Project Management

The Difficult Relationship Between PMOs and Spreadsheets

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I recently pondered how prevalent spreadsheets are in PMOs. My immediate reaction to that is negative—you shouldn’t be managing business units on a spreadsheet. But I realize that may be slightly harsh, so let’s spend a bit more time exploring the idea.

My love (and mostly) hate relationship with spreadsheets
I’ll freely admit to a negative bias when it comes to spreadsheets for anything PMO related (in fact, for pretty much any enterprise function). I’ll also freely admit that I’ve used them at various points, sometimes with very successful results. There is no doubt that they are powerful tools when used in the right way, and there are advantages to the fact that virtually everyone is at least somewhat familiar with using them, and that they are available on most employees’ computers.

However, “somewhat familiar” is dangerous. It’s not overly difficult to build spreadsheets that can perform data analysis, produce reports, potentially sent an alert if data exceeds predefined tolerances, etc. But maintaining those spreadsheets is a different matter—as is integrating the data they contain with the rest of the organization’s suite of tools.

I hear arguments that spreadsheets are better than nothing, and that not every organization can afford to invest in complex PPM solutions—especially when …

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