Excel spreadsheets in construction: It’s time to let them go

Written by LetsBuild

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It’s no secret that the construction industry is addicted to Excel. In our recent Project Execution survey, 85% of the respondents admitted that they create their short-term plans using Excel and that they spend up to 20 hours a month to put these plans together.

Unfortunately, these numbers come as no surprise if we take into account that construction is one of the least digitised sectors and that the dependence of subcontractors on Excel spreadsheets went down only by 1% from 2018 to 2019.

There is no doubt that progress reporting and the way the different project teams collaborate and connect with each other can be greatly improved. But for that to happen, it is essential to help stakeholders in construction understand why a tool like Excel can’t support their effort to make smarter decisions faster and standardise their processes.

However, before we go any further, it is important to clarify something about Excel. It is a great tool that has helped millions of people from different industries all over the world. But that’s also its main problem when it comes to construction. It’s a tool that isn’t construction-specific and that hasn’t been designed with our industry as its first priority.

Having said that, it is time now to dig a little deeper and explain why Excel spreadsheets aren’t good enough for your construction project and they can harm the progress of your tasks:

1. It’s not a real-time tool

Excel isn’t a tool that you can use to get your project teams to collaborate seamlessly and exchange crucial updates in real time. The data becomes static and outdated the moment it is added to a spreadsheet.

That has a detrimental effect on the development of the project as all involved stakeholders have to make critical decisions without having a clear understanding of what’s happening on site.

2. It’s not construction-specific

Excel spreadsheets aren’t built for construction. They can’t help people on site when they want to submit an urgent update or request information. It’s difficult to gain access to their latest version and, more importantly, they lack the ability to add context to your updates (eg. pictures, the activity of plan, etc).

This will eventually result in more reworks and costly project interruptions that could have been avoided if everyone had an overview of how their tasks are connected to the master schedule.

3. It doesn’t have an audit trail

No audit trail, no history of what has happened in the past. Vital information can be lost with the click of a button leaving project managers with no idea of what the true needs of the project are and who is responsible for what.

In an industry where the average length of a project dispute is estimated to 17 months, the lack of a detailed project record can be devastating.

4. It’s error-prone

Excel is a tool that comes with a lot of manual effort and by extension a lot of manual errors. The slightest mistake in a single cell can cost you and your project both time and money. And the worst part? Unless you spend a good amount of time over the spreadsheet to manually go through each cell, it’s almost impossible to find that mistake.

Again, considering that legal conflicts cost the construction industry millions every year ($33 million only in the US) it quickly becomes evident that Excel can pose a great threat to your project.

5. It’s not designed for collaboration

Last but not least, Excel spreadsheets can’t support seamless collaboration between your teams leading to siloed communication and project misunderstandings. Furthermore, they can’t function as a single source of truth for your project as every stakeholder works on their own lifeless spreadsheet.

Like that, project managers end up spending their time chasing updates all over the site and putting together progress reports that nobody reads. An admin and mental nightmare, in other words.

Learn how you can make your Excel spreadsheets history

Many people in construction might think that Excel is a tool that is a perfect fit for construction. But now you understand well that this isn’t the case. The success of most construction projects, regardless of their size or type, greatly depends on getting your teams to stay connected, follow your processes, and flag critical issues as soon as they emerge.

This is why you need a tool that can help you improve project communication and reduce your downtime and ensure on-time delivery.

In an effort to help you come one step closer to your goal, we have put together an exhaustive guide that explains how to run complex projects without tearing your hair out using Excel and, more importantly, without compromising quality.

It’s completely free and you can access it today just by clicking below!

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