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Project management with Jira or Excel: Which tool is better?

Managing a project successfully is always a challenge  - all the more reason to find the right tool. For many users the question arises: Do I achieve the best project management with Jira? Or is Excel the right solution for me? Regardless of the chosen methodology or the size of the project, an efficient project management tool must meet some basic requirements. We need:

  • A detailed breakdown of tasks and responsibilities
  • An overview of schedules, costs and the status of the project and individual tasks
  • The possibility of cross-project reporting for a holistic view
  • Simple and effortless teamwork


The use of Excel spreadsheets as an information hub is a common approach. But does this solution meet all the requirements?

Image: The project plan shows the lack of overview of project management with Excel compared to Jira
The project plan shows the lack of overview of project management with Excel compared to Jira

5 reasons why you should not do project management in Excel

A company once used similar project plans to carry out more than 200 projects year after year. However, as the complexity and number of projects increased, the weaknesses of the solution became increasingly apparent.

  1. Complicated access to project files and limited sustainability
  2. No central point of contact for all information
  3. Missing holistic overview of multiple projects
  4. Insufficient collaboration and traceability
  5. Hardly any automation possibilities


In the worst case this situation can occur:

  • Scattered and outdated information silos are used.
  • The communication between the parties involved is neither transparent nor centralized.
  • It is difficult to track project progress efficiently and prioritize tasks correctly.
  • It is difficult to reliably compare the current expenses with estimates and to determine the total project costs.


If further requirements such as ISO certifications come into play, a change to another type of project management is urgently needed. For example, project management with Jira is much easier and more user-friendly. The result: Even complex projects can be successfully implemented.

Choosing the right project management tool: Why Jira?

Many teams in software development and IT support rely on Jira. But how well does Atlassian’s software perform when it comes to project management?
The good news first: Using Jira to implement your projects solves each of the challenges mentioned and offers even more advantages for all users. We only need to add a few selected apps to Jira to extend the functionality for the best implementation. Including the following:

  • Jira Workflow Toolbox, our automation solution for mapping the process in the tool
  • BigPicture developed by Softwareplant is used for the visualization of the project plan
  • Issue Matrix, an app from Botron Atlassian Apps for an improved presentation of related issues

How the implementation in Jira works

A specially created issue type is used as a bracket for the individual projects and their tasks. The actual tasks are then defined as sub-tasks.
This offers the advantage that for the first time we get a holistic picture of the projects and their status. Making the presentation of issues more appealing using dashboards is just as easy.

This alone eliminates information silos and access to projects now only requires a few clicks. Files can be attached directly to issues and users have the ability to collaborate easily. The built-in function for time tracking and effort estimation allows reliable and person-specific effort recording.

But what about data entry and automation? The input of data was reduced to the necessary minimum. At the same time, the data is sufficient to execute even the most complex project plans fully automatically. The close integration with Jira Workflow Toolbox begins with the creation of the project issue type.
From a technical point of view, we can divide this step into two stages:

  • The verification of inputs
  • The automated creation of tasks
Image: Validations using Jira Workflow Toolbox prevent invalid user input during project creation in Jira
Validations using Jira Workflow Toolbox prevent invalid user input during project creation in Jira

Mapping processes with Jira Workflow Toolbox

All important fields for master data such as the start date and project responsible person are available when creating the issue. Different project processes and types require different tasks and different dependencies. These specific features are considered directly in the workflow in Jira in addition to effort estimates and costs. The user only has to use simple checkboxes to put together their project. Every entry is checked and the user is notified of invalid combinations.

After that, the automated creation of all required sub-tasks starts. Due dates are automatically calculated, descriptions added and tasks assigned.
The calculation of due dates and duration of tasks also takes working days and holidays into account. Otherwise, it could easily backfire!

This implementation ensures high data quality right from the moment when project issue types are created. At the same time, users are conveniently guided through the creation process. Not only the project creation but also the processes during the course of the project are thus greatly simplified and accelerated.

Creating Charts with Jira GANTT

A project needs a GANTT chart, right? For this reason, a suitable GANTT chart is created in BigPicture for the created project task and displayed in the process. This doesn't require user participation and is also automated. The chronological order of the tasks is ensured and adopted during the creation. The project phases are visually highlighted. Another advantage: Any changes in the project plan are reflected in the issues and the chart.

Image: An automatically generated GANTT chart visualizes the project plan
An automatically generated GANTT chart visualizes the project plan

Project Management with Jira: Key takeaways

Different project phases should also be visually represented in the issues. Jira's default view for sub-tasks is replaced by Issue Matrix fields. This allows us to visually summarize the sub-tasks according to our requirements. For example, tasks of the current and the next project phases are displayed separately. This gives the user a clear view of all phases and also of tasks already completed.

Image: Tasks belonging to different project phases are structured and clearly separated in Jira
Tasks belonging to different project phases are structured and clearly separated in Jira

Jira vs. Excel: Who is the project management all-rounder?

In principle, this approach can be applied to a wide variety of project types. Excel has advantages in the field of data analysis, but Jira offers the possibilities for successful and transparent project management. A modern interface, user-friendliness and numerous collaboration features have a direct positive effect on team performance and project quality. Apps such as Jira Workflow Toolbox help to reduce complexity for users by automating workflows and managing projects more efficiently and cost-effectively.

If you are interested in details about the implementation of this project or want to know how our xApps by Decadis can support you in Jira and Confluence, send us a message.

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Written by
Max Förster

MF blog 

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