EPCM organizations that are using just Timesheet & Billing software are finding themselves swamped in spreadsheets to cover the greater technology needs they face. It used to be that all an EPCM needed for enterprise software was a decent-enough timesheet tool to track their billable hours; and an integrated billing tool to invoice their customers. Things have evolved however, and EPCM’s are now seen as the go-to company for project management, procurement, document management, project controls, etc. These requirements obviously go well beyond what a timesheet tool can support. So, confronted with a lack of available tools, project managers & engineers have resorted to building cobbled-together solutions in spreadsheets to cover the gaps.
The best thing about Excel is that it’s so flexible. The worst thing about Excel is that it’s so flexible. With enough effort and programming, people can bend and twist Excel into doing almost anything. The challenge with that, as many people know, is that lurking inside every spreadsheet are errors that elude the creator. Some errors can be minor, but many errors are much greater in magnitude and can lead to executives making critical decisions based on bad math.
In our first blog in this series, we talked about the necessity of introducing innovation into your business - to improve efficiency, profitability - to stay competitive. Companies that don’t evaluate how they are doing business, and where they need to improve, are being left behind. Introducing innovation doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complex, and doesn’t have to result in spending a whole lot of money – in fact, the best ways to innovate are to look for ways to simplify and streamline your existing business processes.
In this second blog, we’re going to show you how one of our customers, Company A, started to do just that. Company A took a look at a key process – their project cost management - analyzed how they were managing their project costs, how they wanted to manage their project costs and what kind of information they wanted from their project cost management system...and what changes they could make to improve this process. And in future blogs, we’ll see how Company A uncovers inefficiencies in their process, and the result of improvements that they made.
Company A has been in business for a number of years, and has been running labor and materials projects that have been fairly similar in nature. They’ve been successful in that key respect that many small business owners benchmark success by – there was cash in the bank at the end of the month. So, all in all, their projects were running profitably – but the question is....how much more profitable could they be? How much more cash-flow could be generated from their projects? Were there trends developing that would signal areas to improve efficiency, shore up the bottom line?
As we talked about in our first blog, your evaluation has to start with the very first of the W5 – the “What” questions:
Excel is an amazing tool. It is truly the great multi-purpose software of our time. People can bend and twist spreadsheets to do pretty miraculous things - from planning a children’s party to full enterprise budgeting & forecasting. Like anything, of course, it has its limits. Excel works just fine in many cases, but when it comes to more complex jobs - like estimating, tracking, controlling and analyzing large construction projects – it simply breaks down. People certainly try to force Excel to work in this field, and there’s no question that with enough time, resources and effort, a person could achieve some - rather limited - results. But the truth is, it’s just not worth it. Especially when there are good tools available which are designed specifically for that task.