Stop Using Spreadsheets for Project Management

11 August 2020 by CostMiner

Spreadsheets continue to play a vital role in a large number of construction projects. Many love their simplicity and use them for a variety of purposes. Owners will use a multi-sheet Excel workbook to track budget, change orders, commitments, and actual expenditures. They’re also inexpensive and often free to use.

On the surface, spreadsheets seem to be the total package for managing data for construction projects. However, this is not the case. Spreadsheets may be easy to use, but they lack many essential features needed to be considered the go-to project management tool. Spreadsheets have critical limitations that prevent users from getting the most out of their data. This can have severe effects on the progress of your projects as effective communication becomes increasingly difficult.

Fortunately, there are many useful options available today for managing construction projects. Tools like construction estimating and takeoff software can streamline your project management and help you plan more effectively. Let's go through some of the drawbacks of traditional spreadsheets and why you should opt for a more modern solution for managing your future projects.

Problems With Spreadsheets In Construction Projects

Spreadsheets may be well-trodden ground, but they're simply not well integrated enough for handling complex construction projects as an all-in-one solution. Here are the main reasons why the reliance on spreadsheets is holding your business back:

1. It’s Difficult To Know Which Information Is Current

There is no real "current" project status for spreadsheets. Team members are not updating the project status in real-time. The moment data is entered in a spreadsheet and shared, it's already out of date.

You can try to store your spreadsheets on a shared drive so that everyone has access to the same file but it’s still difficult to make sure everything is up to date. There's a risk that someone saves a second version of the file and enters updates into a file no one else has access to. This is more prevalent when you send "current status" emails with a copy of the spreadsheet. In this case, it’s likely that the file will be saved to the desktop of anyone who opens it and their updates won't be visible to everyone.

2. Lack Of Consistency Across Projects In Spreadsheets

You'll have real trouble finding any two project management spreadsheets that are alike. Because of this, aggregating data across spreadsheets is next to impossible.

When developing a construction plan, it's important to be able to look back at previous projects to create accurate estimates. This is not the case when you use spreadsheets. Previous spreadsheets often don't accurately reflect what happened in the field and may not even resemble the spreadsheet being used for the current project, let alone match up with the formatting that your subcontractors or other stakeholders use.

3. Spreadsheets Contain Errors

Studies have shown that spreadsheets are prone to errors – almost 90% of spreadsheets contain some form of error. This is prevalent across all sectors but has a major effect on construction projects due to the crucial nature of accurate figures for estimates and measurements.

Construction spreadsheets are massive, often with thousands of rows and formulas – all spread out over multiple sheets. These construction workbooks will often have dozens of undetected errors that are prone to going unnoticed.

4. Lack Of Data Integration

You likely have a vast amount of data connected to your projects regardless of their size. In addition, you often need to share this information and integrate it with data from other project stakeholders. This can be a difficult task when stakeholders use different tools to collect and store data.

Spreadsheets aren't much of a help as they are unable to transfer project information to other parties in real-time. Spreadsheets also have considerable difficulties collecting and analyzing data when it comes from multiple sources and formats.

Simply put, spreadsheets are not well-suited to be the foundation for managing your construction projects. Managers need a more versatile solution. One that connects different stakeholders in real-time and allows them to easily submit updates and generate progress reports that keep all critical parties in the loop.

Why Choose Construction Software Over Spreadsheets?

Using software designed specifically for construction offers project managers helpful tools not provided by spreadsheets. Here are the most important reasons why estimating software is a better option for your projects:

1. Accuracy

In today's competitive market, it's essential for construction firms to keep accurate track of all their expenditures. This includes equipment costs, material costs, actual labor costs, subcontractor expenses, and various other parts of the budget. Keeping track of all this information inside a spreadsheet is cumbersome. Not only are spreadsheets prone to error, but it's also difficult to find the information you need when navigating a massive workbook.

Using construction estimating software provides a welcome solution to this problem. Construction estimating software allows you to find a project's closest true cost. The software provides cost accuracy for projects by precisely forecasting labor costs and the total amount of materials needed while accounting for variables and overages. Construction estimating software also allows businesses to track important data such as stored materials, backorders, and other concerns related to a recent project.

2. Convenience And Communication

Keeping track of incurred expenses related to equipment, material, labor, and the overall cost of a project requires constant maintenance. Construction software makes estimating your project's expenses convenient. Besides the accurate estimates, the software also makes it easy to communicate and edit projects virtually. This will improve your team's ability to track your project's success.

When you use a tool like CostMiner, all your data is securely stored in the cloud and you can access the software via your preferred web browser.

3. Consistency

By using a construction cost estimator instead of a spreadsheet, your business is able to create estimates that use similar procedures for each and every new project. Your data will then be reliable and consistent because you're using the same formulas, procedures, and estimation tools for every project. 

Additionally, with tools like CostMiner, you can define estimate templates that can be updated and used to quickly look up rates when planning a new project. This will help you work more efficiently and avoid costly build overruns.

4. Live Project Overview

One of the biggest problems with using spreadsheets for project management is that they’re static and not dynamic. Meaning, spreadsheets are unable to provide an accurate, real-time overview of every detail of your project. A spreadsheet is more useful as a tool for collecting data instead of as a tool to continually analyze data in realtime and come to accurate conclusions based on an evolving project.

Additionally, spreadsheets are often unable to identify which project tasks are behind schedule or provide you with useful insights into your current projects. The smallest mistake in updating information in the spreadsheet can cause an outdated progress report – leading to confusion between the key project stakeholders

5. Automatic Progress Reports

Spreadsheets can be fairly well-updated, provided someone goes through the painstaking task of manually inputting the correct information for every single change. The moment the spreadsheet is not updated correctly, it becomes obsolete and a threat to the progress of the project. This applies to progress reports as well.

Over the course of a construction project, there is a constant need for up to date progress reports. It's also important to be able to build these reports quickly and without difficulty. This is another area where construction software offers distinct advantages compared to a spreadsheet. 

The ability to use a platform where the progress of your project is seamlessly updated and you can create reports effortlessly is a major benefit for construction managers. It can save you valuable time and increase the success of your projects.

6. Field Reporting

Spreadsheets are not a viable option for field reporting. Let's say you’re working on-site and need to submit an important update back to the office. If you’re using a spreadsheet, your update of the project's progress will be delayed considerably.

Construction software tools can help eliminate this problem. With CostMiner, you can access your projects from your web browser and send instant updates anywhere you have access to the internet.

Manage Your Projects With Confidence

It’s clear that spreadsheets aren't enough to keep up with the complexity of modern construction projects. The most effective means to manage your projects is to use a platform designed specifically for construction and meets the needs of today’s project managers, foremen, and contractors.

CostMiner helps construction professionals streamline their project management process. Our powerful quantity takeoff and estimating software is easy to use and will have your projects up and running quickly and efficiently.

Try CostMiner today to get started with a 30-day free trial of the easiest way to manage a complete construction takeoff with the confidence that you have the most up-to-date and accurate estimates, the best software, and complete confidence.

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