Construction project managers spend a good portion of their time preparing productivity reports to aid in the analysis of project-related data. But just how helpful are they when it comes to proactively managing productivity?

Microsoft Excel is the tool of choice for preparing construction productivity reports, but trends in other industries are beginning to indicate the challenges of using Excel to effectively and accurately report on project status.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that a growing number of companies are turning to new, cloud-based technologies for their financial reporting needs. Companies interviewed for the piece cited various reasons for the change, all with the same underlying priority of having their people spend less time on the administrative tasks associated with data collection and manipulation, and more time focused on “what the data is telling us.”

We’re seeing the same challenges with the use of Excel in construction. Preparing weekly or bi-monthly productivity reports often requires project managers to pull data from a variety of systems, including ERP and accounting software, BIM, and any operational or project management tools deployed in the field. Then comes the process of preparing the data for reporting and analysis. By the time a report is ready to be shared more widely, the data is typically a few days old, if not an entire week behind the actual project status.

The added challenge for construction reporting is the sheer variety of factors that can impact productivity. Weather, equipment, materials, scheduling, jobsite layout, approvals, and worker turnover are just a few of the factors to take into consideration.

What contractors really need to drive labor productivity is less reporting and more access to real-time project data. And the good news is that construction technology providers are responding with innovative solutions that deliver on these needs.

The first step, of course, is to capture the missing field data that contractors need for better decision-making. Field-based tools like Rhumbix are making this possible by digitizing field data like timekeeping, daily notes, and production quantities.

With field data digitized, contractors can connect it with financial data to create a live feed of all project activity, accessible by all stakeholders at any time. Cloud-based tools like Rhumbix carry the added advantage of collecting and analyzing more data than is typically used when preparing a productivity report, making it possible to analyze more than a week’s worth of project data at a time. Access to a complete historical record of all project data makes it easier to spot trends in productivity. Furthermore, it allows you to quickly identify issues that may be gradually building over time, and could result in a large financial risk to the company.  While Excel has been improving recently to include some of the same features available through cloud-based systems, it is still primarily a tool for reporting rather than actively managing project activity. And when it comes to construction, what we need more than ever are tools that are going to improve project outcomes. Today, and in the future.