day trial today!
Let us summarize the limitations of Excel as a project management software:
- Excel causes communication gaps
- Excel makes it difficult to collaborate on one file
- Individual to-do lists are missing in Excel templates
- Excel templates are difficult to customize
- Task updates require manual tracking
- Access rights cannot be adjusted
- Excel is not agile
- With Excel you lose the overview of the entire project
Using Excel is a safe way to dramatically slow down your team projects and productivity. You too can increase the quality and efficiency of your projects with Merlin Project - almost like magic!
Merlin Project is the standard for project management in many industries. For over 15 years, customers in over 150 countries have been using our flexible app to plan, manage and control their small and large projects.