Spreadsheets are good at what they’re good at, but they definitely weren’t designed with construction workflows in mind. Yet in spite of that, as construction companies digitize their operations, they often turn to spreadsheets for collecting, storing, and analyzing information and data.
Given their ease-of-use, widespread availability, and moderate flexibility, the ubiquity of spreadsheets in construction does make some sense. But they’re hard to maintain, and offer very little in the way of collaboration. They’re also woefully error-prone, with various studies over the years finding nearly 90% of spreadsheets contain mistakes.
Sooner or later, a construction company’s over-reliance on spreadsheets and other siloed solutions tends to catch up with them. This could mean anything from costly rework to poor collaboration to reduced productivity from spending time looking for the correct information.
The solution is adopting modern construction technology. Procore recently talked to two builders about their experiences around making this switch.
Dominated by Paper and Excel
Some companies run just about every bit of their documentation through Excel, whether it’s job quotes, billing, or employee timesheets. These are all things where a simple manual entry mistake can impact both productivity and profitability, thereby impacting overall project and company performance.
Stephen Callender, President of Ontario-based trade contractor Bass Installation, said at one time “the whole flow” of his company’s business was through Excel.
“The main problem with Excel was the volatility. Someone makes a mistake with a formula and everything goes haywire. You end up with the wrong timesheets, the wrong cost codes, you actually end up billing the customer wrong, which can end up being embarrassing,” he said.
“Excel was definitely a problem, and it causes a lot of issues with getting accurate information.”
Even incident logs were time-consuming for Callendar’s installation teams during their Excel days, requiring a great deal of effort to maintain and update.
Some firms use pen and paper, which creates its own set of problems, particularly when it comes to tracking information in real time. Gary Bizek, President of Alberta-based design-build general contractor Azimuth Builders, previously used a combination of spreadsheets and pen and paper to track everything from expenses to project costs.
“It was very cumbersome to keep accurate control of everything. Change orders, RFIs, those were all paper forms sent out to clients. Tracking them, following up. It was a long process, and at the end of the project there were a lot of items that could have been missed,” Bizek said.
Moving to a Solution That’s Purpose-Built for Construction
Eventually, as Azimuth Builders started expanding, Bizek knew his outdated, siloed combination of solutions was no longer enough to keep up. When he began to feel overwhelmed from the extra effort it took just to keep track of everything, he knew it was time to shop for an alternative.
That’s when he discovered Procore. Bizek admits he found the software complex at first glance, but said once he spent some time with it everything started to make sense.
“I wouldn’t switch away from it, and it’s the best step I’ve made with the company for being able to stay on top of all of our projects.”
The change was almost instantaneous. Suddenly, Bizek found himself ahead of the game on scheduling, timelines, and management of everything involved in Azimuth’s projects. Investing in Procore not only made them more efficient, it helped give the company a competitive edge around design and customer experience.
As part of his own mission to break up with spreadsheets, Callender evaluated several project management solutions, but each time felt something was missing. Either the feature set was wrong, or the pricing was way too high for the value he expected in return. Eventually his search led him to Procore, and once he did an ROI analysis, he was sold.
I’m pretty sure within the first six months we were well ahead of the cost of Procore. When you save time and it makes things easier for you, it’s a no-brainer.– Stephen Callender, President of Ontario-based trade contractor Bass Installation
Implementing New Software Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
A big part of construction is adapting to change, but sometimes making the leap from spreadsheets to a modern project management solution can induce some anxiety. Part of the reason spreadsheets and construction have a hard time parting ways is because they’re easy to use. End-to-end construction management platforms like Procore can seem intimidating at first. But once companies realize they don’t have to take it on all at once and will have all the support they need, the change becomes a lot less scary.
Bizek readily acknowledges he was worried he bit off more than he could chew when Azimuth first adopted Procore. Compared to his familiar pen and paper and spreadsheets, Procore seemed vast and unfamiliar. Bizek’s team relied heavily on Procore’s onboarding support team in the early days, who walked him through every step of the way. By the time onboarding was complete, Bizek and his team were ready to train PMs on their own, who would in turn train other workers.
Callender recalled a similar experience when first starting out with Procore, comparing it to “moving to another country and having to learn a new language.” But he stuck with it, determined to see the legwork through. He went through all of the courses, meeting with onboarding professionals to help solidify his knowledge. In the end, Callender became such a convert, he now sends his employees back to take additional courses every year.
Builders Unlock the Benefits and Efficiencies of Using Procore
Besides the obvious time- and cost-saving benefits of using Procore, builders routinely report seeing ripple effects that positively impact unexpected elements of their business.
One of the biggest benefits to using Procore is unlocking efficiencies. Procore enables companies to keep all of their key project information in a single connected platform. When customers see the quality of the reports this unification can generate, it really gets their attention.
As word has continued to spread, a vibrant global community has sprung up around Procore. This has increased the interaction builders have with their customers who also use the platform.
“It’s easier to get reports to them and get feedback right away. So people-wise, it’s just a great way that we can manage our projects,” said Callendar.
Bass Installation takes a lot of pictures, and before Procore, the process of getting them formatted properly and uploaded into a daily report was “very painful”. Procore has helped Bass streamline their NCR process, making everything faster and easier. Documenting these processes accurately is key, and Procore has helped them respond to client inquiries with more confidence and clarity.
Procore’s documentation abilities have been a key differentiator for Bizek as well, whose site superintendents have grown to depend on it. Previously, documentation was left on-site in the hands of the superintendents and field ops. But if there was employee turnover, you could lose any documents in the shuffle. Now everything is documented and photographed, from RFIs to daily logs.
“The documentation in Procore is a game-changer. It really takes it off the field and into the office where it should be, where the records are kept,” said Bizek.
Procore has helped Azimuth tighten up everything from communications to drawings to RFIs. Response times have also been slashed. The company now can get a response to an RFI in two to 24 hours, compared to a week or more in the past.
The added visibility Procore has unlocked for the company has even impressed Azimuth’s overseas clients, who have been able to become more involved in the construction of their new facilities without having to leave their office.
Software That Works for Both Field and Office
One of Excel’s other major shortcomings as a project management tool for construction is it doesn’t offer any real-time visibility into project costs. This lag in financial reporting makes it difficult for companies to determine where they stand with their project budget. Bizek says sometimes Azimuth would still be tallying up costs up to six months after a project was over.
Running things through Procore gave Bizek the ability to instantly snapshot whether they were over or under budget, and make any adjustments where they could. This has helped eliminate surprises when it comes to adding up profits after work is completed.
“It’s a real benefit that every day I can actually know where we are on the cost of the project and not having to come in at the end of the job and try to figure out what the profit was that we’re making off of it.”
For Bass Installation, one of Procore’s biggest benefits has been its impact on their field operations. Procore’s daily logs feature helps keep track of daily production and all of the comings and goings on the job site, including any potential safety concerns that need to be addressed. Not only that, but Callender said he can now continually monitor installation progress to ensure everything is on track, including knowing which work is finished and ready to be billed.
“The feed log is important because every day we get a report. It’s important to know how many frames were installed, if there were any delays on the site if something happened, or any weather delays. So just by getting that in the evening we know how the day went,” explained Callender.
Change can be difficult, especially in an industry like construction that has been historically resistant to it. But making the right changes at the right time, and approaching it with an open mind, can have a dramatic impact on your business.
“If you go into Procore resistant, it’s not going to be an effective tool. As long as you’re willing to accept change, it’s going to change the game,” said Bizek.
Proving the value of an investment into a modern project management solution like procore isn’t guesswork. In fact it’s unambiguous. Callender’s advice to any contractor hesitant about ditching their old fashioned processes in favor of Procore is to do the math.
“Just look at how many hours you can save even for one person. The system is here, it’s not going away, but it will make us more profitable, it will make us more manageable, and it will make our lives easier,” Bizek said.