Top Reasons Why Spreadsheets Disturb Project Management
Spreadsheets are a very useful tool for statistics and data processing, but some people also use them for managerial purposes. On the market there are a lot of good project management tools, but still some managers rely on the spreadsheets.
The experts’ advice is that people should not use spreadsheets for project management, as they could obstruct the process of a good collaboration. In this article we present 6 reasons how spreadsheets can ruin the project management.
1. Security concerns
Security is an important issue when using spreadsheets for any purpose. As for any MS Office (or local hard drive) file – there is the spreadsheet access issue. Not all team members should have access to the files due to safety (e.g. people may accidentally remove files). On a daily basis – it is complicated to grant, or to forbid access to users, if the target is Excel spreadsheets.
2. Bugs / errors
People often make errors while using spreadsheets; they are nice tools for statistical analyses, but they should not be used as databases. The users who try to replace databases with spreadsheets sometimes combine formulas and complex calculations; in this case the possibility for information loss is large. For example – deleting some figure, or replacing a formula with a fix value, all these can cause a mess in your data.
3. Lessen teamwork, no collaboration
Project management involves a lot of planning and collaboration steps. It is necessary for team members to communicate, have a meeting, plan activities, change the schedule etc. Usually, several departments of your organization are involved in the project execution. The usage of spreadsheets will not facilitate the communication, since it is time consuming by itself. Spreadsheets will not enable the team members to post comments on items that are relevant at the moment, and to give their opinion. Every organization should use a chat or at least some commenting tool for the distant, outsourced teams. Even the team members from the same department would benefit from a collaboration tool.
4. Information disappearance
This is tightly connected with the collaboration issues. The sharing of ideas and information can be done, only if the people can edit and comment on the items at the same time. E.g., if a project milestone has been postponed and you want to inform the team for the reason of this delay, you could post a comment under the deadline, or somewhere close to the date for that event. The other team members may want to comment on your post about the delay etc. Spreadsheets don’t allow several people to work on a same item simultaneously. Also, when people change the sheet and send it to one another, some information may be lost due to the different versions.
Another undesired aspect when using spreadsheets is that the same information may duplicate in the same document, because people are hesitant to delete information for the purpose of re-using it. This may cause a mess. The other tools, such as Gantt charts, can enable you to see what is planned and what is missing, because they represent the info on a structured way. When the user updates the schedule and the accompanied info – the Gantt chart saves it instantly. This will enable you to organize things more productively, and the chart will also enable you to see what has changed – if you track the past progress.
5. No tracking capabilities
A spreadsheet can not store the complete info about complex projects. If you have multiple files – this will make it nearly impossible to track the project progress. All project managers should track the status of the tasks, and spreadsheets will barely enable them to do that.
Project tracking is almost impossible with spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are a great tool for math calculations and statistics, but they can not track the information not related to numbers (e.g. event attributes, to-do lists, assignments, etc.). Every project manager need to have everything organized in one place in order to easily track the progress and the status of the tasks. When using the spreadsheets, tracking is almost unworkable.
6. Re-usage is almost impossible
Project management is dealing with planning and execution of activities (tasks). When you complete the tasks successfully, you should document them as good practice for the future. Even if you managed to lead a project with a spreadsheet, you would never accomplish to use it again in future, either as a lessons learned workout, or as a template for other projects.
Using the spreadsheets you can not determine how things are interconnected, even if you work with the same things every day. Sometimes deleting things may have a large impact; people use colors to mark the unimportant data, and other colors to highlight the important. This can help you in the moment, but a month later this may cause confusion. Spreadsheets are a useful tool for data processing, budget’s projection and statistics analyses, but their application in project management should be limited.