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What are the Limits of Excel as a Project Management Tool?

Roger Frederick's Profile


Topic Expert
Deborah Godfrey
Title: Budget Administrator, Business Manager, ..
Company: Seeking Employment
(Budget Administrator, Business Manager, Project/Program Manager, Seeking Employment) |

Hi Roger, I don't know of any limits of excel off hand when working with project management software. I do know that exporting from project management to excel can be very useful. It is a great tool to use when sharing information on project with concerned parties that may not have project management to review reports, etc.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Excel is very flexible and can do just about anything. I am a big fan. But excel is not the best software for Project Management. Try Microsoft's Projects. Why try to create in excel, something that is already available?

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

While I agree with Regis on the first part of his answer, I'm just not a fan of Project. Unless it's improved greatly and the last 2 years or so (since the last time I played with it), it still lacked the granular control that is reality for most projects ( people multi-task).

Topic Expert
Henry Schumann
Title: Manager FP&A
Company: Allscripts
(Manager FP&A, Allscripts) |

The "limits" to Excel for project management is that it doesn't inherently give one the ability to build dependency relationships among tasks and produce Gantt charts. There are probably ways to do formula programming within Excel to simulate ways to build scenarios to arrive at task optimization, but as Regis points out MS project does that for you already.

If your goal is to purely track time and/or cost against a forecast, Excel can accomplish that.

Best of luck in your project tracking, Roger.

(Analyst) |

Excel is one of the most limited and worst tools to use for this. The comment about granular control in Project is incorrect and has been for years (though I can not recommend it totally either). The biggest problem with Excel, is you will have to 'invent' most of the tools you get out of package from one of the other products. Sure, if you know how to use WORKDAYS and NETWORKDAYS you can get some information, but producing GANTT charts and reports, you are pretty much on your own. The total investment in time and resources in producing a true project management tool, may lead you to investing $$ in another product that does it all out of the box.

Jason Chroman
Title: Vice President Finance & Controller
Company: Tubular Labs
LinkedIn Profile
(Vice President Finance & Controller, Tubular Labs) |

There's no question that Microsoft Project is a better tool for project management than Excel. However, one problem I've seen with MS Project is that it doesn't run on a Mac. So if you're a Mac user, you'd have to run Parallels or Boot Camp to run Project, which is two extra steps. And sharing MS Project files means that you either have to share them as PDFs, or the people your sharing with also have to have Project.

The difficult thing about Excel is that you'll have to create a project management template on your own. The good thing is that practically everyone has it and you can share plans easily, cross platform, via email.

You may also want to check out, which is calls itself an online spreadsheet, but their main template is project management.

Topic Expert
Mark Sphar
Title: Chief Accounting Officer
Company: Veracity Payment Solutions
(Chief Accounting Officer, Veracity Payment Solutions) |

Agree with most everyone on this thread. Save the time and frustration of building a model in Excel and buy a tool that is specific to that purpose. We are about to implement a product called AtTask for project management. Per user pricing is around $400 per year.
Good luck.

brian Norton
Title: Director
Company: Dynamic Business Innovations
(Director, Dynamic Business Innovations) |

I prefer to work with mind maps to develop a project specification and then plan. I would not use Excel as it is just not designed for this purpose. Products such as MindGenius allow the export of a map into its own Gantt chart within the software together with task and resource allocations.. In most cases for single projects this is all that is required. However when you get to multiple projects with significant resource contention more sophisticated project software is required.

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Agree with most of the comments, excel is limited in this area. We are using Asana currently. You can start with the free version to test it out.

John P. Hart
Title: Vice Pres - CFO
Company: Nova Pressroom Products, LLC
(Vice Pres - CFO, Nova Pressroom Products, LLC) |

Basecamp is a great solution.
Cloud based, not charged by number of users.
I've used Basecamp in the original version and the new graphical version now for three years in two different companies.

Great for goal-setting, communications better than regular email (end email tumbleweed!), centralized files/document, calendars, etc., etc.

Works great right from the first project. Free trial.

(PM) |

I'd second Basecamp for some simple project management, worked well for us for a time. We started using Quickbase since it allowed us to customize it to our exact process and we are able to rapidly deploy a few new apps to solve other departmental issues within it as well. Nice to have it all centralized and available anywhere our team is. Bring it into any new company I work.

Megan Wale
Title: Project Manager/Blogger
Company: Techno-PM
(Project Manager/Blogger, Techno-PM) |

Excel is great and simple to use for any documentation. Project management documents can be made even better by using excel templates. For more features which excel has limitation i prefer Smart Sheet PM tool for work.
But for free Excel documents is my go to website anytime. They offer free project management templates for all phases of project life cycle.

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