By using a project planning form or setting up some simple formulas, project managers can make use of Microsoft Excel as an effective project management tool to help in project planning and scheduling. For example, the first column, Column A, of a spreadsheet used for listing project management tasks can indicate if the task must be completed before the next task can begin.
Tasks on the critical path consist of back-to-back activities without any time in between. Entering "CP" in this column indicates the task fits this criteria for being on the critical path. Later, if the project manager needs to shorten a schedule, she knows where to look for critical tasks.
Project task names can be listed in the next column, Column B, and then in subsequent columns, the project manager can enter details about durations, costs, dependencies, resources and due dates. For example, Column C might contain information about how long it takes to complete the task in days. Another column might indicate if the task depends on another. For example, components must be built before the testing of them can begin.