General Contractor

Why Excel Is the Wrong Tool for Managing Your AIA G702/G703 Docs

It's probably time to admit that Excel is not the right tool for managing pay apps. So why do companies use it? And what issues do they frequently run into? Learn more about how Excel is costing construction companies in this blog.
Blair Chenault
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Construction billing is complicated. Standardized forms like the AIA G702/G703 can simplify the process, and many contractors use Excel to streamline their process further. Still, the result is cumbersome and loaded with areas for potential errors.

Fortunately, there are ways to simplify many of the processes in construction offices. Over the past ten years, companies have released countless software solutions specifically for contractors. These systems handle everything from estimating to billing to equipment tracking. These solutions were built specifically for construction, and they are solving the problems offices are trying, but not always succeeding, to solve with Excel. So maybe it's time to consider that Excel might not be the best tool for managing processes, projects, and billing with forms like the AIA G702/G703.

Why Construction Companies Use Excel

There's no doubt that Excel is a powerful tool that provides companies with options to efficiently take care of a variety of tasks. The program is one of the most well-known project management tools among all industries. It requires no formal training and seems like a versatile tool suitable for the demands of construction billing.

Thirty years ago, a lack of affordable options for the management of AIA G702/G703 forms made Excel an obvious choice. Most people had learned to use it to some degree, and it was already a tool for so many other business functions. Still, the use of Excel for construction billing has always been more of a last resort than an optimal choice. When it comes down to it, the most basic reasons construction companies still use the program for billing include software loyalty and limited information about other options.

8 Reasons Excel Is the Wrong Tool for Construction Billing

Excel is a general tool that uses spreadsheets to store, view, and manipulate data. It's an effective tool for data entry, accounting, and even financial analysis. But the program lacks the individualized features needed to keep up with the working parts of construction billing. These are a few of the problems that arise when using Excel to manage AIA G702/G703 forms and other elements of construction billing.

1. Lack of Version Control

As a tool that allows multiple users to make and save changes, Excel spreadsheets are always changing. The solution is to provide a shared drive that allows multiple users to simultaneously update information. Still, that option is far from foolproof. As more updates get shared among users, there's always more potential for other saved versions to be floating around. When team members use different versions of the same data, the information becomes useless.

2. Time Consuming Data Entry

Turnaround in the construction billing process is often painfully slow. Manual data entry adds hours to the billing timeline. This is a big reason subcontractor billing is often delayed. Even worse, taking days or weeks to compile data for submittals can mean project delays, losing your company time and money.

Since most construction projects require multiple subcontractors to update and submit forms, general contractor accounting administrators often have to update multiple spreadsheets with the same information. Not only does this process take considerably longer than automation, but it also provides additional opportunities for error.

3. Too Much Room for Error

Humans make mistakes. Simple errors are easily fixed in most instances. However, data entry errors often go unnoticed, and one wrong keystroke can have a disastrous effect on an entire spreadsheet. According to industry estimates, nearly 90% of spreadsheets contain critical errors, some of which lead to extreme financial losses.

AIA G702/703 forms used in construction billing pass through the hands of multiple workers and are constantly growing and changing. As spreadsheets grow, they also become more complex, providing more room for errors. One slip of a finger could lead to incorrectly quoted materials, underestimated labor costs, or scheduling blunders that cost construction companies millions of dollars.

4. Limited Success on Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are becoming an important tool in the construction billing process. In an industry that often resists change, mobile technology took a considerable amount of time to get a foothold in the world of construction. Now that contractors have experienced the convenience of working with on-site mobile devices, it's clear how these devices benefit practically every part of a project. When contractors and subcontractors can access information and communicate with the back office while out in the field, productivity increases drastically.

Excel does have mobile options, but users encounter a slew of compatibility issues and difficulty accessing the program. Unfortunately, this leaves field workers with the issue of inputting data at the end of the day. Alternatives that provide construction companies with the use of effective mobile access also eliminate many of the errors that come with manual data entry.

5. No Photos

Since documentation is an essential part of proving claims on pay apps, real-time photos are often required to be submitted with AIA G702/G703 forms. Excel cells have no room for the addition of these important assets. This means users must send photo documentation separately, leading to potential misinterpretation or loss.

6. Inability to Create Accurate, Real-Time Reports

Excel requires data from multiple users. Unfortunately, combining these spreadsheets into an accurate report is often impossible. Construction projects require multiple subcontractors to collaborate on separate parts of a complete project. Real-time changes occurring on-site need to be communicated effectively to every team member to ensure the project stays on track. In companies using Excel, workers can't add changes until they return to the office, possibly several hours later. Even worse, without a project tracking sheet, team members are unlikely to know changes have been made.

7. Limited Support

Microsoft didn't design Excel for construction billing purposes. Unfortunately, experts in construction billing aren't typically Excel experts. Even the most fluent user probably won't have much advice to offer about AIA G702/G703 forms. When something goes wrong, your support specialist doesn't understand the unique complications of construction billing, leaving you pretty much on your own for solving potentially expensive problems.

8. Poor Security

Companies typically store Excel files on their company's hard drive. Various users update them and share them as attachments through email. This might not seem like a big deal until you consider the data that exists on your AIA G702/G703 forms. This outdated storage and collaboration process leaves your data vulnerable to hackers. Even if you're not concerned about potential hackers, there are other risks. Your drives might crash or your onsite hardware might fail, leading to complete data loss.

When It's Time to Move Away From Excel

Two construction workers recording data for AIA G702/G703 forms with an on-site mobile device

Construction companies tend to gravitate toward Excel because of familiarity with the platform. So, how do you know if your company really needs to make a change? If you weren't aware of Excel's shortcomings for construction, you may be considering them now. Still, does this information mean you should make a major change in the way you manage your company's most important billing forms?

Answer these questions about your construction company to determine if it's time for you to get rid of Excel for managing your AIA G702/G703 forms.

  • Is your company growing? A growing company leads to more subcontractors and more complicated projects. This means more people stay involved in project updates. There's also the potential for more mistakes.
  • Are you concerned about security? Your most important forms contain valuable financial information and your customers' private personal information.  
  • Do you need the ability to share data and collaborate? If the data on your Excel sheets becomes outdated quickly, you stand to lose money and delay work on existing projects.
  • Do you want support tailored to the construction industry? Excel is a platform designed for general use. Experts aren't prepared to offer industry-specific advice.

How Construction Billing Software Can Help

Filling out AIA G702/G703 forms after the work has been completed leaves wide margins for error. When construction administrators use multiple spreadsheets, more mistakes can happen. Construction billing software provides construction companies a way to incorporate billing processes into the project as it's being completed.

In one digitized space, construction billing software allows contractors and subcontractors to perform all the duties required in the billing process. Standardized digital versions of AIA G702/G703 and custom forms integrate into the construction billing software for automated, precise documentation for every project. Instead of creating documents based on multiple spreadsheets from a variety of workers, precise information will be digitally entered at the worksite while the project is being completed. Construction billing software provides these advantages for managing AIA G702/G703 forms:

  • The ability to send digital reminders to subcontractors to complete pay apps on time
  • The opportunity to receive, review, and store pay apps, invoices, lien waivers, and other project documentation in one place
  • A way to remotely approve, decline, and request revisions on invoices, pay apps, and change orders, and electronically sign documents in just a few clicks

Complicated billing processes have a high potential for errors. Math errors, inaccurate lien waivers, and unapproved change orders lead to incomplete projects and delayed payments. Switching your construction company to a streamlined digital process designed to work with the intricate demands of the construction industry can save you time and money. A streamlined billing process begins with a suite of quality software that provides clarity of communication and transparent real-time digital communication throughout each step of every project.

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