“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” –Benjamin Franklin
Among the many titles in Ben Franklin’s vast career, I’m fairly certain you will not find “Project Manager.” However, you can be sure that he understood the value of planning to ensure the success of any activity requiring multiple tasks.
Benjamin Franklin didn’t have the benefit of computers and couldn’t leverage Microsoft Excel or any tools to aid in organizing his projects… But I bet he would if he was able. So, in celebration of the fact that we DO have access to these tools, in this article, I’ll provide some information about Project Management and more specifically about Microsoft Excel as a tool to help you manage your projects more effectively.
What is ‘Project Management’?
Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.
The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived constraints. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary —and more ambitious— challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives.
What is Microsoft Excel?
Microsoft Excel is a commercial spreadsheet application written and distributed by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications. It has been a very widely applied spreadsheet for these platforms, especially since version 5 in 1993, and it has almost completely replaced Lotus 1-2-3 as the industry standard for spreadsheets. Excel forms part of Microsoft Office. The current versions are 2010 for Microsoft Windows and 2011 for Mac OS X.
Cells, Formulas and other Excel Content
Excel is an intuitive and easy to use tool for creating anything from simple todo lists to math intensive spreadsheets. It’s power is in its extensibility. Excel documents are called spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are made up of cells. Cells are arranged in a tabular format of rows and columns. Each cell in a spreadsheet can contain formulas or plain text. There are approximately 350 individual formulas that exist in current versions of Microsoft Excel and these can help you perform calculations and data manipulation. A simple formula can be seen in the example below: