Why you should stop using spreadsheets for project management


Within project management, there is a heavy reliance on large and elaborate spreadsheets. But the fact is that these spreadsheets can leave you exposed to a range of risks and inefficiencies. 

While spreadsheets have previously had their place and may have been useful for small-scale projects and basic project management, once you have numerous projects on the go, or your projects become more complex, they are no longer manageable. 

Business woman with her head in her hands sitting in front of a desktop screen with a spreadsheet

Yes, the lack of features provided within spreadsheets can be made up for with intensive manual labour, but this is not an efficient or smart way to be working. Working in this way will waste both time and energy that could be focused on the project and deliverables, rather than the behind-the-scenes tools that make them happen.

Here are a few of the main reasons why you should not still be using spreadsheets.

1. Reputational risks

Your reputation is a huge part of retaining loyal clients and signing new clients. Customers want to feel they can trust you and your brand to work in their best interests, with the best tools on offer. 

When clients ask how their projects are being managed and the answer is spreadsheets, this is a red flag, which can result in an immediate lack of confidence in your business’s capabilities.  Clients will feel unsettled knowing their project is not easily trackable, traceable or reportable.

If your clients think that things can be easily missed when working with you, or they have concerns that you can not handle complicated portfolios, it puts your brand at risk and will cause reputational damage over the long term. 

2. No single source of truth

When working on delivering a project, it is key that all stakeholders are making informed decisions based on the same information.

If there is a lack of standardisation, compliance inconsistencies occur, and insufficient accountability is the result. 

Anyone working on the project, including the client, needs access to real-time data to ensure that their decisions are being guided appropriately. When excessive variations occur and collaboration becomes difficult within spreadsheets, there can be a lack of version control and no single source of truth. 

Spreadsheets fail to make data easily accessible for things like analytics and benchmarking, and you can never be sure that you have up-to-date information. 

3. Increased chance of errors

When you’re working with millions of dollars, even the smallest error can have severe repercussions. 

Spreadsheets are error-prone, and as the complexity of data grows over the project lifecycle, the chances of errors increase, putting reporting and decision-making at risk. 

Spreadsheets rely on calculations, where formulas must be correct and precedent cells must hold accurate data. This can go particularly haywire when multiple people are working off the same spreadsheet – version history becomes a nightmare and data can be incorrectly deleted or changed without you even noticing it. Only one mistake needs to be made to have a snowball effect on the entire project outcome. 

This can cause you to lose control over your project and leaves you vulnerable to errors that can cause unknown overruns, complete misreporting of cash flows and final forecast costs and missed deliverables.

When no one takes ownership of the spreadsheet to ensure the file is being maintained and that it is accurate, it’s only a matter of time before human error occurs.

4. Lack of transparency, visibility and accessibility

It should be clear by now that transparency, visibility and accessibility are crucial for a project to run smoothly. These are three things that spreadsheets do not deliver on.

When there is minimal transparency, visibility and accessibility, key decision-makers are unable to properly analyse the data, which leads to significant risk in financial reporting and capital allocation. Value-add opportunities from senior managers are also missed when information isn’t clear.

Those involved in the project have no choice but to trust that the spreadsheet has been quality-assured across every formula and data point, and lose valuable time navigating information that is poorly displayed.

Large projects often need to be run across multiple rows and columns in a spreadsheet and across a range of tabs, making it difficult to visualise and see the entire picture. The details are unlikely to be able to fit onto one screen and it is often the case that more than one spreadsheet will be needed for different aspects of the project, making a difficult job even more difficult. 

5. Labour-intensive and manual processes

Project management is a huge job in and of itself, without adding laborious processes to the never-ending list of things that need to be done.

Spreadsheets are time-consuming and painful to manage or customise, and building and maintaining these spreadsheets is tedious. This slows down project management teams and chews through productivity. 

Spreadsheets can not automatically track timelines, are not efficient in assigning and reassigning tasks, cannot send notifications or enforce deadlines, and have limited attachment options and minimal options for comments. 

Manually ticking off all these things risks double handling, loss of information and time overruns. 

6. No reporting capabilities

Reporting is an essential part of every project, and within spreadsheets is complicated and – you guessed it – manual. Spreadsheets offer no built-in reporting features and governance, and probity risk leads to a loss of savings and value. 

Spreadsheets do not offer integrated tracking of the taxpayers’ dollars, the funds then the delivery of projects and contracts to asset realisation.

7. Lack security

Breaches in data, intellectual property and client information are huge issues within every company. 

Spreadsheets are commonly shared through email or data storage services, making them lack security and putting client data at risk. Projects should be managed on a platform that can be audited, and is secure and cloud-based to mitigate the risk of data and security breaches. 

SurePact’s Portfolio and Project Management platform fits the bill, and provides built-in analytics and real-time reporting dashboards to give project managers and their teams the data they need to reduce risks and allocate the right resources at the right times. 

The SurePact solution allows for strong compliance through its intelligent data capture, contingency compliance and subcontractor transparency, and a collaborative platform that connects to corporate software, providing teams with visibility and transparency. It enables process automation, reduces duplication, improves tendering times and creates efficiencies. 

Leave the spreadsheets behind and book a demo with SurePact to learn more.


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