The PM Podcast


Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Episode 313: The Project Manager's Dirty Little Secret (Hint: It's Made by Microsoft but it's not MS Project...) (Free)

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Doug Hong

Here’s a little secret for you -- everybody does it. At one point or another during their careers, every project manager will use Microsoft Excel to manage one of their projects!

That in itself is not surprising. After all, budgets are often tight and companies may not want to invest into full blown project management software. And if they have such a software there are only a limited number of licenses available, which means many stakeholders cannot access the tool. So we project managers make due with what we have. And practically everyone has Microsoft Office.

But what is surprising is the fact that we just improvise. We will simply use Excel to the best of our often mediocre knowledge in order to somehow force a project schedule into those cells.

Well... enter Doug Hong (http://www.linkedin.com/in/doughong/en) and his series of seven free Microsoft Excel tutorials, that you can find at http://www.exceltraining101.com/excel-project-management/. In these seven short videos Doug shows you how to use MS Excel and create professional Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, checklists, pareto charts and more. All for free.

And because I liked the free approach I decided to invite Doug and ask him when and how we should use MS Excel, what Excel features we should learn about to better use it for our projects, and how we can identify the moment in our projects when Excel is really no longer the right tool and we have to upgrade to something more solid.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #313. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I'm Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you for joining us.

Here's a little secret for you. Everybody does it. At one point or another during their careers, every project manager will use Microsoft Excel on one of their projects. That in itself is not surprising. After all budgets are often tight and companies may not want to invest into full-blown project management software.

And if they have such a software, there are only limited of licenses available which means many stakeholders cannot access the tool. So we project managers, we make do with what we have. And practically everyone has Microsoft Office.

But what is surprising is the fact that we just improvise. We simply use Excel to the best of our often mediocre knowledge in order to somehow force a project schedule into those cells.

Well enter Doug Hong and his series of 7 free Microsoft Excel tutorials. In these 7 short videos, Doug shows you how to use Microsoft Excel and create professional Gantt Charts, work breakdown structures, checklists, Pareto charts and more, all for free.

And because I liked the free approach, I decided to invite Doug and ask him when and how we should use Microsoft Excel, what Excel features we should learn about in order to better use it for our projects and how we can identify the moment in our projects when Excel really no longer is the right tool and we have to upgrade to something more solid.

And now, let's Excel! Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Doug Hong, Business Analyst and Trainer.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Doug! Welcome to The Project Management Podcast™!

Doug Hong: Hi, Cornelius! Thanks for having me on your podcast!

Cornelius Fichtner: So we're going to be talking about Excel and project management and that really doesn’t sound like the sexiest of topics here that we could be talking about. What will our listeners learn today? What's going to be in it for them?

Doug Hong: Well, I hope that through this conversation, we'll help to reset some of the expectations that maybe some of your PM audience have about using Excel as a PM tool and also be able to provide some quick tips in terms of what they can do on maybe a daily basis, some things that may not have thought about using Excel for in their project management daily tasks and also maybe at the end give a couple of resources to go to, to learn more about using Excel maybe differently.

Cornelius Fichtner: And why should Excel be even considered as a project management tool?

Doug Hong: Well, we kind of think about Excel and you think: Is Excel really a project management tool? Yes and no. Well technically Excel is a spreadsheet, right? Used to store, organize and analyze the data, and most of the time you're going to find it in the domain of finance, accounting or operations, those types of functions. But like any popular tool, it could and it does get used outside of its intended purposes.

You know Excel is everywhere. People are familiar with it. It's relatively easy to learn and use and for the most part, it gets the job done. For some, they were considered a default project management tool. Some hardcore PM say: Poo-poo that idea. But when it comes down to a tool that's relatively easy to use, has a large base of users already, Excel really is kind of hard to beat.

If you did a Google search online and you Googled "Microsoft Excel in project management", you'll probably get over a million hits. If you try to Google "Microsoft Project" and "project management", you'll probably get a little bit less than that.

I think in a Wall Street Journal article I read a while ago, there's probably over a billion users using Excel in some form or another. In fact, I work in a large organization, a tech organization that uses a few project management tools like MS Project and some customized software, and recently not too long ago, I spoke to a PM man how the cross-functional team that she was working with was using the customized PM software. Her response was that the lead PM would use/do a lot more of the task project schedule management in that tool. But for the different portions the people's domains or their work streams, she would actually export an Excel file to them. Send it to her. She would make her changes and send back those changes in Excel.

I've also been in projects where PM men use Excel as a tracking tool. Though it may not be the best tool for project management, for the most part, it does get the job done. So you see that there are many users even in large organizations for using Excel, maybe not in large, large projects. But they're going to use Excel in small and medium-sized projects as a PM tool.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Let's focus on that because we've established Excel is everywhere. But it may not be perfect in all circumstances. So when should a project manager really use Excel for project management?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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