Project Management Software – A Comparison With Spreadsheets for Managing Projects

Spreadsheets are the king of project management support tools because they are the most convenient tool to use and the most frequently used tool. How do they compare to project management software? What are the benefits of each and when should you make the switch to project management software? While only you can make the determination as to when you should make the switch, this article will walk through the benefits of each and provide some guidelines.

Depending on which research you rely on, the market for project management software is between $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion. That is for software that is specifically designed to support project management. Most organizations that have made significant efforts towards effective project management have recognized that it is very difficult to manage a greater number of projects and people, or a larger project, without the support of technology.

Yet there is no tool for project management that is more popular or widespread than the spreadsheet, despite the fact that spreadsheets are not designed to be project support tools. Even in organizations with an established project management tool, spreadsheets are used. There are obvious reasons for this. A spreadsheet program is on almost every computer in every organization, people are familiar with spreadsheets and how to use them, and people are pre-disposed to use these “office” types of software tools to solve problems. And I am right there with them. I love using spreadsheets to track all kinds of data. It is easy, convenient, and I admit ego-boosting to show off what I can do in a spreadsheet.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the differences between these two different types of tools. For the purposes of this article, I selected six criteria by which to make the comparison. These were selected from the feedback of customers and prospects as well as learning what is important for the successful adoption and implementation of project tools within an organization.

Data Mining

Data mining is a huge part of project management tools. The whole reason for having a tool is to collect data, so that you can look intelligently at that data, make sure your processes are performing as advertised, and make good decisions. You need to know which projects and tasks are slipping through the cracks so that you again react. You need to know when you will not have enough resources to meet demand so that you can allocate them properly or manage the demand. You need to know which issues are lurking so that you can address them now before you lose the favor of a critical customer. And you need to see how your processes are working so that you can continuously improve your processes.

In today’s economy, competitive landscape, and accountability standards you must have the data. Managers are getting blindsided because they do not know what is coming and what is going on. This is where the right project management software tool shines and spreadsheets fade. A good project management tool will be database-oriented and should allow for different types of ad hoc reporting across multiple projects. This enables the mining of all kinds of data. You simply cannot do this in a spreadsheet at the same level. If you really, really know what you are doing it is possible to tie spreadsheets together and generate some integrated data. But that is not the same thing. You simply cannot, on a whim, mine into the data represented in your multiple spreadsheets. And in today’s environment, this is critically important. Gone are the days when not having the right data is acceptable.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Ease of Use

There are project management software systems that are easy to use. However, spreadsheets clearly have an advantage here. Most people are familiar with how to use spreadsheets; they are comfortable with them, and even like using them. A big reason is because spreadsheets have no structure. People are not usually “forced” into how to use them. They are free to use them however they want. Of course, there is a downside to this. It is very difficult to standardize a process or have any sort of standard data structure when there is no structure in the tool itself. However, from a strict ease of use standpoint, spreadsheets cannot be beat.

You can counter this in project management software by employing good, relevant, and periodic training, keeping your implementation simple, and using helps such as templates. But we’ll give the advantage of this one to spreadsheets.

Advantage: Spreadsheets

Centralized Access

One of the things that organizations are doing today to become more competitive and more efficient is to provide everyone access to the project information that they need. Marketing organizations are putting all of the information online about each client project. Engineering organizations are tracking all schedules and immediately identifying problems. Government agencies are putting all of the various required data online with their projects. And on it goes. The value of immediate access to information is profound. An engineer can look at one system and immediately find the specifications he needs. A client manager can track the status of his client’s projects and identify issues early. A professional services manager can look up the contract information and scope of work for a key project before answering a question.

Productivity means yielding results, bringing things about, or making things happen. This type of centralized access enables those on the front lines of yielding results to know which action to take when.

Project management software, especially online project management software, wins this one hands down. Spreadsheets are not designed for access by multiple people from multiple locations. They are designed with a single file / single user scenario in mind.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Maintenance and Administration

Time and again, I talk with organizations that are spending an amazing amount of time maintaining spreadsheets. There is so much time spent on activities attributable to spreadsheet usage:

  • Tracking down the right spreadsheet
  • Tracking down the right version of the right spreadsheet
  • Tracking down the email with the right version of the right spreadsheet
  • Emailing out the right spreadsheet to the people that don’t have it
  • Tracking down the people who have the information that is needed to update the spreadsheet
  • Actually updating the spreadsheet
  • Maintaining the formulas and formatting of the spreadsheet
  • Updating the standard format of all the spreadsheets to accommodate a “process enhancement”
  • Creating new spreadsheets

And the list goes on. The point is that while any tool will take time to maintain, spreadsheets take an inordinate amount of time because they are single-user focused. Only one person can update them at a time. They also take time because they are file-based, meaning that you have to maintain separate files. Unless an organization is really good with a process to manage these files (the exception not the rule), the files tend to be stored in a hodgepodge of locations with non-standardized file names and even non-standardized layouts. If you take the time to study the amount of time people take to maintain these spreadsheets, you will be amazed.

On the flip-side, project management software also takes time to maintain. I cannot say otherwise. It takes time to make sure the data is correct in the system, that processes are being followed properly, and to simply get information in the system. One of the flip sides of this is that many project management software systems enable the entry of information by everyone so that one person does not have to both find and enter the information. In this scenario, the maintenance is more truly maintenance than continual, non-stop data entry.

There are some ways to minimize the amount of maintenance and time spent on project management software systems, and these are focused on the initial setup. If you setup the system well, the maintenance time is reduced. Using items such as templates and pre-setup reports really help to minimize the amount of time spent in the tool.

While both types of tools require time, a well setup project management software system definitely has the edge over spreadsheets.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Flexibility

Flexibility in this context refers to the ability of the tool to adapt to your processes. In practicality, this refers to things such as being able to track any type of data peculiar to your company (i.e. adding fields), or implementing a new project template.

This is a harder attribute to measure, especially with the variation in project management software tools. Many tools are very rigid, meaning what you see is what you get. Some tools have become more flexible and allow a great deal of adaptability – such as being able to adapt screens and data structures. This has become increasingly important.

It is difficult to perform a direct comparison because it really depends on the project management software system that you are evaluating, but in reality many systems will not be as flexible as a spreadsheet. In a spreadsheet, you can create a new column or row on a whim or create a brand new spreadsheet to track new information. Obviously there is a downside to this flexibility, specifically the difficulty in standardizing a process. However, from a strict look at flexibility, we have to give spreadsheets the nod. But I caution you to test your project management software system for flexibility and do your own comparison.

Advantage: Spreadsheets

Resource Allocation and Forecasting

This is similar to data mining, but it is so important that it gets its own billing. The management of which resources are assigned to which projects and tasks is a critical component of project management and one of the big differences between spreadsheets and project management software.

There are three critical pieces to ensure good resource management. These include:

  • A good work breakdown structure (breakout of the tasks in a project)
  • A good estimation of the effort (not duration) to be expended on each task (and thus project)
  • A composite view of this information across all projects

Because of the single-file focus of spreadsheets, a good project management software system should win this hands down. A good system will provide views and reports with insight into resource allocation so that you can view problems and do future forecasting. That isn’t to say that you cannot do this with spreadsheets but it is difficult at best and you need to have a very, very good setup.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Final Thoughts

Only you can decide the right tool for your organization. Certainly using spreadsheets is better than using absolutely nothing. They do have value, and they may be a good fit for some organizations. However, good, project management software (especially enterprise-level) clearly has the advantage for the following types of organizations:

  • Organizations with more than a handful of projects to manage
  • Organizations with more than a handful of people working on or managing projects
  • Organizations with large or complex projects

Spreadsheets are primarily used because of convenience. However, convenience is not a great reason to use a tool that supports your critical processes. Be sure that you select and use a tool that adds to the efficiency and productivity of your people and processes, and not the other way around. This will far outweigh the benefits of convenience.

While spreadsheets do have a couple of inherent advantages, such as a natural ease of use and flexibility, you can employ best practices to minimize any downside to project management software. For example, use templates as much as possible, simplify screens as much as possible, document clear processes, focus on those processes instead of features, provide good training, and create good, relevant reports. Combining this with the inherent advantages in project management software will help to create efficiencies, increase productivity and resource utilization, and to become more competitive.

Finding Time-Saving Yoga Studio Management Software

Running and building up a yoga studio requires coordinating scheduling, marketing, accounting, class registration, class attendance, sales and credit card processing, inventory, payroll, staff management, documents, and so much more.

When you started teaching yoga, you wanted to teach yoga. Sure, you knew running a yoga studio or teaching classes involved administration, but perhaps running your yoga business is taking over your life.

Ask yourself:

How many software applications are you running to keep it all together? Are you using a fleet of spreadsheets?

The fact is there is some pretty cool software options available specifically designed for yoga studios that take care of all your yoga studio administration needs in a central, online location.

3 Fundamental Elements of A Great Yoga Studio Software Service:

  1. Cloud computing capability (web-based software); and
  2. Comprehensive, all-in-one yoga software that centralizes all your yoga studio administration operations.
  3. Automation – the more the better. Typically this is easier with comprehensive, all-in-one software.

1. Cloud Computing Yoga Studio Management Software is Where It’s At

Cloud computing is web-based software. You simply log-in to your account and manage your entire yoga studio on the Web. Stop with the downloads, installations, networking, and upgrades that plague desk-top software applications. Seriously consider putting your entire yoga studio software management needs on the cloud.

2. Centralizing Your Yoga Studio Software

Integrating separate pieces of software is a never-ending headache. When one application is upgraded, it then doesn’t sync with other applications. What you get is a mish-mash of software that more often than not malfunctions. Instead of saving you time, you burn up time trying to get it all working together.

If you can, get yoga studio software that is comprehensive and meets all, or as much of your computing needs as possible.

3. Automation

The more you automate, the more time you save which lets you teach more or take more time off. The fact is, running a yoga studio is managing a large number of variables – students, staff, teachers, schedules, inventory, sales, etc. The goal is full classes and regular students. Automation helps you take care of the menial tasks so you can put your mind and time to activities you enjoy and that let you build your yoga business (and take a vacation).

Yoga Business Software Features to Look For

Not all yoga studios have the same needs. The remainder of this article sets out yoga studio software management features available. Go through them and see what it is you need.

1. Yoga Class Scheduling

Online class scheduling – this is an extremely customer-service friendly feature for your students. Consider the following functions you might want:

  • Wait-lists: let your students add their name to a waitlist. With software, save yourself the time of managing these lists. Let the software do the heaving lifting.
  • Student self check-in: spare your students standing in line waiting for you. Let your students scan their ID card and get to class. You also get time to set up and prepare for class.
  • Printable sign-in sheets: maybe you prefer physical sign-in sheets. Get software that offers a print option with sign-in templates. You can load the data later… or not.
  • Equipment and room rental scheduling: do you rent out rooms and/or equipment? Why not automate the process and make it easy for your yoga clientele to book your rooms and equipment themselves.
  • Recurring bookings: nothing builds a business like recurring customers. Make it easy for yoga students to book multiple classes and commit to your classes.
  • Class attendance statistics: You only know how your business is going if you can measure results. Software that produces easy-to-read reports on class attendance statistics gives you tools at your finger-tips to assess your money-making classes and classes that may not be worth having.

2. Scheduling Ease

  • Drag and drop functionality for booking is a real luxury. In fact, drag and drop anything is great. Make it easy for your clientele to book classes and appointments with you.
  • On the Cloud (web-based): Not only does cloud computing save you networking costs, upgrade hassles, and installation nightmares, but you can access your entire yoga business anywhere.
  • Multiple schedule views: daily, weekly, by name, service, gender and more. Birds-eye views of your schedule can be very handy when looking at the big picture.
  • Color coding scheduling: sure, you must memorize the colors, but in time the colors will speed up your viewing of your schedules.

3. Yoga Studio Enrollment Options

Perhaps you offer more than just yoga classes. If so, look for yoga studio management software that has the flexibility to schedule all types of events such as:

  • Courses: still a popular yoga class structure – a series of classes building on concepts.
  • Seminars / special events: do you ever have a speaker or teaching events? Make it easy for people to sign up and a breeze for you to manage the scheduling.

Plus software that enables:

  • Payment plan processing: yoga studios usually offer a variety of pricing packages. Make it easy to sell packages (without the hand-held calculator) by considering software that tabulates and accepts payment for yoga packages.
  • Payment status information: every business has some customers who owe money. Yoga studios are no exception (generally). See at-a-glance who owes you money (and how much).

4. Payment Processing

  • Credit card integration. Some yoga software includes credit card processing “on the cloud” sparing you the hardware to pay for and set up.
  • Link payments with services. This way you can produce financial statements any time to see the financial status of your business.
  • Membership cards (i.e. swipe cards for signing in) and ID tag capability: Lose the paper and look professional with swipe cards enabling self-check in and much faster client tracking.

5. Online Store for More Revenues

If you sell retail, why not create an online store? It’s simple to do with the right yoga studio software. There is software that includes e-commerce capabilities so that not only can you track your in-studio retail sales, but you can actually start selling off your website.

In fact, you could consider partnering with yoga and health products suppliers to provide you products to sell on your online store. You can carry inventory or enter drop-shipping arrangements. The sky is the limit.

Moreover, with e-commerce, you can sell gift cards, yoga class packages, event tickets, etc.

6. Yoga Gift Card Selling Option

Gift cards are BIG business. Why not sell your own gift cards? You’ll earn revenues and get more students in your yoga studio. Some yoga studio software has the capability to provide gift cards and program them with the software so that you can create them, sell them, and track usage. Other considerations when implementing gift cards for sale include:

  • Prepaid gift card options.
  • Able to track student account balances.
  • Loading gift cards with flexible amounts of money.
  • Selling your gift cards in your studio and online.

7. Email Marketing for Your Yoga Studio

E-mail marketing can give your yoga business a huge boost. If you get yoga studio software, see if you can find a product that integrates with e-mail marketing software. This way you can leverage your yoga studio software contact database with your e-mail marketing rather than having separate databases. Trust me – when you can centralize, it’s worth it.

Not only can you use e-mail marketing to get more students or encourage regular attendance, but you promote sales, encourage referrals, sell products and yoga packages, promote events, send out class reminders, and more.

When you centralize your yoga studio student database with e-mail marketing software, you can segment your students so that you send the most appropriate messages to each person.

For example, if a student signs up online for a class, you can automate reminder class messages. This way you improve your class attendance, and in a worst case scenario, if the student can’t attend, they’ll be reminded to remove their name off the schedule opening up a spot for the wait list.

Then your e-mail system will produce an e-mail to the wait list alerting them to the open spot. Imagine doing all this manually. Automation is key.

8. Yoga Studio Inventory Tracking

If you sell retail, tracking inventory digitally can save you a lot of time. However, you need software that tracks the stocking and sale of items. Moreover, if you get software that includes inventory tracking, look for the capability to track in-store and online sales.

Again, this goes toward centralizing your operation. By tracking inventory with your yoga studio management software, you’ll integrate inventory with sales which lets you produce up-to-date financial reports… not to mention save you time syncing inventory with sales and re-ordering.

9. Yoga Student Account Management

When you use cloud software, you can create accounts for all of your students – so both you and they can log-in to their accounts. This way you and your students can track purchases, their profile, class attendance, referrals, etc. This is very convenient for you and your students.

Liability: What about the dreaded waivers. Necessary, but not a lot of fun. If you let students sign up online, be sure you offer an e-waiver for them to agree to. This too is available with some yoga studio software.

10. Yoga Studio Staff Management

Whether you love managing staff or not, consider saving yourself time and the ability to manage your staff “on the cloud”. Some yoga studio software enables you to do some or all of the following features:

  • A staff dashboard portal where you can send instructions to staff and to-do items.
  • Individual staff log-in accounts for each staff member.
  • Permission levels to various portals of your software. Again, this is where centralization works for you big time.
  • Staff scheduling – lose the monthly printouts and create staff schedules online where your entire staff can access it anytime from anywhere. Scheduling staff with software is much more convenient than on paper. Beside, how often does the schedule change in a month? Save yourself a few erasers.

11. Look for Payroll Management

Do you know how much you’re paying out in wages, commissions, fees, etc.? It’s not so easy to track with a yoga studio business given the variety of remuneration options yoga teachers opt for. There’s hourly, commissions, flat rates, and combinations of these payment options.

Again, a quality yoga software product will track all your pay-rates for all your staff – no matter how complicated. It makes tallying the amount you owe easy.

Take for example, a yoga teacher that earns a flat rate plus a per student rate after a class attendance threshold is met. Okay, one class with one teacher isn’t too hard to track, but imagine 30 classes and 5 teachers.

It gets complicated. Look for software that will track and tally all of this for you – all calculated with the swipe cards issued to your yoga students (if you opt for swipe cards – now you’re starting to see how beneficial swipe cards can be).

Another payroll feature to look for is a punch clock for hourly employees. I’m not talking about a wall-mounted contraption. I’m talking about staff being able to quickly log into the cloud software and entering start and stop times at the touch of a button.

Finally, you want to be able to export all this payroll data into your accounting software saving you reconciliation hassles come tax time (and saving you lots of money in accounting fees).

12. Track and Measure – Look for Reporting Capability

You won’t know where your business is going if you don’t know where it’s been and where it’s at. This boils down to the financials – but not just the usual income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

I’m talking about in-depth class attendance, payroll costs, number of students per yoga teacher, yoga student and employee retention rates, no shows, product returns, and sales figures (past, present and forecasts) – to name a few reporting capabilities to look for.

13. Scalability – Get Software that’s Priced to Your Studio Size and Needs

Okay, not every yoga studio wants to expand and build a huge business. That’s why yoga software that scales is key. What I mean by this is yoga software that accommodates both small and huge yoga studios – and is priced according to need.

Look for software that offers different pricing packages so you can get a software package that serves your business as is – but has the capability to accommodate your growth – if that’s what you do with your studio.

Where Do You Go From Here?

I’ve covered a lot of ground. Sure, you may not want or need all that capability. That’s fine – but you might need more functionality in the future.

One thing is certain, you want to choose your yoga studio software carefully. Why? Because you’ll spend a good amount of time implementing it and getting it going just right for your yoga studio. The time investment, with the right software, will certainly be worth it.

A Online Marketing Strategy Formula For New and Expert Network Marketers 101

Online Marketing Strategy With A Powerful Formula

The online marketing world can be very competitive at times when it comes to creating an audience.In the beginning all of us have struggled at some point to find the right online marketing strategies who were looking to build a business online. Everything we need to learn & implement is broken up into pieces then scattered for us to run wild to find. Hopefully this will put an end to your run around marathon, here are some key points we will be touching:

  • What type of online marketing strategy you should use?
  • What strategies you should focus on?
  • Common Short-term, mid-term, long-term strategies
  • Advantages/disadvantages of short-term, mid-term, long-term strategies
  • Online strategy formula & how to use it

After reading over these key questions & points, their will be a solid blueprint for you to follow and grow any network marketing company. The true benefit will come by implementing what you read within this article. Now it’s time to jump to fun parts of this content.

What Online Marketing Strategy Should You Use

This is a very common question that is asked from most beginning online marketers who are looking to grow network marketing company online. In fact it’s never a surprise to many of the network marketing guru’s who have managed to build a successful business online & offline. It becomes an applause for the beginners who come online to market because we have a large-scale of Network Marketers who try to build their opportunity only offline with minimum amount of exposure.

Little do Network Marketers know it takes a proper marketing formula and/or system to create unique branding for themselves and network marketing opportunity. This formula and/or system that is used for branding purposes is called attraction marketing. attraction marketing is used very commonly among the Network Marketing Guru’s. So here’s what every Network Marketer need to look for within their online marketing strategy… the proper attraction marketing system.A very good formula to memorize is this “attraction marketing+network marketing=perpetual marketing“, But also understand that with this one formula comes with a plug-in of online/offline marketing strategies.

What Marketing Strategies Should You Focus On

To help you have a better conception of what is being explained to you, I will explain to the percentage of concentration for your market in regards to attraction marketing. Most commonly a large amount of 10% of 20% percent is missing within large amounts of the Network Marketers establishment. And this is because that they have not yet learned the proper 80/20 rule of network marketing.

Your Online marketing strategy should consist of 10%, while the other half of the 20% will consist of offline marketing strategies. The large factor of 80% percent is made up of making solid strong connections most of the time from both online/offline. For most Network Marketers who follow the 80% of the rule find themselves making connections more online(70%) than offline(30%).

Remember to never eliminate offline attraction marketing from your strategy, If it’s just passing out a card or attending marketing meet-up in your local area then so be it. The best type of cards to use are both drop/sizzle cards for offline attraction.This will allow you to be visible offline also.

Common Types Of Online Strategies

There is a variety of online marketing strategies that can be used to grow your business. Within the mist of paths to take within the online world.. is usually a point that we most commonly become stuck with. Most Marketers can never make up their mind with what type of online marketing strategy they want to spend the most time with. But here’s a keynote for you: “learn the basics of all of mass majority of online marketing strategies“.

By learning the basic ropes of each strategy, you will have an idea of what marketing strategies interest you. For example outsource information for each online marketing strategy from online search engines,blogs,forums,social media sites etc.. before making any type of investment for the strategy. Now to keep you in the loop, I want to provide you with the most up to date attraction marketing strategies used online. Within this enlistment you will know of the short-term, mid & long-term attraction marketing strategies:

Short-term

  • P.P.C. ( Pay Per Click )
  • P.P.V. ( Pay Per View )
  • Solo Ads
  • Voice Broadcasting
  • Any type of paid advertising

The advantages of short-term attraction:

  • When creating a starting point, it is one of the quickest way to obtain very fast results for your business.
  • Minimum amount of time invested when creating short-term attraction

The disadvantages of mid & long-term attraction:

  • Can be very expensive to produce results if not done correctly
  • Cannot stick to one way of advertising content and/or information
  • Advertising only attracts & sticks to audience for a brief amount of time

Mid & Long-term

  • Article Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • (S.E.O) Search Engine Optimization
  • Email Marketing
  • Blogging

Advantages of mid & long-term attraction:

  • When content is structured correctly, You can position work for a consistent rewarding with less effort
  • Content always sticks
  • If structured properly, You can target a consistent audience without spending a large amounts of time

Disadvantages of mid & long-term attraction:

  • Have to spend a large amount of time structuring content
  • If not done correctly, You can just be wasting time and not even know it
  • You must invest into proper tools to optimize your content to make it stick

The Attraction Marketing Picture

Overall, you want to be use an attraction marketing formula that will help you mark a blueprint to success. If you can learn all of them that’s great, but try to learn one of each when starting out. For example you may want to start of with an interest to master Pay Per Click for short-term, video marketing for mid-term & search engine optimization for long-term. For recommendation purposes.. take full training on search engine optimization, This will eliminate the majority of your headaches.

Remember the whole purpose behind the appliance of this formula provided, When applying this formula you will position yourself to become an expert when it comes to building a business online & offline.Another reason is also to attract people towards your primary opportunity just from branding leadership & marketing skills.

Good luck to you and your business, the very best should come to those who strive for greatness in their online marketing business.

David C. Simmons