As practitioners in the industry know far too well, construction has a productivity problem—fueled by a high proportion of projects coming in over budget and behind schedule. According to the World Economic Forum, over the last 40 years the productivity of construction labor in the U.S. has fallen. The Forum’s most recent report concludes that most companies in the industry still use primarily manual methods, offer traditional products and services, and operate according to long-established practices and business models, all contributing to lagging productivity.

Despite most contractors and project owners openly acknowledging that reliable forecasting is one of the keys to project success, many fail to control project outcomes because they still rely on spreadsheets, or other manual methods, for forecasting. In addition to increasing the potential for inaccuracies—and the other well-documented risks associated with the use of spreadsheets—handling critical data manually inhibits collaboration across roles, departments, and partnering firms. This risk-prone and inefficient approach to forecasting means that a project stakeholder has a very limited view into the status of a project, making it nearly impossible to identify—much less anticipate—the specific factors that could cause the profitability or timeliness of a job to go south.

The demand for enterprise-wide visibility was confirmed in a survey of more than 500 construction executives and managers conducted by TrackVia. The results found that 78% of executives and 89% of managers said data coming from their jobsites was crucial to their success. More importantly, 52% of those executives reported that four or more departments in their organizations relied on data from jobsites. If jobsite data is simply dumped into spreadsheets and pushed around via email, it will remain mostly siloed, become obsolete quickly, and fail to play the critical role of informing the forecasting process and providing visibility into project status.

Therefore, the goal of every construction firm should be to ensure everyone—from the backoffice to those in the field—is forecasting the same way. To accomplish this, all project stakeholders must work not only with the same version of reality, but a reality backed by both realtime data and historical, trend-based data. This is not possible with spreadsheets alone, or even with a standalone accounting system.

A true enterprise system that uses a single database allows decisionmakers to quickly build and access reports that reveal how the business—and every active project—is performing at any point in time. Why is this important? Because it enables them to measure and enhance productivity and to identify all potential cost impacts. Specifically, it allows decisionmakers to forecast and offset cost variances, such as subcontractor delays, unexpected safety inspections, potential overtime work, or rush shipments of replacement parts. These insights deliver a greater level of certainty across every phase of a construction project, leading to higher predictability and profitability. And that is something no spreadsheet or standalone accounting system can deliver.

Steve Cangiano joined the Solutions team for CMiC in 2013, then transitioned to a product management role in 2017. He is responsible for CMiC’s Field Product Line, which includes Mobile Field and Drawing Management.