Ever since my early days in the PPM market space (dating back to 2000), there has always been a constant battle between vendors that deliver true PPM capabilities and the organizations that are running their projects in spreadsheets. The fact is, over 15 years later spreadsheets are still probably the most common competitor an organization will face when peddling the value of a PM or more advanced PPM solution. Does this mean that the PPM market has fallen short in winning the “Spreadsheet” wars? And if so, why are some companies still bent on sticking to their spreadsheets even in cases where they have already invested in a PPM solution? At any rate, it does say a lot about the “stickiness” factor of spreadsheet applications. In fact, many of us tend to forget that the term “Killer App” was coined because of the spreadsheet. VisiCalc was considered the first Killer App back in 1979 and with that type of long lasting legacy it is no wonder that the PPM software market still struggles to push out the spreadsheet from its path.
So what makes spreadsheets so attractive? For one, spreadsheets are familiar and super flexible in what users can achieve. Where they falls short in the PPM world are with data integrity and collaboration. To address this gap PPM solutions come into the picture. Spreadsheets may be great at manipulating data, however PPM solutions are necessary to control the flow and sharing of information that can be easily accessed via the Cloud without the worry of a haywire Macro or formula delivering the wrong information. That being said, I do believe that spreadsheets and PPM software do not have to be mutually exclusive. There is a time and place for each of these applications. As is with most business software categories, to get the most out of these solutions it is best to focus on their strengths. Ideally, a better scenario would be to have the strengths of both these much needed solutions seamless work together creating a “Super Killer App” for those managing projects and portfolios.
In practical terms, what would this utopian PPM solution look like? In order to optimize collaboration and control the access, input and tracking of project information a web-based PPM solution needs to be the master tool of choice. Where spreadsheets can bring their most value is in their flexibility to manipulate, analyze and report on the data output in a format familiar to the end user. Hence, no need to scrap your Excel project reports, as long as the data comes for a reliable data source (i.e. the PPM system). As with most systems that speak with each other, a successful marriage typically means letting each respective solution do what they do best and thus adding real value to the end user experience.
About the Author: Neil Stolovitsky has over 15 years of IT experience with end-user, consulting, and vendor organizations, along with extensive expertise in business development, software selection, and channel strategies. He has published numerous white papers and articles covering Project Portfolio Management, IT Governance, Professional Services Automation, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for service industries, and New Product Development to a global audience. Neil currently holds the position of Senior Solution Consultant with Upland Software.
To learn more about Upland Software’s Eclipse PPM offering and its integration with Microsoft Excel go to: https://uplandsoftware.com/eclipseppm/