While projects can be managed effectively with spreadsheets if the project is small, simple and has well-defined boundaries there are disadvantages to using spreadsheets because they do not offer a range of capabilities and controls that are likely to be required for larger and more complex projects. They can, of course, effectively assist in managing the standard three parameters of time, cost and scope that are important to all projects but they do not assist in decision-making situations occurring due to risks materialising or changes being requested.
Purpose built project management software, on the other hand, adds value by helping the project manager and the stakeholders to make more informed decisions at critical points. Some tools even provide the ability to try out “what-if” scenarios to determine the viability of implementing a change and its effect on the overall project success. Some of the features and functionality that are not available in spreadsheets but would typically be provided by project management software tools are listed below:
- Prioritise project tasks based on their cost
- Real-time sharing of project data, status and reports
- Calculate the benefits of the project in terms of ROI
- Use what-if scenarios to assist decision-making for change requests
- Easily build reports, forms and workflow diagrams
- Alignment with best-practise project management methodologies
- Ready-made templates included for reports and forms
- Audit trail for different versions of project documentation
- Easy sharing between departments
So project management software tools can, in fact, enable business-critical decisions about a project to be made based on reliable data rather than, as is often the case, based on unreasoned feelings or office politics. And they ensure that project tasks are properly prioritised so that the end-product of the project delivers real business benefit.