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Why is the spreadsheet model still relevant to project management needs ?

No doubt that in the past 10 years project management has been changed by developments in IT technology. Technologies like cloud sharing, software integrations, and machine deep learning, have changed how teams and organizations plan, communicate and implement their projects.

Currently, across the whole project management software industry there over two hundred different products and they vary greatly by type. While a lot of users still use on the premises software the trend is clearly favoring online based platforms using cloud technology. Finding the best balance between what these tools can assist with is proving rather difficult as human economic and social activities are extremely variated. Some tools are designed with task management in mind, others are focused on sales and client communications, some are designed for specific industries such IT, translations, healthcare, event management, product development, and design, while others take a more general approach regarding industry, but have been designed to address needs by size of team or organization.

The first project management software tools were developed in the 70’s by companies such as Oracle, Artemis and Scitor Corporation. Widespread use of project management software, however, has surprisingly not begun with a dedicated project management software but with a tool known to most of us, Microsoft Excel. Although not designed with project management in mind, Excel’s layout and features have made it extremely useful for project management as organizations created task trackers, project budgets and even Gantt charts. Since then, many software solutions have taken other approaches regarding tool design, but nonetheless, Excel spreadsheets remain a common tool for teams and businesses.

According to a study performed by ProjectManager.com in 2015 in their 320k sized LinkedIn community, 75% of all the interviewed project managers still use Excel for project management in addition to other tools. Furthermore, 12% of all project managers use Excel exclusively to run their projects. It might not seem much, but given the number of project management tools available, and the fact that Excel has not been intended as a project management tool from the onset, this figure represents a strong indicator, that from a management perspective the Excel development team, knowingly or not, have indeed got things right. Using a customizable spreadsheet to keep track of tasks, assignments, time, costs, has indeed proven very efficient and simple as this format resonates with the way we structure project information in our mind.

Even if hypothetically Excel wouldn’t have been created, someone else most definitely would have created a spreadsheet for project management use. Even the Gantt chart, which has been conceived almost one hundred years before the creation of spreadsheets, appears to foresee the development and use of spreadsheets for project management, through its basic design. Although project management software who’ve departed from the spreadsheet format will no doubt continue to evolve, the spreadsheet format will most definitely remain a common tool in project management for decades to come. This is why we at Dexsheet, have set the goal to adapt this simple and efficient format, and to improve on it from a project management perspective, to meet the needs of teams and businesses for greater efficiency through simplicity and adaptability.