There’s lots of great tools that Project Managers (PMs) use in their day-to-day work.

ou may have heard that Microsoft Project is THE tool that PMs should use to manage projects.

Or for the folks that like tools in the “cloud”, Basecamp is another option.

But what if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on MS Project or spend time learning how to use a new tool?

To use some of the project management tools effectively you may have to spend a LOT of time to set up the tasks, resources and schedules.  Then you would spend time to maintain the file with the numerous changes that would occur on any large-scale project. Some organizations would have a PM just manage the project on the tool and another PM manage the project with the people. And if you are using a tool like Project, sharing the file may not be so easy as some may not have the capability to read the files you send.

Project management specific tools are great if you have a large project (i.e., building construction) but for smaller projects, it tends to be overkill. You want to have a tool that doesn’t cost too much and is relatively easy to learn. And added bonus would be a tool that is very widely used.  For some, that tool may already on the computer — Microsoft Excel.

With Excel, you’ll have a tool to do scheduling, budgeting, charting, create checklists and much more. You don’t need to be an Excel expert to create useful files for communicating with stakeholders. It has robust charting capabilities to create effective graphs and flowcharts that can be done up fairly quickly. However if you wanted more complex applications, you can even use Excel to create advanced dashboards to show performance metrics.

It is fairly affordable from free (company provided) to roughly $200 USD.

Ask most PMs and they would say that they have worked or currently working with MS Excel. So if you wanted to collaborate with others, most of the time you already have an audience that is familiar with the tool and could work with you on updates. So what if you wanted to increase your skills on Excel or just learn a few tips….where should you go?

Well there are some quick video tutorials that may just help — and they are free!

Just go to to sample some of the free video tutorials.

Whether you are a new project manager or an experienced PMP practitioner, you probably have used Excel.  Some consider it the Swiss Army knife of office applications and rightly so. Next time you think about using a software tool to help manage your project, it may not be too far from your toolbox.



About the author: Doug Hong is a business analyst for a Fortune 100 technology company.  He was a former PMP certified practitioner and now focuses on metrics dashboards and visualization using advanced Excel features.  He shares his knowledge with training videos on his Excel Training 101 site.  He also has an extensive list of training videos where you can subscribe to on YouTube.