8 Pitfalls of Using Spreadsheets for Resource Planning

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1. Resource planning spreadsheets aren't visual.

Here at Mosaic, we often hear that people’s planning spreadsheets aren’t visual. They’re stuck staring at rows upon rows of numbers. It takes a lot of focus and brainpower to read, let alone understand what the data is telling you. Simply opening the spreadsheet makes most people’s heads spin, resulting in low adoption of any spreadsheet-driven process. And people are left wondering why?

But studies show that 65% of people are visual learners, which is, of course, proportionally higher in design industries. For most people to understand data, it must be presented visually so they can understand it at a glance.

2. Spreadsheets are too customizable for efficient resource planning.

What makes spreadsheets great is their ability to be whatever you need. There is no limit to the number of columns, rows, or formulas you can add to your spreadsheet. And that’s the problem. Inevitably someone adds a column or row that makes it their spreadsheet, making it irrelevant or overwhelming to everyone else.

A business function as important as resource planning needs to unite the entire team into a standard process.

3. Spreadsheets aren’t flexible enough for project planning.

Similarly problematic is spreadsheets’ lack of flexibility. Projects never start when they're supposed to and always take longer than expected, constantly impacting other plans. You can’t keep up if you have someone inputting all of these changes into spreadsheets. Your work planning data quickly becomes outdated, leaving you to run your business based on an inaccurate view of reality.

Alternatively, modern resource management software is flexible, with drag-and-drop editing and automated data entry.

4. Resource planning spreadsheets aren’t collaborative.

The customization benefits of spreadsheets work against them when it comes to collaboration. You can’t clearly track changes in spreadsheets, making it hard to have more than two people editing information. As a result, strict permission controls are required or you’ll be left wondering who made the changes, and why.

Spreadsheets also don’t have approval tracking or communication tools, requiring additional meetings, calls, emails, and chat messages to get everyone on the same page. For resource planning to be accurate and effective, it needs to be a collaborative process with detailed change logs and built-in communication tools.

5. Spreadsheets are too siloed for strategic planning.

Because spreadsheets are disconnected from other software platforms, like your financial system, they require additional time for importing, exporting, and copying information from one system to another. Trying to maintain the same information in multiple places significantly increases your chances of making errors.

A modern resource planning tool integrates with your other software to eliminate double entry and provide real-time data.

6. Resource planning spreadsheets break.

Another reason spreadsheets don’t work for collaborative resource planning is that all it takes is for one person to enter an incorrect formula or to accidentally overwrite a piece of data for the entire spreadsheet to be off. Errors in cells and broken formulas often crop up without warning, and it can take a lot of time to source the issue.

A modern system should only make certain information editable and have an extensive testing process to ensure all calculations are correct and all results are reliable.

7. Information in planning spreadsheets isn’t where you need it.

Spreadsheets also make it difficult to see the big picture because all of your data is spread across multiple sheets—even multiple files—with no easy way to go back and forth between information.

Spreadsheets are structured into tables, displaying all information, so you can easily perform computations. As a result, you often need to tab between sheets to get data. Even with references, there can easily be errors on another sheet, requiring you to check all tables.

On the other hand, smart resource planning tools curate the process to display all of the information you need where you need it.

8. Resource planning spreadsheets don’t tell the story.

At the end of the day, spreadsheets aren’t built for reporting. It’s on you to determine what the data is saying and interpret the results. This is typically where third-party tools like Microsoft Power BI and Tableau come into play. But unless you’re a data analyst, the reports aren’t easy to understand, preventing you from confidently making decisions.

Only a modern, AI-powered workforce management software that features comprehensive resource planning capabilities can get the right information into the hands of the people who need it and give you actionable business insights.

Using spreadsheets to plan resources and manage your workforce is creating significant inefficiencies and bottlenecks in your organization. A mission-critical business function like resource planning requires a specialty-purpose system like Mosaic. Visual, flexible, fast, collaborate, integrated, reliable, curated—it's everything spreadsheets aren't. Time to retire your spreadsheets and modernize your workforce management system.

John Meyer

Founder & CEO
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