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Moving on is never easy, but it’s sometimes necessary to move forward and grow efficiently. As contractors and owners in the construction industry, we’ve been relying on spreadsheets like Excel for decades to plan, track, and manage our projects. But, as we have developed, our needs have outgrown Excel, which walks a fine line between being a net risk versus net benefit.

How We Got Here
Excel: Accessible and flexible

At its core, Excel is available, flexible, and easy to use. However, as our teams and projects have grown in size and complexity, we've realized that we need more from our planning and tracking tools.

Excel lacks the capabilities to help us manage risks, track costs, coordinate with our team in real-time, and improve our processes. And as we've seen in recent years, relying solely on spreadsheets is putting our projects at significant and unknown risk.

Why Spreadsheets Aren't Sufficient For Capital Project Controls
Real-time, structured, and manageable

At its heart, Excel is a generic table. It is infinitely editable and entirely difficult to standardize and control. As your team and projects grow in size and complexity, you need a tool specifically made for your workflow. You need a tool that has been developed specifically to enable you to effectively plan, estimate and mitigate risks. Excel is not that.

Additionally, there are key industry trends that are forcing change:

  • The construction industry is facing many challenges, including an increasing number of stakeholders involved in a project, many working remotely or in decentralized offices. This has led to an increasingly compelling need for collaboration tools. However, Excel spreadsheets are typically managed by one person at a time, making it difficult for multiple stakeholders to access and update information in real-time. This lack of real-time data sharing can lead to miscommunication, delays, and errors.
  • Efficient and data-rich handoff is increasingly recognized as a crucial need in the construction industry. However, this can be difficult to achieve using outdated tools like Excel. The inability to transfer knowledge and context in Excel can lead to risks and errors. Furthermore, Excel's version control issues can make it challenging to determine which version of a spreadsheet is the most up-to-date. This can result in mistakes and wasted time, and people may respond by redoing work instead of building on what already exists. As such, it's crucial to find modern solutions that can facilitate efficient and data-rich handoff and streamline version control to reduce risks and improve project outcomes.
  • As projects become more complex with shorter delivery time frames, it's becoming increasingly evident that relying on outdated tools like Excel is no longer sufficient. One of the key issues with Excel is its limited functionality for project and risk management. Excel lacks critical features necessary for managing complex projects, such as providing a comprehensive view into real-time project status and tracking a project's estimates to actuals. This limitation makes it difficult to identify and mitigate project risks, which can lead to costly delays and budget overruns. As such, it's essential to leverage modern project controls software that is specifically designed to manage complex projects, with comprehensive features to provide real-time project status updates and track project estimates to actuals, ultimately ensuring successful project delivery.
  • Owners are increasingly urging contractors to adopt modern processes to save money and improve project delivery. The use of outdated tools like Excel increases the risk of errors, especially as the size and complexity of a project increases. Excel's susceptibility to errors can lead to incorrect data, missed deadlines, and increased costs. To mitigate these risks and ensure successful project delivery, contractors must turn to modern solutions like project controls software, which provides real-time project updates, improves collaboration, and reduces the risk of errors associated with manual data entry. By leveraging these modern tools, contractors can meet the demands of today's complex construction projects and improve overall project outcomes.
Maybe You've Made Some Concessions

In an effort to make Excel work, many of us have made adjustments such as:

  1. Project and bid templates: maybe you’ve created a long store of project and bid templates to force structure to the process.
  2. Extending integrations or import/exports to make data “flow:” This is a manual, inefficient, and frustrating process that leads to ineffective data silos.
  3. Overspending to maintain structure and processes: When estimators and management are hard to hire, it’s painful to allocate their time to managing systems and processes like this.
Ditch the Spreadsheet and Get Time Back
  1. You’re in the construction business, not the IT business. There are solutions on the market that would get your team out of supporting many different spreadsheets and point solutions and strong-arming consistency.
  2. You need some support. Facing increasingly complex projects, shorter time frames, a tight labor market, and thin margins, owners and contractors need modern solutions like workflow automation, flexibility, and historical data to give themselves breathing room.
  3. It’s risky to leave any process vulnerable to one person’s departure.

An Alternative to Excel Spreadsheets: Modern Project Controls software

What is Project Controls software?

To mitigate the risks inherent in complex construction projects and exacerbated by processes based in spreadsheets, owners and contractors are turning to project controls software. Project controls software is a technology that allows owners and contractors to track a project's actual cost and schedule against estimates to identify risks in real-time. Additionally, project controls software centralizes all planning data and actuals, providing a single, easy-to-access data environment for all project data that can be leveraged to benchmark and improve future projects.

What can I do better with project controls software?

With project controls software, owners and contractors can better manage their construction projects and reduce the risk of cost overruns, schedule delays, and other issues.

  • Early Warning System: Project controls software acts as an early warning system by alerting owners and contractors when a project is at risk of exceeding its budget or schedule. This allows them to take proactive steps to mitigate risks before they escalate into major issues.
  • Real-time tracking of project costs and schedule: With project controls software, owners and contractors can track a project's actual cost and schedule against estimates in real-time, allowing them to quickly identify and address any issues that arise.
  • Improved resource allocation: Project controls software allows owners and contractors to more accurately predict cost and schedules, allowing them to plan lower contingencies and optimize a leaner portfolio.
  • Historical data collection: Project data is collected naturally as a project is planned and constructed, building a rich, structured, and clean database of historical project data. This allows owners and contractors to begin calculating benchmarks, identifying areas of repeated risk, and improve the accuracy of future estimates. Ultimately, each team is empowered to make data-informed decisions.
  • Improved collaboration and communication: Project controls software easily facilitates collaboration and communication among team members, making it easier to share information and resolve issues. Team members and outside contractors don’t need to re-enter data or do rework.
  • Accurate, dynamic reporting: Project controls software can provide accurate and timely reports on project progress, including cost and schedule performance. This allows owners and contractors to make informed decisions based on reliable data, which can help to reduce risks associated with inaccurate or incomplete information.
  • Revision control: Estimators using project controls software can easily update projects as definition changes or the project progresses. With phase or milestone tracking, teams can cleanly add and see details over time. The software also ensures that changes are properly managed and documented.
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