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Excel Has Served Us Well – But It’s Time To Let It Go!

How EPC Companies Can Turn to Technology to Deliver Projects in the Face of Labor Shortages

Using an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management is still considered par for the course by many in the sector. For an industry, that has taken decades to evolve into a spreadsheet from paper records and estimates on blackboards, this might not be surprising. But there is a paradigm shift happening in the sector. Change is coming to make construction tracking spreadsheets obsolete and reveal them for the legacy performance bottlenecks they are.

The sector contributes to nearly every major engineering landmark like roads, bridges, airports, smart cities, etc. in modern history. It employs the most people in the economy. A tremendous amount of public and private resources is tied up in the sector. Seen from the perspective of the sector’s importance to the broader economy, it is about time the industry let go of construction project management spreadsheets and paves the way for a smarter and more seamless project management experience.

What is the alternative for an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management?

If spreadsheets are deemed obsolete, the next question that any leader in the sector would naturally be “What is the alternative to a construction tracking spreadsheet?”

The answer would be: Digital tools leading to an eventual digital transformation.

By bringing onboard construction project management software along with other digital collaboration and management tools, the construction industry can achieve superior levels of success and progress that were unthinkable in the Excel era.

In the digital economy, data-driven insights can power faster, more informed decisions. Projects will be better planned, tracked, managed, and closed. Compliance will be easier. Reporting and financial intelligence will become richer and deeper.

The good news is that much of the enabling foundation is already in place in all construction companies, projects, and teams. There are vast troves of data lying untapped within construction projects. This data, if harnessed well can help engineers solve even the toughest of challenges in design, material selection, forecasting work schedules, and much more.

But Excel serves my needs well, why should I let it go?

Let’s be clear. Transitioning from an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management is not easy, but it will be worth the effort.

In many cases, there will be a cultural roadblock to adapting digital tools, since construction workers as well as project managers will be reluctant to let go of behaviors6 and practices that have been in their job roles since the start of their careers. Digital systems like ERPs and other tools bring in more transparency and demand greater accountability. Easier communication and collaboration raise the stakes when it comes to demands for responsiveness. There’s nowhere to hide. And it’s not easy to let go of that comfort.

However, it is important for construction companies to educate their staff and show them how the new tools can help them perform better. Almost inevitably, these tools will help them in their jobs and make them easier. In many cases, they will promote greater safety.

What happens if my company still uses Excel for construction project management?

For those who find it very difficult to migrate from Excel, here are a couple of good reasons that might inspire the change:

Manual errors

While leveraging an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management, there are chances of human error creeping into the record. Typos, spelling mistakes, misplaced entries, erroneous entries, incomplete remarks, etc. are all common and they all create problems later. Such errors can prove to be very costly in the long run especially when projects scale.

Usability and scalability issues

The secret no one seems to talk about is that Excel spreadsheets are not that easy! Most teams have only very few members who can master its usage and harness its power. The rest do what is possible with basic knowledge. As project complexity increases, you need to accommodate more items and validation criteria on the tracking spreadsheet. Versions will compile and data will multiply, increasing in depth and complexity. When new team members or average users attempt to manage the spreadsheet, it’s likely they will not be able to quickly find what they need due to complex navigation requirements and limited knowledge.

Lack of collaboration

A construction tracking spreadsheet program doesn’t offer real-time collaborative capabilities. It mostly relies on passing around different versions of the same sheet between team members or between teams. This can create a complex web of spreadsheets where data is real-time and valid in one sheet and at the same time useless and outdated in another. With a host of real-time, multi-party collaboration and information exchange capabilities, modern construction project management software solutions easily facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders where everyone operates on the same version of the truth.

Compliance checks

The construction industry has several standards and regulatory requirements that absolutely must be met. Public construction companies are also burdened with onerous financial recording and reporting requirements. For this, different datasets must be captured for collation, analysis, and reporting. As we’ve seen with several public construction companies, failure to report accurately and on time can result in fines and even de-listing.

Excel programs lack the specialized focus within the tool to capture and record data as per the specific needs of the industry. Digital solutions can be industry-specific or customized for the purpose. They can automate compliance and validation checks and make reporting richer.

Businesses continuing to rely on an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management, are losing out on opportunities. They risk staying prone to costly mistakes. They may remain poorly equipped to meet compliance, productivity, and profitability targets. By implementing the latest enterprise tools and digital solutions that have been created for their sector, construction companies will need very little time to transform their daily operations and make construction project management functional and efficient. Get in touch with us to know more.