Managing a large project vs. a small project is like buying a ready-made apple pie as opposed to making one from scratch. Basically, it’s complicated.
What makes large projects so complex is that they’re comprised of many different moving parts. Plus, there are key stakeholders from different departments with their fingers in the proverbial pie, which complicates matters further.
As a result, you’ve got to keep a keen eye on each moving part so you don’t lose track of the project and get losed in the sauce.
Fortunately (and in some cases, unfortunately), there are many project management tools you can use. One of the more popular ones is Google Sheets.
So, should you use Google Sheets to manage projects?
Perhaps. But more than likely, no.
Let’s discuss the various reasons why Google Sheets should not be part of your project management process.
Google Sheets and Project Management
Anyone with a Google account has Google Workspace, which helps with productivity and collaboration. Additionally, Google workplace has apps and services that help businesses, organizations, and individuals communicate and collaborate more effectively.
Some of the main components of Google Workspace include:
- Gmail — An intuitive and user-friendly web-based email platform.
- Google Calendar — A comprehensive scheduling and organizational tool to help you manage your time effectively.
- Google Drive — A versatile cloud storage solution for storing and accessing files from anywhere.
- Google Docs — A powerful word processing application for creating and editing documents.
- Google Sheets — A robust spreadsheet tool, equipped with numerous features to help you manage data.
- Google Slides — A dynamic presentation creation tool for engaging your audience.
- Google Forms — An easy-to-use survey and quiz builder, providing insights and feedback for your organization.
- Google Meet — A feature-packed video conferencing platform, allowing you to connect and collaborate with people anywhere with an internet connection.
All of this sounds really good on the surface. But when you take a closer look, Google Sheets, in particular, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
But more on that in a minute.
Back to Google Workspace.
Google Workspace is designed to be a complete solution for businesses, offering a range of tools to help teams collaborate and work together more efficiently. It can be used on desktop and mobile devices and it includes real-time collaboration, integration with other Google products, and security measures to protect data.
Although Google Workspace has tools that make real-time collaboration easier, you should not use Google Sheets for project management.
Because Google Sheets is not a project management planning tool. It’s a spreadsheet tool that helps you visualize, store, and share data.
Re-purposing Google Sheets to handle your project management can cause unnecessary stress and confusion for your team members. Let us explain how below.
Disadvantages of Using Google Sheets for Project Management
Google Sheets is a great tool when you use it as a spreadsheet. However, you shouldn’t use it for managing projects. Here are the limitations of using Google Sheets.
It is not user-friendly
Google docs spreadsheet project management tool is not easy for someone with limited Google Sheets understanding. You need a higher understanding of Google Sheets to manage projects effectively.
When your team members have limited knowledge, they’ll struggle navigating and completing their tasks, putting the project timeline at risk.
You may have to learn how to build a project management template in your Google Sheets and educate team members on the features.
Creating and scheduling a simple Gantt chart requires a lot of manual calculations, and it gets more complicated whenever you have to remove or add tasks.
Even if you’re a real Einstein at building spreadsheets with in-depth reports, formulas, and tables, the spreadsheet can become too big. And too means too complicated.
If you or any team member mess up a formula, it might go unnoticed or you may not even understand where the mistake is or how to go about fixing it.
Google Sheets is prone to errors
Google Sheets relies on a process wherein someone has to input the data manually. This increases the risk of false data and errors. The way Google sheets operates, these errors are reproduced throughout the different assets.
Such errors can ruin a whole project and complicate accounting. Any incorrect data can lead to job losses, and damaged reputations, and worst case — business closures.
Once you introduce a single error, the whole calculation on Google Sheets is ruined, and you may not be able to pinpoint where the first error occurred. If not careful, you may make a decision based on inaccurate data which risks derailing the entire project.
When multiple users are editing a spreadsheet at the same time, it is possible for conflicts to occur.
For example, when two users try to edit the same cell simultaneously, Google Sheets will usually alert users to these conflicts and ask them to resolve them. This can be time-consuming and may require careful coordination to avoid mistakes.
While Google Sheets allows multiple users to access and edit a spreadsheet simultaneously, it can be challenging to keep track of who is making what changes and when. This can lead to confusion and mistakes, especially in larger teams.
Google Sheets does not have built-in communication tools that support chats or discussion threads, making it difficult for project team members to communicate and collaborate effectively.
This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, especially when working on a large project with many stakeholders. You may have to use another way to pass information to the concerned party.
Google Sheets does not have robust tracking and reporting capabilities, so it can be difficult to see who has made what changes and when in the project data. This can make it hard to track progress and identify bottlenecks.
It is also hard to manage resources and time spent on them. Or break down projects into deliverables. You may also find it difficult to track risks and link them to actions with issues.
Whenever you create new Google Sheets, crucial elements such as due date, project priorities, and status are not updated in the columns. You also can’t switch between projects which is a major PITA, especially when you are managing several projects simultaneously.
It may also be difficult to generate reports or analyze data in Google Sheets, since it doesn’t have robust reporting or analysis tools.
Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel can be useful for basic project management tasks, such as tracking tasks, assignments, and deadlines. However, they may lack some of the features and tools commonly found in dedicated project management software. So, it’s more difficult for project managers to manage larger or more complex projects.
Important features that Google Sheets lack or only contain basic functionality include the following:
Google Sheets Gantt chart template
- Gantt charts — The Gantt chart template has basic functionality, making it difficult for you or other stakeholders to visualize and track which projects depend on each other. This can make it hard for any project manager to identify bottlenecks and adjust the project plan as needed.
- Resource management — Google Sheets does not have robust resource management features, such as tracking team members’ availability and capacity or assigning tasks to specific resources. So, it becomes hard to optimize the use of resources or ensure the project stays on track.
- Risk management — Google Sheets does not have robust risk management features, such as identifying and tracking risks and assigning actions to mitigate them. This can make it hard to identify and address potential issues before they become problems.
Google Sheets may not integrate easily with your team’s tools and systems, such as your Customer Relationship Management tool or Human Resource software. So you can’t get a complete view of your project. Often, additional work is created in terms of manual data entry and updates.
Google Sheets stores your data in the cloud, which can be convenient but also raises concerns about data privacy and security. If you’re working with sensitive information, you may need to take additional steps to protect it.
Hard to keep organized
Another major limitation of Google Sheets is organization. It is difficult to keep your project organized because it is hard to keep track of or analyze each task because they’re listed separately on different Sheets.
May cause decreased productivity
For everyone to become familiar with the cells and columns in the Google docs, you’ll need to onboard everyone so they can understand how to use them and the rules for editing.
Since Google Sheets are overwhelming, most team members become, well, overwhelmed, and afraid to edit or use them. This decreases productivity.
Smartsheet is an online spreadsheet tool that allows users to create and edit spreadsheets, and share them.
Here are its functionalities that make it better than Google Sheets:
- Advanced features — Smartsheet offers a wide range of advanced features that go beyond the capabilities of a typical spreadsheet tool. These include Gantt charts, task dependencies, and the ability to set up automated workflows.
- Collaboration and sharing — Smartsheet makes it easy to share and collaborate on spreadsheets with others. You can assign tasks, leave comments, and track progress in real-time.
- Integrations — Smartsheet integrates with a wide range of other business tools, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, and Google Workspace. This allows you to manage and track data across different systems and platforms.
- Mobile app — Smartsheet has a mobile app that allows you to access and edit your spreadsheets on the go.
- Security — Smartsheet takes security seriously and offers various measures to protect your data, including encryption, two-factor authentication, and data backup.
- Customization — Smartsheet allows you to customize your spreadsheets to fit your specific needs, including the ability to create custom formulas and functions.
- Pricing options — Smartsheet offers a variety of pricing options to fit different budgets and needs, including a free version with limited features and paid versions with additional features and storage.
Go Beyond Google Sheets
If you want to go beyond Google Sheets in your project management to ensure your projects stay on track, you might consider using a more specialized project management tool.
There are many project management tools available, each with its own set of features and capabilities.
Looking for Google Sheets and Smartsheet alternatives?
This article shows other free project management software you can use to ensure successful project deliverables.
If you want to ditch Google Sheets, then you’ll want to choose a project management tool that best fits your needs and you team members’ as well.
But first, let’s discuss how dedicated project management tools will help you 10X your project management.
How Dedicated Project Management Tools Help in Project Management
Every project manager desires to have a tool that all team members find easy to use. And as we’ve seen, Google Sheets is not it.
Using the appropriate project management software boosts your efficiency and productivity because it has dedicated features tailored to ensure successful project deliverables.
A project management tool helps project managers plan, organize, and manage resources in order to meet project goals and objectives.
Some of the ways in which these project management tools can help your team include the following:
Project management tools enables project managers to create and assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. This helps to ensure that tasks are completed on-time.
Project management tools can help project managers allocate resources (people, materials, and budget) effectively and efficiently. This optimizes the use of resources and reduces waste and inefficiencies.
Communication and collaboration
Project management tools often include features like chat, file sharing, and team calendars, which facilitates communication and collaboration among team members.
This can help to improve team productivity and reduce the need for face-to-face meetings.
Project management tools support PMs in identifying and assessing potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate or avoid them. This can reduce the likelihood of project delays and setbacks.
Free tools like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel do not send alerts or reminders to concerned parties about upcoming deadlines or status changes.
However, a dedicated project management tool will send these crucial reminders via emails or notifications, thus helping you and your team members stay updated on various projects.
Project alerts also help ensure that each team member is accountable for their own work because everyone gets these notifications.
If you’re a project manager using Google Sheets, you will need to send these reminders to each member manually. That’s a bummer.
A dedicated project management system like ProofHub, ClickUp, and others provides real-time updates. So, you won’t have to keep checking if there are any updates or wait for updates in your next meeting.
These real-time updates will help you know how the project is going and if you need to make adjustments so the project stays on track.
Reporting and analytics
Project management tools provide a range of reporting and analytics tools to help you understand how your team is performing and identify areas for improvement.
These tools may include features like project dashboards, budget tracking, team availability reports, risks reports, and performance metrics.
Frequently Asked Questions about Project Management Tools
What is a project management tool?
A project management tool is a software application or platform that helps organizations plan, organize, and track projects and workflows.
Project management tools often include features like task and resource management, collaboration tools, and reporting and analytics.
What are some common features of project management tools?
Common features of project management tools include task and resource management, collaboration tools, reporting and analytics, and customization options.
Task and resource management features may include the ability to create and assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress.
Collaboration tools may include document editing and commenting, integrations with other tools, and team communication tools.
Reporting and analytics features may include project dashboards, budget tracking, and performance metrics.
Customization options may allow users to create their own layouts, workflows, and processes to fit their specific needs.
How do I choose the right project management tool for my organization?
There are different project management tools available, and the right one for your organization will depend on your specific needs and goals. To choose the right tool, consider the size and complexity of your projects, the needs and preferences of your team, and your budget.
You should also consider the features and capabilities of different tools and how well they align with your organization’s needs. It may be helpful to try out a few different tools on a trial basis to see which one works best for you.
Can project management tools improve team productivity?
Project management tools can help improve team productivity because they streamline workflows, improve communication and collaboration, and track project progress and performance.
Since they provide a centralized platform for managing tasks, resources, and communication, project management tools can help teams work more efficiently and effectively.
Are project management tools expensive?
The cost of project management tools can vary widely, with some tools being free or low-cost, and others being quite expensive. The cost will depend on the features and capabilities of the tool, as well as the size and needs of your projects.
Some tools offer tiered pricing, with different options for different levels of functionality and support. You need to carefully consider your needs and budget when choosing a project management tool.
Key Takeaway and Next Steps
Google Sheets can be a helpful tool for basic collaboration and data management tasks. But ultimately, it’s not the most effective solution if you have more complex projects requiring robust collaboration and tracking features.
So, in these cases, it’s better to use a dedicated project management tool that offers more robust collaboration and tracking capabilities.
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