Excel as projectmanagement tool – no thank you

I'm a geek. Yes. I love little gadgets and also software. Obviously, since I used to build software. Coming from software development I couldn't imagine the whole development and maintenance process without a good bug tracker (@Weri, I still don't like Jira). Have you ever done bugtracking with Excel? In my developer life I've used all kinds of bug tracking tools: Jira, Basecamp, Drupal, Flyspray, but never have I used Microsoft Excel to track any bugs by choice (I was actually put in front of a bug tracker Excel sheet, but refused to use it -> since we actually have a running Sharepoint server!).

Becoming a projectmanager in a medical company I had to realize that normal office people are different from developers. MS Excel seems to be everybody's best friend. Just out of context, I've even seen CVs written in MS Excel. Either the person doesn't know Word or Word just sucks at doing that kind of stuff. There are definitely use cases where Excel fits perfectly well, for example:

  • Migrating 1000 pages, keeping track of which pages have been migrated
  • Doing some calculations with some numbers, like project forecasts, break-even and and and
  • There are more scenarios, but I can't think of any.

I hope you get the idea.

The next question would then be, when to not use Excel:

  • Bug tracking
  • Tracking questions (and answers)
  • Planing ressources and projects
  • Collaboration work
  • and probably many more

To all those MS Excel fans out there. Yes, Excel is incredibly powerful and yes it is easy to use and yes everybody can work with it and yes you can take it on your notebook into a plane, but have you ever tried to co-work on the same document? This is going to be pretty hard I assume (and at least in Sharepoint 2007 together with Excel 2003 this doesn't work. I think it actually should work in Office 2010). Just think of a bug tracker Excel spreadsheet (yes I've seen one), leading a discussion is painful, and you could just delete somebody elses response…ups, shit happens. Have you ever accidentely overwritten somebody elses changes when working on the same document?

And again to all those Excel fans. There are simple tools out there, and I bet with HTML 5 advancing (or Google Gears) there's also going to be the possibility to work offline. As simple as those tools might be, most of them provide an Excel export function (at least Jira does). I've also worked with Basecamp, which is very easy (almost to easy for my geeky taste).

To all those who don't have a tool yet. Smashing Magazine has a nice list with tools. Right now we are using IBN Portal. I can totally understand why business people prefere some Excel or MS Access solution. It's fast. So to all developers of projectmanagement software out there: business people after all just want fast response times!

Probably there's going to be more on Excel in the PM world in the future.