NHS Warning! Project management via spreadsheets is bad for your health!

Blog 07-04-2021
The NHS, and particularly how much it costs the country to run, is almost constantly in the news. As a result, there are huge pressures on managers to deliver programmes efficiently and ensure that projects do not overrun. Many Care Commissioning Groups and Trusts are running a multitude of projects from the large QIPP programmes to more stand-alone projects. With budgets tight, it is essential that projects are governed using appropriate processes and tools. Failure to do this often results in delayed projects, failed projects or projects that do not meet their desired outcomes. All this adds up to an increase in costs and/or a shortfall in benefits.

Project management using spreadsheets

Excel project management
Excel project management


In the NHS, we often come across a portfolio of projects that are being managed by using a set of spreadsheets. There are a number of reasons why project management is done using spreadsheets, but the key ones are:

  • Everyone knows excel so there is no other tool to learn
  • Excel is easy to use
  • Excel is very flexible and can generate some very nice reports

There are some downsides to using Excel when managing projects. Some of the key ones are:

  • A recent study found that over 88% of spreadsheets have significant errors in them
  • Excel is not designed to be a project planning tool
  • Excel spreadsheets tend to proliferate so you do not know what is the real ‘version of the truth’ or the most up to date version
  • Excel is not multi-user and spreadsheets are often locked on shared drives
  • Getting a portfolio view of key projects, e.g.: Show me the status and plans of our mental health projects, is very difficult, time consuming, and error-prone

I could go on! In summary, using a spreadsheet for a purpose that it wasn’t intended for is not the right approach. A proper Project, Portfolio Management (PPM) tool is required. This will give you one version of the truth, manage multiple plans and portfolios, and more importantly, enable key stakeholders to see one version of the truth.

When investing thousands, if not millions, in a portfolio of projects, a relatively small investment in good process and the right toolset will pay off in the short or medium term.

Having up-to-date visibility of accurate information on projects will enable you to manage costs effectively and ensure benefits are being delivered.

NHS and PM3
We have implemented project management and our light-touch PPM tool into a number of NHS organizations including:

NHS Camden
Warring and Halton Hospital Trust
Brent CCG
Harrow CCG
Hillingdon CCG
NW London collaboration of CCGs

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