Version control problems and inconsistent data.
One of the biggest risks with Excel is having multiple versions of the same file. Using the wrong version of a file can lead to incorrect payments being made, potentially worth thousands. Even with online versions like Office 365 or Google Sheets, only one person can edit at a time, creating inconsistencies. If you ‘lock’ sheets, you lose flexibility, but giving everyone editing access increases the risk of errors in data or formulas that are hard to track down and correct.
Communication happens outside of Excel.
Projects only work in Excel when it’s backed up by other communication tools. Online versions like Office 365 or Google Sheets that support some digital collaboration, but because these aren’t universal channels they can’t support standardised workflows. This leaves Excel users with no choice but to continue manually coordinating jobs, approvals, audits and other everyday tasks. Messages can sometimes sit unnoticed in inboxes for days, stalling workflows and delaying entire projects.
Excel doesn’t integrate easily with other systems.
The construction industry is going through an intense phase of digital transformation, with lots of companies taking advantage of support to go digital. As a result, you might find that you’re doing more manual work than ever to make Excel work with other systems. Eg. if you’re using cloud accounting software but still manually typing in contractor details to Excel every time you add a new invoice, you’re negating the time saved by your new software.
90% of spreadsheets contain serious errors.
Yes, Excel can automate calculations. But even these still rely on manual input to set up and maintain and a small typo can wreak havoc. Take the example from the London Olympics, when a single-digit typo in a spreadsheet resulted in thousands of oversold tickets and cost the organisers £200,000. When you handle tens or hundreds of thousands every month, one error can lead to wrong amounts being paid. Not to mention the cost of hours spent tracking down the error, contacting vendors and reissuing invoices.
There’s very little traceability or transparency in Excel – which fraudsters love. If you have one spreadsheet that’s shared across the whole company, with no way to track who made an edit or checked that amount, it’s much easier for an outsider to dip in without being detected. This makes Excel less secure than modern cloud solutions that use transparent digital workflows and guarantee the security of your data for you.
Excel can get very complex, very quickly.
Just Google ‘how to [task] Excel’ and you’ll find countless videos, podcasts, templates and training courses to help you reach your goal. With no universal template, there are thousands of different configurations and formulas you can use. This means that you and everyone who uses your sheets will need some training. Even then, it’s easy to make mistakes that have a knock-on effect on the whole sheet.
Slow processes damage profits and relationships.
Today, margins are tighter than ever and every missed discount period matters. Excel doesn’t automate the invoicing process and one typo (like misspelling a contractor’s name on one entry) can result in an invoice not being paid, creating difficulties with that supplier.
Excel doesn’t scale.
Once you’re processing hundreds of invoices per month, a spreadsheet simply can’t handle that volume. We saw a prime example in 2020, when the UK government omitted 15,841 positive covid from daily figures and 50,000 potentially infectious people may not have been asked to self-isolate – a mistake made possible by manual data transfer and the cell limit in Excel. In the construction industry, relying on a system that won’t scale can quickly limit your ability to pay vendors and stall growth. The more you try to grow with Excel, the more time you spend more maintaining and policing spreadsheets, instead of analysing the data you have to make smarter decisions.