You Can’t Manage a Project using EXCEL – a Rant.

Seeing adverts and tweets and social media postings such as “EXCEL Templates for Project Management” are making me mad!  If this rant can stop just one new project manager from using them, and encourage the use of proper project managment software then I’ll be happy. Because You Can’t Manage a Project using EXCEL – a Rant.

Edit: I’ve had some really positive responses to this blog and re-tweets from people who know exactly what I’m on about. I’ve had several responses who say that this is nonsense, so let me make a few things clear: I know that people deliver projects. I know that good project management training is vital. Tools are just a choice to get a job done. However, using EXCEL for scheduling is wrong in my view, and that is what this post is about.


Would you use ‘MS Project’ to Manage your Finances?

You can manage and create your project budget in MS Project, but not many people model their project finances in MS Project. You certainly couldn’t report financial accounts in MS Project, so why do people think that they can use EXCEL to manage a project?


Spreadsheet – for Finances, Charts, Graphs

Excel Project Management Templates

EXCEL templates have a use – don’t get me wrong, but don’t think you are becoming a project manager by using them. Some templates for risk logs/registers are very comprehensive and these work because they are blank templates for completion.

Task list templates are excellent for certain types of projects – “Repeater Projects” – those that are very similar to a past project. However, if the project differs in some ways, you run the risk of following the template and not thinking about the differences and unique elements of your project.

Project Plan

Project  – for Planning Projects

Templates also encourage the omission of other team members in the project planning process – wouldn’t it be better to use the team to create a proper project plan rather than edit a template?

EXCEL is great for listing things – like Project Tasks. But so is WORD, Notepad, and MS Project…… and the back of an envelope.


Envelope – Turn it over……

Use a template (with the team) to start the task listing process – and then move to a proper Project Management software tool.

But EXCEL can do pretty colours.

Excel Plan

Excel Plan

So can Crayola…..get yourself a colouring book.



Projects are Unique

By definition, “projects are unique”. So there is no single template  – and never will be – for project management. A template will always start off as a compromise to your potential project plan. An EXCEL template will only provide part of the plans.

EXCEL Can’t Do This

EXCEL project plans are often limited to tasks and dates. i.e. a ‘Schedule’ and not a ‘Plan’. EXCEL schedules are static rather than dynamic and may exclude:

…and if you build all of this into EXCEL then you should either have a job as a software developer or have used  Project Management Software instead. (Are you doing your company any favours by creating a complex spreadsheet system that nobody else understands?)

Use the Correct Tools for the Job

Using EXCEL implies that Project Management is just about ‘Task Lists’ and ‘Gantt Charts’. It isn’t. Take a look at this list of 14 Project Management tools.

Professional Project Managers

Use the right tool for the job. The job is project management, not “getting by” with EXCEL. If you are managing a project, then act professionally. Use the right tools for the job – software designed to manage projects.

Microsoft Project Training (Alternatives to MS Project are Available)

Get the training to use the right tool for the job. Train yourself in how MS Project works, and you will at least appear to be trying to be a project manager. Find details of training on MS Project from AbleSim here!

EXCEL – great for spreadsheets and data. MS Project – great for managing projects. Each to their own! OK, you can use EXCEL to manage parts of the project plan, but should you be using a better tool?

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Posted On: 8th September 2017

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