“But I’ve Got These Killer Spreadsheets…”
70% of architects and architectural firms are using general-purpose office software such as Word and Excel for their construction contract administration*.
On the surface, this seems like the obvious choice – you’ve already paid for licenses for your Office suite, you have lots of experience with Word and Excel, and you might even have a nice collection of spreadsheets and word templates that you’ve cobbled together over the years. But what if we dig a little deeper?
Caution! Contents Under Pressure
There are tremendous pressures to improve your productivity, performance, and responsiveness. There’s also pressure to constantly meet new reporting requirements, and provide supporting documentation on demand. This pressure comes from all sides – your client, the contractor, your consultants – even legal counsel and local authorities. A lot of time is spent scrambling to provide answers.
You’ve probably found that there isn’t much more performance, productivity, or efficiency to be squeezed out of general purpose office software, as most of the gains have already been realized and absorbed by entire industry over the past 20 years. We are in the tail-end of the law of diminishing returns.
What Am I Missing?
Here’s what the 30% of architectural firms know that perhaps you don’t – if you are going to become better at contract admin, then you need new tools and new approaches to separate your CCA from the herd.
At StatsLog, we believe the best way to improve your contract admin all around is through the use of purpose-built CCA software. You may not even choose our software (though we hope you will), but if you want to improve your contract admin, you must adopt something that has been designed from the start for construction contract administration.
So how does purpose-built CCA software like FIVE help?
Reduction of Effort
With Word and Excel you are often forced to duplicate effort – something you typed into a spreadsheet needs to be copy and pasted or transcribed over in your Word file.
We start all of our design decisions with the miMO principle in mind – Minimum Input for Maximum Output. From reusable auto-filled templates, to smart distribution lists, to automatic data propagation across linked items – the idea that you should type less to get more is baked into the core of FIVE.
Reduction of Error
When you manually duplicate effort and information across documents, you increase the risk of error. Perhaps you’ve copied the wrong cell, or missed a decimal place.
There’s also the risk of common problems like failing to update your SUM() formula to include a newly added row in your spreadsheet. You may even be using the wrong formula in a cell that is only producing obviously incorrect results occasionally, making it difficult to discover until it’s too late.
When these types of errors occur, you find yourself apologizing, correcting, and redistributing documents (assuming that there aren’t bigger ramifications). This takes its toll in terms of time, money, and even morale.
FIVE includes hundreds of automatically calculated data fields that can be used on your reports and forms. These formulas have been in continuous use by our customers for over 30 years, and are battle-tested everyday across billions of dollars of active construction projects. We’re highly confident that if you find a discrepancy between the numbers you see in FIVE and the numbers you see on a contractor’s billing application, then the problem will be found in the outside documentation.
Filtering rows in Excel can be a pain – it is typically done by copying and pasting rows from one sheet to another. Likewise changing the order of columns, and temporarily hiding or showing columns to meet different reporting requirements are also very manual processes.
FIVE allows you to filter rows by simple keywords or complex criteria in seconds. Smart filters such as “today” or “this week” allow you to have automatically updated action reports with no additional effort.
FIVE also sorts rows by cell data in a click, maintaining data coherence and sorting in a natural order (for example “2R1” will sort before “20” in ascending order).
With Word and Excel it would be very time consuming to generate a report of all the site instructions, change notices, quotes, and change orders related to a particular search keyword such as “foyer”. In FIVE it takes seconds to get search results for any keyword in your entire project database.
Finally, “connecting the dots” between related documents of different types (for example, RFIs with associated Change Orders) is a often a time consuming manual task that can easily suffer from errors and omissions.
In FIVE documents and underlying data can be linked in a click, attachments can be dragged and dropped to link them to associated items, and summaries and charts can be generated in seconds to help you better understand the impact of their relationships.
Improved Brand Control
You’ve spent a lot of time building your brand, and maintaining your image should extend to all of your document output – including your CCA documents. With Word templates, it can be difficult to maintain consistency when changes are made. Sometimes a user makes a change and saves a copy locally – sometimes one project gets the new look while others lag behind.
The form template layout engine built into FIVE is second to none. Changes made to your templates can be easily and quickly propagated to all of your projects. Design elements such as images, data fields, and fixed text can be accurately positioned anywhere on the digital “page”. Output is always pixel-perfect for distribution in PDF format with no additional software required. You can even limit layout features to specific users, ensuring that your brand image is under the sole control of those who should have it.
Improved Access Control
There’s an all-or-nothing approach to giving access to Excel or Word documents. Either your user account has access to the file or not. Sometimes however, it’s necessary to give limited access to parts of a file to specific people.
FIVE has fine-grained access controls to projects and product features. You can give anyone read-only access for free, or limit access to features like template modifications to specific individuals.
Just A Peek
Thanks for reading about some of the improvements that a purpose-built CCA solution like FIVE can have over general-purpose office software. We’d love to tell you even more ways that StatsLog and FIVE can help you and your firm, so contact us today!
* According to the OAA CCAC survey