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The 6 shortcomings of tracking your project via spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a quick and easy tool for managing projects, but they’re not faultless. In fact, an estimated 88% of spreadsheets contain errors. 

Mistakes aren’t the only downfall of an Excel document, either. If you’re currently managing work projects via a spreadsheet, here are six shortcomings that could be impacting the success of your programmes: 

1. Multiple versions of the same document 

One of the biggest problems with managing your project via spreadsheets is version control. It’s too easy to end up with multiple files – and for team members to use the wrong version. 

Version control issues often arise because more than one person must work on project documentation simultaneously. With a spreadsheet, it’s impossible for two people to edit the same data, so colleagues save their own copy of the master sheet. 

Those two files diverge very quickly, and it becomes challenging to cross-check information, so you can’t capture one version of the truth.   

In contrast, project and portfolio management (PPM) software like PM3 is designed to support projects where multiple teams work on data sheets simultaneously. 

2. It’s hard to share project information

We’ve already touched on the difficulties of using a spreadsheet for project management when two people edit information. But even just sharing plans can involve logistical issues.

If a colleague, contractor or client doesn’t have the same operating software as you, they may be unable to view project spreadsheets. If they can’t access your computer or shared drive, you’ll need to share your spreadsheet as an attachment, which can lead to version control issues, as we’ve previously mentioned. Plus, it’s insecure if you’re not encrypting your Excel file. 

3. Updating spreadsheets can be time-consuming 

I’m sure most of us know an Excel whizz, but what about people who aren’t so confident? Only 48% of professionals have had formal Excel training, instead ‘learning by feel’ on the job.

If you fall into this category, updating spreadsheets can be overwhelming – especially for complex projects involving multiple tabs and columns. Even if you’re a competent spreadsheet user, locating information can be a slow and frustrating process.

There’s also no simple way to track who has updated a spreadsheet and when, so it’s hard to know whether you’re looking at accurate, up-to-date information. 

4. Spreadsheets aren’t compatible with all devices 

Excel documents are easy to view on a desktop or laptop computer, but what happens when you’re on the move and want to see the latest project updates? Chances are you’ll be using your smartphone, and spreadsheets are harder to read on small screens. 

It can also be difficult to update data sheets from your mobile, particularly if you’re trying to access them through a shared drive, where specialist permissions are required. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding someone already has the file open on their computer and the worksheet is locked! 

5. Reconciling and reporting is a constant challenge

We mentioned earlier that version control issues mean spreadsheets must often be cross-referenced and updated. Reconciling is a major time and profit drain that can be avoided with more suitable PPM software.

Without accurate information it’s harder to report on progress, too. You need a central hub that is always up to date so you can pull the data you need in a format that’s easy to understand. 

Unlike PPM software, spreadsheets can require manipulation and manual data entry to create project reports. There’s a greater chance you’ll make a mistake, compromising the authenticity of your statistics. 

6. Spreadsheets are easily lost  

Your Excel document might ‘do the job’ when you’re working on the project, but what happens after that programme is complete? Your colleagues may need to access information at a later date – and a spreadsheet may be hard to locate.

Often, Excel files are saved to individual devices, meaning future users can’t find them. If they’re encrypted, passwords may have gone missing. And if you’ve been working with multiple versions of the same spreadsheet, project teams may reference the wrong document. 

Spreadsheets help organise your data, but they’re easy to lose track of and quickly fall out of date. These shortcomings can cause projects to slow down, stall, or include inaccurate information, to the detriment of everyone involved. 

Improve project management by switching to PPM software 

The safest way to protect valuable project information and work flexibly is to manage your future projects through PPM software. If you’re looking for a more efficient way to track projects, consider using PM3.

PM3 is an award-winning portfolio management tool designed to give you one version of the truth for all commercial projects. 

Avoid the shortcomings of spreadsheets: book your free PM3 demo to explore our PPM software.

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