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Libby Marks

Runn vs Spreadsheets: Which is Best for Resource Management?

Stuck using spreadsheets for resource management? Wondering if there’s a better way? Read how Runn compares with Excel or Google Sheets.

Spreadsheets are ubiquitous. On average:

  • People have 2.6 spreadsheets open on their computer at any time 
  • People look at a spreadsheet every 16 minutes
  • People spend 38% of their time working in a spreadsheet (Source)

Despite their ever-presence in our working lives, spreadsheets are not the right tool for many jobs they’re used for. Especially resource planning and forecasting in a growing company.

In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of using spreadsheets for resource management, planning, and forecasting.

What resource management tasks do people use spreadsheets for? 

I’m trying to manage five active projects and a team of 12 people, all of them involved with some percentage of their work to every project. Total chaos! I’ve tried Trello, Clickup, Openproject, Ganttchart…the list goes on. Going back to Excel is a dead end… - Desperate project manager asking for software recommendations

People come to Runn when they’re looking for a better way to manage and allocate resources. Typically, they’ve been using spreadsheets to 

  • Track employee availability - including scheduled time off, unexpected absences, what they’re currently working on…
  • Allocate resources to projects and tasks - and do so in a way that makes deadlines achievable, keeps workloads manageable, etc
  • Track individual capacity - so they can see who can take on more work, without snapping anyone 
  • Monitor and manage team capacity - to see which teams could take on additional tasks or projects 
  • Track resource utilization - to ensure individuals and teams are working to an optimum level to deliver ROI 
  • Keep an overview of employee skillsets - for allocation, utilization, and recruitment
  • Model scenarios and plan capacity - to maximize the profitability of their pipeline

There’s nothing to stop you from doing this in a spreadsheet. But my goodness, we feel exhausted just thinking about it. 

The formulas, calculations, and manual manipulation required make this an inefficient, time consuming, error prone method.

There is a better way…

Who is Runn for and what does it do?

Runn is for any project-based or professional services firm that needs an easier and more efficient way to manage their project resources. 

Runn resource management software includes dedicated functionality to help you align the right people, to the right projects, at the right time. For example,

  • Centralized resource pool that records information about all of your resouces - like peoples’ skills and levels, cost to business, and availability - so you can select the right people for your project
  • Project planning module to easily create project schedules, milestones, and task lists fast
  • Resource scheduling - so you can simply add resources to your project and Runn lets them know, adjusts their availability etc
  • Reporting dashboards that show PMs essential information at a glance - like budget burn rate, projected profit, schedule variance - so they can manage projects better
  • Automated timesheets to record billable hours easily and increase invoicing accuracy 

Runn isn’t just the perfect replacement for spreadsheet users. 

Whatever imperfect tools you’re using to manage your resources - from Google Docs and Outlook, to Trello and Toggl - we can make it better.

We’ve scaled from 30 to 250+ people. We still to this day use a highly taxed Google Doc to solve our project forecast. This cannot scale to the next jump in size for our business. - Frustrated PM 1
To date, we’ve tried to manage resourcing and capacity using Outlook Calendars but it doesn’t take long until it gets very messy to read. - Frustrated PM 2

Are spreadsheets ever the right choice for resource management?

When it comes to resource management, spreadsheets can serve a useful purpose in specific circumstances. Namely if you’re a micro business or startup. 

In this situation, you can probably manage your small number of people and projects using a spreadsheet.

  • There isn’t too much information to deal with
  • It’s unlikely to eat away too much of your time
  • It's free
  • And most people know how to use the basics without any training

But, as soon as you start to grow, spreadsheets will become a time sink that threaten the accuracy and efficiency of your resource management processes. 

Because resource planning in Excel isn’t sustainable

And it isn’t just us saying that about spreadsheets ⤵️

We’re stuck in Google Sheets to do all of our planning. I think - like any startup - that's the first tool we grab because everyone knows how to use it and it’s free. But we’re keenly aware that it’s not scalable. It’s a hacky, manual solution that’s functional but by no means efficient. - Another frustrated PM looking for software recommendations

9 serious disadvantages of spreadsheets 👎 

Here are ten reasons why project managers are desperately seeking a solution like Runn for resource management (and breathe a huge sigh of relief when they find it). 

1. Spreadsheets are NOT user-friendly

Spreadsheets aren’t user-friendly. And that’s a big problem. Potentially thousands of rows of data. Dozens of columns to scroll or shrink so you can see what you need to on-screen. Spreadsheets are mind-bending monsters that can make your eyes bleed. 

Which means they’re more prone to human error. 12% of people have seen an Excel error cost more than £10,000. And even one decimal point in the wrong place can spell disaster for your data. 

Dedicated resource management software, like Runn, has an intuitive, user-friendly interface. This makes it easy - dare we say a pleasure? - to enter and access information. 

2. They need specialist knowledge 

Spreadsheets can seem like a good idea because they’re familiar. 750 million knowledge workers use Excel every day 🤯So your staff can jump in and start using them straight away. 

But move beyond the basics and you’re confronted with complex functionality. Which means there’s a sharp usability cliff.  Only 6% of people consider themselves Excel experts (Source). To get to the data gold - for activities like scenario planning - you may need a data analyst. 

Whereas, in Runn, scenario planning is as simple as creating a tentative project and seeing at-a-glance what the impact is on project and budget KPIs. Easy.

Check out what our CEO Tim Copeland has to say about the limitations of using spreadsheets for scenario planning in PM Times.

3. They don’t provide the visibility you need

Spreadsheets are great for some stuff. Like manipulating a big static dataset. But for providing real-time, actionable insights into your business operations? Not so much. 

When you’re trying to work out what everyone’s working on, what capacity they have, and make dynamic decisions, a spreadsheet just doesn’t cut it.

Information currently lives in a fairly unmanageable spreadsheet and I need to get that data into a much more usable format, as our teams’ bandwidth and planning issues are immediate and very real. - Another project manager falling out of love with spreadsheets 

4. Duplicates cause confusion

The last thing you want with data is uncertainty. Like the confusion caused by duplicate spreadsheets. Spreadsheet files are easily duplicated and disseminated. Leaving you wondering ‘Which is the right version? Can I trust the data I’m basing my decisions on?’ 

Runn is your single source of truth for your master resource data. Everyone can access it, so no-one NEEDS to copy it. Meaning you know for sure that you’re working with the definitive version of your data.

5. Spreadsheets are where data goes to die

The second you close a spreadsheet, your data is out of date. Spreadsheets contain dead data that loses currency as it languishes there. Your dynamic business needs a system to access live data. Not a data graveyard.

Runn shows real-time information that updates interlinked data automatically. So you’re always confident your decisions are based on the most recent data available. 

Keeping projects and resource management in Excel is an absolute pain, it's extremely time-consuming and it's outdated the moment you close a file. - Runn client explaining on Capterra why they moved to Runn from Excel

6. They slow down decision-making

Ploughing through data sheets. Fiddling with formulas. Pivoting…well, pivot tables. If you’re looking for a way to make quick and confident decisions, look elsewhere. 

Spreadsheets slow down decision-making due to their lack of data visualization and reporting. Which means you waste time manually interpreting data - and are left doubting your decisions, if you manage to make them at all!

Runn has dedicated reporting dashboards and intuitive data visualization that let you assess your situation at a glance and make quick, confident decisions.

7. Spreadsheets get worse over time

As your data grows, your spreadsheets get less and less manageable. Hundreds of rows become thousands. And mo’ data means mo’ problems. 

Plus they’re more likely to have picked up human error along the way. Say Aloha to inaccuracy - the University of Hawaii found that 88% of spreadsheets contain errors 😫 

If you want to grow your business, you need a scalable solution for your data too. Like Runn.

8. Spreadsheets don’t integrate

Modern businesses run on integrated software ecosystems. But spreadsheets simply don’t play well with others. They’re hard to integrate with adjacent tools you rely on for productivity. 

Unlike bespoke resource management apps, which come with out-of-the-box native integrations. For example, Runn has integrations with tools like Harvest, Clockify, and Workflow Max. Plus an API to help you build your own.

9. They’re a false economy

How much are you willing to pay for something ‘free’? Using free-to-acess spreadsheets is a false economy. The time you’ll spend manipulating and analysing them to unearth information comes at a cost - the cost of wasted staff hours. 

Accelerating your processes with a fit-for-purpose system - one that creates instant reports and data visualization - is both operationally and cost-efficient. Put simply, it’ll save you more than you spend. 

Runn is pretty essential on a day-to-day basis. It provides a clear picture into what everyone’s working on and makes it much easier for us to move things around. - Another happy Runn client

So why do people use spreadsheets for resource planning?

We’re not here to judge, we’re here to help. There’s a lot of reasons why you might be lumbered with spreadsheets for your resource planning.

Convenience and availability

Spreadsheets are just THERE. Excel is part of Microsoft Office. Google offers Google Sheets. Spreadsheets are easy to access and start using. Whereas researching and implementing a dedicated solution takes a little more time and consideration. But a good vendor - like Runn - is there to make it easy. 

Alignment with existing skills

57% of knowledge workers classify their Excel skills as intermediate. Which means there’s a minimal learning curve to get started with the basics. But this is an advantage with diminishing returns. The more advanced insights you need from your spreadsheet, the harder they get to extract. With Runn’s intuitive user experience, people find it easy to get started AND execute more advanced tasks like creating a resource request or doing project forecasting.

I can teach someone to use Runn in 5 minutes. - Happy Runn user

Resistance to change 

Nobody likes change. So once you’ve started down the path of using spreadsheets, it can be tricky to change. You have to think about transferring your data, learning a new system. We get it. That’s why Runn is designed to be super intuitive straight out of the box - and we’ll help you move your data too.

Lack of awareness of alternatives

Throughout this article, we’ve quoted real queries from professional forums. Posts where desperate project managers ask for advice on how to manage their resources without Excel. They know they need something better but don’t know where to find it. That’s why we’re super glad you’re here and reading this 🙂

Budget worries

You might worry that resource management software is going to be expensive. And why incur extra costs when spreadsheets are free to use? It’s understandable. At Runn we salute the cost-efficient and fiscally shrewd. But using spreadsheets is a false economy in SO many ways (see below). Plus Runn is super affordable and delivers great ROI. 

We have gained so much value from using Runn. We can now see - at a glance - what work we have coming up, what people are working on, and when to hire. Thank you for creating such a beautiful tool. - A REALLY happy Runn client

The six biggest benefits of using Runn instead of spreadsheets

Yes, Runn is going to be a lot easier than using spreadsheets for resource management. But that’s not the only reason to consider switching. 

Runn’s dedicated resource management tools surface opportunities, streamlines processes, save time and money, and more. So if you’re serious about things like productivity, performance, and profitability, here’s why you should use Runn.

1. You get comprehensive, fit-for-purpose functionality 

The main benefit of Runn is that it is DESIGNED for resource management. It isn’t something you’re trying to shoehorn into serving your needs.

Every pixel of the platform is dedicated to making resource management a doddle. (And by ‘doddle’, we mean faster, easier, and more efficient).

We made the great decision to start using Runn in early 2021 and it has been a blessing. Easy to set up, customize and roll out to the different teams. Everything is built with care and it shows. Overall, I couldn't recommend it more. - Another Runn client ace-ing their resource management

2. You get to SEE insights, instead of searching for them 

Built-in reporting and data visualization tools mean you can get actionable insights at a glance. No more manipulating data and working out what it means. Runn just tells you what you need to know. 

Like who’s got capacity for more work, if a project is running over-budget, or what future billing looks like. This visibility helps you surface opportunities - and mitigate risk before it becomes a problem. 

Moving to Runn meant that our whole project-management team could keep our future booked work up to date, and reliable projections of our future billing could be generated whenever we need them. - Review from a Runn client on Capterra

3. You’ll save SOOOOOO much time

Runn automates so much of the resource management process. From drag-and-drop resource allocation to instant data visualization. 

You’ll save a ton of time you’d normally waste wading through spreadsheets trying to do the same thing. And since time is money, you’ll cut your project management costs too. 

Not only that, but using Runn helps you maximize resource utilization and keep projects on budget, which boosts your bottom line even more. 

Runn addressed literally every set of asks we had in the domain of Resource Management (Capacity, Forecasting, Utilization) and Project Metrics (Role/Person Assignment, Burndown, and profitability). The more we use it, the more cool features we discover. - Super satisfied Runn customer reviewing us on Capterra

4. You’ll always see live data 

No dead data here. The information you’ll see in Runn is always up-to-date. As soon as you allocate a resource, for example, their allocation, utilization, availability and capacity information is updated. The same for your team overall… It means everyone sees an accurate picture at any given moment. 

Our projects are fluid. We live in Runn because our allocations are constantly changing. - Happy Runn client

5. You’ll have a single source of truth 

Runn is your single, centalized source of resource information. No matter how geographically dispersed your team is, no matter how many departments need access, you’ll all work from the same master data. No risks from duplicates or siloed systems.  

6. You’ll make better-informed decisions

The benefit of instant access to up-to-date information is that you can make better decisions. Need to know if you have capacity to take on a new project? Wondering whether it’s time to recruit - and what skills you need?

With Runn, you’ll be in no doubt. You can act quickly and confidently to progress your business. 

I am extremely happy with Runn.  I can easily create schedules for our current and upcoming projects. The reporting features are great. I love how easily it shows the profitability per project and scheduled vs worked hours. - Another happy client reviewing Runn on Capterra

Sick of spreadsheets not Excel-ing? Try Runn-ing instead.

Are you ready to exit Excel for good? Give Google Sheets the old heave-ho? Say sayonara spreadsheets? 

Break free of the tech tyranny holding you back. Start using your free account today to see just how easy your life could be. 

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