Still Managing Your Continuous Improvement Projects in Excel?

Stacey McDaniel | 6/12/2024

Topics: Continuous Improvement, Minitab Engage

Microsoft Excel is a tried-and-true resource for most companies, and it does offer extreme value. However, when it’s used to track continuous improvement projects, its value diminishes. Wasting time gathering data from different reports across different internal systems takes time away from driving the change that matters.  Let’s look at areas in which Excel falls short, and how purpose-built Minitab Engage provides a one-stop project management solution  for continuous improvement and operational excellence programs.

Cumbersome Data Collection in Excel

Continuous improvement projects involve multiple tasks, stakeholders, and data points. Excel lacks the robustness to handle large-scale projects efficiently. Managing them solely in Excel becomes cumbersome. In addition, tracking timelines and all the moving parts can be challenging without specialized CI project management tools.

Companies often build Excel trackers to manage projects, which amounts to huge files with one row for each project. Trying to keep the Excel trackers up to date can become a full-time job. Chasing after people, and the data, then manually typing in the data. Insert a column, widen a row, and suddenly formulas break – it can be frustrating and time–consuming.

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How Minitab Engage Saves Countless Hours

A vice president of quality for a $1.5 billion-dollar industrial corporation, Hermann Miskelly, a certified Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) Master Black Belt, is responsible for leading the continuous improvement efforts. In an interview with Minitab he noted the pain of managing data in Excel. “Across all our operations and business units, these [Excel] spreadsheets required more than 120 man-hours each month to collate, analyze, and prepare for monthly executive reviews of the continuous improvement effort,” said Miskelly. “Overall, our management system was slow, cumbersome, and labor-intensive, and we were looking for a better way to execute and manage our continuous improvement effort.”

The “better way” Miskelly found was Minitab Engage. Minitab Engage is the only continuous improvement software specifically designed to help organizations build improvement and innovation programs. No more running around to find answers. Engage enables teams to collaborate seamlessly, share insights, and collectively contribute to increased productivity and efficiency across the organization.

Reporting Capabilities and Forms

It’s important to have continuous improvement software that facilitates day-to-day project management and provides quick progress reports for strategic alignment with key objectives.

Excel’s reporting capabilities are limited compared to Engage. Try to create meaningful dashboards, visualizations, and performance metrics with Excel – it’s not easy. On the other hand, Engage rolls up all data automatically and provides dashboard views, enabling companies to manage a vast number of projects to manage a vast number of products AND easily and effectively demonstrate the ROI of their improvement and innovation program.

Miskelly said that Minitab Engage’s dashboard capability made the greatest improvement to his company's ability to manage a vast number of projects.
“No longer collating and analyzing spreadsheets at the end of the month, our operations and business unit leaders can look at their continuous improvement efforts as a whole and, if required, dig down into individual projects. The dashboard allows them to track project information — counts, started, completed, late, etc. — and financial information such as forecast savings vs. actual savings, in real time. Operations and business leaders can now focus on analyzing progress and identifying opportunities for new projects.... Once again, Minitab has studied and listened to its customers, and delivered a product that solves our continuous improvement problems.”

In addition to the real-time dashboard component, Engage trumps Excel by offering 60+ tools and forms, including root cause analysis, Five Whys, SIPOC, project charter, and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), as well as diagramming and brainstorming tools like fishbone diagrams, process maps, value stream maps, and mind maps.

If you are beginning, enhancing, or continuing your continuous improvement initiatives, and trying to leverage Excel to manage them, you owe it to yourself to give Minitab Engage a look. It is designed for comprehensive continuous improvement programs, offering problem-solving tools and proven project management methodologies, and the ability to track key performance metrics in real time to demonstrate ROI. Demonstrating that ROI leads to more buy-in, and potential for more CI projects.

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