Spreadsheets: The Wrong Tool

Topics: Commercial Management
 

Spreadsheets aren’t the right tools for managing a global pandemic and neither are they the right tool for managing the successful delivery of construction projects.

On 5 October, 2020, it was reported that 16,000 coronavirus cases in England went unreported between 25 September and 2 October due to a ‘technical glitch’. In reality, it wasn’t a ‘technical glitch’; the real reason was that Public Health England (PHE) used outdated, legacy Excel-based systems that fundamentally could not cope with the volume of data that needed to be processed. The construction industry is plagued by the same issue.

Unlike most industries, it is a requirement of the commercial disciplines within a construction organisation to monitor contract budget, cost, value and time - not only against the typical headings of Labour, Plant, Material and Subcontract, but also against project specific ‘activities’ or a client specific work breakdown structure. This issue is compounded when working for a number of clients on a variety of projects, all with different activities, work breakdown structures and reporting requirements. Consequently, the quest for a timely CVR (Cost Value Reconciliation) may be the aspiration of many but is achieved by relatively few.

There was a time when spreadsheets were the right tool for the job. Today, faced with ever increasing amounts of data, residing in disparate systems, crudely integrated with databases and in-house systems the construction industry is at a tipping point where the only option is to move away from spreadsheets to avoid overspending and under-producing.

What’s the alternative?

In order to overcome the issues associated with spreadsheets, construction companies need a system that is capable of capturing data from multiple sources and presenting it to the right people, at the right level of detail.

Modern Cost and Value systems, such as Causeway’s Project Accounting, have the flexibility to complement existing business systems or, where these are lacking in functionality or data structure, introduce an alternative way of working that allows for cross-business adoption.

Key functionalities to look for

Selecting a Cost and Value solution can be a complex process involving the evaluation of several capabilities that are all required to meet the challenges that highways maintenance contractors face today.

  • Ability to capture both cost and value data in the same format and compare the two in real time, giving the essential feedback on project profitability
  • Earned Value Analysis (EVA) techniques to proactively monitor the progress and performance of multiple, concurrent projects
  • Seamless integration with project planning applications allowing the estimated production for each period (milestone, accounts period, valuation) to be analysed in order to calculate a cost performance indicator and the schedule performance indicator respectively
  • The flexibility to understand the profitability of each and every works order or job undertaken on behalf of the client
  • Robust integrations with software applications used by contractors and clients. At a minimum the solutions needs to integrate with the following platforms: Estimating, financial accounting, payroll, project planning, and asset management

In order to keep projects on time and in budget, contractors need the ability to report in a timely, robust way. Today, this remains a goal for many professionals in this industry for the simple reason that they are using legacy spreadsheets that are not up to the job.

Transferring these processes to automated, cloud-based software, such as Causeway’s Project Accounting solution provides an integrated way of working and reporting performance across multiple business functions. This eliminates the need for unstructured spreadsheets that have to be manually manipulated and fed data from multiple systems. By providing this system to all relevant parts of a business, data can be captured at the most appropriate point, in a consistent way. It can also be made available in real-time, allowing all relevant parts of a business to access it in support of better decision making.

Read more now in our Whitepaper: Spreadsheets: The Wrong Tool for Construction Projects.

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