How Spreadsheets Are Killing Your Productivity, Silently

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Are you a project manager working with multiple spreadsheets for budgeting, resource planning, scheduling, risk, and issue management and having them in different tabs on one excel sheet or multiple sheets?

Do you or your organization strongly believe that the use of spreadsheets is the best way to manage all the project management work with less investment and saving time and energy?

Is your company not interested in using online project management software?

Then, it’s time to pause and think and understand why to use a project management tool.

Let’s look closely at why spreadsheets are killing your productivity. Before that, however, we should understand what productivity is about or what it basically means.

What does it mean to be productive?

Everyone has to agree and know that one single task can be done in many different ways.

Let’s take running a household.

We have many tasks in one single day. Some include making a meal, cleaning the kitchen, doing and folding the laundry, setting up the dinner table, loading the dishwasher etc.

One can make a meal in 15 minutes and another person can make the exact same meal in 60 minutes and with the same taste. Which means in the first case the person must have done something definitely more efficient so it’s more productive.

But how was that person able to do it and not the other? Because the one that is faster is using the right tools.

Being productive essentially means doing the same work without compromising the quality of the outcome using fewer resources, time or energy. In other words, being more efficient by using the right tools.

When implying the same to the use of spreadsheets, you are looking at a jargon of tabs in one bulk sheet. It is almost impossible for the project manager to look at the task list every day and make sense.

Although spreadsheets are a good way of doing calculations, producing some basic pie charts, graphs etc., they also require a tremendous amount of time to review what you have put through thus killing productivity silently.

On the surface, one may think it is helpful, within budget and that it takes less time. But this is not entirely true.

Having to manage projects using spreadsheets kills productivity and the use of project management software is far better.

Reasons why spreadsheets don’t work

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1. Error-prone

When making formulae, graphs or reports or calculating anything on spreadsheets, there are heavy chances of having the data being buggy or the numbers emerging wrong out of an incorrectly created formula.

And also, the software MS Excel is being developed by the users in most cases. This also means there is less quality assurance that is being performed, which makes it riskier for accuracy in terms of data or graphs.

According to this, back in 2011, a support services group Mouchel has gone into an accounting error which cost them 8.6 million euros.

The widely known ‘London Whale Story’ of JP Morgan Chase which lost $6 billion in 2012 because of spreadsheet errors is another example. These numbers are speaking of danger and disaster and also emphasizing on the importance of using a project management tool.

2. Time-consuming

Making a ton of tabs for each category, column, type of data or task takes the most time out of any project manager or team lead or anyone that is using spreadsheets to fulfill their task needs.

Creating formulae for budgeting, or financial calculations, creating templates for project management activities, all of these take a lot of effort and time. Making pie charts and graphs for reporting purposes are also the most time consuming and error-prone tasks.

According to Ventana research cited from the source, 54% of the companies take seven or more days to perform a monthly close than those that use other software tools.

3. Hard to read or comprehend

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Since you will have to make as many tabs in one spreadsheet for each category of tasks and many spreadsheets in a similar manner based on the project needs and sizes, it becomes a very daunting task to read on a regular basis.

Sometimes, the creator would not be able to comprehend because of the chaos and the mess in having too many tabs and too many spreadsheets needed to be made for one project.

According to the same research, people using spreadsheets spend about 12 hours a month consolidating, modifying and correcting spreadsheets, which is about 10% of their time.

4. No version control

Version control immensely helps any team to be able to go back and verify the mistakes, gaps and fill them accordingly.

Since Excel cannot keep up with it, it is even more chaotic in cases where one needs to know what was done earlier or who has made an update for any particular tab or sheet.

This is why online project management software is extremely helpful and nimble in the most significant project management activities.

5. Security issues

The security of the data is not guaranteed.

There is password control and rights management, but not everyone takes it seriously, thus making the software more vulnerable to a security breach.

According to a Guardian report, about 10% of the companies reported that they experienced security data breach related to spreadsheets.

Conclusion

As one can easily notice, there are quite a few dangers and risks of using spreadsheets in the place of using an online project management software.

This is not to state that spreadsheets are not useful. They indeed are for minor tasks and creating lists and also for putting a quick task list or to-do project management daily tasks.

But this is not a replacement for using an online project management software. That’s because the project manager is keeping up with a lot of daily tasks and he/she stays on the top of those tasks in order to ensure the project is successful on time and within budget.

Spreadsheets are widely used in many companies such as small, medium and large IT industries and they should not completely leave us.

But the companies and the project management organizations should understand why to use a project management tool and the benefits and ease it offers if you adopt one and are willing to bring a change in your organization.

About The Author

David Miller is a technical writer currently associated with ProProfs Project. He enjoys writing about emerging project management products and its latest trends. To connect with David go to his LinkedIn profile.

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