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Construction and Excel. A perfect match or a recipe for disaster?

Construction and Excel
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Construction and Excel. A perfect match or a recipe for disaster?

The familiarity of Excel often makes it a program of choice across industries. Hundreds of instructional videos and free templates online make it easier to use than ever before. 

Despite this accessibility, construction professionals are removing Excel from the equation and with good reason. 

We explore the key pitfalls many construction businesses experience by using Excel and how it can jeopardise your companies success. 

1. Incorrect data and human error are common.

From winning to losing a bid, it is all in the numbers. The increased complexity of a job means hundreds of rows, multiple columns, manually entering raw data related to materials, standard prices, transport costs and hour variations. 

Autosum functions, VLOOKUP and tables simplify gathering and reviewing data in Excel. Once you’ve won the tender, measuring return and comparing the initial costing of daily activities adds an additional layer of complexity. 

Unfortunately, many have fallen victim to the harsh reality when bank reconciliations, work costs, and forecasted profit have not been realised. 

Where did it all go wrong? 

How do you compare and identify what happened against what was originally recorded?

It’s time to break up the formulas, find the errors and rebuild the spreadsheet. 

Many businesses have grown a love-hate relationship with excel. It’s what works (to an extent), they already have an Office365 subscription, and it doesn’t involve the whole team in deploying new software. Regrettable mistakes related to human error are all part and parcel of the program. 

Excel is a powerful program and serves a purpose. The power of the program requires an experienced user to harness its full potential. Many construction businesses do not have an advanced user who can create customised data processing and presentation via VBA (Visual Basic for Application) codes. 

Without advanced tools to aggregate and manipulate data means many constructions businesses can’t analyse their data. The inability to review historical data and forecasts means that Excel will only support your business growth in the very early stages of development. 

2. Collaboration is limited

It is reported that Excel is used by over 750 million people worldwide. Since it’s a widely accessible program and basic functionality can be easily Googled, why change to software that requires licences?

The key reason is collaboration! 

The risk of human error and broken formulas is exacerbated by increased users using the same file. Excel was not built to track changes, and often companies create an automated backup copy of the file to protect their work. 

Teams often struggle with identifying what went wrong and why. Similarly, they may run the paradox of identifying which version of the file is the most up-to-date and that the formulas have remained intact. 

Duplicated efforts, time and morale loss, can hinder your team’s motivation. All employee efforts translate to a company cost; time wasted is loss of productive time.  

3. Workflows and automation are clunky. 

The internet offers many free Excel templates to allow users to build their project timeline tool. 

Gantt charts are commonly used as a visual timeline to map out project milestones. Project status reports templates track what is happening in the project. Whilst project trackers and task lists act as a to-do list and assign work to team members. 

You can also use Excel to create a risk register, work breakdown structure, issue tracker, budget template and much more. From the manually entered data, you’re able to create dashboards to visualise your data. 

Despite all the available tools in Excel to manage workflow, the basic functionality of collaborative project management applications is still missing. 

For general Excel creators, our spreadsheets are static, notifications can not be automated, and missed deadlines are not reported unless looked for. Creating task dependencies is out of the question, as we risk corrupting or breaking the spreadsheet. 

Tracking accountability and holding external stakeholders accountable can be a problem. Questions are raised on whether you share a working or duplicate file, track what was initially planned and changed, and restrict visibility. 

Although multiple tabs or files sets can be the beginning of a project management journey, as the multi-phases, tasks and stakeholders increase, the ability to identify risks and quickly make decisions reduces. 

So, why make the change?

There’s no argument that Excel has its place in business for the inevitable future. It is a powerful tool. However, Excel is only as powerful as defined by the user’s Excel capabilities and skillsets. 

Your ability to quickly and effortlessly handle larger and more complex jobs is reduced if you’re not supported by a program designed for everyday construction professionals. 

Specifically, industry-tailored programs are designed to reinforce business growth with the ability to bid on more jobs, collaborate with external stakeholders and simplify team management.

When onsite, we look for the right tool to complete the job. Construction professionals are now making the switch to construction-specific software to replace Excel. 

Change can be overwhelming; the experts at Thrive understand construction software and can provide a solution designed for accuracy, collaboration and fastrack your competitive edge. Contact our team of experts today on 1300 868 474 or info@thrivetech.com.au.


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