11 Ways Excel Hurts Your Project Management

11 Ways Excel Hurts Your Project Management

Are you using Excel for project management?

There are only four reasons why you might actually use Excel as a project management tool:

  1. Your dad is a product manager with Excel
  2. Your dad is Bill Gates
  3. You are Bill Gates (Hi!)
  4. You are hoping to get money from Bill Gates (Uh, can we talk?)

As you can see, there are very few reasons why you should be using Excel for project management.

Don’t get me wrong, Excel is a powerful software for managing financial data. As far as businesses are concerned, it could be one of the most powerful innovations since sliced bread.

Excel can do awesome things. But even sliced bread can’t do everything.

And for project management, Excel is stale.

Here’s why most teams still use Excel for project management:

  • They’re familiar with it.
  • Typing in tasks into rows is easy.
  • There are plenty of free Excel project management templates to download.
  • You can create charts and graphs with it.

So, what’s wrong with it?

Nothing – if you are perfectly satisfied with your team’s productivity, communication and collaboration.

But you know that’s hardly the case with most teams.

Note: Ready to import your tasks from Excel? You can import a CSV file into ClickUp. Go here for more. 

PMI’s 2016 study, “The High Cost of Low Performance,” found that only 62% of all projects fulfilled their original business goals in terms of scope, budget, time, etc.

The report also concluded that organizations also lost $122 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs in 2016.

Therefore, if you want your team to:

  • Deliver projects way faster and with fewer mistakes
  • Collaborate more effectively as a team and have fewer conflicts
  • Adapt quickly in the face of unforeseen factors.

And consequently, save a lot of time and money, then you need a dedicated project management tool.

Many of these tools, like ClickUp, have 100% free versions. You don’t even have to invest a cent.

Here are 10 ways in which Excel damages your team’s project management and productivity:

1. Excel for Project Management Causes Communication Gaps

Project team members need to constantly communicate with each other to ask questions, share files, information and updates, provide comments and feedback and so on.

Excel Limitation

There’s no way in Excel to do any of the above. You will have to communicate over email, or Slack.

This means digging through different tools to stay on track of all discussions about a particular task. People keep asking questions that have already been answered. Or worse, they miss an update entirely, leading to mistakes.

ClickUp Advantage

Communication is easy in social project management tools like ClickUp because you can see every single detail and all updates about each task within the tool.

Task Description

Enter all the requirements of each task in its description box.


ClickUp has a commenting feature just like Facebook. You can see all the discussions that have taken place about a specific task or subtask.

Upload Files

Upload files and links to a particular task for easy access to all task-related documents.

ClickUp also has an integration with Slack, and syncs all your conversations between the two tools!

2. No Individual To-Do Lists in Excel Project Templates

Excel project management templates are designed for team projects. However, they make lousy to-do lists for individual team members.

Excel Limitation

Your project sheet in Excel would define the work items each team member needs to accomplish. However, everyone will have to finish several sub-tasks to complete every task. Therefore, they use their own additional to-do lists to note down all these subtasks.

Clutter and Confusion

Your team members could try adding sub-tasks to the same Excel sheet, but that would make your document extremely cluttered and cause confusion. Each team member starts adding their own tab and things get out of control. After all, the entire team doesn’t need to see all those work items.

ClickUp Advantage

ClickUp solves these problems because it’s an all-inclusive productivity platform. It’s a project management tool as well as an individual to-do list.

The project management tool has two broad types of dashboards  – a Team view, to see the all the details of team projects.

And a Me view where people see only the tasks that are allocated to them.

Both views come with List-style as well as Kanban-style visualizations, and you can toggle between these visualizations with a single click.

3. Tasks are Forgotten in Excel

Many tasks involve coordinating with different people to deliver other sub-tasks.  

But just because you’ve emailed someone to get a customer testimonial, or check out a bug, doesn’t mean that they will add it to their to-do list and set a deadline.

The result?

Excel Limitation

People will forget, until you remind them a week later! Any task that’s not documented on the Excel sheet, can slip through the cracks.

ClickUp Advantage

ClickUp allows every team member to assign a task to anyone in the team and set a deadline. The assignee will see it as part of their to-do list and get a ClickUp notification. No need to email them, too.

You will stop wasting precious hours following up and reclaim that for actual work.

4. Mobile Viewing is Difficult in Excel

Spreadsheets are simply not designed for mobile!

Excel Limitation

You can’t see the entire sheet on a small screen and will have to keep scrolling, zooming or squinting to see details of a single task or your project management dashboard. Editing documents is painful and its common to make inadvertent changes to other cells.

Honestly, it’s easier to carry printouts of your project spreadsheets in a briefcase rather than use Excel on your mobile phone.

ClickUp Advantage

All project management tools have mobile apps and ClickUp has a pretty great one!

It’s easy to check out different aspects of the project. Check out the big picture and visualize all your projects, or drill down and check out a specific subtask.

Simple, right?

5. Task Updates Require Manual Follow Ups

When teams use Excel for project management, team members keep individual to-do lists.

Excel Limitation

Managing two tools is simply too much work. So, most people do not regularly update the Excel spreadsheet with the progress on the task.

There’s no way for project managers or anyone else to know what the status of each task is. People keep emailing – “Hey, where are we on that thing?”

Project teams using Excel for project management also have more meetings – the sole purpose of which are to update Excel sheets!

Do you really want to waste hours every week behind staying updated? Especially when all this can be automated through ClickUp?

ClickUp Advantage

Since your entire team has all of their individual to-do lists in ClickUp, you avoid the headache of multiple tools and repetitive meetings rehashing the same project updates. Project managers and all concerned team members get automatic notifications whenever someone completes a specific task or subtask.

6. Excel Templates are Difficult to Customize

There are plenty of Excel project management templates available. But finding one that’s a great fit for your team is tough.

Excel Limitation

Project managers will need hours to customize templates for their own teams. Moreover, unless you are a whiz at Excel, you will have to find someone who understands functions to do the customization for you.

ClickUp Advantage

A dedicated project management software does not need any customization – simply because it’s designed for one thing only – managing projects!

It just takes 10 minutes to set up ClickUp, add team members and start using it!

7. The Excel Software Keeps Crashing

Excel isn’t really a project management software. If too many people open the same spreadsheet at the same time, it will keep crashing.

Excel Limitation

The moment a file crashes, you will have to spend precious time recovering the project file and checking up with all team members to ensure that the copy is up-to-date.

ClickUp Advantage

Cloud-based project management software like ClickUp almost never crash! You have 99.98% uptime.

8. Access Rights Can’t Be Customized in Spreadsheets

Who has access to your Excel project management spreadsheet? You have two choices.

Excel Limitation

You can give editing access to everyone, but then, you have no way of keeping track of who has made what changes to the file, unless you use Office 365.

Moreover, do you really want every single employee to be able to view projects and tasks that only senior management should have access to? This poses serious confidentiality problems.  

Alternatively, you could just give viewing rights to the team and editing rights only to the project manager. But then, the project manager will have a full-time job updating and tracking the project sheet.

ClickUp Advantage

ClickUp allows you to grant different user permissions and access rights according to teams and projects.

9. Excel Doesn’t Work for Agile Project Management

Agile project management is all about adaptability. We don’t make elaborate plans about every single step of a project anymore. Unforeseen factors can creep in and make large sections of your plan irrelevant.

Agile teams need to be able to change course rapidly in the face of these unforeseen events. But if you use Excel as your project management tool, it’s extremely difficult to change tack.

Excel Limitation

Updating a spreadsheet is way more cumbersome than updating a project management software. You will have to update, add or delete rows, and update functions and links between different worksheets.

Project managers will have to do the entire updating themselves, because you don’t want someone to make a mistake which messes up the entire sheet.

ClickUp Advantage

Whatever changes team members make to their own tasks in ClickUp gets automatically reflected in the project dashboards.

Updating any dedicated project management software is easy. Period!

10. Project Management Dashboards are Lousy

Project managers and senior leaders should be able to examine the big picture of all the company’s projects at a single glance in simple management dashboards. Trying to do that in Excel is a nightmare.

Excel Limitation

Even if you did find an Excel template which has project dashboards, it would be limited to visualizations like Gantt charts which have limited use for Agile project management.

And you would have to have the skills and the time to use maddeningly complicated formulae in excel to design your own management dashboards.

ClickUp Advantage

ClickUp has several built-in project dashboard views.

Use the board view to have a Kanban/ Agile view.

List View for a GTD-style view.

Box view to get a broad idea of what each team member is working on and the team projects.

ClickUp is the only project management software that lets you toggle between different views with a single click.

Cool, right?

Even though we’ve laid out lots of reasons why Excel doesn’t work for project management, I know you probably still have a few more concerns before making the switch. So in this section, we’ll attempt to answer all of your Excel project management questions.

11. No Reporting in Excel

Here’s another thing. Reporting in Excel is a hassle. That seems counter-intuitive, since Excel’s main function is storing and reporting on data.

Excel Limitation

In Excel, it’s difficult to see what tasks are behind or ahead of schedule. It’s also difficult to gauge workloads for individual team members.

ClickUp Advantage

In ClickUp, you get clear reports to see who has worked on what, how long it took them to finish their tasks compared to the estimate and more. Advanced reporting in ClickUp helps you keep track of your entire team, improving team collaboration along the way. That’s impossible to do in Excel.

Excel Project Management FAQ

What about Gantt charts in Excel? (But why?)

Look, I get it. A lot of people like Gantt charts. You can quickly see where your tasks are and how they overlap with one another. If you’re building your own Gantt charts in Excel, well then congratulations. That’s a hard task that, honestly, you shouldn’t be doing unless it’s your hobby or like we said above, your dad is a product manager at Excel. But remember, there are lots of options beyond Excel for Gantt charts, so don’t feel like you have to re-invent the wheel.

The ClickUp Time view also provides a quick snapshot of where your projects stand. You can also insert unscheduled tasks right onto the calendar. ClickUp is also working on new Gantt chart / timeline capabilities that are coming soon! You can check out our public roadmap to see exactly what we’re working on.

What about project management Excel templates? (But why?)

Sure, you can find Excel project management templates out there on the Internet. Knock yourself out. Again, though, I have to ask: why? Do you love Excel that much? There are so many better options for managing your projects, due dates, dependencies. ClickUp has all of those features–for free.

Back ten or 15 years ago, there weren’t as many options to keep up with tasks. You’d have to pay an insane amount for Microsoft Project, so building a template for Excel project management made a little more sense. Now with so many free project management software options in the cloud, there’s no need.

It’s a waste of time to build out Excel templates that you constantly must update when ClickUp can do all of that for you. You can change fast, assign out tasks and finish the work that you’re trying to put in Excel. No Excel template will be able to do all of that for you.

And you can even invite your whole team to participate with you. Excel does a lot of incredible things, but project management isn’t one of them.

Can I import my Excel files into ClickUp or other project management tools? (Yes!)

Yes, ClickUp offers you the ability to import your tasks from Excel. You’ll need to save it as a CSV file to start. Once you sign up for a ClickUp account, you can begin the import process. Here’s how to do it and you can find more from our help doc.

By default, you’ll select a Space  to import the tasks into, and we’ll create a new Project titled CSV Import  with your imported tasks. After the import, you can move tasks around as you please.

Also by default, we’ll import them into only one list,  but if you prefer separating your tasks, you can opt to map a column named List  during your import. Doing this will separate your imported tasks into multiple lists.


Let’s summarize the limitations of Excel as project management software:

  1. Excel Causes Communication Gaps
  2. No Individual To-Do Lists in Excel Project Templates
  3. Tasks are Forgotten in Excel
  4. Mobile Viewing is Difficult in Excel
  5. Task Updates Require Manual Follow Ups
  6. Excel Templates are Difficult to Customize
  7. The Excel Software Keeps Crashing
  8. Access Rights Can’t Be Customized in Spreadsheets
  9. Excel Doesn’t Work for Agile Project Management
  10. Project Dashboards are Lousy
  11. No Advanced Reporting

Using Excel is a sure-fire way to drastically slow down your team projects and productivity. Instead, why not opt for a 100% free project management tool like ClickUp? Import your CSV file now

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