Why planning is moving beyond spreadsheets

When it comes to project planning, simple spreadsheets just don't cut it any more, argues Stephen Martin of Hub Planner.

Stephen Martin headshot

Stephen Martin

What are you using now to manage your people? So many people are still using spreadsheets to do it, but it's a time consuming mess.

These spreadsheets often turn into 'beasts' that you don't dare touch. If someone changes one thing then it can throw the whole thing off. (Nobody wants to pee-off the guy who 'owns' it).

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10 years ago working for Fantasy Interactive (Fi), I remember trying to handle resource management in a spreadsheet, simply because there was no other option available to me. I made my best effort to create something that would work for the company globally, but it was incredibly difficult to maintain and update as things changed so quickly.

Back then the project management field was becoming more popular, companies were adapting to Basecamp etc, but the resource management side was always neglected. Nowadays companies, managing both big and small teams are still trying to maintain their teams' productivity, availability and get that bird's eye view from a spreadsheet. Crazy right?

Shift in attitudes

Up until the last few years companies have always relied on project management tools to handle their PM work. There are lots of awesome tools out there that can do the job well but what we are seeing now is the growth and importance of resource management tools.

There is certainly a difference worth noting between project management software (such as Basecamp) and resource management software (such as my own tool, Hub Planner). RM certainly touches on PM but puts the focus on the resource.

People in office

Organising big teams using just spreadsheets can be a tall order

A good comparison in how I see RM developing could be the way the role of the UX/information architect used to be performed by the designer/front end developer and now that role has evolved and become more important than ever. It's not because it did not exist as a skill or practice before, but it was not as defined and lived under the control of the designer/dev.

Enterprise approach

Potentially an interesting point to touch on here is that more enterprise level companies are starting to explore SaaS based services for their planning needs. This stems from how B2C services such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram spoil the users with nice design, intuitive usability and well­thought through workflows.

Planning app on tablet

Enterprise-level companies are exploring SaaS based services for their planning needs

Why can't the B2B market have the same tools available? These guys are not necessarily stuck on spreadsheets, but it is an interesting wave coming of adaptation.

At Hub Planner, we decided not to build a tool to compete with project management tools. Our approach was to put the resource first and the project second.

We want managers to be able to walk into a Monday morning meeting and be able to see what the week, month, years looks like at a glance. We want to open up the transparency of an organisation by giving you a bird's eye view of your teams in all departments.

Words: Stephen Martin

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