3 Reasons Managing Projects in Excel Hurts Your Bottom Line

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Excel is an excellent tool and, in point of fact, most people use Excel for some aspect of their project management. It’s helpful for starting a to-do list, tracking things like issues and risks, and creating reports, for example.

But Excel could be costing you money.

With new collaboration tools and online project management software on the market, teams are moving away from Excel to manage projects to save both time and money. They find that, with increased productivity, they are able to focus on other organizational priorities like strategy and change, and even discover ways to make use of substantial cost savings earned through more efficient use of project management software.

Managing Projects in Excel

Let’s take a look at three ways Excel can hurt your business:

1. Lack of collaboration features

According to a McKinsey study, we each spend up to 2.5 hours a day searching for information on the job.

When you’re managing tasks and teams, you inevitably produce a stream of conversations, files and updates around a particular task. In Excel, you can add columns to each task’s row to add notes, but files attach clunkily and conversations are near to impossible. So teams take to email, Slack, or Slack alternatives to chat about the task, but then that conversation and all the files and attachments are now lost in long email threads. Searching back through all that email to find important files takes time — nearly 10 hours weekly per person — which adds up to serious time and money spent.

There is a better way. When you manage tasks using online project management software, there are collaboration features embedded at the task level, so conversations can be tied to the task. Attachments like files, videos, and images can also be added to the task. So the task contains the history of its progress, and the team can see and share it all simply by opening up that task in the tool, wherever they are. What used to take hours, now takes mere seconds.

2. Time Consuming

Excel is rather notorious for inspiring sighs of frustration from coworkers when it crashes or gets stuck in spinning-wheel mode as it tries to process large amounts of data.

Even when it is working seamlessly, or the user is an advanced user, Excel still just takes too much time to do what you are trying to do.

Let’s say you’re trying to produce a task progress report. You often have to spend time structuring and cleaning up your data in order to create the right table or chart. When you have to produce weekly reports, that can quickly add up to lost time that could better be spent on other tasks.

Online project management tools offer nearly instant report generation and some even offer real-time dashboards — snapshots of task status, budget status, and your team’s workload at any given point in time. Additionally, because your team can access the online tool, there’s no need to run around asking for task updates from your team, recording that in your Excel doc, running a report, and then emailing that report to the execs. When your team member updates a task in an online project management tool, the project schedule is automatically updated, you are sent an alert to the device of your choice, and your execs and team can look at reports whenever they want to see them.

Now you have time to focus on strategy and managing your team, not managing cells in Excel.

3. Single Point of Failure

It’s called a “single point of failure” when you have one person exclusively responsible for business-critical capabilities that can threaten the success of the project or the business when they leave. Many organizations have the “Excel whiz” on their team. That’s the person everyone else relies on to produce the reports, manage the project data and communicate important project details. But people go on vacations, get sick, and leave organizations — you can’t afford to have your project data go with them.

Training new people takes time (and money), and of course if there’s any interruption to the performance data of your projects, that can cost you, too. You can solve this by opening up access to the project data to more people, which you can do in online project management software.

Most software companies also support Excel imports, so you can easily transfer your Excel files to the online platform. But you can’t do that if the file is lost or corrupted.

Whereas project management software used to be reserved for professional project managers, today lots of different people are managing their projects online, introducing new ways of collaborating with their team. When used correctly, these new collaboration and project management tools “could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value,” according to McKinsey.  And that’s a lot of bottom line.


How do you make your meetings more efficient? Do you use any of these tips? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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About the Author


Stephanie Ray

Stephanie Ray is the Content Director at ProjectManager.com. She develops strategies for digital content and has over 15 years’ experience leading project and product teams for print, mobile and web.



Completely agree with Stephanie here, in today’s competitive businesses environment, companies can’t rely on excel for project management. In order to stay ahead of the competition more and more companies are shifting to project management software and those who are not, possess the risk of being left behind.

Project management involves quite a number of tasks and therefore I believe companies should shift to project management software which will allow them to manage everything from a single place. Software which will allow a user to assign tasks to different users, create milestones for different tasks, schedule tasks, manage the deadlines, etc. Basically a software which will not only help in managing the overall project but finding the progress of the tasks assigned, something like Clintra.


This was very biased against Excel. If you want to make a point, even handedness is the best way. Normally if you are sharing files you have a directory, drive or at a minimum a folder structure where all files reside. You then put the hyperlink to that file in the workbook.

To say Excel crashes any more frequently than other software is, in my estimation, incorrect. When you are managing a project the size of the workbook is generally small compared to what Excel can handle.

The third point is about the Excel expert. Yes that is true, but how is it any different than the expert with any software? In my company MS Project was limited to only the people leading the project, as the cost for licenses for all team members couldn’t be justified. Also, the complex work is in the setup, so once you do that, anyone can control the workbook.

I prefer project management tools to manage a project, but I thought these arguments were not convincing.

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