There are many Project Management Tools available in the market. Many of them have cloud versions that you can access with a monthly subscription. If those subscription plans are not affordable to your project, this article is for you. In this post, I will show you how you can use Google Sheets for project management. As Google Sheets are free to use and come with your Google Account, you can use it as a 100% free project management tool.
Among the all project planning tools, the Gantt chart is the foundation of project planning. In this post, I will show you how easily you can create a Gantt chart in Google Sheets. Also, I will show you how you can automate your Gantt Charts to do some tasks to increase your productivity.
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Why Google Sheets for Project Management?
Google Sheets is one of the best cloud-based spreadsheets available out there. On the other hand, it is entirely free for personal use. Since it comes with your Google Account, it is interoperable with other products in the Google Drive. And also, you can make use of the 15 GB free cloud space to store your files.
You can easily share Google Sheets with others who have Google Account and grant them with edit, comment, or view-only access permissions. You can also restrict some cells and allow others to edit only the required cells. And also, you can see the version history as well as track changes to each cell.
You can also make use of other Google Drive apps when you use Google Sheets for Project Management.
Google Sheets project management templates – Template Gallery
Google sheets provide you with pre-built templates for some cases to give you a head start. To access the Google Sheets project management templates;
- Click the “New” button in the top left corner of the Google Drive
- Hover over the arrowhead next to Google Sheets
- Click “From a Template”
- Click the “Template Gallery” button on the top right corner of the next window to expand the template gallery
- Scroll down until you find Project Management section
Or, if you have currently opened a Google Sheet;
- Click the Google Sheets icon at the top left corner to access the Template Gallery.
Pre-Built Project Management Templates
Scroll down the template gallery to find the “Project Management” section. In this section, there are a few pre-built project management templates. For this example, I chose the “Gantt Chart” template created by Smartsheet. Click the Gantt chart template to create a new Google Sheets with it.
Customizing the Project Management Template
If they satisfy you with the above template itself, you can continue customizing it in your way to manage your project. However, the template includes only basic formatting to allow anyone to use it. In the following sections, I will show you how you can add more functionalities to this template to make your tasks easy.
Add task descriptions
When a task name is not self-explanatory, you can add a task description as a note. Right-click on the cell and select “Insert note” type your note in the white box and click anywhere outside the box to exit and save the comment.
Create drop-down lists in cells
You can allow users to select values from a drop-down list. For example, in the task owners column, create a list of people that you will work with. Then you can easily pick them instead of typing their names every time you assign a task.
Sharing the Google Sheets project plan with collaborators
One of the beautiful things about Google Sheets is its sharing capabilities. That is the most useful function when you use Google Sheets for project management. You can choose whether collaborators can edit, comment, or view only. To share your project plan;
- Click Share at the top right corner of the Google Sheet
- Type the collaborator’s email address in the email field
- Click the pencil icon and select whether he/she can edit, comment or view the project plan.
- Click Done.
Receive Email Notification of changes to Google Sheets project plan
You can stay updated on changes made to the project plan with email notification. To set email notification, go to Tools>Notification rules. With this, you can set to receive any changes done to the project plan right way to your inbox.
Lock critical content
You can restrict the critical contents of your project plan for editing and define who has edit access. Then you can ensure the only authorized users are editing your project plan.
Let’s say you need to protect entire sheets except for a range of cells in the Sheet. To do that;
- Go to Data > Protected sheets & ranges
- Click Add a sheet or range
- Click Sheet
- Except certain cells checkbox
- Click on the “Select range” box and select the range of cells you want to allow for editing.
- If you’re going to add another range click on “Add another range” button and add the range of cells
- Click Ok
- Click Set Permissions button
- Select the “Restrict who can edit the range” radio button
- Deselect the users who do not need edit access by unchecking the checkbox (!remember: this permission applying to the protected range; not to the excluded range)
- Click Done
View the edit history of each cell in your Google Sheets Gantt Chart
You can view the edit history of each cell in the Google Sheet. So, you can see all the changes to the document and who’s responsible for the changes. To view the edit history;
- Right-click on the cell
- Click Show edit history
Then you can use the left-right arrows to see the edit history.
You can also view the version history of your entire Sheets at; File > Version history > See version history or keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shif+H.
Add comments and assign them
In Google Sheets, you can add comments to each cell and assign them to a specific person. To add a comment;
- Right-click on the cell and click Comment.
- Then enter your comment in the box.
- To assign the comment to a specific person, type plus sign (+) in the comment box and then type the email of the person (You can also select it from the drop-down generated underneath).
- Click the “Assign to” checkbox.
- Click “Assign”, then the assigned person will be notified and responsible for marking as done.
File sharing is also very essential in project management. During the project lifecycle, you may create a lot of essential files. You can use the 15GB free cloud storage that comes with your Google account to share your project-related files with your team.
Create a folder inside your Google Drive for your project. Then create some subfolders inside it based on your requirements. Then you can share these folders with your collaborators and giver permission to view only or to “organize, add, and edit“. Once you do that, the files you stored inside those folders inherited the same level of permission.
You can put links to these files and folders in the Google Sheets Gantt Chart as a comment or note. Then it is easy to find the relevant files to that specific task.
Scanning important documents
Install Google Drive Mobile App and use the Scan feature for scanning your important documents and upload them into the relevant folders you created in Google Drive.
You can use Google Docs to create your documents. You can create these files inside your shared Google Drive folders, and others can view comments and edit your files depending on the permissions they have granted.
You can also create Google Slides in the same way and used them to progress review meetings.
You can have all of your discussions in one place with Google Groups. So, create a Google Groupe for your project team and add your team members. The Google Groups also can be used to share your files with your project team.
Google Sheet Add-ons for project management
You can also install Google Sheets add-on for managing your projects. You can use ProjectSheet planning add-on to create a WBS and a Gantt with more advanced features. The plugin also has a pro version that provides more features. Watch the following YouTube video to learn more about this add-on.
The final verdict on using Google Sheets for project management
Being a cloud-based application, Google Sheets has many functions that you can use for project management. In addition to the Google Sheets, you can also make use of other Google Drive apps and features to manage your project more efficiently. The different levels of accessibility to your file system increases the security of your project management system. With Google Drive, you can manage your files in one place. And you can get rid of the multiple version issue in your file system if you use the Google Drive correctly.
With Google Sheets, you can also use project management add-ons and reduce the time of customizing the Google Sheets project management templates.
As such, you can use Google Sheets for managing small scale projects more efficiently, no need to spend your money on expensive online project management tools.