Why You Need to Switch from Microsoft Excel to MS Project Online

Almost everyone, at some point in time, have managed or attempted to manage a project using Microsoft Excel. Since its release in 1987, this spreadsheet program is being used by millions of users today around the world for various purposes. It is an excellent software for spreadsheet creation, calculation, and data visualization.

Some of the reasons why people use Excel for project management is because Office is a popular application and is widely used by companies, institutions, and many other organizations. Therefore, people are familiar with it. And since it is flexible, managers try to make it work for project management, at the same time trying to save on spending for additional software.

Disadvantages of using Excel

Here are some of the disadvantages of using Excel as a project management tool:

1. Excel is not designed for project collaboration.

Excel may be flexible enough to allow a single user to manage a simple project, but most business cases are far from simple and solitary. The projects that companies initiate, plan, execute and deliver usually involve teams of multiple members, sometimes even involve multiple teams across the enterprise. Excel simply does not have the tools or features to automatically handle the coordination and updating of the status of different tasks being performed by multiple people.

2. Excel is limited as a data repository

As teams start to work on projects one after the other, and sometimes more than one simultaneously, the amount of project data can grow very fast. Since Excel as a standalone program can only hold certain types of data and information, teams will have to use other applications or solutions to manage their other project documentation. It can be difficult and confusing to find and update these documents separate from the other project information inside the spreadsheet.

3. Excel lacks the needed transparency in project management

Most of the time, the project manager will be in charge to update the Excel project spreadsheet regarding the completion of tasks, the progress of the project, the actual hours spent by each team member, and other important information. This can be time-consuming for the project manager. It can also be stressful for the team members who are constantly being asked for updates. And this process is prone to error. Furthermore, by the time the project manager consolidates the data, it is probably outdated and does not reflect the true status of the project.

4. Excel is not an ideal project reporting tool

Although Excel has data visualization tools, not everyone in the team would know how to use it. If there is a capable person, the rest may have to rely on him or her, and this can be burdensome for just one person. When senior management needs a presentation of the project, this would require extra effort to create additional views. And different persons need different views to analyze the project, which will require additional tabs in the spreadsheet until it is stretched to its limits.

5. Excel lacks essential project management capabilities

Creating a project schedule in Excel can be a lot of work simply because you will have to enter every bit of data. If you need to update a schedule, you will have to manually change everything, too. Furthermore, a Gantt chart is not automatically created in Excel, but Gantt charts are essential for project planning and scheduling. Another important feature is creating dependencies. This will have to be done manually to make sure tasks are done in the right sequence and order.

The Microsoft Project Online Solution

All these disadvantages in using Excel as a project management tool can be disregarded by switching to Microsoft Project Online. As a cloud-based solution, project team members can update the status of their tasks, share documents, and communicate with one another just using their web browser or mobile app.

Team members can easily submit timesheets, and project managers do not have to spend extra time asking for updates, collecting data, and updating documents for reporting purposes. The cloud-based solution includes the platform to capture and update in real-time information for payroll, billing, invoicing, and other purposes.

Microsoft Project Online includes built-in tools to plan projects, such as Gantt charts and other customizable templates. This helps in starting the project quickly instead of building from scratch. Furthermore, it has the reporting tools that can easily show the health of the project without having to ask a specialist to create the needed views. And all these information are visible for all members with the right access and privilege.

Benefits of using MS Project Online

Like many other cloud-based project management software, Project Online is a more suitable application than Excel for managing projects. Aside from having a collaboration-ready tool, Project Online has features designed to support project management best practices that help ensure project success:

  • Portfolio Management – provides a portfolio view of projects
  • Project Management – manage projects from waterfall to agile
  • Resource Management – provides advanced resource planning tools
  • Roadmapping – build ready-to-present roadmaps with high-level view of projects and programs
  • Project Collaboration – collaborate with integrated tools such as Planner, Teams, Skype, SharePoint, and others
  • Strong Reporting – track and report on project performance with out-of-the-box reports and Power BI solutions, and
  • 24/7 Accessibility – work from anywhere using a web browser, desktop, and mobile devices.

Transitioning from Excel to Project Online requires an investment in time, money, and resources. However, it is a good investment that can make a strong impact in the long run. Project information will be more transparent, processes can be more efficient, and people will be more effective with their time. All these productivities can mean more successful projects and also a happier project team.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.

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