Signs that your construction company is growing too big for Microsoft Excel

For some construction companies there are very few draw backs of using Microsoft Excel as an estimating, planning and scheduling tool however are dangers lurking around the corner?  Here are some signs that your company is out-growing spreadsheet software.

1. You cannot interface to accounting or other software

Whether you’re using a template you’ve downloaded or designed yourself there maybe difficulties interfacing your spreadsheet outputs to packaged software such as accounting systems.  If this is the case it may not necessarily be the case that you’ve out grown Excel, rather that you do not have the software development or systems analysis skills in-house to develop the interface.  If this is the case then consider whether it is worth you bringing in specialist software development engineers and business analysis experts who can advise you on the best back end office integration, develop the software and support it for you.  If you’re going to this trouble however a full review of your systems processes and IT support will be worth undertaking.

2. Business calculations cannot be developed

If you cannot develop calculations in a spreadsheet to accurately calculate estimates, again this may not be because Excel cannot cope, rather that you need support with Excel.  If this is the case then again consider bringing in some software engineers to give you some support.  Where calculations are truly too complex for a spreadsheet or even where you require software development support, then consider a spreadsheet upgrade to a software solution or bespoke software development.

3. Estimating is a team job

Where a number of estimators are used to complete a job, an Excel template will restrict simultaneous multiple user access, meaning updates to the spreadsheet can only take place 1 user at a time.  If this becomes too restrictive for your business or you do not have the system design skills to overcome this then consider upgrading your spreadsheet solution or bring in some software development experts to advise you.

4. You notice calculations are incorrect

If this is happening regularly you could be suffering from one of the flaws of using Excel spreadsheets, particularly that it is easy to over type data and formulas, then simple to save the amended spreadsheet without realising key data or formula has been removed.  Sometimes you may not even be aware this is happening until long after the event, where estimates, planning or financial data has already been used for projects.  If this is happening to you then consider amending your spreadsheet, or upgrading to a bespoke database or custom software solution.

5. Management information becomes restricted

If your spreadsheet isn’t giving you:

  • Statistics from the spreadsheet combined with non-spreadsheet information
  • Automated reporting or is time consuming to produce or uses personnel time that could more useful deployed elsewhere
  • Easy company wide views of the data
  • Simple to report and interpret results
  • Fast loading results on your desktop

Then consider bespoke software development or IT support.