A few days ago I was watching a friend working in the construction sector painfully manage a 1000+ lines Excel document representing all tasks and materials to be used in a quite large construction project.
It was plagued with all problems of a system outgrowing excel:
- Duplications difficult to avoid
- Requires to make updates in multiple places
- Consistency depending fully on the person's discipline
So I started to think - why is this not a software? The project is complex enough to warrant it.
The fact is - this imaginary software would probably cost 250 to 500k€ to build in more than 2 years and generate a lot of weird bugs.
Even assuming it could be done - it would probably be inferior to the Excel sheets in a key way. This Excel sheet is a mess - but the project manager can still decide to update it needed. They won't have to ask a (probably external) development team for things as simple as:
- Changing the price computation rules to take into account 2% of inflation in 2021
- Adding an option to the material drop down list for another type of concrete
- Create one more chart showing the total paid per contractor
- Batch update a lot of values with a smart cut & paste
In other words - it would remove the main user agency, moving it to a costly, lengthy, blurry process.
Not every software is worth writing and beating an Excel sheet is easier said than done once you factor the incredible flexibility it brings.
Yes, it's messy. But it works. And let's be honest - that imaginary software will surely be messy too.
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