Project Management

Don't overcomplicate small IT projects, manage them with Excel

Microsoft Project is a robust, capable project management tool but, you can effectively manage small or midsize projects with Excel--saving yourself or your IT budget a pretty penny.

Microsoft Project is a robust, capable project management tool but, you can effectively manage small or midsize projects with Excel--saving yourself or your IT budget a pretty penny.

In 2002, Ken Brown, submitted what he labeled as a "low-budget Excel version of Microsoft Project." At the time, Brown was an independent consultant working with Akibia Consulting in Dallas.

Excel project-planning spreadsheet

The project template contains sample tasks to get you started.

He said that two issues drove him to create his Excel project-planning template. Complexity was the first issue. Many of his team members were uncomfortable and/or unfamiliar with Microsoft Project. Cost was the second issue. "With this spreadsheet, we are able to lay out and manage small to medium-sized projects without the cost of deploying Project to all team members," he said.

If you have a small to midsize project coming up, download the spreadsheet to quickly and easily organize your project.

Today's lesson

What's the takeaway from Brown's experience? Use the right tool for the job. Unless you're competing in Purdue University's annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, there is no need to use a tool that's more complex than the problem.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

18 comments
APezz
APezz

I use EasyProjectPlan which is an Excel Project Plan that syncs with Outlook and MSProject: www.EasyProjectPlan.com

Ptero.4
Ptero.4

Does this means that this project stuff HAVE to be made on M$ apps. Or can it be made in OSS ones.

osocram
osocram

Many times I'm surprise read about the use of tools for Project Management. in the standar of PMI (PMBoK) there are more than 100 tools and technics for manage a project. (Gant is a tool for reports -NO for management, and MS-Project cover only (maybe) 5-6 of these 100 tools), so, working with a spreadsheet coul be more usefull than the people think (with Word, Powerpoint, todolist/software, risk software, communication infraestructure, etc, etc..

dean.owen
dean.owen

MS Project was always to big and cumbersome for the projects we worked on - even big ones. Excel worked well for tracking as well as making gantt charts. Dean

2rs
2rs

My thanks to Ken Brown! Excellent tool for us Excel lovers. I just finished a huge database conversion project & this tracking tool sure would have helped me! I had considered MS Project but the cost was too prohibative.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=104 Microsoft Project great but, you can effectively manage small or midsize projects with Excel--making it a great IT multifunction tool. What other hardware/software tools does your IT department use for applications other than their intended purpose?

osocram
osocram

OpenProj make the same thinks as MsProject and it?s free.

pepoluan
pepoluan

I personally prefer using EverNote. The free version is more than capable for my needs. If you do a Google search, you'll find how people also use EverNote for GTD.  

natem
natem

It's easy to use like Excel but includes a Gant chart and resource management. It's easier to visualize the timeline when it's laid out graphically. http://live.gnome.org/Planner

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

MS Project and similar can take your Excel spreadsheet and display it as a Gantt chart. The first PM tool I used was a precursor to MS Project .. by Lotus I believe. It was an MS DOS based programme and worked better than my current version of MS Project. Can someone explain why it is that I drag the end date of a timeline on a Gantt chart to a particular date and drop it, MS Project decides I want the end date to actually be some time before where I dropped it? Les.

GSG
GSG

Each project that I do gets a Sharepoint Project Page. From there, I create document libraries where I keep all manuals, documentation, etc... I also keep a calendar (Gannt view is supported), announcements, links, etc... When the project is implemented, and we move to a maintenance phase, I keep what I call the Top 10 list. This lists the top 10 things that can go wrong with the system, and the fixes. I also keep a list of all tickets that were opened with the vendor, with a description of the problem, and what the fix is. Essentially, it's a cradle to grave web portal dedicated to that project/product.

Lwood
Lwood

I use word with tables for commenting on projects and check off lists for, "must do's" and milestones. If I finish a task I put a check box in the task to let me know I can move on with other aspects of the project. The comment fields come in handy for note taking.

chris
chris

Planner is far lighter weight that MS Project, which, for most projects is all you really need. The key is to consider it a step up from Excel and not a step down from Project.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I've used Sharepoint to manage projects in the past. Unfortunately, I've found that it runs very slowly when multiple people are hitting the server. I hear the latest release is a bit better. Have you had the same experience?

a.sorr
a.sorr

I've been using Project for a while now. For my part I find it quite easy to use once you find out its quirks - but I can see the value in Excel for small Projects.

GSG
GSG

I talked to our Sharepoint admin, and he said we had issues with slowness, but he tracked it down to a setting that allowed Anonymous access. He disabled that, and we've not had slowness issues since.

GSG
GSG

We have hundreds of sites and portals and don't have any issues. This is where we store all of our policies, and being healtcare, that's a lot of stuff. It's the one stop shop where anyone in the organization can go to launch an application, find a phone number, etc... It's the best thing since Cheez Whiz and Mountain Dew.

addicted2speed
addicted2speed

We don't seem to have the same problems. On the contrary, because SharePoint doesn't actually load large amounts of data at one time, it's often faster than working in a Word document or opening an MS Project file. When loading a few thousand documents in a list view, it takes 3-5 seconds... but considering the number of documents, it's not that bad. It may be that your hardware is insuffient or the OS is not optimized.