Excel Project Management Guide

Excel Project Management Guide

Excel Project Management Guide
Excel Project Management Guide

Excel Project Management Guide
Most project managers use Excel at some stage of their project, and some use it exclusively. In this guide, learn all the ways you can use Excel to help you with your project. Includes free Excel templates to help get you started and to help track risks, issues, tasks, expenses as well as monitor your project performance, with our Dashboard template.

How to Start a Project in Excel

Whether you’re starting a large, formal project or a small one, you generally lead with a list. It can be helpful to open up Excel as a tool to sketch out the rough beginnings of your to-do lists and key dates and people needed to accomplish the project. The grid in Excel offers a natural logic, helping to define what tasks need to follow others, culminating in a final finished project.  Excel’s formulas are also obvious benefits when you’re defining column data like project budgets, and its more advanced features like pivot tables are great ways to visualize data in a spreadsheet.  Excel is useful for starting projects and developing a breakdown of tasks (sometimes called a Work Breakdown Structure). 
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Here’s what you need to do to get started:
  • First, you should have defined your project’s goals and deliverables in your project charter or Statement of Work. Once you have that, you can create a document in Excel to begin planning the project.     
  • Start with a Task Tracking or Project Tracking     
  • Add tasks and prioritize individually as well as add target start and end dates.    
  • Create distinctions between larger task activities and subtasks by rolling up some rows underneath a larger task.     
  • Define the planned duration of each task (how long is it supposed to take?)     
  • Assign the task to an individual responsible for completing that task.     
  • Save and share! You now have the beginnings of a project plan that you can share with your team. It’s important to invite others to contribute so they can see their role in the overall effort and share in the sense of accomplishment when tasks are marked off as completed.
Once you’ve started with the Task Tracking list, you can explore the other project management templates we have created for you. These can help with different phases and aspects of your project to help you ensure its successful delivery all the way through.

How to Manage a Project in Excel

If you’ve started a project in Excel, you may opt to go all the way and manage the entire project in Excel. Depending on your project’s complexity, you’ll decide how best to manage your project. But we’ve gathered some project management best practices here that you can use to help keep your project on track.  First, let’s explore what project management is to understand the different ways people can manage projects to help you discover the right way to manage yours. 

Pros and Cons of Excel

As anyone who has used Excel knows all too well, there are many frustrating aspects of Excel. It is a very complex tool, and there are definitely some Excel experts out there who know the ins-and-outs of Excel’s formulas to make the most out of all its features and make amazing charts and graphs. For the vast majority of Excel users, however, Excel is overly complex. Therefore, most people use the basic features of the tool to create spreadsheets, and even those can lead to many hair-pulling moments. 

Some key complaints of Excel for the majority of users are:      
  • Too complicated (requires Excel expert to create pivot tables and use most features     
  • Hard to read (have to scroll or squint)     
  • Time-consuming (have to spend hours cleaning up data)     
  • Buggy (crashes a lot)     
  • Version control problems     
  • Not online (can’t collaborate)
Sometimes, even staring at the blank Excel spreadsheet can be daunting, and when you’re starting a new project, it can be hard to know how to structure your project data correctly.  It might surprise you to know that it’s good project management practice to take advantage of the myriad of free Excel templates us and others like us have posted. It saves time and money to be able to jump right into adding the information to a pre-set excel template.  Before you jump into a template, however, it’s important to know where Excel truly helps you on your project and where it’s only liable to cause you frustration and time.
Project Activities Excel is Ideal for:
  • To-Do Lists     
  • Task Tracking     
  • Budget Management     
  • Issues, Risks and Changes Tracking     
  • Pivot Table Reports 
Project Activities Excel is Not Ideal for:
  • Advanced Project Management     
  • Team Management     
  • Client or Stakeholder Management     
  • Gantt Charts (okay it has been done, but it’s not time well spent)     
  • Real-time reporting     
  • Collaboration 
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In short, use Excel as a tool that can help you, not make things harder for you. Luckily there are other project tools that can help offset Excel’s limitations, and they generally work seamlessly with Excel so you can toggle between both programs as needed.
The Author: Ala'a Elbeheri
                                          Ala'a Elbeheri
A versatile and highly accomplished senior certified IT risk management Advisor and Senior IT Lead Auditor with over 20 years of progressive experience in all domains of ICT.  
• Program and portfolio management, complex project management, and service delivery, and client relationship management.      
• Capable of providing invaluable information while making key strategic decisions and spearheading customer-centric projects in IT/ICT in diverse sectors.    
• Displays strong business and commercial acumen and delivers cost-effective solutions contributing to financial and operational business growth in international working environments.      
• Fluent in oral and written English, German, and Arabic with an Professional knowledge of French.  
• Energetic and dynamic relishes challenges and demonstrates in-depth analytical and strategic ability to facilitate operational and procedural planning.  
• Fully conversant with industry standards, with a consistent track record in delivering cost-effective strategic solutions.    
• Strong people skills, with proven ability to build successful, cohesive teams and interact well with individuals across all levels of the business. Committed to promoting the ongoing development of IT skills  throughout an organization

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