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Excel Spreadsheet Tracking And Reporting For Construction Projects – Friend Or Foe

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

We’ve all seen (or been) contractors or project managers relying on an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management. Excel is ubiquitous in the sector. But, if we’re being honest, using a spreadsheet for construction tracking is merely reflective of slower than necessary digital adoption within the sector.

Globally the construction industry is one of the biggest and most widespread contributors to the economy both in the form of asset creation as well as employment. Studies estimate that the global construction sector will be worth over USD 22 trillion by 2026. As the world looks to move on from the dark days of COVID, the growth prospects of the construction industry are quite robust. But when it comes to digital transformation, the sector lags others in operating efficiency, profitability, and employee experience.

Now let’s come back to the construction Excel spreadsheet scenario. Excel for construction project management is probably the first step towards adopting a technology-driven work style by the sector. Companies view Excel as easy to adopt with a low entry barrier. But, as we have written earlier, this approach is now past the sell-by date for everything except the most basic construction projects.

For one, the approach is more manual than digital and is extremely effort-intensive. Using an Excel spreadsheet as a de-facto tool for construction project management is no longer sustainable in a highly competitive market landscape. With your competitors transitioning their project management activities into highly flexible digital tools and leveraging data analytics-driven decision-making practices, using a construction project management spreadsheet can cause you to miss out on several fronts.

Let us examine the top 5 disadvantages or challenges in using an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management:

Lack of domain specialty

One of the major elements that are missed out when using an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management is domain-specific features and capabilities. Excel is generic spreadsheet software that can be used by people to organize data in any industry. Though small calculations, tabulations, and basic sorting functionalities are used in the construction sector as well, there are tons of other advanced digital capabilities offered by modern construction management platforms that are lacking in Excel. Platforms and tools developed for the industry have undergone years of R&D efforts that were exclusively for the construction domain. Hence such software contains several ready-to-launch features that have pre-built templates that project managers can easily fill in and get to see results in action quickly as compared to Excel spreadsheets.

Poor collaboration

While Excel is a “good enough” tool for organizing data in a standard way, it is NOT a real-time collaborative platform that multiple stakeholders in a construction project can access in parallell. Data entered in a construction tracking spreadsheet has to be manually evaluated for credibility every single time the data is to be used elsewhere. There is no real-time automated updating of the data based on real-life situations and activities within a construction project. Thus, team members cannot share information in real-time thereby hindering collaborative efficiency. Modern digital platforms however solve this problem by creating dedicated channels for information exchange, project management, task allocation, and dependency resolutions.

Limited reporting capabilities

Using an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management provides very limited scope for presenting or reporting key observations and insights to decision-makers by project managers or supervisors. While there are reasonable representational and visualization elements provided by Excel, they are basic and, frankly, inferior when compared to modern construction management platforms. These have high-end intelligent reporting and visualization capabilities that can be accessed at the click of a button without any customization. With Excel, it will be very difficult to have an easy one-click reporting of different metrics or combinations from different data groups that decision-makers might want to evaluate. There will be a lot of manual effort involved to get the desired reports from Excel and this can cause extensive delays and even introduce errors due to manual work.

Poor data integrity and traceability

Firms that use a construction tracking spreadsheet will often find it hard to control access to such software. In fact, an Excel spreadsheet for construction project management is treated mostly like a regular document, and multiple team members may access and update values in a master sheet. The problem with Excel is that it doesn’t offer any traceability thereby making it impossible to discover past activities or modifications and hence falling back to a safe-state data snapshot is impossible when a disruption occurs.

Usability challenges

The dirty secret of the industry is that Excel is not everyone’s cup of tea. Only very few people or associates within the construction company know how to handle complex calculations and data tabulation using advanced features of Excel. Many of the users may not even know how to change values without risk within a column that is being monitored by a formula. Hence when a construction tracking spreadsheet is used for decision making, there are high chances that people may find using it to be difficult thereby delaying crucial decision-making initiatives. You may believe Excel is simple but for anything more than the barest minimum capabilities, it’s far from easy.

Today, construction companies need to become a part of the digital economy. For starters, they need to let go of inadequate and legacy project management practices like using a construction tracking spreadsheet program. By equipping field crews with modern, intelligent, and highly intuitive digital platforms even on their smartphones, it becomes easier to control, manage, and ensure better quality of work within a worksite. From daily construction work schedule management to seamless collaboration and information exchange, there are a host of digital capabilities that your construction business can experience if you let go of Excel and onboard our powerful construction management software. Get in touch with us to learn more about the platform and experience it first-hand by booking your demo today.