We often encounter clients who are considering using Microsoft Excel as their primary cost control tool. The setup of an Excel spreadsheet in this way displays a degree of innovation in the individual, the project or the business. There is a recognition that something better is required and Excel is the most readily available tool they have.
A spreadsheet is also heavily configurable and aligns with an individuals need to be innovative by building something. The willingness to build something themselves is often stronger than the willingness to procure an off the shelf tool that meets most requirements. Does procuring an off the shelf tool mean that the innovation in building an Excel model is lost?
With some clever leadership however this innovation can be redirected to another level. Once a core tool is in place a user can build on this with codes, views, reports and built-in functionality. By directing the innovation in these aspects you can avoid the pitfalls of trying to be a software design house. These pitfalls can include; training people in macro’s, constant requests for new functionality, knowledge of the spreadsheet with one user, lack of capacity in the sheet and of course the time that is spent developing the software and not controlling the project!
We can liken this to the military moving away from building the complete system in house to using MOTS or COTS products. They now spend their time innovating around core products to achieve their overall business system (tools, people and process) objectives. This is something to strive more for in project cost control!
Written by Dan Foster (Principal Consultant LogiKal Projects)