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Google Docs? Really?
I stumbled upon Google Docs by accident. When my computer gave me all indications of an impending crash, I looked for some quick and handy cloud storage. Google Docs served that purpose—you can upload whatever you want—and it also opened my eyes to the whole new world of its templates. Many of them suit the project manager, and once you’ve chosen the ones you like, you can assemble them into a collection for specific projects.
All templates uploaded are converted into Google’s version of familiar file formats. That means there are spreadsheets that look like Excel, but they’re not Excel. There are presentations that look like PowerPoint, but they’re a little different. Once you choose the ones you like, they are saved in your documents Home, and you can even rename them. You cannot actually download them onto your hard drive. I did, however, attempt to copy some. For example, I copied all of a Google doc and pasted it onto a new Excel worksheet. You can do this as long as you don’t want to paste more than 1,000 cells at a time, but you will lose formatting.
Many of them, unfortunately, are done in a foreign language, and so this reviewer could not access some that looked really promising. However, take a look at this round-up of ten useful templates.
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1. Project Tracking Form
To get started, you’ll need something to document your project charter—try Daily Project Tracking with Filters. Done as a spreadsheet, look at it as a top-down approach: You can rename the sheet with your Project’s name and insert the categories that will define your project.
This form provides an excellent example of the usefulness of sharing Google docs: You can share the form with stakeholders and have each one sign off on as versions develop.
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2. Project Management - Marketing Example
Once you’ve identified your project charter, you need to set out your tasks, identify relationships, and calculate task durations. The Project Management – Marketing Example document will allow you to do that and, again, you can modify it if you like. Its columns let you list tasks, and the sheet is set up with categories for objectives as well as deliverables.
For each task you will list who owns it and the task status. Task status is set by color coding. The next column lets you mark whether tasks are on track, not started, or at risk. Naturally there are columns for start and end dates, and there is a column for notes. The document title includes the words “marketing example” but you can adapt this for your own project type and tasks.
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3. Decision Support Tool
This next template is a simpler version of the above, a Decision Support Tool. It lets you list your project tasks. The cell at the top left of the form says milestones; you can use this as a format for listing project tasks if you like the format better than the document above, or you can use it specifically for milestones. Columns are provided for dependencies, status, due date, start and end dates, assignee, effort, and notes.
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4. Project Cost Calculator
Now that you’ve chosen a document for listing your project tasks, you can use this document to estimate what your project will cost.
Formulas are preset to calculate, for example, if you assign someone whose salary is $50,000, and he works half time on the project for a duration of four weeks, plus an allowance of 18% administrative overhead, he will cost the project $2,269. You will especially love that the creator of this document color coded the document: You can type in the blue cells, but avoid green cells because they contain formulas.
Besides a category for staff, there is also one for Activities/Supplies and one for Training/Conferences. Feel free, as with any Google doc, to rename categories. Adding your own categories works best if you are somewhat familiar with typical spreadsheet formatting. You can carry down formulas by copying the cell with the formula and dragging it down.
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5. Project Timeline
This next important project worksheet is vital to any project—an actual plot and budgeting of your time. I really love this form and have used it to plot out several parameters for several projects. What I didn’t like about this sheet is that it comes pre-filled with various color-coded squares; when I delete them, the outlines of the cells seem to be slightly faded. Nevertheless, they function as they should, and I am able to insert my own tasks and color coding.
The worksheet wants you to list deliverables, owner, and duration. I loved playing with this chart and have filled it out to show the local health fair dates. You can see that the colored blocks denote the dates when the health fairs are held, and below them are plotted the dates of various fundraisers that will be promoted concomitantly. In a section below that, I have plotted vacation times (this is a summertime project) for several vital project participants. Very handy!
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6. Issue Log – Risk Register
This next document is identified as an issue log, but it’s really a simple risk register. You can see it has places to identify Status, Priority, Issue Type, Area, Description, Discussion, Assigned to, Initiated By, and Creation Date. The author has made it easy to sort each column to answer your data queries at any given time. As with other forms, you can modify this one by renaming categories or adding columns. The headers are frozen so that you cannot type in your project name, but you can save and name this log for each specific project.
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7. Budget Planner
The categories on this great little spreadsheet seem like those that the head of a family would use. But this is set up brilliantly and can be adapted easily to fit a department in a large corporation or for use in a small business. All you need to do is change the categories.
The way it works, the top rows reflect the totals in the categories listed below. One of the neat tricks is that those rows are frozen, but the bottom rows can be scrolled to show the amounts you are planning to spend during each month of the year. Whatever you enter into each month’s cell, it will be part of an average-per-month calculation on the right-hand side of the chart. And it will be added into the totals contained in the frozen rows at the top. You can change the categories to fit whatever suit your project; but the formulas are already in place.
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8. Presentation Template
Every good project manager needs a presentation tool from time to time. This download provides you with 5 slides that provide an attractive yet generic background for just about any topic. Just type your message into each slide, whether it’s motivational, informational, or instructional, and share it with your team.
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9. Work Recorder
This nifty-looking form is one of those ingenious Google docs that serves as both form and spreadsheet. In the first view, you can see the Work Recorder form in which the user checks off which category the work request falls into.
Below that you’ll see spaces for room number, date of request, date of task completion, and assigned staff. Below that is yet another checklist so you can indicate the type of labor required to complete your task.
You can share this form with all your managers, and when maintenance is needed Rick or Joe or whoever fills it out and submits it. Then, on the backside view where the spreadsheet is, the submitted data is listed in Excel-type columns that can be sorted however you want to analyze it.
You can even use this form to propose change in project scope; the spreadsheet provides a date and time stamp that will mark every update and a way to notate its status. All you need to do is change the headings on the spreadsheet and your form will be updated.
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10. Team Contact List
Share this handy form with your managers. Each person can fill in his contact information, and anyone with whom you’ve shared the form will know how to get in touch with anybody else at the click of a mouse. Don’t forget, you can list people on the form without sharing the form with them, as long as you know their phone number, email, and so forth. If anybody gets a new cell or email address, he can update the form and everyone on the project team will access the new information without any other difficulty.
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Ready! Set! Organize!
When you’ve saved the templates you like, create a collection of them. Go to Create New on the left side of the screen, and choose Collection; I named my demo file Project Management. Right-click or check off each template you want to put into this collection. Then, whenever you want to access any of these specific forms, you simply click on the arrow beside the Project Management collection to view your list. You can also read Google Docs: The Project Manager's New Best Friend for more information on working with Google Docs.
If you're looking for more sample forms and downloadable templates, check out Bright Hub's resource guide Over 50 Free Project Management Templates and Sample Forms.
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The writer has managed many projects and has thoroughly explored Google Docs.
broken disk: sxc.hu, svilen001
all Google Doc screenshots taken by the writer.