Why Excel is Not the Right Tool for Requirements Handling?
Every product development or project management process requires a well-structured and well-defined list of key requirements. Project requirements serve as the basis for carrying out the next steps that lead to the final product creation or project completion. Therefore, businesses must pay full attention to jotting down project requirements handling and employ effective methods to manage them well during the project execution phases.
Businesses use various tools for listing down requirements such as Word, Excel, and customized requirements management tools, the most common being Excel. Excel has advantages of managing requirements such as being cost-effective, easy and convenient to use, and requires no specific training. However, it must not be the most preferred tool for writing system or project requirements, as there are numerous disadvantages of using Excel. Here, in this article, we shall explore the reasons why you should not use Excel for requirements handling.
Disadvantages of using Excel for requirements handling
Sharing and updating Excel is difficult
If a project has too many people working on it, it becomes difficult to share a single, updated Excel file between multiple people and teams. With so many people working on the sheet at the same time, updating it regularly, and making changes, people get confused as to the final, updated sheet that has all the updates on requirements.
Possibilities of error are high
There are higher possibilities of the existence of errors in Excel. The error may be of any kind, ranging from a text or formula error to inconsistency in format. Moreover, it becomes difficult to spot the error when so many people are working on it and making multiple versions with their changes.
Higher possibilities of Excel spreadsheet being lost or being shared externally
You may lose the data on requirements you have saved in Excel if something bad happens to your laptop or desktop computer. This may result in all your or your employees’ efforts turning to zero. Furthermore, it is also easier to send the Excel sheet to anyone via an Email, specifically an unhappy employee who may just send it to his/her personal email id or any competitor’s contacts, thereby compromising the security of your project requirements.
Existence of several versions of requirements
If the Excel sheet is shared among many people working on the project, after a time, it will be confusing to find out the master file that contains all the updates and changes. Often, project managers face such situations when they have no answers to questions like:
Who made the changes?
What changes each one made?
Why were those changes made?
Is there any relation between different points of data?
This happens because when people start updating, they start with the original file, but simultaneous changes by different employees lead to many versions of the same original Excel sheet. This situation arises when employees forget to upload the changes and edits in a single, central repository file, leading to a messy requirements datasheet.
Data visualization and reporting are another cause of worry
You can surely create charts and graphs in Excel; however, the problem lies in the presentation of multiple charts and graphs. Assembling these charts and graphs and making them visually appealing takes time and effort. Reporting Excel data is also a difficult exercise, which you need to master to harness its benefits. Furthermore, there are no specific metrics to measure the information, which is very essential for any project.
Users start focusing more on understanding Excel than project work
Working on Excel is a manual task. One needs to be knowledgeable about using it, play around with it to harness the actual benefits, and practice regularly. On the other hand, requirements gathering, sharing, collaboration, and using them for carrying out project processes is the actual need.
With more of your project efforts going into practicing Excel, the actual skills and efforts of employees are wasted, which could have been put to better use for the project execution and success. Poor use of resources leads to waste of money and time, thereby resulting in project inefficiencies and management ineffectiveness.
Collaboration and communication become unmanageable
It is difficult for employees to collaborate and communicate over an Excel sheet. The key problem lies in tracking the multiple edits made by multiple people and tracing who did what. Even continuous manual monitoring becomes next to impossible since tracking changes in an Excel sheet is difficult. This also affects project accountability and may lead to blame-game, creating conflicting situations and destroying the team productivity.
No possibility of customization as per the industry requirements
When you deal with different projects with different requirements in different industries, you yearn for a customized way of representing the requirements. However, this is not possible with Excel. A general way of representation of requirements does not work well for all industries where the projects are complex. Complex projects involving a lot of people, functions, and tasks need multi-directional planning, for which Excel does not prove to be sufficient.
Increased stress and frustrations for employees
Working with Excel – a limited functionality application - is not an easy task. You have to be extra careful in making entries, which may drain you completely. This extra carefulness requires you to spend time ensuring the spreadsheet’s completeness, a well-structured representation, and making it updated, accurate, timely, and transparent to all employees involved in the project. All of these can lead to highly stressful situations and frustrations, thereby demotivating the employees. Stress results in more mistakes or delays in handling requirements, which may harm the project execution.
You should understand the significance of requirements management for a project’s successful execution. And to handle the project requirements smartly, you need a smart requirements handling tool to improve your efficiency and effectiveness. With all the above-mentioned drawbacks, Excel is not the right tool. You must look for something that makes your data accessible, manageable, transparent, traceable, and reusable.
Who are we?
Technovisors is an Ahmedabad-based IT consulting, digital marketing, and data analytics firm. We play a significant role in simplifying the IT solutions for your business requirements. Our IT consulting services ensure that your IT issues are resolved, and the business solutions that you implement help you achieve your business goals. We understand that the project requirements are a key part of successful project execution, and therefore, assist you with requirements management based on your technology and business needs.