Why Excel may be costing you time and money

Miree Le Roy - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For years, Excel has been a staple project management tool. But have you ever stopped to consider whether in some instances using Excel may actually be more of a hindrance than a help in managing your projects? I’m not saying there is no place for Excel in project management, but the heavy reliance of organisations on Excel as one of the main project management tools can often involve more work than is needed.

Take the developing of a forecast cost report for example. You may have your initial estimate in an Excel spreadsheet, which needs to be transferred into a forecast cost report, along with other information, such as actual costs. You could spend days developing this report by retrieving information from two or three different areas. The report is then put together using a range of formulas, which if inadvertently changed can alter the entire data set and make it inaccurate.

Then consider how this report is used. There may be two or three project managers working on the report, so it has to be shared around to be updated and often it can become confusing as to which is the correct version. Some project managers may even store Excel documents on their own laptops or computers making reports inaccessible should they be absent.

I’ve taken this same scenario and applied it to IPM. To develop a forecast report here, you can import your original estimate document from Excel into IPM. IPM then takes the information from it and uses consistent formulas to create other files relating to your project, such as job tasks, the original budget detail and the Gantt chart schedule. This information can then be used to generate a whole range of reports, including a forecast cost report complete with the ability to drill down into each task to see costs and forecast details. And because the formulas used to generate this information are embedded in the report design there is no risk of accidentally altering data.

We recently created a forecast cost report for a client using IPM and the process was completed in under an hour, something that may have taken two or three days solely using Excel. With IPM, job data is now also stored in one central place, so everyone who needs to can access and update information easily and there is never any confusion as to which is the current version. The information needed to generate the forecast cost report will continue to update when information is added into other areas of IPM, such as detailed forecasts or costs transferred from the accounting system. You can then generate a new report on demand and it will have the most up to date information, so you get instantaneous, reliable and accurate reports for your job quickly.

I’m sure if you asked any project manager whether they would prefer to take three days or one hour to generate a forecast cost report, they would choose the latter. But what do you think?


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