Using Excel for Project Planning

Management Gantt Charts are significantly more complex and tailored than Planning Gantt Charts.

The incorporation of actual figures into the planning process significantly complicates any planning model, as anyone who has used Microsoft Project to manage a project will attest.

The significant issue with the vast majority of management Gantt Charts is that they are driven by duration rather than effort.  Whilst tools such as MS Project do allow for effort driven management, the underlying premise of the tool is task driven.  This can result in very unexpected results when incorporating actual figures.  A key issue is that the rate of progress is seldom linear as most tools automatically assume.

With an Excel based gantt chart it is easier to build on your specific management requirements.  Many users have found difficulty in understanding the results for the project management tools once actuals are incorporated.  The Gantt Chart may display complete tasks, when the project is not actually complete.

For the vast majority of users, they are best of sticking to project planning and manually updating the progress, rather than attempting to use automated tools.  This can make for more predictable results and greater project control.

From experience, we have found that whilst many users may start off with a sophisticated project planning solution they will often end up with their project data back in MS Excel.  hence, we thought why not build an Excel Gantt Chart template to enable the inherent process to be created and managed in Excel.  This process works exceptionally well for about 85% of users, and simplifies the complexity that they do not really require.  Additional calculations (pricing etc) can be built by the users to their own specific requirements.  This makes the approach ideal for project planning in proposal situations, where you may need to run your pricing directly from your plan.  Something that can be a substantial challenge in more constrained planning tools.

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Marcus Tarrant is the author of the templates.  He is an accomplished management consultant who has assisted clients manage multiple complex projects.  He has developed the free gantt chart template to assist people see the potential of an excel based approach.


Microsoft Project 2000, showing a Gantt chart.
Image via Wikipedia

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