More and more companies are leaving Excel behind for 21st Century resource management tools. Microsoft’s spreadsheets have been a staple with project managers for many years, yet the technology and the needs of the industry have moved on. While Excel is fine for small teams and limited programs of work, a more powerful solution is needed for larger, more dynamic projects.
Gartner have highlighted the limits of traditional spreadsheets when it comes to project management. From duplicated information to misunderstandings about who owns the data, organizations often find themselves stuck using Excel, finding it holds them back rather than pushes them forward.
So, what are the limits of Excel, and what’s attracting PMs to the latest resource management tools?
Excel continues to be one of the most popular tools for managing resources. In terms of entering data about where your resources are, what projects they’re currently working on and what availability they have, Excel offers the basic functionality you need. However, if you want to explore your resources in more depth, discover opportunities and find better ways of managing your people and their time, the software offers project managers very little.
1. Not specialized
Both Excel’s strength and its weakness lies in the fact that it can be used for almost any kind of data treatment. Since its spreadsheets are not designed for the specific needs of project managers, it requires a huge amount of preparation and input to turn raw figures into a working resource management environment.
2. Hard to model with
Managing data about resources is as unpredictable as your resources themselves. Once you have entered all your data and prepared your spreadsheets in Excel you might have a perfect environment to view and explore your people, their availability and their costs. However, this fails to correspond with the reality of resource management: projects get delayed, workers leave and new ones are employed. Excel simply cannot react fast enough to the realities of real world PPM.
3. Simulations require major expertise
Beyond its most basic functions, really tapping into the power of Excel requires serious expertise. Project Managers want to quickly and easily discover better ways of using their resources, find out what impact pausing projects would have or visualize the effects of reducing numbers. This is certainly one one of the major limits of Excel, as it’s incredibly hard, time consuming and unclear.
When projects are taking place across geographies, when deadlines suddenly change and when resources need to be moved or removed, Excel is not enough.
“It’s tempting to start a project plan in Excel because it helps you quickly list all your projects, arrange them how you want them, and even create something that resembles a Gantt chart view. But a spreadsheet falls short when it comes to calculating changes to your project”. Office Support Website.
When even Microsoft are highlighting the limits of Excel when it comes to project management, it’s clear that PMs need to look elsewhere for a modern resource management tool. They can offer:
1. What-if analysis
Resources leave the company. Deadlines change. Projects need to be put on pause. The most advanced Resource Management tool allows you to explore these possibilities and more at the touch of a button.
2. Intelligent tools for intelligent decisions
When you have thousands of resources spread over many projects taking place in different time zones and geographies, it’s incredibly hard to discover alternative ways of managing your people. In Excel, Project Managers are faced with a blank canvas and must discover alternative uses of resources by themselves. Modern PPM tools save you time and analyze your data to discover the best possible alternatives for managing your people, your projects and your time.
3. Intuitive interfaces
Excel is famously hard to use. Modern PPM tools by contrast allow data to be entered quickly and easily, and users are able to begin carrying out highly complex tasks with only the most basic training.
Managing an organization’s resources across your project portfolio is one of the most challenging, complex and crucial business activities. Using an effective and efficient resource management tool can produce enormous cost savings, and give you a real advantage over your competitors. Disorganized, outdated PPM in Excel, by contrast, can slow you down and result in missed opportunities.
While the number of businesses moving to a more advanced resource management tool like Tempus Resource is growing, too many Project Managers continue to find themselves stuck in the past with Excel. Microsoft’s flagship data management tool is still a powerful offering, yet when it comes to the specialized needs of 21st century project managers, organizations need to take their resource management to the next level.