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  • Writer's pictureElena Leonova

5 Reasons Why You Should Not Use Spreadsheets for Roadmapping

Have you ever felt frustrated about yet another spreadsheet that was supposed to give you all the information you need, but you can't even remember its name? And when you do, it's not up-to-date with the latest changes. And you thought it would be fast to make those changes, but it ended up taking hours of your time. And here you are again, looking at hours spent on these manual updates in spreadsheets instead of talking to your customers or brainstorming ideas with your teammates. You aren't alone!


According to the Pragmatic Institute 2019 Annual Product Management and Product Marketing Survey, product professionals spend 73% of their time on tactical vs. 27% strategic activities. These tactical activities include maintaining product roadmaps, planning new product releases, planning capacity & resourcing, evaluating scenarios, etc. It's a lot of time!



To become more efficient and strategic as a product manager, take a look at all tools that you use in your day-to-day. Most likely, your top three software tools are an email client, spreadsheets (Google Sheets or Excel), and slide decks. And hopefully, you are also spending a lot of your time in a project management software tool such as Jira, Asana, Trello, Clubhouse, etc. If that's the case, great 😃

So your first step for creating more bandwidth for strategic activities is to replace your product spreadsheets with a proper tool. So why is it not a good idea to rely on spreadsheets? Let's get to it.

Spreadsheets don't provide a strategic context.


Product and engineering managers use spreadsheets (Google Sheets or Excel) for the product roadmap and capacity planning. Their goal is to understand what teams can accomplish within a certain period. It typically involves analyzing tradeoffs and exploring different scenarios. However, spreadsheets lack strategic context while making these decisions.


Spreadsheets get outdated quickly.


People typically get a new spreadsheet going to solve a problem or make a decision promptly. But we all have seen spreadsheets with multiple tabs in them, hundreds of rows, and a handful of columns. Not only it takes a lot of time to put a comprehensive spreadsheet to start with, but keeping it up-to-date is a true nightmare. That's why it's much easier to start a new one than to keep the old one up-to-date. It leads to having a lot of spreadsheets disconnected from each other and outdated.

Spreadsheets don't promote agile decision-making.


Because project management tools don't automatically reflect the decision made based on the information from a spreadsheet, there's always a delay when the decision gets communicated to the right people. So it might take hours or days for the information to be shared, and people started acting on it. And most likely it will lack all the context around that decision.


Spreadsheets are error-prone & inefficient.


Spreadsheets aren't connected with the project management tools such as Jira, Trello, Asana, etc. They don't have information about available resources (aka capacity). They require a lot of manual work to calculate what can be achieved within a planning cycle accurately. Additionally, they lack historical data from a previously completed cycle (a quarter, release, etc.), which is highly beneficial for guiding future roadmap planning. And thus, they require a lot of time investment and also leads to errors.


Spreadsheets don't foster effective collaboration & communication.


Spreadsheets aren't built for collaboration & communication. They lack an effective notification system. They don't have a preview and approval flow that lets you review changes before cascading them down to the teams. And when change happens, it's hard to keep track of them. Lastly, it's difficult to know if people have reacted to the change or not.

 

But the good news is this spreadsheet deficiency led to creating a new type of product software focused on addressing product roadmap and capacity planning needs, tools like OneRank.

 

Takeaway


Product Roadmap & Capacity Planning is a fairly complex process and requires a lot of time and effort from everybody involved. Most professionals tend to spreadsheets for it. However, they often become frustrated and exhausted from these giant spreadsheets that never get opened once the planning is over.

Don't get me wrong. I think spreadsheets are an excellent choice for smaller companies, teams, and products. They are flexible and affordable. But if you have more than ten people involved in the product roadmap and capacity planning, you will significantly benefit from having a proper planning tool like OneRank.

OneRank providers product roadmap visibility to the entire company, powers cross-functional collaboration between product and engineering teams during the roadmap and capacity planning, and enables seamless collaboration, even in a remote and distributed environment. It takes all the heavy lifting of manual roadmap planning and regular status updates away from teams and gives this valuable time back to build products customers love.

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