How to Use Excel for Project Management (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Excel has many different uses in an organization and can help to improve many aspects of a business. Using it as a project management tool can help to increase productivity and the efficiency of a project. Understanding how to navigate Excel and use it for your assignments is essential for project management. In this article, we learn how to use Excel for project management purposes, discover some benefits that come from using Excel with your project, and examine some of the downsides of Excel.

How to use Excel for project management

Below is a list of steps to follow if you are interested in learning how to use Excel for project management:

1. Create a timeline

For a project to have the best chance of success, it's important that it has a timeline. This helps to ensure that everyone knows when they're expected to have their tasks completed. In Excel, you can create timelines to help the team stay on schedule. You can do this by creating a chart that displays the different tasks, when they're needed, and in what order the team may complete them. Organizing all this information into a visual chart makes it easier for everyone to understand the timeline of the project.

2. Create a budget

Having a budget is another essential step in helping to guarantee the success of a project. It allows all the people who are involved to be aware of what each stage may cost. You can easily create a budget spreadsheet in Excel that can help display this information. You can simply track any income or expenses, and Excel can perform basic calculations for you to help simplify the budget further. Creating the budget in Excel allows you to keep track of all the expenses involved with the project and helps to make sure you don't exceed the budget.

3. Develop the tasks

You can now begin to develop tasks for the various stages of the project. You want to do your best to develop a comprehensive list of all the tasks that may be involved. The more precise the list is, the better chance that your project may succeed. You can develop this list by consulting your Excel timeline and building the tasks based on the time frame for each stage of the project.

4. Input the tasks into a list

After you have developed the tasks for the project, you can input those tasks into a list in Excel. Creating a task list in Excel can make it easy to discover who's working on what tasks, when those tasks may be done, and if there are assignments that still have yet to be completed. You can organize the Excel spreadsheet into as many columns as you choose.

For example, you can have a column for the task name, who's working on it, whether it's in progress or submitted, and the date it's required to be completed. You can make the list more detailed by colour-coordinating some sections. For example, you can highlight a row in green if the task is considered finished, yellow if it's in progress, or red if it's overdue. This makes it easy to identify what tasks are at each stage.

5. Track task progression

If you want to have more in-depth tracking of how the project is progressing, you can use your Excel task list to generate charts and graphs of the status of the project. The charts and graphs can provide you with a clear visual representation of how much progress the project has made. If you expand your task list or make a separate project tracking sheet, you can include even more data, like the proposed budget and the actual cost of each stage of the project. All this information can help you maintain productivity and meet your deadlines.

Related: Benefits of Effective Time Management (With Actionable Tips)

6. Create a review of the project

When the project is complete, or if you're performing a review at different stages of the project, then you can use Excel as a tool to help you review the project. You can gather all the information from your various sheets and combine them to see how the project and your team performed.

Having this data easily accessibly helps you to better plan future projects and can help you anticipate and avoid any of the issues that you may have already encountered. You can have this data listed in a chart, graph, or separated into columns. This allows you to examine different sets of data in different ways.

Benefits of managing a project with Excel

Below are some benefits of using Excel as a project management tool:

Works best with small teams

While you can use Excel to manage your projects with a larger team, the system works best when adapting it to a smaller scale. This is because if you divide your spreadsheets into too many sections, it can become more difficult to remain organized. If you're managing a small team or even just a project on your own, this is where Excel performs best. A small team allows for better readability and easier distribution among the team members.

Related: Eight Steps for Managing Teams Effectively (With Tips)

Allows you to save money

Using Excel online makes the software free to access. This is a great benefit for a small business, or someone working on their own. Using free software to manage your projects can help reduce your overhead and maintain your budget. While more specialized project management software may be able to do more, it also typically costs more. Excel allows you to do all the basic functions that may be required to keep you and your team focused.

User friendly

Excel is user-friendly software. It's designed so that most people can learn to use it quickly and easily. This makes it ideal for everyone to use, especially when managing a project. Regardless of your technical proficiency, you can learn the basics of Excel, which may help you better plan your project. By choosing user-friendly software over more complicated software, you make sure that the information is easily accessible to all members of your team. It also means that you may be able to spend less time and money on training, which can help you stay on schedule and on budget.

It can help to analyze data

Excel is an extremely helpful tool to analyze and assess your data. The system can help you organize the data in numerous ways. This means that you can customize how you want to read the data and how you want to present it to others.

For example, if you are looking to separate the budget into estimated costs and actual costs, you can use the information you have and display the two items side by side in a list, in a graph, or even in a pie chart. Each form is available through Excel and you can decide which system works best.

Related: How to Become a Data Analyst (With Essential Skills)

Downsides of using Excel for project management

Listed below are a few downsides associated with using Excel:

Difficult to collaborate

Using an Excel document can make it more difficult to collaborate on a project, especially with a large team. This is because, unlike some dedicated project management software, Excel works best when used by a single individual. While this doesn't mean it's impossible to collaborate while using Excel, it does mean that it may require more steps to do so. If you're the person in charge of managing the project and tracking the data, then Excel is an excellent choice to use.

Has some management limitations

There are many tasks that Excel can do when it comes to task management, but it also has its limitations. While Excel is very simple to use, that simplicity comes from sacrificing some features that dedicated management software may have. As the team of people being managed grows, it may become more difficult to work within the limitations of Excel. In that scenario, you may want to consider changing to software that's specifically designed for project management.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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