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Challenges of Spreadsheets in Management, and How the Right Solution can Help

Spreadsheets. Even though spreadsheets were never meant to manage projects; it is still widely used for resource- and project management purposes. It might work out fine the initial months or years of a business’ life, but as the business grows; it often becomes this mess of data that nobody likes to deal with, maybe except for that one really passionate Excel guy, but otherwise it’s often generally just a hassle to keep everybody up-to-date through a shared spreadsheet.

Just like shared spreadsheets and documents; email threads have the same tendency to become a mess over time. In the beginning it might work out fine - everybody is correctly attached to the email, and the message went out just fine. But after the initial email the problems often begins to arise. People forget to reply-all, or attach new people who might find the information valuable, or maybe half of the people attached don’t need this specific information. It’s generally a mess, and after some time you’re only saved by your email client’s search functionality to find the information you need.

That’s why we’re fond of a more centralized approach, in the sense that your data, communication and assets are collected and managed from the same interface across the organization. The right people are attached, and everybody can follow the status and communication with regards to your specific tasks. You can simply click a button, and you have access to see what your teammates are doing, or find a person with the exact skillset you need.

Below, we will go through some of the problems we often see in digital- and creative agencies, or just in general in many businesses out there.

Limited functionality and usability

Spreadsheets, though you can almost do anything in them with a creative mind, they’re generally not very user-friendly. People don’t understand them, understandably, since it’s basically a sheet of paper with a mess of hidden commands that you need to become a wizard to get the hang of. Also, only few things can be automated in an ordinary spreadsheet. In a project team, it is crucial that the information is shared, what’s the current status, which conversations did we have, what did we decide, and who’s actually a part of this project or task.

This information is really a struggle to keep updated in a plain spreadsheet, and not least keeping everybody in the know about these updates. You don’t have the same notification functionality as many more centralized systems have incorporated.

Collaboration is not in the nature of spreadsheets

Documents and spreadsheets are designed to be managed by one person individually, and not a whole project team. Just like you wouldn’t have 10 people write on the same piece of paper at the same time. It just doesn’t work out - it’s a mess.

A structured whiteboard on the other hand makes a lot more sense. There’s some kind of structure built-in, and people know where to get the information they need. It’s quick and brings a better overview. That’s the same approach that we bring into digital project management tools. The benefit here is that the tool keeps a log of everything, and makes sure everything is where it needs to be. Nothing just disappears out of nowhere, and you can easily share assets from one department to another, or just across the room, in a second.

Project information is not always up-to-date

Separate spreadsheets and tools are not always kept up-to-date. Not on purpose, but because people forget about it, or simply just don’t have the time to do so. Often you don’t realize that the changes you make to a task might influence the work of a handful of others. Imagine if you could just go to one person and get all the information you need - that’s what a centralized platform can bring you.

Spreadsheets are not made for project management

Managing your resources and tasks are not features built-into the world of spreadsheets. You might be able to find some workarounds, and sorta get it working, but ultimately you’ll probably experience problems as time passes by. A digital resource- and project management solution can give you a quick overview of the resources currently available, now and in the future, and the tasks currently at hand.

Tool-tip: Forecast has a built-in “quick book” functionality that manages the struggle in finding an available person with the exact skills you need. Simply, click the button, choose the role you need, the skills, and when you need the person. Forecast will now provide you with a list of available team members.

Constant maintenance of custom spreadsheet setups using valuable time

Everything manually customized needs special treatment, and so does custom spreadsheets. It’s rare that a spreadsheet works out just the way you imagined throughout the whole lifespan of a project. You might have to spend time altering the setup, which people needs to adapt to, and understand where to find the information they specifically need.

Again, centralized well-thought through solutions are often set up the way they are for a reason. Of course systems need new features, changes and adaptations over time, but generally they should work out of the box on a continuous basis.

Moving your team from spreadsheets to Forecast

Finally, the process of getting your team to change might depend on your situation in the organization and project team. If you’re new, you might want to spend two weeks or so, getting to know their current project management system - especially if they seem to like it. As the most would probably understand, having a “stranger” joining the team, and wanting to change everything from the day to another might be annoying. “What do they (“stranger”) know?”

Instead if you feel that things could work out better with another tool, e.g. Forecast, introduce it slowly. Include the team in the discussions, what are the pros and cons of the old vs. the new, how long would it take to switch, and how would the daily workflow be for the team in the new setup. Simply having a discussion of these things can greatly improve people’s overall perception and will to change. Easing the switch, and getting everything back to a productive level again - hopefully even better than before.

Integrations might also be a great addition to look into. Maybe there are just some tools that your team can’t live without, and why should you then? Look into our ever expanding catalog of integrations; you might find your favorite tool integrated already, or if not, let us know and we’ll look into the possibility of adding it. That way you can automatically import, export and sync data between all of the tools you need.

“A project is really a conversation about stuff that needs to take place. Your resource- and project management tool is the central destination for this communication.”

After some time, a month or two, with the new solution, ask your team if they like the new approach. If they do; great! - if not, what is it exactly and how can we improve? At Forecast, we’re always ready for your feedback, whether positive or negative, please let us know, and we’ll do everything in our power to work it out with you.

 

If you haven’t tried Forecast yet, or have any questions, you can book a live demo and get a personal meeting with one from our success team. We’ll happily help you out!

Kasper Nymand
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Kasper Nymand
Yello! I'm Kasper, and I'm doing Marketing at Forecast. Apart from that, I enjoy experimenting with various projects to see where my imagination brings me.
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