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Construction Administration

7 Bad Similes on Why Spreadsheets are Terrible for Construction Administration

August 29, 2019

1. Spreadsheets are as flexible as a yoga instructor. A really old yoga instructor. With bad knees.

Technically, the blank slate of Excel is as flexible as you want it to be—if you're a Jedi master in the art of spreadsheets and you have the time to wrangle a variety of spreadsheets into usable documents for different purposes. And though a lone wolf project manager can probably finagle an Excel system to their liking, that system won't hold up when field personnel need to enter information or stakeholders need to review progress. Simply put, it's not a flexible program for teams to function effectively.

2. Spreadsheets can be as error-filled as a Carrier AC factory. (Get it? Air/Error?)

Human error is the crux of Excel's downfall. It would not be surprising if most construction failures can be traced back to a misplaced Excel formula or a misguided calculation. A 2008 University of Hawaii study found that 88 percent of spreadsheets in the sample size contained at least one human error. When you're balancing daily activity tracking, change orders, punch lists, and material tracking, that number is sure to rise.

3. Spreadsheets make as much extra work as your Dad trying to fix a computer problem before you get there to help.

Spreadsheets are inefficient. Whether it's fixing errors, figuring out how the spreadsheet functions, or tracking down team members about different edits, the time poured into managing a spreadsheet severely limits the time spent moving projects forward. What's more, manually updating spreadsheets takes hours, and that time is usually doubled by the fact that information captured in the field has to be transferred to Excel at a later date. Some may balk at the cost of a solution to replace Excel, but the ROI from time saved is immense.

4. Spreadsheets leave an audit trail so poor even Davy Crockett couldn't follow it. Is this even a simile?

Since everyone loves auditing, it's a shame when such a joyous process is inhibited by Excel's lack of tracking tools or any protection from errors. As aforementioned, the majority of spreadsheets contain errors—the last thing you want an external auditor to find. Since there are no assigned user accounts in Excel, there's less accountability. When someone isn't held accountable, they may be more likely to err.

5. Spreadsheets are as collaborative as The Beatles in the late 1960s.

If you're not well-versed in musical history, that's around the time The Beatles were not speaking to each other—which is not a great way for teams to function. Excel does not allow individuals to collaborate easily. This makes the process of managing a group document incredibly cumbersome. If you're sick of tracking down who updated cell B4 or whether certain parties have updated their assigned sections yet, it may be time to consider moving on from Excel. The lack of real-time collaboration holds projects back.

6. Spreadsheets create a usability gap so wide that, were it a river in Diana Ross' hit 1970 single "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," it would, in fact, keep her from getting to you, babe.

Raise your hand if you took an Excel class in high school. Now raise your hand if you remember anything from that class besides simple sums. For many people, Excel is not an easy program to use. With its blank starting canvas and lack of intuitive interface, Excel creates a usability gap between the haves and have-nots of operational knowledge. And while that gap lends power to those who understand the program, it may alienate valuable team members who can't wrap their heads around complicated template creation.

7. Spreadsheets have as many comprehensive reporting features as my totally-rad 1968 Pontiac Firebird has airbags.

Let's say every project manager and inspector in your organization is an Excel wizard. The same usually can't be said for stakeholders that only need a bird's eye view of progress or contractors that only need access to daily quantity information. With no easy way to communicate this information, it just takes more work to develop a report that the client can quickly grasp. Yep, more work—sound familiar?

So, what's the solution?

Rest assured, there is one—a comprehensive infrastructure construction administration program like Appia. With real-time collaboration, automatic calculations, a variety of reporting functionalities, daily activity tracking and more, the Appia service resolves common issues with spreadsheets and streamlines your construction administration process.

Owner-agencies find that Appia is a great fit for managing complex, multi-year projects with multiple funding sources and high-level stakeholders. Smaller agencies also found value in time-saved by field personnel through increased efficiency of project management. Do you find your infrastructure construction management process hampered by your agency's use of spreadsheets? Appia may be perfect for your organization.


Nate Binder
Digital Marketing Manager
A proud graduate of Florida State University, Nate works with subject matter experts and sales professionals to produce targeted marketing collateral.