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Article - Consultants hit the ground running with tried and trusted tools but can you share them

Executive Summary

Typically, clients and integrators expect on-boarded project consultants (project managers - business analysts – process architects) to immediately hit the ground running.

Obviously, in the absence of mandatory project tools, Consultants will then rely on their tried and tested standard and customized tools to make an early contribution.

These might include one or more of the following tools:

  • De-facto Microsoft applications (MS Project - MS Visio - MS PowerPoint – MS SharePoint – MS Power BI)
  • Google Sheets with Google Apps Script
  •  Specialist cloud-based applications (i.e. BPM – PPM)
  • MS Excel templates, checklists and customized VBA based Excel tool-sets

However, there are circumstances where Consultants cannot deploy their preferred tools!

Tools Selection Constraints and Drivers:

Whether Public Sector or Private Sector (multi-nationals or SMEs), resources, governance and IT constraints will always drive and/or limit the Consultant’s available tool selection based on suitability, accessibility, collaboration requirements, capability, compliance and deployment possibilities.

For example:


  • Users are not allowed to install non-approved applications on client / project computer devices
  • No dirty internet services available to access:

          i.     cloud-based applications

         ii.     personal email accounts

  • Users not allowed to install MS tools with untrusted VBA macros

IT environment:

  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) not supported so you cannot access Corporate networks via your own computer
  • No shared drives (i.e. MS SharePoint - Documentum)
  • Cloud or on-premise hosting which may limit tool installations
  • Excel Online Workbooks opened in a Browser Window – file size limits (10 MB - SharePoint Online and 5 MB - OneDrive)
  • Network access to supporting databases and data links not available

Project complexity:

  • Number of projects and work packages may be too complex for your tools
  • Local or remote project resources places constraints on collaboration
  • Simple local business change through to global greenfield ERP roll-out
  • Project governance requirements (gates – artifacts – sign-offs)
  • Analytics and metric computations – power of Excel versus the simplicity and convenience of Google Sheets

Project resource skills levels:

  • Low – comfortable with Excel but no experience with MS Project

Sharing Online via a browser:

  • Excel Online Workbooks opened in a Browser Window – file size limits (10 MB - SharePoint Online and 5 MB - OneDrive)

Client has standardized on Google Sheets and not Excel

Your customized Excel may not run within Google Sheets

  • Unsupported formula
  • VBA scripts will have to be rewritten in Google Apps Script
  • File size exceeds 30 MB


  • Requirement for real-time collaboration (i.e. Google Sheets)
  • Excel Online collaboration (limited to 5MB and no data links to other Excel files)

Budget Constraints:

  • No budget to purchase additional MS licenses (i.e. MS Project – MS Visio)
  • No budget to hire specialist resources

Short Project delivery time-lines:

  • Prolonged procurement processes and sign-offs
  • IT change processes

Single-truth traceable reporting:

  • Ensuring all reports are based on accurate up-to-date data


The most frequent constraint to using my own tools on time critical projects were:

  • No BYOD policy and constrained to use a highly governed image which prevented installing tools / applications and running VBA scripts
  • Budget constraints to purchase additional MS licenses
  • Time constraints to getting approval and procure essential tools
  • Change Agent skills – not familiar using MS Project

Personally, each project assignment I have been engaged over the last 10 years has provided unique opportunities to both leverage and enhance my own tool sets to overcome most of the constraints mentioned above.

Despite some technical limitations that I hope Microsoft can resolve soon, I have chosen to develop all my tools in Excel 365 (see list below in Appendix) for the following reasons:

Why Excel 365?

  • Excel 365 is now the Corporate deployed de-facto standard
  • Providing Excel tools does not require additional licences or application installations
  • Most project resources are skilled in or comfortable with Excel
  • Integrated data linkage ensures a single truth
  • Excel provides unlimited data source integration, computation and customization capabilities
  • Powerful dashboards through integration with MS Power BI
  • Collaboration online via a browser or results cascaded via web pages
  • Excel can be programmed with VBA to completely emulate MS Project and MS Visio capabilities and more


Appendix – Pre-Configured Excel Tools:

A.    Process Assessment Excel Tool

Pre-configured process templates feeding integrated deep dive analysis cube and Six Sigma SIPOC diagrams spanning:

  • Local and central Government HR, Finance, Health & Safety and ICT processes
  • LGA ESD Standards
  • APQC Process Classifications
  • User Defined

 B.     Business Process Modelling Excel Tool

Agnostic business process design mapping tool with integrated Use Case simulation and workflow.

Framework Support:

  • BPMN 2.0
  • Emulates Adonis 5.0 process maps
  • Other standards can be implemented

Mapping Features:

  • 150 vertical or horizontal process maps per Excel file
  • Supports ASIS and TOBE analysis
  • Single source repository for Process Maps, work instructions, policies, procedures, governance and workflows
  • Use Case Simulation provide online training and single source reference

Supports Integrated Project Management by providing and linking predefine Project Task steps including project scope to deliver:

  • IT Cloud Applications without personal data
  • IT Cloud Applications with personal data
  • IT On-Premise ERP 3rd party applications
  • ERP global template upgrade roll-outs with OCM (Organizational Change Management)

 C.     Project Portfolio Management Excel Tool

A single tool to be used by PMO to Plan Manage and Report small to large project portfolios. Project Managers, Workstream Leads and Work Package leads provide on-going status via integrated Excel Online Highlight Reports with integrated Risks / Issues.

Portfolio Configurations:

  • Single Program with 6 Workstreams and 6 Projects per Workstream
  • Single Program with 6 Projects and 6 Work Packages per Project
  • Single Program with 36 Projects
  • Single Project with 36 Work Packages

Supported Frameworks:

  • Agile and Waterfall
  • Prince2 and PMBOK

Single Truth Portfolio Reporting based on Portfolio Configuration:

  • Bottom-Up reporting from each Project / Work Package Highlight Reports to Workstream and Program Highlight reports
  • Bottom-up reporting from Workstream Highlight reports to Program Highlight reports

Each Project / Work Package tasks and activities can be configured and scaled:

  • Up to 350 activity / tasks per project or Work Package
  • Pre- configured tasks with delivery windows and task duration and Dependencies for (linked to the Business Process Modelling Tool):

- IT Cloud Applications without personal data

- IT Cloud Applications with personal data

- IT On-Premise ERP 3rd party applications

- ERP global template upgrade roll-outs with OCM (Organizational Change Management)

Project / Work Package Timelines determined and automatically calculated by:

  • Task Delivery window and expected task duration
  • Forced Task Start Date and/or Competition Date
  • Last completion date of up to 10 inter-project task dependencies per task
  • Resource availability (onboard or to be recruited) and % utilization (i.e. FTE or seconded)
  • Resource Public Holiday and Scheduled vacation dates
  • Next available Governance Gate and Board Dates

Contingency Resource Timeline and Budgetary Planning:

3 project scenarios can be built to reflect differing resource models and rate cards i.e.:

  • Full-time external consultants
  • Full-time insourced resources
  • Part-time seconded resources (say 50% utilization

Dashboards, Gantts and Analytics:

  • One-page Portfolio Dashboard showing RAG and Completion status for 36 projects / Work Packages
  • Weekly Gantt charts (Actual and 2 contingency plans)
  • Resource Utilization and Project Utilization demand charts

Links to Ken's Tools, Templates and Development Services