For many years, spreadsheets have been a widely used tool by construction managers to manage their projects. While spreadsheets are known for being easy to use and widely accessible, they do have limitations. As construction projects grow increasingly complex, relying solely on spreadsheets can often create more problems than it solves. In today’s fast-paced business environment, construction managers must find more efficient and effective ways to manage their projects, which is where breaking spreadsheet dependency comes into play.
Spreadsheets lack features like data validation and version control, which can lead to errors and delays in the project lifecycle. They also give rise to situations where different teams are using different versions of the same data – making inter-team collaboration difficult and slow.
By adopting alternative methods beyond spreadsheets, you can optimise your processes, improve collaboration, and ultimately gain a competitive advantage. This article aims to outline six steps that construction managers can take to break spreadsheet dependency, modernise their project management processes and keep pace with industry changes.
Step 1: Get organisational approval
The first step to breaking spreadsheet dependence is securing buy-in from stakeholders and key project personnel.
Why? Because it’s not enough for the management team to be excited about moving away from spreadsheets. There needs to be buy-in from stakeholders across teams, site managers, project managers, and site personnel who are part of current construction workflows. This helps to ensure that there are no barriers to making this change happen, and that everyone is on board with transitioning away from a spreadsheet-based system.
When switching from spreadsheets to digital construction management platforms, securing organisational approval or buy-in from key stakeholders is crucial. The following steps can help achieve this goal:
- Identify key stakeholders: Determine who the decision-makers and influencers are in your organisation and their expectations, concerns, and priorities.
- Demonstrate the benefits: Communicate the advantages of the new system, such as increased efficiency, accuracy, and transparency, and how they will align with the stakeholders’ objectives.
- Address concerns: Address any potential drawbacks or resistance to change that stakeholders may have, and provide solutions to alleviate their concerns.
- Provide training: Offer training and support to ensure that stakeholders understand how the new systems can enable them.
Step 2: Evaluate current spreadsheet usage
When construction managers start looking at their project data and how it’s used, they will notice that there are many different ways that spreadsheets are being used in the company. This will help them understand their team’s current level of dependency on spreadsheets and identify areas where they can be improved. An important aspect of this step is identifying all points where spreadsheets are being used within a project lifecycle: from initial design through construction completion and beyond into operations management and maintenance activities.
The first thing to consider when evaluating current spreadsheet usage is how much time teams spend editing spreadsheets or extracting data from them. The more places spreadsheets are used, the more complex and difficult it can be to manage them. If there are multiple teams using spreadsheets for different purposes (i.e., design vs operations), then this becomes even more complicated because each team may have its version of how they want things done which doesn’t necessarily match up with everyone else’s needs or processes.
If people spend too much time doing these things, then they won’t have enough time for other important tasks like planning and executing tasks effectively. This can lead to errors in reporting as well as delays in getting projects done on time–both of which are bad news for any construction company trying to stay competitive!
Step 3: Identify workflows and processes dependent on spreadsheet data
The next step is to identify the workflows and processes that use spreadsheet data. This can be done by asking questions like:
- What construction workflows are dependent on spreadsheet data?
- How much time do the teams spend on spreadsheets each day?
- What types of information are tracked on spreadsheets?
- Examples of construction processes that use spreadsheets include:
- Project budgeting and cost estimating
- Resource allocation and scheduling
- Progress tracking and reporting
- Change order management
- Quality control and inspection reporting
- Material tracking and inventory management
- Bid and proposal preparation
- Equipment and fleet management
- Subcontractor management and payments
- Punch list and closeout documentation
After identifying these areas, it’s time for action, implementation and rollout. Managers will want to map all processes using spreadsheets onto the new construction management systems so that they can be automated and tracked in a single, centralised location.
Step 4: Plan for effective change management
This step will save a lot of time and money, as well as improve the quality of data. It will also enable managers to better manage projects by streamlining the information they need at their fingertips.
Change management is a continuous process that ensures that people, processes, and technology are aligned with each other on the organisational and systemic changes needed to achieve business objectives. It also helps ensure that any changes made are effective and sustainable over time.
Moving from a spreadsheet-based system to a digital construction management platform can be a significant change for construction businesses. Effective change management is critical to ensure a smooth transition and minimise potential resistance from stakeholders.
The following steps can help construction businesses plan for effective change management:
- Define the scope and objectives: Clearly define the scope and objectives of the transition, including the benefits, timeline, and expectations. This will ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the goals and can understand the reasons for the change.
- Develop a communication strategy: Develop a communication strategy to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the change and how it will affect them. This strategy should include regular updates, training, and support to address concerns and ensure buy-in from all stakeholders.
- Identify and address resistance: Identify potential resistance from stakeholders and address them proactively. This may involve providing additional training, addressing concerns, and involving key stakeholders in the decision-making process.
- Provide adequate training and support: Provide adequate training and support to ensure that all stakeholders are proficient in using the new digital construction management platform. This will help to minimise the impact of the change and ensure that stakeholders feel comfortable and confident with the new system.
By following these steps, construction businesses can plan for effective change management when transitioning from a spreadsheet-based system to a digital construction management platform. This will help to ensure a smooth transition, minimise potential resistance, and ultimately increase the likelihood of a successful adoption of the new system.
Step 5: Track and measure systemic changes
Once managers have decided to move away from spreadsheets, it’s important to track and measure the effectiveness of the new system. This will help them keep track of how well things are going, identify where improvements can be made, and ultimately ensure that they are making progress toward achieving their goals.
Here are some key areas that construction managers need to monitor:
- The impact of the change from spreadsheet-based systems on the whole organisation (for example the number of projects completed on time)
- The impact of change on specific teams or individuals (for example satisfaction ratings)
- The impact of change on specific projects (for example cost savings achieved)
- The impact of change on specific stakeholders (for example customer satisfaction ratings)
- The impact of change on the organisation’s bottom line (for example annual profit)
Step 6: Ask for feedback and iterate
The last step to breaking spreadsheet dependence is to ask for feedback and iterate. This is a step that is often missed and as a result, teams regress to spreadsheets making the whole transition ineffective. This is the step where managers will find out if their new systems are working or not. Managers need to look for ways to improve the way their team operates with the new cloud-based construction management system, and this is one of the best ways of doing it.
As construction businesses transition from a spreadsheet-based system to a digital construction management platform, it is essential to seek feedback from stakeholders to ensure that the new system meets their needs and expectations. The following steps can help construction businesses ask for feedback and iterate:
- Establish a feedback mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism to capture input from stakeholders, such as surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews. This will provide valuable insights into how well the new system is working and any areas that need improvement.
- Iterate and improve: Based on the feedback received, iterate and improve the new system to better meet the needs of stakeholders. This may involve adjusting the user interface, adding new features, or providing additional training and support.
By following these steps, construction businesses can ensure that the new digital construction management platform meets the needs of stakeholders and is continually improving. This will help to increase adoption and ultimately result in improved project efficiency and profitability. Additionally, by involving stakeholders in the feedback and iteration process, construction businesses can foster a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration.
Spreadsheet dependence is one of the biggest challenges that construction managers face today and it can be easily overcome with the right tools and practices in place.
Spreadsheets are an excellent way to organise data, but they’re not very good at communicating information or making decisions. This leads to spreadsheet overload and an inability to see past the spreadsheets when making decisions about how to move forward with a project.
Construction managers can overcome spreadsheet dependence by taking specific steps towards a transition to a more-effective cloud-based construction management system such as:
- Getting organisational commitment
- Identifying current usage
- Mapping existing workflows using spreadsheets
- Planning for change management
- Measuring the new system’s effectiveness
- Getting proactive feedback
Want to move from spreadsheets-based construction processes to cloud-based construction management in your projects? Start your 30-day free PlanRadar trial here.