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Project Scenario Plan in Excel

How to build a plan of different project scenarios using Excel

Project managers need to account for different project scenarios so that they can make decisions that drive positive outcomes. Visualizing different project scenarios is a good way to lead your team to the right decisions. With a simple Excel spreadsheet, you can model project scenarios, and then use OnePager Express to create a timeline that compares one scenario to another.

One way to visualize different project scenarios is to group each scenario into a swimlane so that all for the tasks for each scenario are visible in one place:

Project scenario plan with swimlanes for each scenario

Another option is to group each task into a swimlane so that you can compare different scenarios on a task-by-task basis:

Project scenario plan with swimlanes for each task

This article will show you how to set up your spreadsheet and to create both types of scenario maps.

  1. To begin, set up an Excel spreadsheet to track your different project scenarios. In this example, we have a simple project consisting of five tasks, with each task repeating across three different project scenarios. Each scenario models different durations for each task, which drives the final project outcome:

    Microsoft Excel Plan of different project scenarios

    You can download our example project scenario planner and customize it to fit your own needs.

  2. The next step is to import the Excel scenario plan into OnePager. Do this by going to Excel's Add-Ins tab and click the OnePager Express button. If you don't have OnePager Express yet, you can get a free trial.

    OnePager timeline add-in for Excel

  3. When the start screen appears, click New to build a new timeline. On the import wizard, give your project plan a name, and then click on Next >:

    Create a new project scenario plan in Excel.

  4. Double-check that the fields from your spreadsheet look reasonable. In this example, we might want to assign a different color to each project scenario, so we can set that up here:

    Assign a different color to each project scenario.

  5. Click Create New Chart. OnePager will import the three different project scenarios from your Excel spreadsheet and give you an initial visual that looks like this:

    Project scenario plan created in Excel

    Based on our earlier selection, each scenario gets its own color, so it is easy to see that "Scenario C", in green, will finish a full month earlier than "Scenario A" in blue.

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Grouping Each Scenario into a Swimlane

The example above gives us a nice, clean scenario map, but what if we want to call out each scenario more clearly? Swimlanes are a great way to do this:

  1. To add a swimlane grouping, go to Home > Chart Properties > Rows/Swimlanes. Change your swimlane grouping to look at the "Scenario" field from your Excel spreadsheet:

    Group each project scenario into its own swimlane.

  2. When you click OK, OnePager will add a swimlane grouping down the left-hand side of your timeline. Now each project scenario is grouped into its own swimlane:

    Project scenario plan with a swimlane for each scenario.

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Reviewing Scenarios Task-by-Task

Another view of the same data lets you review each scenario on a task-by-task basis. This is good if you want to mix and match scenarios to achieve an even better project outcome. To do this, we change our swimlanes to look at each task individually.

  1. Return to Home > Chart Properties > Rows/Swimlanes. Change your swimlane grouping to look at the "Task Name" field from your Excel spreadsheet:

    Change swimlane groupings so that all tasks with the same name appear in the same swimlane.

  2. We can also change the text on each of the task bars to depict the scenario instead of the task name. To do this, navigate to the Field Mappings tab and change your Task Labels to use the "Scenario" field:

    Label tasks based on their assigned scenario.

  3. Now, click OK, and OnePager will realign the chart so that you can see all three scenarios for a given task in one swimlane:

    Multiple project scenarios, grouped by common tasks.

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