Reader's Corner No. 110: Why Excel Won't Work for Project Management, PM isn't Just for Project Managers, and How to Track Percent Complete

The theme for this month is Project Management! Here are three great PM-themed article submissions from a few of our seasoned Project Managers. Whether you are a Project Manager or not, everyone can benefit from these useful and practical management tips. Learn why Excel doesn't exactly excel as a project management tool, see the 4 project management skills that everybody needs to know, and review this guide to tracking percent complete throughout a project.

Why Excel Doesn’t Work as Your Company’s Project Management Tool

David Minton

Source: Workzone Blog

Takeaway: Reading “just throw it in Excel” hit too close to home. Too many times over the years clients have tried to manage their part of a project in Excel rather than in our, or at least their, project management software. It’s easy, or we already have it are often among the responses. Inevitably, to of my favorite (yet also dreaded) sayings, inevitably follow: “bad data is worse than no data,” and “the cheapest solution is not always the least expensive.” Trading Excel files back and forth almost always leads to information that requires time-consuming consolidation and deduplication. The time spent when projects go well despite Excel, let alone the cost of delayed projects, typically eats away any (and more) of the savings of using Excel. Among the “7 Reasons Why Excel Doesn’t Work For Project Management” enumerated in the article, “Limited Insights = More Mistakes,” “Project details can get lost in Excel,” and “Confusion is the norm” really resonated with me. This is why we dumped Excel as our primary management tool over ten years ago. We currently use Projects from for our project management, though are many tools from free to dear that do a far more competent job than Excel.

Tags: #ProjectManagement

Project Management Isn't Just For Project Managers: 4 Skills You Need To Know

Stephen Pashby

Source: Forbes

Takeaway: "Even if you are not a project manager, nearly everyone will be involved in projects in their career and personal life. While there are many aspects of project management that are valuable for everyone, some less obvious ones are:

  1. Agreeing on what will get done, how, for whom, and what will mean success
  2. Determining whether a project should happen before it starts
  3. Analyzing project risk
  4. Post project debriefs of what went well and what could be improved upon


Tags: #ProjectManagment

How to Track Percent Complete

Michael Nicholson

Source: A Girl's Guide to Project Management

Takeaway: The author discusses three separate methods of tracking percentage completion of tasks (and projects).

  1. Using professional judgment, whether your own or that of your SMEs. This is potentially the best when your judgment or that of your SMEs is accurate and generally available.
  2. Weighted activities can be used to measure percent completion. The concept is that if your task can be measured into discrete chunks, you can measure progress based on that. For instance, 500 lines of code can be broken into 5 100 line chunks, each of which is 20%. This is straightforward and therefore relatively easy to track, but it assumes that each section is the same level of effort, which may not be accurate.
  3. If a task is difficult to judge (or if you and/or your SMEs have relatively little experience with this type of task) and it doesn't break down well into parts, you can use arbitrary numbers to measure percentage. The example used is 0% for tasks that haven't been started, 20% for started, and 100% for complete. This can be an easy way to measure something about a task, and may be necessary if you are getting poor estimates or no estimates from your team, but it lacks the benefit of precision compared to the other options.

Ultimately, measuring the percentage of completion is a helpful way to keep an eye on overall project progress; depending on the nature of the tasks in your project, you may find one or more of these options helpful.

Tags: #ProjectManagement

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